Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sony Xperia Z


First impressions

The Sony Xperia Z's 5-inch screen, whopping 1080p resolution, fast quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM are all top-notch specs. Plus its camera can record HDR video and it's waterproof to a depth of 1m, something we wish more phone makers would add. It's likely to be pretty pricey though, and it may have trouble standing out from similarly specced competitors.


The Sony Xperia Z is Sony's latest addition to its smart phone lineup. It sits at the top of the range, replacing last year's disappointing Xperia T as the flagship.
It's toting an impressive set of specs. A quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM slumbers beneath the hood and a 5-inch display with a whopping 1080p resolution shows off the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean interface. You get a 13-megapixel camera too that can apparently record high dynamic range (HDR) video -- the first of its kind we've seen on a phone.
To protect all that top-notch tech, Sony has generously made the Z waterproof to a depth of 1m.
Of course, such an array of high-end specs aren't going to come cheap. It's rumoured to be around the £530 mark, SIM-free. O2, Vodafone, Three and Phones 4U have all said that they will be offering the phone, but haven't announced any prices yet.
It also packs 4G, so it's possible that it will also come to EE, but there's so far been no word. Stay tuned for a full review of the Xperia Z soon.

Design and build quality

With a 5-inch display hogging the front, you'd be right to expect the Z to be a pretty big beast. It's 139mm long and 71mm wide, making it slightly longer and marginally wider than the mighty Samsung Galaxy S3. If you struggle to wrap your mitts around the S3, you're not going to find the Z any easier.
It's just 7.9mm thick though, making it almost as skinny as Apple's iPhone 5. If you can manage to slide its wide frame into your jeans pocket, it at least shouldn't bulge out embarrassingly at the front. With a weight of 146g, it's heavier than both the S3 and iPhone 5, but nowhere near the fearsome bulk of the Nokia Lumia 920 (185g).

Looking dashing in white, purple and black.

The front of the device is every bit as minimal as we've come to expect from Sony of late, although thankfully it's ditched the cheap-looking clear plastic strip on the bottom. The lack of physical buttons on its face means that the glass screen remains unbroken from edge to edge.
On the back you'll find an expanse of shiny glass -- or more likely plastic -- in either white, black or a rather luscious purple. Again, it's extremely minimal, with only the camera lens and subtle Xperia logo on show. If you're into sparse design it'll be right up your street. Even if you're not, it's inoffensive at the very least.
I'll have to leave the verdict on build quality for the full review, when I can put it through my usual barrage of brutal stress tests. A particularly handy addition, however, is the Z's water and dust-proofing. The phone is submersible to a depth of 1 metre for up to 30 minutes. That means it's perfectly happy being used in awful British weather and won't conk out if you accidently drop it in your pint. Smashing.
The Z offers 16GB of built-in storage, but you can also pop in a microSD card, expanding it by another 32GB -- or infinitely if you want to carry a pocketful of cards around.

Screen

The Xperia Z's 5-inch display packs in a whopping resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels -- that's Full HD, like your TV. It smashes the iPhone 5's, Galaxy S3's and even the Galaxy Note 2's resolutions. Of course, the iPhone 5 is much smaller, but the Z's 441ppi pixel density easily beats the iPhone 5's 326ppi.

Cramming 1,920x1,080 pixels in a 5-inch screen is quite a feat.

That should make the Z's screen superbly sharp, perfect for watching all the high-definition content you could want. Sony also promises the screen is extremely bold, thanks to the Bravia mobile engine it uses. I'll have to leave my final verdict on the quality of the screen for the full review.

Power and software

The Z is powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core processor backed up by a healthy 2GB of RAM. That's a very generous serving of power so should provide a very swift performance for even the most demanding of tasks. The generous 2GB of RAM should also help with multi-tasking and switching between open apps. Again, I'll have to see exactly how well it performs when I get one in the office.
It's running on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. That's the latest full build of Android, but Android 4.2 was shown off in the latter half of last year on the excellent Google Nexus 4. It's a shame that the phone won't have the latest, shiniest software on board. Version 4.2 brings various updates, chiefly in the camera, where you can create interesting 360-degree panoramas and benefit from in-camera photo editing.

Camera

Speaking of the camera, the Xperia Z is packing a 13-megapixel snapper around the back. It's using Sony's Exmor RS image sensor, which apparently provides richer colour and less noise in low light situations -- we'll be the judge of that.
Most interestingly however is the fact that it offers high dynamic range for both photos and video. True HDR in photos requires you to take three separate photos -- one too dark, one average and one too light -- and then combine them into one very evenly exposed scene.

Sony reckons the 13-megapixel camera is its most advanced phone snapper yet.

I'm not entirely sure at this early point exactly how it manages to capture HDR for video, but I'm assuming it doesn't simultaneously record three videos in the same way. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing the results in the review.
The camera also offers a bunch of features such as face detection, various scene modes and a sweep panorama mode, similar to the one you'll find on the iPhone 5. Hopefully these extras will make up for not having Android 4.2.

Outlook

On paper, the Xperia Z looks to be a powerhouse of a phone and one well-suited to sit at the top of Sony's range. The quad-core processor and generous RAM should help it power through tasks and the high-resolution screen should make images and video look superbly crisp.
It's likely to be matched in these departments by the rest of the year's flagship phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, so much of its success will depend on the quality of its camera and whether people value it being waterproof. As a terrible butterfingers, I certainly do.



General 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 - C6602, C6603
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 2100 - C6603
  HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 - C6602
4G Network LTE 800 / 850 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600 - C6603
SIM Micro-SIM
Announced 2013, January
Status Coming soon. Exp. release 2013, March


Body Dimensions 139 x 71 x 7.9 mm (5.47 x 2.80 x 0.31 in)
Weight 146 g (5.15 oz)
 - IP57 certified - dust and water resistant
- Water proof up to 1 meter and 30 minutes


Display Type TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches (~441 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes, up to 10 fingers
Protection Shatter proof and scratch-resistant glass
 - Timescape UI
- Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2


Sound Alert types Vibration; MP3 ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes


Memory Card slot microSD, up to 32 GB
Internal 16 GB, 2 GB RAM


Data GPRS Up to 107 kbps
EDGE Up to 296 kbps
Speed HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps; LTE, Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Yes, v4.0 with A2DP
NFC Yes
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0 (MHL)


Camera Primary 13.1 MP, 4128x3096 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, image stabilization, HDR, sweep panorama
Video Yes, 1080p@30fps, continuous autofocus, video light, video stabilizer, HDR
Secondary Yes, 2.2 MP, 1080p@30fps


Features OS Android OS, v4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), planned upgrade to v4.2 (Jelly Bean)
Chipset Qualcomm MDM9215M / APQ8064
CPU Quad-core 1.5 GHz Krait
GPU Adreno 320
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, IM, Push Email
Browser HTML5
Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors Black, White, Purple
 - SNS integration
- TV-out (via MHL A/V link)
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- MP4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
- MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV/Flac player
- Document viewer
- Photo viewer/editor
- Voice memo/dial
- Predictive text input


Battery   Non-removable Li-Ion 2330 mAh battery
Stand-by Up to 550 h (2G) / Up to 530 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 11 h (2G) / Up to 14 h (3G)
Music play Up to 40 h

2 comments:

  1. Aaahhh. I'd chose this over the rest any day. I really cannot stand AMOLED screens like on Samsung. Samsung's UI feel and look cheap too.
    The price of the Z does sound steep, especially when the T was only £355. Though if it is as durable as they claim (and you never lose your phone) then it saves you around £10 a month on insurance which is £240 over a 24 month contract.
    I have the T at the moment and I love being able to sync up the Playatation store to the HD tv in my livingroom and play games through my phone with a wireless ps3 game pad. No other brand can do that.
    I really want to try out the new HDR camera though. It looks amazing. I bet the Exmor RS sensor is sensational too. I'd love to see what Bravia 2 can do

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  2. Yeah, AMOLED has pretty much made me skip the last 2 gens of phones. HTC has become crap lately with their horrid battery life, and Samsung's cheap plastic is a massive turn-off for me.

    Basically I'm left with Sony and Moto - which I'm also highly interested to see now that Google has bought it.

    The water-proof (I've long-dreamed of taking a phone with to the shower) bonus is appealing, likewise the awesome screen.

    Plus, despite its faults, I dig Sony as a company. Its products are expensive, yes, but they're pretty much always a great guarantee of quality. I have yet to be burned by a Sony product, with the closest coming with the 3D PS TV - it has overheating issues that kill the display if left on too long. But even that is easily fixed by a fan and lowering of the back light. Annoying, yes, but considering the $150 price tag, the 24" screen and 3D is incredible. Plus the glasses that come with it are some of the best I've seen.

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