Review: Sony Xperia Z
The new flagship with tattered sails?
Trouble at mill
The fixed 2330mAh battery givers the Z a solid 36 hour hour usage cycle - or 75 per cent that of my trusty Motorola Razr i, which is my benchmark in such matters. Looping a 1080p video, I got four hours 25 minutes from a charge: pretty decent, I reckon. Battery life then is better than the Nexus 4 but don’t expect miracles.
So far I may have given the impression that all is rosy in the Xperia garden, but there are some technical greenfly about.
The power and volume controls are very well placed
Firstly, the screen lacks contrast and colours look weak when the Bravia engine isn’t doing its thing. Viewing angles aren’t that robust either, a problem the Z shares with the Xperia T. In short, despite the super-sharp 1080p resolution, it’s a good display rather than a great one. This is probably down to it being a plain old TFT panel rather than IPS LCD or AMOLED.
Next, the loudspeaker sounds painfully raucous at higher volumes. With its large HD screen watching video is surely one of the reasons you’d buy an Xperia Z in the first place so a low rent single speaker really lets the side down. The speaker is also set into the bottom right hand edge of the device in a near perfect place to be covered by your hand.
Turning to the the camera, though boasting an impressive resolution to my eyes it really performs no better than the 8Mp cameras fitted to the iPhone 5 or Nokia Lumia 920 and in low light it’s significantly worse than the Nokia.
The screen's viewing angles aren't magnificent
And some of the camera software doesn’t seem to work. Try as I did I couldn’t get the automatic launch and snap function, a handy feature on a phone with no physical camera button, to do its thing.
It's not the fastest launching phone camera I've ever come across, either. It takes more two seconds to get its act together from cold. And it can only capture 1Mp stills when recording video. That’s poor.
Finally, like the Nexus 4, the Xperia Z gets rather warm when worked hard, playing games like NOVA 3, for example. Say what you like about Qualcomm’s high-end chipsets, they can’t half pump out the thermals when they get busy. I demand many things from a mobile phone but keeping my nuts warm in the winter isn’t one of them.
Side by side with the Motorola Razr i
Of course a warm back when gaming, a slightly wishy-washy screen and a good but not stellar camera are not the end of the world. But the last two are parts of the puzzle that Sony should excel at. On balance, the Z is a very good, but I was rather hoping for greatness.
The Reg Verdict
There’s a lot to like about the Xperia Z not least the build quality, waterproofing and very efficient packaging. But I’m not wholly sure that’s going to be enough to see off the competition from HTC’s One - smaller, 4.7-inch screen notwithstanding - or the Samsung Galaxy S4. The Xperia Z is just a bit plain when compared to the HTC, which offers some unique features like the excellent front-facing speakers and the equally excellent 4Mp big pixel camera.
The S4 meanwhile is loaded with so many trick - if perhaps unnecessary - features I don’t know where to begin. I expected the Xperia Z to trump both with a class-leading screen and a class-leading camera but frankly it doesn’t, and you have to tolerate an Android overlay that’s starting to look just a wee bit dated. ®