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Top form: Sony’s 4G Full HD Xperia Z reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 5:59 pm 04/03/2013

The 2013 crop of flagship smartphones has arrived, and Sony’s Xperia Z is the first, bringing with it a 1080p Full HD screen measuring 5 inches diagonally, 13 megapixel camera, and a build quality that should survive your everyday life. Is it Sony’s best phone yet?

Features

Previewed at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, the Sony Xperia Z is aimed at being more than “just another Android smartphone,” packing in features that Sony hopes can put it at the top of the pack.

At the top of these is the screen, which is a 5 inch display with a Full HD 1920×1080 panel. With that many pixels, Sony has essentially crafted a phone capable of showing 441 pixels per inch, making it insanely sharp.

In fact, this screen is so sharp that it out-does Apple’s “Retina” screen display by over one hundred, leaving the iPhone 5’s 325ppi behind.

There’s your typical scratch-resistant glass coating this screen, though we don’t think this is Corning’s glass. Still, it should offer a modicum of protection, and combined with some IP57 certification, you’ll be able to take it into the wind, rain, and dusty environments too.

Under the hood, there’s more than just last year’s dual-core processing, with Sony including a quad-core 1.5GHz processor here, paired alongside the relatively recent Adreno 320 graphics chip and 2GB RAM. That last part (memory) has been known to make Android appear more fluid, with 2GB the current magic number to make Droid run well.

Speaking of Android, that’s running 4.1 “Jelly Bean” here, though an update to 4.2 is planned for the near future. The next generation of Sony’s Android overlay is loaded too, which makes the phone look and feel closer to other Sony audio visual products, such as the clear clock widget, PlayStation-esque backgrounds, and pages of menu screens.

Storage is set to 16GB in this handset, but you’re not locked in, and you can easily upgrade over the microSD slot found on the left side of the handset.

Connectivity is pretty normal, with 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, GPS, Near-Field Communication, and a 4G Long-Term Evolution modem inside, capable of some pretty serious download speeds if your telco supports them (currently Optus and Telstra, at the time of publishing).

The Xperia Z is also the first Android camera released in Australia that we know of to feature a 13 megapixel camera, pushing these devices past last year’s top-end 8 megapixel models. Full HD video capture is, of course on offer from this rear camera, but is also even possible on the front camera too, which is a 2.2 megapixel shooter.

Sony’s battery isn’t removable in this handset, and is set to 2330mAh, with charging available through either microUSB or a special set of gold connectors on the left side for a charging dock that Sony will release later on.

Ports on this handset include the microUSB and microSD on the left edge, the microSIM slot on the right, and a 3.5mm headset jack up top, all covered with removable flaps.

And while soft buttons are all the rage these days, and this handset uses Google’s built-in on-screen back, home, and multitasking buttons, there are a few physical buttons, with the volume rocker on the right edge and a circular aluminium power button just above this.

Performance

We’ve seen some pretty cool handsets from Sony in the past, but the Xperia Z feels different from the moment it’s removed from the box.

Past Sony/Sony Ericsson designs have either featured a softer curved shape or a more rectangular simple slate, and this one sticks with the latter, even reminding us of Sony’s recent range of TVs.

It’s a simple design, with a rectangular prism made from glass fibre polyamide, which is apparently used to substitute metal in car parts. That should boast a fair amount of strength, and it’s certainly a premium material as far as smartphones go.

The thickness manages to only be 7.9mm, and the 146 gram weight is balanced well, with the entire handset feeling like it was built as one solid thing. It’s not overly heavy at the top or bottom, but manages to feel complete, which Sony says is due to its “omni-balance” design.

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Price (RRP)

$TBA; Available on Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone in March

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

A water resistant flagship smartphone is pretty cool; Great performance from the processor and connection; Camera handles decently in darker environments; Small apps can be very useful;

Product Cons

Can prove hard to hold; SIM card tray is a little flimsy and hard to reach;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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