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.

The latest version of Sony’s Android overlay is also very easy to use here, with multiple homescreens that are easy to customise, user replaceable dock icons and shortcuts, an app menu system that can be re-ordered quickly, and a dropdown shortcut bar to access settings.

Sony has also thrown in something called “small apps,” which pop up when you press the multitask button on the bottom right.

Aside for being able to flick out apps from memory – a feature of Android for over a year now – Sony’s small apps allow you to quickly grab a calculator, timer, voice recorder, unit converter, or jot down some notes with a small overlay that sits on top of everything on your homescreen.

Overall, this feels like Sony’s answer to the LG QMemo or Samsung’s note taking facility built into the Galaxy Note 2, and if you like multitasking easily, you’ll find this a useful feature on the Xperia Z.

Type or swipe: it's your call.

The keyboard has also been improved too, and you’ll find that you can either type using the traditional virtual keyboard we’ve all seen, or drag your fingers over the letters in a Swype-like fashion.

This isn’t as good as what we’ve experienced in SwiftFlow, but does provide a decent experience for speedy typing.