A week with the Z

The CES 2013 event certainly raised some eyebrows in the mobile phone world and fuelled the expectations of consumers with Sony’s announcement of the Xperia Z. Having had a patchy first year with their foray into mobiles, Sony came out with guns blazing – the Z is a statement of intent.

Launching on Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) software. The key feature of the phone is its Ingress Protection Rating, making it dust protected, water-jet protected, and waterproof in up to one meter of water for up to thirty minutes. Not to mention a 5-inch, full HD 1080p screen, a 1.5GHz quad-core processor AND a 13.1MP Exmor RS camera sensor. It’s safe to say the Z crams a lot into its frame and is completely handy come bath time if you want to watch telly but are ham-handed!

I finally managed to get my hands on a Z on April 12th and although my first post about the handset was a scathing grumble about the WiFi issues I and countless other users have been facing, the week with the phone has been more pleasing.

For starters, it’s easy on the eye. For a phone this size you would expect it to be bulky, maybe even bordering on cumbersome. But as Sony have proved countless times before, they are the masters of miniaturising components. The phone fits in the hand well and if you’ve got reasonable size hands you should be able to use it, though you may find your thumbs getting a workout as the screen does cover some  impressive acreage. Think of early man in the film 2001, gazing at the monolith – that’s the sort of impression you get when opening the box!

Firing up the phone and browsing through the Sony-skinned JB ROM was something of a revelation, largely thanks to the processing power of quad-core and (finally!) 2GB of RAM this phone eagerly embraces. Even such simple acts like skipping through the app tray are done with such speed – I thought my dual-core S was fast, but this is something else entirely. It’s quicker than quick.

The extra speed comes in handy when using other features of the phone; the camera is now 13MP and has a HDR mode which generates some quite impressive photos. Something Sony have done well with their handsets (apart from the NXT series) is to include a microSD slot. For me, this is where the Nexus series stumbles slightly; with its semi-reliance on cloud services, one can quickly fill the internal memory of a 16GB Nexus 4 and soon find yourself in a quandary, especially if you’re out and about having fun and taking photos and the memory is full. Fail.

Hurrah for Sony then, as the Z has a microSD slot which supports cards up to 64GB in size. The phone already has 16GB of on-board storage, so throw in a 32GB microSD card like I have and suddenly your concerns about storage, unless you’re planning to shoot hours of 1080 video footage, are largely unfounded!

Battery life with a 5-inch, 1080p screen was always going to be something of a concern, though I’m pleased to report the Z handles itself quite well, even without stamina mode activated. I can get through a full 14 hours away from a charger and the phone remains above 60%. I took the phone off charge the other morning and it was 2 hours before the battery ticked down from fully charged – and that was with WiFi active, Advanced WiFi Lock running and listening to about half an hours worth of music, along with some browsing on Chrome.

Make no mistake the Xperia Z has its flaws, the aforementioned WiFi/Netgear conundrum being one of them, but this will be fixed in a future firmware update. Taking that problem out of the equation – especially if you DON’T own a Netgear router – the Xperia Z has a lot going for it and is a serious statement of intent from Sony. If they can continue to produce handsets of this calibre, they should find themselves creeping back up the market share listings in no time.

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