Sony Xperia Z Review for Sony Mobile Singapore

Some of you may notice that I haven’t been putting up new posts for weeks on end. I’ve been busy, simply put. I had a temporary job, a few new commitments, quite a couple of changes to my regular schedule. One of the things that kept me away from WordPress was a test drive of one of Sony Mobile’s new models, the Xperia Z. I had a chance to try the mobile phone out for a week, and write a review of it at the end of the test drive. I’ve always been excited for Sony Mobile’s phones so I took the task seriously. Took me a full week after the end of the test drive to write and submit the review. I’d put quite a bit of effort into it, so I hope at least someone out there would find it useful. It’s also my first time officially reviewing a product (the review is posted on Sony Mobile SG’s official Facebook page) so please do critique!

Ratings

  • User-friendly UI

9/10 – Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) gives ease of access switching between apps and accessing apps, with a very simple interface that doesn’t require a user guide, even for first-time Android users. There are a variety of screen-unlocking methods to choose from, my favourite being facial recognition.

  • Overall design

7.5/10 –The power button – which turns the screen (or the whole unit) on and off – is not only strategically-located and designed to be pleasant to touch, it also serves as a screenshot button. The ports around the rim of the phone are covered seamlessly yet conveniently with little grooves to facilitate ease of opening, although some of those covers are not labelled. The battery is internally-built and not removable.

  • Performance

8/10 – The 1.5GHz Quad Core processor certainly impresses. During my one-week use, the phone only hanged once despite all the apps I had installed and ran at the same time. The irony of this is the battery life – for all that the processor is capable of (and you would certainly exploit this), the battery life runs out fairly quickly.

The unit unfortunately heats up very quickly during usage and/or charging, and to almost-scorching temperatures that radiates throughout the phone. However, the heat is centralised to the top of the phone whereas I’d normally only hold the phone by its lower half.

 

Features

  • Lightweight & size

Pro(s): Pleasantly lightweight despite the screen size

Con(s): Not for one-handed handling with my small hand; doesn’t fit well in jeans pocket

The 5-inch screen is good for games and watching videos, but the large width also means it’s not friendly to users with small hands who wish to handle the phone with just one hand while on-the-go. For someone who needs to have his/her phone in the pocket, the Xperia Z is not going to be a comfortable fit. I ended up always carrying my phone in my bag, which I dislike because I run the risk of not being able to feel the vibration of a call or notification, but the exceptionally wide volume range compensates for this.

  • Battery

Pro(s): Able to last a full day out (approx. 10 hours) without turning on the power saving mode; Location-based WiFi and Low Battery Mode useful

Con(s): –

On a normal day, the battery life took 10 hours 8 minutes to go from 100% to 1%. My “normal day” includes checking emails as and when the notifications come in, obsessively checking for WhatsApp messages in case I didn’t catch the ring, and frequently checking in on my RPG card game and Facebook. Meanwhile, it takes a good 2 hours 30 minutes to charge the phone from 0% to 100%, with intermittent email and WhatsApp checking.

The battery drains fast when running only the Walkman app with visualisations – I’m talking about 100% to 0% within 3 – 4 hours. So I’m guessing it’s not a good idea to turn on the Walkman app if you’re going to be out the whole day as per my “normal day” without recharging.

The Location-based WiFi, which only turns on WiFi when within range of a saved WiFi network, as well as the Low Battery Mode, which suggests turning off connections like Bluetooth and WiFi when the battery power is dipping below a certain percentage, are very useful power savers.

The Stamina Mode – which turns off selected mobile data connection when the screen is off –appears to me as a reasonable sacrifice for the social-media-savvy individual who doesn’t mind temporarily missing out on Facebook updates for the sake of extending the limited battery life left, but I find that using the earlier two modes are quite sufficient enough for me.

Battery usage graph from 100% to 1%, accompanied by usage frequency diagrams

Battery usage graph from 100% to 1%, accompanied by usage frequency diagrams

Percentage breakdown of applications using up the power reserve

Percentage breakdown of applications using up the power reserve

  • Screen display quality

Pro(s): Bravia technology never fails

Con(s): –

Despite my complaint about the sheer size of the phone, I wouldn’t have been able to fully enjoy the beautiful and unbelievably sharp images and videos that Sony Bravia had to offer if the screen wasn’t equivalently extravagant on its dimensions.

  • Processor power

Pro(s):  Fast loading, minimal lag

Con(s): –

1.5GHz Quad Core is equivalent to the processors you can find in good netbooks. This is the main feature I would promote for the Xperia Z – with many other smartphones, the glam all goes to waste thanks to the processor being unable to keep up, but this is definitely not the case with this phone. The Xperia Z advertisement that quoted “its spec sheet will have gadget fans drooling with tech lust” was certainly not done in vain.

  • Camera image quality

Pros(s): As good as a top-of-the-line point-and-shoot digital camera

Con(s): –

This is my favourite part of the phone, so I saved the best for the last to review!

I took the camera out for a spin for one afternoon at Changi Airport to test out the image quality and the user interface. Turns out I got more than I bargained for – the 13 megapixels Exmor RS delivers not only sharp images that might be able to contest with my Sony NEX C3, but also with pre-shutter filters (that is, you see a live display of 9 different types of picture effects on the scene you’re pointing the camera at, instead of using a photo filter during post-editing)

User interface at camera start-up

User interface at camera start-up

9 different types of picture effects displayed live. (The stuffed toy photo isn’t part of the photos I took at the airport, of course.)

9 different types of picture effects displayed live. (The stuffed toy photo isn’t part of the photos I took at the airport, of course.)

I had fun playing with the various effects; the only ones I didn’t really use were Filter and Vivid. You can see some of my sample airport photos here:

I also took some photos using the front camera (photos of myself, of course), and I noticed that despite being specs-inferior compared to the main camera on the back (13MP vs. 2MP), the front camera packs its own little punch – probably because a front camera is expectedly for taking photos of people, the skin softening effect automatically kicks in. My skin looked so flawless in the photos taken with the front camera (and I could make sure I captured my best angle too!)

In addition to that, the Xperia Z picture management comes with built-in post-editing colour filter effects that made me realise I didn’t need my Instagram app to do the job anymore.

Before - an image taken with the front camera without any effects/filters applied; After – colour filter applied using built-in filter effects

Before – an image taken with the front camera without any effects/filters applied; After – colour filter applied using built-in filter effects

After everything: 8/10

Overall, I would give this phone a long-term chance in my gadget life. The one week trial left me wanting more, because the Xperia Z has so much goodness that I cannot possibly get tired of within a single week.

In addition to that; although I don’t swim much, anyone in tropical Singapore can typically get themselves caught in rainy weather. Knowing that the phone is water-resistant is certainly a god-send on such days. For the mildly-germaphobic me who also happens to like eating oily food with my fingers, it also means I can safely wash my phone whenever I can’t take the grime anymore.

There’s one more cool feature I couldn’t fit into any of the above categories – the phone has a background noise cancelling feature that works effectively during calls. You never have to shout in a train travelling through a tunnel again just to get yourself heard on the other end of the line.

P.S.: Just one final gripe: With the phone being a “fingerprint magnet”, leaving your fingerprints on the screen might give away your pattern unlock code, so be sure to wipe/wash your screen frequently, or draw a mess to cover your code up!

And here’s one last photo that I didn’t upload onto the official review; I guess you could call it a WordPress-exclusive!  It’s also the final photo I had taken with the Xperia Z before returning it that same day, the view from my kitchen window.

I personally believe that one of the best ways to test a camera's sensors is to see how well it can capture the colours and pure nature of a sunrise.

I personally believe that one of the best ways to test a camera’s sensors is to see how well it can capture the colours and pure nature of a sunrise.

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