Sony took its own sweet time to deliver a new flagship smartphone, but came out with what looks like its most promising handset. Will the new Xperia handle competition just as well as it handles water and dust?

Usually, I wouldn’t delve too deep into the number of cores a phone’s processor has. It usually doesn’t matter much what processor it has, as long as the OS, UI and apps can be handled easily. But then at the same time, all the Android super-smarties and flagships have been outfitted with Quad-core chips, making it a must-have on a smartphone, and Sony became outdated in terms of core processing power (which makes a lot of difference in the world of Android).

With CES, however, Sony finally had a new flagship in the form of the Xperia Z, which caught everyone’s attention by being dunked into a fishbowl full of water. At last, I thought, that Sony is ready to take on the big guns. And from the moment it landed on Smartbuy’s desk, we’ve been trying to figure out if this could be the best Android around.

Design and build

Of course, the first thing I did was to drop this phone in a bowl of water. Then I put it in a glass of water. And then under a tap of running water. Once I was convinced that it really is water-resistant, I moved on to the rest of the review process.

Once the phone had been wiped dry, I could see that it is a shiny phone of sorts. Not the blingy shiny, but the mirror kind of shiny. The phone has glass all over, with coating that makes everything reflect off its surface. That is, if it has been just wiped clean – it’s a smudge magnet, this one. Sony says the glass is scratch resistant. But I’m not sure if it is as tough as Corning Gorilla Glass, because I could see some scratches on my demo unit very clearly. That said the phone does have an overall tough character.

Tech and performance

In my opinion, Sony’s smartphones have always been the ultimate media consumption devices, and the Xperia Z upholds that legacy. That big, 5-inch full HD screen is bright and rich in colours, and I watched quite a few 1080p movies on it. The 1.5GHz quad-core chip and the 2GB RAM power the phone quite efficiently – I could watch full-HD movies and multitask with other apps with zero lag or stalls.

The 16GB onboard memory did seem a little less to me. Given its stupendous multimedia performance, I would’ve loved to load it up with media and carry it around. There is a microSD expansion port available, that supports up to 64GB, but playing media through a microSD sometimes slowed the Z down.

The Z, otherwise, is quite the multitasker. The UI too, has been made a little better from the previous generation, and the present specs handle the Android v4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS pretty well. We got a score of 7537 on Quadrant, which is the same as HTC One X+ and LG Optimus G. Of course, it’s quite less than HTC One, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t rubbing shoulders with other super-smarties.

Camera

I have never disliked the cameras on Sony’s smartphones. The ones on the Ion and the SL were also quite good, considering the competition in their time. The Z, however, has tough competition in terms of HTC One and Nokia Lumia 920, in the camera department.

But while trying out the camera, I felt that this one isn’t bad at all. The low light shots had very minimal levels of noise. Even the bright shots had the right amount of colours. On the phone’s screen, when we checked the pictures out, the colours looked a little vivid and exaggerated, but when we transferred them onto the PC, they looked just fine. The AF is fast to respond, and the video quality too, is good. The secondary camera was also good, on Skype calls and Google Hangouts.

Battery life

The battery was a little disappointing. While I could manage an entire working day on just WiFi, using audio, video, and all the social network apps, the battery life went drastically down to just 9 hours on combined usage of 3G and WiFi. Of course, I used a little more video, but I’ve also run the same tests on the LG Optimus G and HTC One X+ and gotten more juice.

We say

The Xperia Z makes me stick to my old opinion – that Sony’s smartphones are the best ones around for media consumption. There are other quad-core, full-HD smartphones around, but the way this new flagship handles media with everything else, makes it worth the money.

And, since it’s one of the best looking phones Sony has ever produced, it fits right into the premium smartphone segment with the big ones. Oh, and lest we forget, this is one phone you can take out in the rain!

Rs 37,900

Love – Awesome multimedia experience, good camera

Hate – Battery life, scratch and smudge prone back panel

sabyasachi.b@thehindu. co. in

(This article was published on April 8, 2013)
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