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Sony Xperia Z: Splash-proof, smart and solid

Those who have been observing Sony over the past year and a half would have been puzzled about why the company is not doing better in the mobile phone market. It is not as if they have not come out with some very good devices — the Xperia Ion and Xperia SL were both good phones at the high end, while the Xperia Tipo showed that Sony could still make a phone for the masses. And yet, it has been a rough ride for the company, with its models getting criticised often for not being the spec and hardware beasts that were being served up by the competition.

The Xperia Z will certainly lay to rest complaints about Sony’s hardware not being on par with the competition (read Samsung, HTC and LG). It sees Sony join the quad core processor bandwagon, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5 GHz processor, a brilliant 5-inch full HD (1980 x 1020) display, 2 GB RAM, 16GB of onboard storage which can be expanded, and a 13.0-megapixel camera. And running it is Android 4.1.2. All this in a frame that might not exactly turn heads, but has a lot going for it. And not just because it is waterproof (as long as you keep the ports shut). The design is smart, rather than spectacular, and is a definite step away from Sony’s standard Xperia look. It is encased in glass on both the front and back — scratch-resistant, we may add — and at 7.9mm, is really thin for a device with this big a display. Yes, we have a sneaky feeling that some of the panels covering the ports and slots on the slides will fall off, but until they don’t, the Xperia Z exudes slab-like solidity, especially with the metallic power button and volume rocker on the right.

As you would expect from such a well-endowed device, the Xperia Z performs very well indeed. No, we are not very convinced about the “it HAS to be quad core to rock” argument from the tech crowd (the Lumia 920 and iPhone 5 have shown us that even dual cores can be pretty good), but there can be no doubting that Sony’s latest smartphone is a buttery smooth operator. Mails, social networks and games are handled with no lags, but the real strengths of the device are its display and multimedia.

The display is only the second full HD one we have seen on a handset (the HTC Butterfly was the first) and while lower in pixel density, delivers a very good viewing experience, for videos and Web pages alike. The 13.0-megapixel camera is not a Lumia 920 or iPhone 5 beater, but serves up some very good results in both video and still mode (courtesy lots of shooting modes, including panorama and smile detection) — good enough for us to be genuinely puzzled as to why Sony did not place a dedicated camera button on the device. Sound quality is outstanding on headphones, although not the greatest on loudspeaker.

Mind you, all this does drain battery at the rate of knots. Venture not too far from a charger if you have 3G running on the handset, as you will need a recharge a day. Yes, there is the Stamina Mode which locks down different processes to ensure your battery lasts longer, but then those who have been spoilt by the marathon battery of the Galaxy Note 2 will wonder why compromises on performance are necessary to make a battery last longer. And honestly, we have no idea why such good hardware is running Android 4.1, rather than 4.2.

In terms of performance and appearance, this is certainly the greatest Android device we have seen from Sony. Its greatest challenge however is going to be to convince users that it is a better bargain than existing smartphone heavyweights like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the HTC Butterfly and of course, the iPhone 5, not to mention the soon to arrive Samsung Galaxy SIV and the HTC One. The Xperia Z is a solid performer, but does not offer anything path-breakingly different. It is a very good option for those looking for a large screen smartphone with an excellent display and multimedia, but it is going up against some very stiff competition without any big aces up its sleeves, and with a stiff price tag to boot.

Sony Xperia Z: 5.0-inch 1980 x 1020 display, 1.5 GHz quad core processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage (expandable), 13-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, 3G, water resistant.
Price: Rs 38,990 

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