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Sony Xperia Z: First impressions

Ross Catanzariti | Feb. 22, 2013
Our first impressions of the Sony Xperia Z, including what's hot and what's not.

Our first impressions of the Sony Xperia Z, including what's hot and what's not.

What's hot

The first thing you immediately notice about the Xperia Z is its design, something Sony calls "omnibalance". That's a fancy and quite frankly ridiculous marketing term that is about "creating balance and symmetry in all directions with rounded edges, and smooth reflective surfaces on all sides." Putting aside the fluff, the Xperia Z is certainly a well designed smartphone. It's comfortable to hold, has excellent ergonomics and the completely flat surface on the back gives it a distinctive look and feel.

The large power button on the right side of the Xperia Z is perfectly positioned for one-handed use and offers excellent tactility. The low position of the volume rocker is also ideal and makes it easy to adjust volume using one hand.

The Xperia Z doesn't feel too big despite possessing a 5in screen. It's certainly a large smartphone but the jump in size from a handset like the Samsung Galaxy S III, for example, is not really evident. The thickness of 7.9in certainly helps in this regard and Sony's designers do deserve plenty of credit for cramming all those internals into such a slim body.

We haven't dropped the Xperia Z yet and don't plan to, but can tell you that the glass on the back seems fairly durable. There are no visible scratches on our review unit yet, and while it's only been used for a day that's still a positive. Google's Nexus 4 smartphone showed scratches after a few hours of use, so Sony appears to have used a very good finish on both the front and back glass panels.

We've only used the Xperia Z briefly but we are very impressed with Sony's software so far. This is one of the least intrusive Android UI skins we've come across. There's plenty of evidence of Google's stock holo theme present and all the changes made tie into this theme, so the user interface is generally consistent in most applications. We also like the ability to sort the app draw by multiple parameters, the handy toggles in the notifications pane as well as the coloured themes available to select.

The Xperia Z is also a fast smartphone. We've experienced very minimal lag so far, with most basic tasks like scrolling and switching between running apps all exhibiting excellent performance.

What's not

The Xperia Z's loudspeaker is poor. It's a single speaker design that's located on the right side, towards the bottom of the phone. We found it lacking in both volume and quality for voice calls and media playback, which is disappointing. Thankfully, the earpiece speaker during phone calls fares better though you really need to position the phone precisely when you hold it up to your ear to avoid a lack of volume.

 

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