Sony's Xperia Z targets accident-prone smartphone users with its waterproof and dustproof design. It's a slim, aesthetically appealing device with good call quality, a vibrant display and a well-performing camera, but falls short of the HTC One (Est. $200 and up with contract) and the Samsung Galaxy S4 (Est. $200 and up with contract) in processor speed and camera performance. "The Xperia Z definitely isn't bad, it just isn't awesome, either," says Brent Rose of Gizmodo.com. "And these days, awesome is what it takes."
Somewhat slippery grip. At 5.5 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches and weighing 5.2 ounces, the Xperia Z is portable without sacrificing durability. It fits easily in your hand or pants pocket, but its glass backing is slippery at times. Sony offers a more restrained Cosmic Flow interface that lets elements of its Android operating system shine through for a straightforward user experience.
Fast enough, but weak battery. The Xperia's battery underwhelms, but the smartphone excels at call quality. Behind the scenes a powerful 1.5 GHz quad-core keeps the system running smoothly, but the Xperia falls behind the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 in performance scores. T-Mobile's 4G network also offers a speedy web browsing experience, but its numbers can fall short of other carriers' current data networks.
Withstands abuse. Encased in a sleek yet tough glass chassis with covers for all its ports, the Xperia Z stands up to falls, scratches and dunks in the pool. Experts are impressed with the Xperia's sturdiness; in testing, it successfully took pictures and video underwater and withstood short drops that left no dings or marks on the smartphone.
Beautiful and waterproof. A glistening black slab of glass, the Xperia Z is a "sexy" smartphone, says Brian Bennett of CNET. Unlike bulky waterproof phones of the past, this durable device could pass for any other glossy smartphone titan. However, its smooth backing makes it slightly slippery to hold, and reviewers report it's a fingerprint magnet. The back, and subsequently the battery, are nonremovable, but it does sport a microSD card slot.
The 5-inch HD TFT screen is a "razor sharp display from one of the world's premier screen manufacturers," say Phil Lavelle and Kevin Lee of TechRadar.com, "although it doesn't have the wow factor of the HTC One's Super LCD 3 screen." Compared with a Super AMOLED screen, the Xperia's display appears slightly undersaturated to some. Viewing angles posed the biggest problem with reviewers; a slight tilt of the device and the colors rapidly washed out.
Some gimmicky features. Much touted by Sony, the Xperia Z's 13-megapixel Exmor RS
sensor is a "letdown," says Vlad Savov of
TheVerge.com, reporting a slight presence of both graininess and blurring in many photos. Other reviews are mixed: Bennett reports "superb" image quality in his tests, while for Lavelle and Lee images appear "passable" and start to blur more on enlargement. Like other high-end smartphones, the Xperia Z incorporates a wide range of responsive apps and multimedia features.
Scoring the Xperia Z at 3.5 out of 5 stars, Brian Bennett concludes it's a good-looking smartphone but not the best, unless you must have a water-resistant design.
Review: Sony Xperia Z (T-Mobile) Review: Good Looks Only Take This Phone So Far, Brian Bennett, July 10, 2013
Comparing the Xperia Z to current smartphone titans including the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, Alex Colon rates it a 4 out of 5 for its beautiful, water-resistant design, but finds call quality and battery life mediocre.
Review: Sony Xperia Z (T-Mobile), Alex Colon, July 10, 2013
After hands-on testing, Brent Rose finds that the Xperia Z is an excellent waterproof smartphone, but he can't recommend it over the likes of the HTC One or Galaxy S4.
Review: Sony Xperia Z Review: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl of Phones, Brent Rose, July 10, 2013
Vlad Savov scores the Xperia Z a 7.2 out of 10 for its rugged, handsome construction and water resistance, but concludes it doesn't have the same power or performance behind it as other smartphone giants.
Review: Sony Xperia Z Review, Vlad Savov, March 11, 2013
Phil Lavelle and Kevin Lee rate the Xperia Z at 4.5 out of 5 stars for its good video camera,
water-resistant build and excellent design.
Review: Sony Xperia Z Review: Has Sony Finally Got a Smartphone Right?, Phil Lavelle and Kevin Lee, July 15, 2013