Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
The Xperia Z Ultra is Sony's first foray in the so-called “phablet” realm, and it comes with a bang, confirming everything we hoped for since the first Sony Togari rumors broke out. The goalposts are always moving in this category, but in general it constitutes of phones with really, and we mean really, big displays.
Sony Xperia Z Ultra undoubtedly delivers in that respect, as it's the phone with the largest screen ever concocted, while still being called a handset... of sorts. At a 6.4” diagonal, some might argue that the Full HD panel is more akin for a small tablet, and we wouldn't spend hours convincing them of the opposite.
Sony is targeting a really niche market here with the Z Ultra, yet on paper it still makes every effort to position its gigantic phone as a premium one. It's been thinned to the extent of being the most slender brand-name handset out there, while keeping the waterproof certification we've come to expect from flagship Xperias lately. That makes it the thinnest IP certified handset, in addition to being the slimmest Full HD one.
It was also the first handset announced with the powerful quad-core Snapdragon 800 chipset, and the first you can draw on with a regular pen or pencil, so Sony has stuffed a lot of superlatives in the Z Ultra from the get-go. Are those “firsts” and “mosts” going to be enough for the world's largest phone to attract mainstream buyers as well? Read on to find out...
In the box:
- In-ear stereo headphones
- Wall charger
- microUSB cable
- Warranty and information leaflets
The first impression left by the Xperia Z Ultra when you grab it is the size, though if you think about it as a smallish tablet rather than a phone, you'll be better prepared for the surface area that ensues in your hand, at least mentally. One-handed operation is very hard with that kind of width and length, and almost impossible if you have smaller hands. It is way taller and a tad wider than the Galaxy Mega 6.3 or the Huawei Ascend Mate 6.1, which should tell you what to expect from its ergonomics.
179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5 mm
7.48 oz (212 g)
167.6 x 88 x 8 mm
7.02 oz (199 g)
163.5 x 85.7 x 9.9 mm
6.98 oz (198 g)
150.2 x 76.1 x 9.4 mm
5.64 oz (160 g)
Just like those two phablets, however, Sony has provided ways to scootch the keyboard left or right , so you can still reach all keys with your thumb only. As for the dialer, it just shrunk it from both sides so that it's equidistant for each thumb to dial, still risking to drop the humongous handset in the process.
The second impression is “geez, that's thin”. Sony already makes the thinnest tablet out there with the Xperia Tablet Z, and with the Z Ultra handset it shaves off the inches even further, arriving at 0.26” (6.5mm), which makes it the thinnest Full HD gear at the moment.
IP58 certification (higher than on the Xperia Z), so you can dunk the whole phablet in up to five feet (1.5m) of water for up to an hour. Watch movies in the bathtub, take it out on the beach or in the rain – the Z Ultra has you covered.
The materials that Sony uses for the chassis aren't shabby either, as we get a scratch-proof glass back and hairline pattern metal framing top and bottom, with matching sandblasted aluminum rim on the sides. The whole slab's weight is kept at bay - those 7.48oz (212g) aren't impressive for today's smartphone standards, but considering the gargantuan 6.4” display, the weight is pretty manageable. More so if we compare it to the Galaxy Mega 6.3, which is all-plastic, not waterproof, and still only negligibly lighter.
All buttons are placed at the right, with the signature round metallic power/lock key situated comfortably, ready for your thumb. The volume rocker is also well-placed, and all key are easy to feel and press without looking, with deep and clicky feedback to them.
dock connector on the left, so you can place the phone in landscape mode in the separate magnetic dock, tilted comfortably for watching movies while charging, for example. An LED notification light at the top right bezel area rounds up a very classy exterior, which comes painted in your choice of white, black or purple colors.
The unibody Z Ultra has a sealed 3000 mAh battery pack, but Sony managed to eke out a microSD card slot on the right side, so that you can extend the internal memory amount if you run out of storage for your movies and TV series that are bound to be a staple on such a big-screen device. Next to the memory card slot is a micro SIM one with a plastic tray, both covered with a protective flap to seal them off from intrusive water, just like the microUSB one at the top left side. The flaps are very easy to pry open and then snap back into place.
The 6.4” screen is a Triluminous display with OptiContrast and X-Reality – behind all that marketing speak you see a Full HD display that is simply better than the one you'd find on the Xperia Z, for instance. This is a relief, as, besides the wider viewing angles, the display on the Z Ultra also shows more vivid colors than the washed out ones on the Z, thanks to the Triluminous pixel technology. It's still not up to par with the best in terms of color and brightness shift when you tilt the phone at extreme angles, but certainly better than what Sony treated us with before.
At 1080x1920 resolution there's plenty of pixel density to show, despite the never-ending screen diagonal. With 344ppi, the Xperia Z Ultra is “resolute” enough so you can't spot the individual pixels from a normal viewing distance with regular vision, and this one you'd be holding even further from your eyes simply due to the fact that the panel measures 6.4” across.
The display is also sufficiently luminant, at 445 nits peak brightness measured, and with good antireflectance coating, plus the OptiContrast tech that bonds the cover glass to the LCD panel underneath delivers a more direct way for the backlight to go through. This further increases brightness, contrast and outdoor visibility in general, which is on par with the best mobile displays out there, like those on the HTC One or the iPhone 5.
With the biggest phone screen come big responsibilities to better utilize that real estate, and Sony has added another unique feature to help the panel do its duties better. You can doodle directly on the sensitive display of the Z Ultra not only with capacitive stylus, as usual, but with regular pens or pencils you've got lying around, too. This adds to the phone's functionality, and at the same time helps it stay trim without a dedicated stylus silo. Surveys show that people rarely whip out the one that comes with Samsung's Note family, for instance, once the novelty of having it wears off, so Sony might be on to something with this approach.
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1. smallworld (Posts: 360; Member since: 13 Jul 2012)
As there's the rule that no Sony smartphone should get more 9/10, here they bring the 8.7 rating...
9. Berzerk000 (Posts: 3269; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)
If Sony could make a better all around device, maybe they could get up to a 9.
"Larger than other 6-inchers, uncomfortable to hold and carry"
This was a problem for the Xperia Z as well, not only was it larger than other 5" devices, but the corners were sharp and uncomfortable. It might look great, but that doesn't matter much when it's so unwieldy.
"Camera lacks flash, could be better quality"
Even though this is more of a tablet, and cameras on tablets are all but useless, this is technically a phone, and if you're going to include a camera on a phone it has to have flash, that was stupid of Sony to exclude it. Sony's cameras are great, except when they are used in their own devices. Their software is definitely sub-par when compared to the competition (Galaxy S4 and Xperia Z have the same camera, but the Galaxy S4 takes much better pictures).
"Relatively weak and hollow earpiece sound."
This is a phone, an obscenely large phone, but still a phone. If we can have quad core processors and as much RAM as older computers, we should be able to have a quality calling experience.
20. roldefol (Posts: 2855; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)
And yet I knew the first comment out the gate would protest the unfair, biased, Sony-hatin' low 8.7 rating, as if that's a score to sneeze at. This device is simply too unwieldy and lacking as a phone to recommend unconditionally.
37. yudi.nemesis (Posts: 934; Member since: 14 Mar 2013)
For people who don’t have the Xperia Z or Z Ultra, you said to much BS.
I can not say too much about the Xperia Z because I did not have it but with the latest update, Sony
has improved the Xperia Z camera quality.
And if you think even with the latest update Xperia Z camera quality was much worse than the S4, please prove it was by doing a
fair and unbiased comparison.
Xperia Z "BIGGER THAN ANY OTHER 5" DEVICES "
let me introduce you to "Samsung Galaxy S4 Active" its Taller, Wider, thicker and heavier than the Xperia Z.
52. Berzerk000 (Posts: 3269; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)
I don't have it personally, but I have used it, and it is very uncomfortable to handle.
I haven't seen shots from the latest update for the Xperia Z, but judging from the comparison PA did back in April, it didn't fair too well against the Galaxy S4.
If you're going to quote, do it right. I never said the Xperia Z was "bigger than any other 5" devices", I said it was "larger than other 5" devices," meaning it's larger than *some*, not all. Also, the GS4 Active might be technically bigger, but it has curved edges which make it easier to handle, unlike the harsh sharp edges of the Xperia Z.
My avatar might be an HTC logo, but I'm relatively unbiased.
55. jdoee100 (Posts: 260; Member since: 04 Jun 2013)
I don't know why sony insists on sharp edges, that is just a bad idea. It's this kind of stubbornness that cost them their market share in other industries to samsung. Samsung is quick to changing market conditions and taste, but Sony does not change until it's too late. Too bad for Sony.
60. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
active is a more like a niche device. refer to S IV...but you've got a point...HTC One is not small either.
However, we've got oppo, huawei, many other chinese oems producing 5 inches slabs.
Z is big. And this boxy shape doesn't help holding it. It's a reminiscent of Moto razr....wide and uncomfortable,
73. kobainez (Posts: 263; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
Here's the hamster nokia fanboy again complaining everything about sony
78. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
stupid kid/. Look closer. maybe one day you''l realize it's not a chamtser. Till this day, you're just a pathetic kiddo.
And point me out where did I complain?
I said about ergonomics which in my opinion is not right. I holded Z in hands and it didn't fit. And I don't have small hands.
So buzz off, kiddo.
Am I a fanboy? And a guy who's defending his favourite oem everytime someone mentions it is not a fanboy?:d You're doing it all the time. it's easy to call somebody out without looking at yourself.
94. kobainez (Posts: 263; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
Hey hamster, I know it's not a hamster I'm calling u hamster because im insulting u stupid. U're complaining abt the z being big bt isn't the lumia got bigger bezel? It's almost as big as Z and I dont see u complaining about it and it's 4.5 inch almost as big as 5 inch z. Why don't complain about the camera like u did before stupid hamster? I asked u many times abt honami sample but u're not replying. Here the sample again http://www.imgus.net/bilder/6a
Gt anything to say?
96. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
you don't get something. it is called ergonomics. Are you familiar with this temr? A hand shape and tthe way it feels in a hand.
For me, Lumia is much more comfortable.
You've got problem with it?
Go scr$%^ yourself kid. I'm entitled to my own opinions, Just like everyone else. Even an abomination like troll.
You've got nothing interesting to say, shut your hole.
95. kobainez (Posts: 263; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
Well u're a nokia fanboy because u always praising nokia and always bash sony. Fanboy!
97. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
I prever Nokia to sony...what's wrong with this statement??? You're doing just opposite. So you're a troll as well.
Learn a bit about personal preferences and trolling kid.
100. kobainez (Posts: 263; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
Until now u still didn't comment about the image quality of honami. I think it's better than your lumia 1020 which has a larger sensor than honami. What a shameful defeat for nokia
66. MrTzr (Posts: 26; Member since: 26 Jun 2013)
I do have the xperia Z and sony did not improve the camera quality (10.3.1.A.0.244). (At least I did not notice it).I compared the image quality of the XZ with the S4 and the S4's quality is far superior. It does still lack detail and the images are a bit grainy. (But after all it's still good, just worse than the GS4)
101. FaisalWibowo11 (Posts: 17; Member since: 12 Aug 2013)
Yudi, my pal.. I recently did a camera comparison between Xperia Z (latest 244 firmware) and Samsung Galaxy S4 (default firmware) I own Xperia Z, and the galaxy s4 is my dad's
Even on the latest firmware, the camera quality of Xperia Z can't defeat the camera of samsung galaxy s4. The S4 beat xperia z easily in all aspects such as resolved detail, colour rendering, focusing, noise levels, macros, and night shots.
Truthfully, as a sony fanboy this comparison made me sad. I hope sony improves the camera quality in the next update
111. ososucre (Posts: 5; Member since: 12 Aug 2013)
For me, the features are so-so if comaring to Galaxy Note 3 but the design is superb flawless
16. LetsBeHonest (Posts: 530; Member since: 04 Jun 2013)
Ya I'll give this beautiful monster at least 9 rate.
46. GTR722 (Posts: 193; Member since: 20 Oct 2012)
THIS is the only thing PA is worth it, the video/photo quality of the devices. And for the review....best screen in the market, water/dust proof, best CPU/GPU in the market....not even a 9 for PA...lets wait for the all gimmick plastic overpriced GN3 to se a 9.5
21. ianbbaa (Posts: 147; Member since: 20 Mar 2013)
Review says "The tip of the pen has to be larger than 1mm for the magic to work, though, and we found out that the disposable ones didn't do the trick."
Did PA even proove this in real? 0 mention about the tech inside and how it works. Besides devices cons, we d like to see this pro feature in action. Everywhere on youtube it works just in PA office it isnt wort to test/mention.
I am not SONY lover anymore, but this feature is NEW and it is worth to test it.
22. akki20892 (Posts: 1674; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)
forget about review look at Xperia Z Ultra so gorgeous........!!!
26. _Bone_ (Posts: 1741; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)
But also very uncomfortable to hold due to the sharp edges.
33. ArtSim98 (Posts: 403; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)
You can choose nice design but uncomfortable holding or ugly design and comfortable holding. I think the design is more important, since we humans have thick enough skin so it won't go thorough and for most of us it won't even hurt a bit.
45. Airforce (Posts: 60; Member since: 24 Jul 2012)
come on..what else do you want Sony to do....WHY DOES THE WORLD COMPLAIN SO MUCH...............yyyyyyy
35. Fallout09 (Posts: 397; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
Gorgeous? Am I missing something? Its a just a really big rectangle. Not much more. I see zero signs of design aesthetic on this device.
69. maccess (Posts: 398; Member since: 16 Jan 2013)
lol.. unfortunately you're 1000% correct..
89. istitch (Posts: 118; Member since: 19 Mar 2013)
Havent you heard of simplicity? Sony is able to make use of the simplicity and make the device so elegant and premium.
For those who say it is uncomfortable to hold because of the sharp edges, i beg to differ, the device is so big that, YOU WILL BE HOLDING THE MIDDLE PART, and you are unlikely to reach the corners! it is considerably light and thin at this size. Please, see it, hold it yourself before judging.
103. skyguy7567 (Posts: 148; Member since: 17 Nov 2012)
Who would be reaching the corners when it is such a big device? Is your hand so big that holding by the corners can make sure that your phone is stable? I hold my Xperia Z by the 'middle', and that is the entire reason why Sony designed their power button that way. Nobody told you to dig your palm into the corners of the device. People who hate Sony just say that the sharp corners are uncomfortable. Have anyone noticed that Samsung's 'smooth corners' are pretty slippery? You made a good point, ist
28. yadu004 (Posts: 46; Member since: 26 Apr 2013)
It's just a phone dude, this review is not an Olympic event. relax..
40. Feanor (Posts: 184; Member since: 20 Jun 2012)
I agree. I don't think that the Note II was better last year and it got a 9. Also I think the Z Ultra is much improved in comparison to the Z and it gets a similar score? Also the size is a matter of taste, obviously Sony didn't do it huge in order to lose points, but to target it to those who like big screens. I actually think that they should be rewarded for making it so incredibly thin instead of having points cut because of size.
2. EXkurogane (Posts: 863; Member since: 07 Mar 2013)
I liked the design a lot, and putting size aside, i wont buy one simply because there is no camera flash behind...
3. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
Let down by no Flash
To tall, long
To much bezel
No 3Gb Ram
No 3700 Mah battery
12. xperiaDROID (Posts: 3724; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)
No flash? Who cares about flash? The Z Ultra has an Exmor RS sensor, so in low light, it will be okay.
Too tall, long? That's because you have sissy hands.
Too much bezel? Wear your glasses man, what do you mean "To much bezel"? You're the only moron who's complaining about bezels.
No 3GB RAM? Buy a freakin' gaming laptop.
No 3700mAH battery? Buy the Changhong Z5 with a 5000mAH battery, made in China. But I think it doesn't suit you because you have a bad taste.
17. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
O how in denial... When next year come it will all equip with those specs. So why don't you buy and get 2011 devices if you don't like the progress.
You don't everyone else does. Cool you are a Sony Fanboy Like me. You wouldn't complain even if it had 2010 spec on 2013 device.
So it's a crime to ask for more. O wait your not a power user so no point having a convo with non techys. You the typical Jane average Joe
19. xperiaDROID (Posts: 3724; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)
I like the progress, but I don't like your whining.
Next year, you're gonna whine 4GB RAM, 4.5GHz Snapdragon 1000 processor, 6000mAH battery, rainbow underpants etc.
You ain't techie, you're an attention seeker.
29. _Bone_ (Posts: 1741; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)
It doesn't have an Exmor RS sensor but a bad low-light performer Exmor R, so the lack of flash for a $800 device is annoying. TROLL has a point cause when Samsung comes up with the smaller better screen, larger battery Note III with OIS Exmor RS, flash, 3GBs of faster RAM, faster NAND flash and real pressure sensitive Wacom digitizer, the small things could turn Sony fans away from the Ultra.
Personally I like the device, but I'm most definitely waiting for the company that kickstarted the phablet category.
31. xperiaDROID (Posts: 3724; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)
It does have an Exmor RS sensor, watch the video.
32. _Bone_ (Posts: 1741; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)
Even so, it's just 8MPs and lacks flash, it's hardly 2013 on the camera front.
47. Airforce (Posts: 60; Member since: 24 Jul 2012)
xperiaDROID .OMG!!!....u REALLY CRACK ME UP MEHN...NIce write up....I love ur reply.....I dont know why PEOPLE complain so much on things they cant even create
61. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
nah....it won't be ok...exmor r sensor of the previous generation..check previous reviews...it is not bad by any means, but it's far from considering it good. Especially in low light. it's not its domain.
Flash doesn't require so much space to exclude it. Putting older exmor sensor means that sony didn't put too much effort on camera capabilities. It's a shame that phablets have mostly dreadful cameras (this one is decent) but anyway, some silly inhibitions from putting a really good camera module. Why not????
18. valapsp (Posts: 415; Member since: 12 Aug 2011)
The only part that i somehow agree is the battery size.
41. Feanor (Posts: 184; Member since: 20 Jun 2012)
1.Sony hasn't given to the Z Ultra excellent photographic capabilities in order not to create internal competition to their future Honami flagship. Samsung put their best efforts to both the S models and the Note derivatives but this is an unusual marketing strategy because their model just cannibalize each other (same with the Zoom and Active models). Bashing the Z Ultra for middling camera is like bashing a Ferrari for not having enough luggage space. It's obviously not the point of the handset.
2. No 3Gb RAM? It's still the fastest, isn't it? If it had 3Gb RAM would you complain that it doesn't have 4Gb RAM?
63. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
why shouldn't we require a better camera from so high-priced handset? it's like a sony's flagship. Maybe even more than Honami. So why not??
It's not a xenon which needs much more space...it's a frikking led.
They should put their best instead cutting corners.
It's in a different category than honami will be so there wouldn't be any cannibalism.
49. GTR722 (Posts: 193; Member since: 20 Oct 2012)
Sorry but the 3GB of RAM is a Samsung thing...you know to move all that bloatware and gimmicks that touchwiz is.
53. PapaSmurf (Posts: 4173; Member since: 14 May 2012)
Or you know, you can just disable the features that you don't use so you don't have to worry about it. Sigh...
62. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
I don't get why people complain about Lumia's bezels. They aren't as big as you think. Compare them with this huge amount of unused space in HTC One or Sony's.
74. kobainez (Posts: 263; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
Are u stupid? Lumia 920 is almost as big as 5 inch sony xperia z and u don't get why people complain about it? If it was 5 inch, it will be bigger than z for sure. Stop showing ignorance here hamster
79. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
kiddo, go play with your kids at your age.
I don't give a rat's ass about your opinion. Lumia is not the smallest one but is much more comfy to hold.
keep your non-existed Z and be happy.
...and now you're the one who mentioned sony's product. I didn't do it. Are u a butthurt? A real butthurt?
90. istitch (Posts: 118; Member since: 19 Mar 2013)
please, DONT JUST FKING judge before you have it!
sheer battery capacity doesn't guarantee battery life, optimization of the software and hardware play an important role as well. my friend told me that ZU lasts 7 hours STRAIGHT with the screen on, connected to 3G
4. amansingal14 (Posts: 260; Member since: 08 Sep 2012)
I see darker blacks and more vivid colours but no flash or OIS is a deal breaker.
27. _Bone_ (Posts: 1741; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)
These samples are actually better than what the Exmor RS pulled on the problematic Xperia Z. This is excellent news coming to the Honami, Sony phones can take good photos after all.
34. romeo1 (Posts: 116; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)
The xperia z camera has got allot better with the updates. with the last update i got i tested it in low light against my brother's s4 and even without flash on you saw more than with the s4 with flash on. it had less noise on the s4 but less details. But with flash onn the z kicked its but easy. im talking about low light have not tested outdoos with lot of light against eachother
54. PapaSmurf (Posts: 4173; Member since: 14 May 2012)
S4's camera puts the Xperia's Z to shame even after the 100's of updates pushed to it lol.
70. maccess (Posts: 398; Member since: 16 Jan 2013)
even the z ultra camera is still inferior to the note 2...
92. anleoflippy (Posts: 167; Member since: 03 Jan 2013)
The latest firmware update does improve the screen contrast and the camera quality of the Z that it can actually compare with other flagships. Although not the best but certainly better than the first firmware. Why not give updates? The GS4 uses the the same sensors that the Xperia Z has. With proper optimization and software algorithms, the Xperia Z can get equal or near quality image of other flagships.
5. anleoflippy (Posts: 167; Member since: 03 Jan 2013)
I guess it's a pretty fair score. It is to big for some people and some are disappointed by the lack of an LED flash. Good to see PA liking the screen of the Z Ultra.
6. ArtSim98 (Posts: 403; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)
On the first page in the pictures you wrote "Buttons are on the left" and then "A dock connector is on the left". But the buttons are on the right, right?