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Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review

Sony Xperia Z Ultra 8.7

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Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review

Introduction


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...

Box and contents - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
Box and contents - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review

Box and contents

In the box:

  • In-ear stereo headphones
  • Wall charger
  • microUSB cable
  • Warranty and information leaflets

Design


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.

One-handed operation is very hard with the Sony Xperia Z Ultra - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
One-handed operation is very hard with the Sony Xperia Z Ultra - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
One-handed operation is very hard with the Sony Xperia Z Ultra - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review

One-handed operation is very hard with the Sony Xperia Z Ultra


Sony Xperia Z Ultra
7.06 x 3.63 x 0.26 inches
179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5 mm
7.48 oz (212 g)

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
6.6 x 3.46 x 0.31 inches
167.6 x 88 x 8 mm
7.02 oz (199 g)

Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3

Huawei Ascend Mate
6.44 x 3.37 x 0.39 inches
163.5 x 85.7 x 9.9 mm
6.98 oz (198 g)

Huawei Ascend Mate

LG Optimus G Pro
5.91 x 3 x 0.37 inches
150.2 x 76.1 x 9.4 mm
5.64 oz (160 g)

LG Optimus G Pro


To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.


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.

Front - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
On-screen buttons - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
Front-facing camera - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review

Front

On-screen buttons

Front-facing camera


Sony's engineering prowess is really showing here, as despite the svelte profile, it managed to seal off the internals against water with 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.

Buttons are on the right - The sides of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
Top side - The sides of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
Bottom - The sides of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review

Buttons are on the right

Top side

Bottom

The sides of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra


Sony has placed a 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.

A dock connector is on the left - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
A dock connector is on the left - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review

A dock connector is on the left


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.

Back - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review
Rear camera - Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review

Back

Rear camera


Display


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. 

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, as the pen has to be metallic, hence conductive as well. All pencils worked without any problem, and you can also pick areas in a photo for cropping, or press buttons with the tip of the pen or pencil, for sending an email without releasing the pen, for instance. Sony says it doesn't use any dedicated technology, just bumped up the capacitance touch input sensitivity, and the results are pretty successful. 

Furthermore, the company improved significantly on the handwriting recognition algorithms that come with the phone, and as long as you don't scribble like a doctor with 20 years of practice, the phone picked up almost every word we wrote immediately, though we get only English for now. Simple "whisking" over the wrong word or sentence deletes them, and you can replace a wrong letter just by writing the correct one over it.



124 Comments
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posted on 13 Aug 2013, 09:51 33

1. smallworld (Posts: 488; 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...

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 10:11 24

9. Berzerk000 (Posts: 4275; 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.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 10:55 12

20. roldefol (Posts: 4332; 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.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 12:49 12

37. yudi.nemesis (Posts: 1127; 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 "

Hahaha ...
let me introduce you to "Samsung Galaxy S4 Active" its Taller, Wider, thicker and heavier than the Xperia Z.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 14:46 5

52. Berzerk000 (Posts: 4275; 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.

http://www.phonearena.com/reviews/Camera-comparison-Samsung-Galaxy-S4-vs-HTC-One-Sony-Xperia-Z--iPhone-5-Nokia-Lumia-920-and-Galaxy-S-III_id3285/page/7

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.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 15:14 5

55. jdoee100 (Posts: 334; 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.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 16:06 4

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,

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 21:06

73. kobainez (Posts: 429; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)


Here's the hamster nokia fanboy again complaining everything about sony

posted on 14 Aug 2013, 01:00 1

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.

posted on 14 Aug 2013, 13:04

94. kobainez (Posts: 429; 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/6a7f722126dbda9790af5df2e6fb4914.JPG
Gt anything to say?

posted on 14 Aug 2013, 14:51

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.

posted on 14 Aug 2013, 13:09

95. kobainez (Posts: 429; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)


Well u're a nokia fanboy because u always praising nokia and always bash sony. Fanboy!

posted on 14 Aug 2013, 14:52

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.

posted on 15 Aug 2013, 04:14

100. kobainez (Posts: 429; 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

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 17:21 5

66. MrTzr (unregistered)


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)

posted on 17 Aug 2013, 00:43 1

101. FaisalWibowo11 (Posts: 163; 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

posted on 18 Aug 2013, 23:22

111. ososucre (Posts: 25; Member since: 12 Aug 2013)


For me, the features are so-so if comaring to Galaxy Note 3 but the design is superb flawless

posted on 12 Jan 2014, 14:39

123. shaolin95 (Posts: 9; Member since: 14 Oct 2013)


so so? Laughable comment.
Aside frome the s note (which you can still use a pen with the Ultra although not as tightly integrated), I will take the Ultra any day over the Note 3.
Display alone is enough for me to love the Ultra more. Size and quality is awesome. The AMOLED has amazing black levels but other than that the Sony is more accurate.

posted on 12 Jan 2014, 14:37

122. shaolin95 (Posts: 9; Member since: 14 Oct 2013)


"Larger than other 6-inchers, uncomfortable to hold and carry"
Your are a midget, or dont like big phones. Obviously you havent tried one because this things feels amazing on your hand. Much better than my previous Note 2 which was smaller.

"if you're going to include a camera on a phone it has to have flashy"
That comment is just so stupid that more than funny it makes me feel sad about you. You have NO IDEA what photography is all about much less the use of Flash.
Go learn and stop making a fool of yourself.

"Relatively weak and hollow earpiece sound."
The audio quality for phones is great..not a single issue so again more BS comments of someone whon knows nothing about what he is talking about.
As a loud speaker for music (which is even more ridiculous to discuss from any phone really), yes it is not as loud but guess what..it is WATER PROOF so damn, you dont think there is a trade off there?
So..next time before all your BS nonsense..at least try to make some sense with your comments and get your facts straight.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 10:39 18

16. LetsBeHonest (Posts: 1484; Member since: 04 Jun 2013)


Ya I'll give this beautiful monster at least 9 rate.
so beautiful

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 14:02 1

46. GTR722 (Posts: 261; 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

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 10:56 3

21. ianbbaa (Posts: 305; 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.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 10:57 13

22. akki20892 (Posts: 3901; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


forget about review look at Xperia Z Ultra so gorgeous........!!!

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 11:09 7

26. _Bone_ (Posts: 2155; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)


But also very uncomfortable to hold due to the sharp edges.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 11:47 3

33. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3535; 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.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 14:02 5

45. Airforce (Posts: 69; Member since: 24 Jul 2012)


come on..what else do you want Sony to do....WHY DOES THE WORLD COMPLAIN SO MUCH...............yyyyyyy

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 14:08 2

48. GTR722 (Posts: 261; Member since: 20 Oct 2012)


So you have used the ZU ??

posted on 12 Jan 2014, 14:42

124. shaolin95 (Posts: 9; Member since: 14 Oct 2013)


Enough of the stupid sharp edges BS. Go test one for real then tell me about it.
This thing feels amazing on your hands and it pisses me off people talking crap showing they have not handled one in real life.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 12:07 6

35. Fallout09 (Posts: 421; 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.

posted on 13 Aug 2013, 19:02 1

69. maccess (Posts: 742; Member since: 16 Jan 2013)


lol.. unfortunately you're 1000% correct..

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Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

OS: Android 5.1 5.0 4.4 4.3 4.2.2
view full specs
Display6.4 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (342 ppi) TFT
Camera8 megapixels
Hardware
Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2200 MHz, Krait 400 processor
2 GB RAM
Size7.06 x 3.63 x 0.26 inches
(179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5 mm)
7.48 oz  (212 g)
Battery3050 mAh, 14 hours talk time

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