Interface

The Sony Xperia ZR comes with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, which is a bit disappointing having in mind that Android 4.3 is already available to users of Nexus devices. We aren't really optimistic when it comes to Sony's ability to bring timely software updates to its devices, but still, we hope that it won't take too long for Sony to release an update for the ZR.

On top of Android 4.1.2, we find Sony's custom user interface. Overall, the UI is quite unobtrusive, which should be good for the purists out there. In our opinion, this is one of the most polished custom UIs for Android. It's certainly not the most feature-rich, but it is filled with subtle animations here and there making it feel fun and exciting to use.


All of the essential apps like Phone, Contacts, Messaging and so on have been customized. They are quite simplistic and straightforward, which isn't a bad thing, and thanks to their redesign, their appearance is in line with the rest of the user interface.

Unfortunately, some of the custom widgets by Sony actually have smooth, but slow animations, which might be fun the first time you use those widgets, but quickly becomes tiresome afterwards. Of course, you can always ditch those for third-party widgets of your own liking.

Processor and Memory

As we said in the beginning, the Sony Xperia ZR is powered by the oldie but goodie quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 chipset, which is clocked at 1.5 GHz. That powerful CPU is complemented by the Adreno 320 GPU, which is all that a mobile gamer could ever want. The ZR's impressive configuration is rounded up by 2 GB of RAM, and while that all seems pretty good on paper, the best part is that system performance itself is also spectacular. We're glad to report that Sony has finally managed to get rid of the little remaining lag that used to plague its UI. The Sony Xperia ZR is very speedy and doesn't waste the user's time with irritating delays or choppiness.

In terms of internal storage, the ZR comes with the healthy 8 GB, though only about 4.6 GB of that are accessible to user. Luckily, you can install a microSD card and expand your storage space.


Quadrant StandardAnTuTuGLBenchmark 2.5 (Egypt HD)Vellamo
(HTML5 / Metal)
Sony Xperia ZR8216210455115 / 45 fps2274 / 652
Samsung Galaxy S412078247014437 / 39 fps1702 / 704
HTC One12481233083551 / 31 fps2395 / 781
Google Nexus 447571674949171375 / 600

Phonebook

One thing we don't like about Sony's phonebook is the lack of an option to set up an account to sync with. Who knows, there might be such an option... somewhere in there, but we couldn't find it, so we instead went to the Settings to set our account from there. Another irritating thing is how little space is left for your call log, as it shares a single screen with the dialer. Other than that, switching between dialer, all contacts and favorites is pretty seamless.



Meanwhile, it's great to see that Sony has kept the good old T9-style dialing, where you can start T9-typing the name of the contact you want to call using the numeric keypad, and the phone will automatically find that person for you. It's very comfortable to dial this way.

Organizer

The businessman's best friend, the calendar, is well represented in the Sony Xperia ZR. The phone's calendar app features all the basic necessities like month, week and day views, as well as some 'bonus' features such as the ability to expand the appointments for the selected day in month view. The pinch-to-zoom function from the stock calendar has, thankfully, been preserved.

The handset also comes with a simple calculator, as well as a versatile notes app, which isn't the most convenient notes app ever, but makes up for it by offering a good array of options. One think we have to point out here is that you might find Sony's Small Apps to be more comfortable to use compared to their full versions. For example, once you press the multitasking button, you gain access to four shortcuts to handy mini apps, including a calculator, timer, notes and voice notes. In the end, we found it pretty easy to make quick notes or recordings using the Sony Xperia ZR.



Messaging

Sony's QWERTY keyboard is very reminiscent of the iPhone keyboard as its main layout features only the most necessary keys, as well as as a similar color theme. It's a bit irritating that even the dot hasn't found a place somewhere next to the spacebar, but oh well... All in all, typing with the keyboard is a joy, as the letter keys are big and easy to find. The landscape layout is also great as it takes advantage of the full screen width and even features an addition line of frequently used symbols (yep, the dot is there).

The messaging app is very well designed with a versatile and intuitive interface. You can easily do stuff like attach a photo, video, sound, note, location, etc. to your messages. The default email app is will do the job, though it lacks some more advanced settings like tweaking the preview text length, for example.




Internet and Connectivity

Chrome is the browser of choice for the Sony Xperia ZR, and it tends to perform lovely on this device. As always, loading is super-fast, while navigation around pages, including scrolling and zooming, is very fluid and trouble-free. The browser inflates text correctly, so usually it's just the right paragraphs that need to be read comfortably that are the ones to get an increased size. Of course, for those who've been living under a rock for the past year, we'd like to point out that Flash Player is out of the question with this browser.

Sure, some things had to be scaled down for the Xperia ZR to reach the desired price-point, but you'll surely be glad to know that LTE wasn't one of them. But just in case that your carrier is yet to adopt those beloved 4G technologies (which is quite likely, when you think about it), the ZR can offer standard HSPA+ connectivity for up to 42.2 Mbit/s downlink and 5.76 Mbit/s uplink.

Further completing its full set of connectivity options, the Sony Xperia ZR is also the proud owner of support for all the latest Wi-Fi protocols, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and DLNA. If you're the type of user who loves to explore the possibilities with these new technologies, the Xperia ZR will certainly prove to be a fine playground.

We encountered no problems when using the Xperia ZR for navigation. The user's location gets pinpointed in a timely manner even when assistance from wireless networks is turned off. Of course, what you'll find on board the device is Google Maps, which has a decent voice navigation module built-in, though it should be noted that it requires you to have a constant internet connection. Other than that, Google's robust Maps offering makes for a pretty satisfying maps and navigation solution.

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