Sony

Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review: Phonesaurus

At what point does a phone get too big to be called a phone? It seems like Sony wants to find out with the Xperia Z Ultra, a mammoth device with a 6.4-inch screen that the company says is not a tablet. I got news for you, Sony - it ain't a phone either.

What is it?

That humongous 6.4-inch FullHD screen is really what the Z Ultra is all about. Apart from the camera, it's got the same stellar hardware as the Xperia Z1: 2.2GHz quad-core Krait 400 Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB memory (with microSD slot) and a 3050mAh battery. This device -- I'm flat out refusing to call this thing a phone or even a phablet -- debuted at an MRP of Rs. 46,990, but is available in stores for around Rs. 41,000 now.

Who is it for?

Design

The Z Ultra actually looks like a slab of black marble. It's sleek, it's huge and it would fit very well as a bathroom tile if one of yours ever chips off. Ideal, since it's waterproof too!

The aluminium frame and the all-glass front and back make it feel sturdy and reliable. Couple that with its size and it's the ideal weapon to carry around and bash someone with. Who needs pepper spray when you can whack someone with 212 grams of sharp-edged glass and metal?

And if nothing else, you can always use it to serve drinks to guests.



The plastic flaps that house the microUSB port and the SIM and memory card slots are the weak point. They are flimsy and feel cheap in an otherwise premium tablet. I'm pretty sure that the one for the microUSB -- located at the top-left corner -- will come off in a few months, so make sure you keep that warranty receipt.

The bigger problem with the flaps is that they don't seal back tightly with usage. Sony has made it abundantly clear that the waterproof feature needs those flaps shut to work. Given the gaps these had, I was hesitant to take the Z Ultra out in the rain like I did with the Z1, making the whole waterproof thing just a gimmick that guards it from spills. Meh.

Of course, the larger question with the Z Ultra is whether it's just too big. Short answer? Yes, for a phone. But if you are someone who is comfortable with using tablets as a phone, then the Z Ultra is fantastic.

Using It

The size of the Z Ultra is something I never got used to even after a week. Perhaps it's just psychological. I've used 7-inch tablets as my primary smartphone and the fact that they were tablets made me prepared for the inconvenience of the size. But because this isn't supposed to be a tablet, every small "this is too big!" moment got magnified.

Take, for example, the mere act of wearing socks. Sitting on a chair with the gargantuan Xperia Z Ultra in my pocket, I couldn't bend forward properly to put on a sock -- at least not without the edge of that phone making an effort to carve out my kidney.

Wearing trousers, it sticks out of the pocket uncomfortably almost all of the time. Wearing loose shorts with deep pockets, it falls out of the pocket almost all of the time. By the fourth day, I just used to hearing that familiar thud of the device hitting the floor.

But when it comes to actually using the device, it performs like a dream. All the praise I heaped on the Snapdragon 800 processor in the review of the Z1 stands up here too -- there is just no complaint on the performance front.

The battery, however, is not something I'm too happy with. The Z Ultra lasted for just over hours when used with 80 minutes of calls, plenty of social networking and email, about 2 hours of gaming, half an hour of music and half an hour of video. On average, you can expect about 11 hours of battery life, which is quite disappointing for a phone that costs so much.

The Best Part

I can harp on for hours about the whole size issue, but damn, that screen is a thing of beauty. It isn't plagued with poor viewing angles like the Xperia Z or the Z1 and instead is sharp even at really obtuse angles, which is fantastic. It has vibrant colours and to me, this is the first time FullHD has made sense on a smartphone (ok, fine, let's call it a phone). The screen is actually big enough that I think an HD display would have been noticeably inferior to a FullHD one, but I'm just guessing here. The great quality and large size (without being obscenely large) actually come together to make it the best portable movie player I have used.

Tragic Flaw

At this price, that camera is a crime. Really, Sony's just robbing you blind. Like most cameras, it's fine in the daylight in brightly-lit environments, although Sony seems to artificially bump up the colours. But come sundown, it transforms into a different beast -- one whose eyes are terribly grainy and unable to focus properly. The lack of a flash on this device is just ridiculous. If someone is willing to shell out over 40,000 rupees for a device, you expect a feature that comes in devices that cost almost 1/10th the price. If you care about the camera at all -- and there's no reason you should if you're spending this kind of money -- then don't buy the Xperia Z Ultra.

Test Notes

-The call quality of the Xperia Z Ultra is fantastic, but the antenna isn't as strong as we would have liked it to be. It often failed to get network in areas where other phones work fine. When it does get network though -- even a single bar -- it's perfect.

-The speakers are atrocious. They are just too soft, so don't be surprised if you often miss out on phone calls. And when using with that large screen for watching movies, make sure you have a pair of headphones handy.

-The built-in Sony apps, like Sony Live, don't really add much to the experience. Indeed, the whole UI -- which is the same as the Z1 -- is pretty to look at but without any added functionality. That's a pity because Samsung does a fantastic job of making sure you can really use every bit of the additional real estate on its Note series. But Sony has done nothing to take advantage of that large screen.

Should you buy it?

Look, you really, really need to want a super-large primary smartphone if you are thinking of purchasing the Xperia Z Ultra. Don't make a blind decision with this one -- go to a store, try it out and take your time with it, no matter how antsy the salesperson gets. This size isn't going to work for everyone.

And if you have decided that big size is what you want, then you need to be all right with a shoddy camera, substandard battery life, and cheap flaps on the sides that seem like they are going to break off with usage.

Given all those caveats, I can't recommend you buy the Xperia Z Ultra. If a big-size smartphone is what you want, your money is better spent elsewhere, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra Specs:

OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

SIM: microSIM

CPU: 2.2GHz quad-core Krait 400 Qualcomm Snapdragon 800

Screen: 6.4-inch 1920x1080 Triluminos Display with Scratch-resistant Glass (441 ppi)

RAM: 2GB

Storage: 16GB internal, microSD up to 64GB

Camera: 8MP rear with 1080p FullHD video / 2MP front cam with 1080p FullHD video

Connectivity: 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4

Battery: 3050mAh Li-Ion

Dimensions: 179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5 mm

Weight: 212 gms

Features: Waterproof up to 1 metre and for 30 minutes

Price: Rs. 46,990 (Best Buy: Rs. 41,000)



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