Sony Xperia Z
With the Sony Xperia Z, Sony’s gone all out to catch up with rivals like Samsung and Apple. On paper at least, it’s pulled it off: this Android phone is a beast. It’s packing a huge thirteen megapixel sensor and a five-inch, full HD screen, and underneath beats a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, support for 4G downloads speeds and a beefy 2GB of memory. Oh, and it’s entirely waterproof. Is that an extra plus point or just a bit pointless? Let’s find out.
We’ve always had a soft spot for Sony’s design - that obsession with black plastic and solid straight lines that somehow has come to embody design from the Japanese gadget giant.
And while last year’s flagship Xperia S was just a bit too thick to compete, there’s no such problem here: this slick slab is just 7.9mm deep. Its large size isn’t for everyone - iPhone owners especially will struggle to adjust - but if you’ve been using one of the new breed of giant smartphones we’ve seen emerge over the last year, you’ll be fine.
(Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Sony’s claims that the Xperia Z is waterproof hold true: we completely submerged ours in a bowl of water for 20 minutes, and it came out the other end just fine.)
Smartly, Sony has worked the Android navigation buttons (home, back and multi-tasking) right into the screen, as Google does on the Nexus devices. It works well and makes the phone seem even more monolithic when turned off. That screen, disappointing compared to its new rivals otherwise, is some what made up for by the shots the 13MP camera is capable of. They’re packed with detail - particularly impressive given how thin the Xperia Z is.
On the software front, Sony’s tweaked Android 4.1, but for once, we actually like the changes that have been made to Google’s open source operating system. It’s blindingly fast, easy to use and stuffed full of handy extras - we particularly like the widgets you can pop on the screen (and not just the homescreen either), like a one touch voice recorder.
Sony also seems to have finally figured out that fans don’t enjoy turning on their phone to find it full of spammy apps you can’t delete: there’s just pointless satnav app Wisepilot here and you can remove it straight away (Do so, and use Google Maps instead).
Fair warning: while we like it, you might hate the design. If you prefer the sleek curves of the HTC One X’ chassis, the boxy look of the Xperia Z may be the very opposite of what you’re after. Added to that is the display - it's HD, yes, but it pales in comparison to the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 panels, which produce richer colours and offer wider viewing angle.
The waterproof doors also add some unnecessary clutter: if you don’t think you’re likely to take your phone swimming anytime soon, you might hate the extra fuss of having to prise open a flap every time you need to put it on to charge.