updated 08:03 am EDT, Thu August 15, 2013
Sony Xperia Z Ultra packs in plenty of high-tech features for enthusiasts
Sony dropped something of a bombshell on the Android 'phablet' competition when it revealed the gargantuan Xperia Z Ultra. The device is one of the largest yet in the smartphone-come-tablet category, boasting a huge 6.4-inch 1080p Triluminos IPS display. Even Samsung, which is renowned for creating a market for this category of over-sized mobile devices with telephony capabilities, does not yet have a device with a larger display -- admittedly it comes close, with the Galaxy Mega at 6.3-inches, but that device is not in the same class as the Xperia Z Ultra in the specifications department.
When you first see the Xperia Z Ultra in the flesh, you can't help but raise your eyebrows and have a bit of a chuckle. It really is BIG. I showed it around to a few of my colleagues, one of whom immediately commented, "It fails the Levi's 501 pocket test." But it will fit comfortably inside a jacket pocket at the office, which is in many ways the target audience for this device. As niches get, this is a fairly narrow space; however, it is likely that it will also find a soft spot in the hearts of Star Trek fans, early adopters and power users.
Surprisingly, it can be reasonably comfortable to hold in one hand, although you have to teach yourself to hold it closer to your fingertips than, rather than in the palm of your hand. It uses Sony's OmniBalance design to spread its relatively light weight of 212 grams out evenly across its body. The real highlight, however, is its stunning display 342ppi Triluminos display. We recently saw the qualities that Sony's Triluminos display brings to its Vaio Pro 11 in our review of that device, however, the pixel density here is much higher. Colors pop, website text is crisp and its X-Reality engine renders videos beautifully.
All of this is powered by Qualcomm's brand new Snapdragon 800 quad-core CPU clocked at 2.2GHz and paired with 2GB of RAM. Its SoC also incorporates the new Adreno 330, making this device the fastest and most powerful mobile device on the market and available right now; albeit not globally available at this time. The Xperia Z Ultra is also shipping with Android 4.2.2 'Jelly Bean' on board, which has only recently been superseded by Android 4.3 'Jelly Bean.' For a non-Nexus or Google Play Edition device, this is still very reasonable as those devices have only started receiving their updates over the past three or four weeks. Sony has also been working very hard at speeding up its updates, as it recently detailed, which seems to have improved the outlook for people investing in Sony hardware. It wasn't always the case, and the company seems absolutely determined to gain Android marketshare and garner users loyalty.
Notwithstanding the fact that its OS is now slightly behind the curve, the Xperia Z Ultra is lightning fast. It is incredibly fluid, while apps launch very quickly and games and video are rendered seamlessly. Although Sony runs a custom skin on Android, it is nowhere near as heavy-handed as Samsung's TouchWiz UI, and is in fact one of the lightest on the market. It is still distinctively Sony in theme and essence; however, changes are kept to a minimum and delivered largely through custom apps and widgets. Where Sony has tweaked the OS, the changes are for the most part welcome and make for a better experience. There will be those, of course, who will prefer stock Android version, but if one never materializes, this is one non-stock version of Android we could happily live with.
We will be putting the Sony Xperia Z Ultra through some benchmarks and giving it our full, in depth, review treatment in the coming days. We will also be putting one of its unique features to the test as well, which is its ability to support stylus input from either a regular pen or pencil. Stay posted.
By Sanjiv Sathiah