Sony Xperia Z T-Mobile Review

July 10, 2013
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It's the same device as it was before - with an ever-so-slight change here or there in the software suite, of course. The Sony Xperia Z still has a fully waterproof body, a 5-inch Full HD display, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor. It's not the highest-power machine on the market - if you consider the Snapdragon 600 int he HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4, that is - but it does have a combination of processor and display panel that'll kick out the swiftness the likes of which you've never seen before (if you've not purchased a phone in 2013, of course). And it's all glass for class, too.

Hardware

The display on this machine is a cool 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution with LCD TFT technology. While it's bested with ever-so-slightly by the panel on the HTC One (with the same number of pixels over fewer inches), the Sony Xperia Z clearly has one of the most excellent displays on the market. Of course T-Mobile also has the Samsung Galaxy S 4 with the same number of pixels over the same amount of space at 5-inches, Samsung's Super AMOLED does kick out the light with a bit more brightness.

This device is light and small - just 139 x 71 x 7.9mm sized up with a weight at 146g. The Xperia ZL, the Xperia Z's closest sibling, comes in at a slightly smaller 131.6 x 69.3 x 9.8 mm - that's thicker, but smaller. The Xperia ZL also has no waterproofing while the Xperia Z sticks with a glass back and front while the ZL has a rubbery textured back panel.

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With the Xperia Z you've got a real-deal slab of a candybar-style smartphone in your hand. This device is not meant to be form-fitting for your palm, instead opting for a more "timeless" look with what appears to be as little embellishment hardware-wise as possible.

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On the other hand, the Xperia Z's power button is one of the most prevalent on/off/lock mechanisms you'll see on a smartphone today. It doesn't do anything extremely special, but the mere idea that it works physically while the rest of the machine is held back for the sake of keeping it all waterproof seems to be a one-two shot done because Sony wants you to know they can.

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The rest of the waterproofing on this machine is aided by a diverse collection of covers and corks. Everything under the hood is plugged up by a pull-away door - enough of them to make the device look like a real robot when the full hatch collection is unleashed. None of these flaps have come unhinged for us without warning, and it's been a relatively positive experience getting used to the lot of them in a basic way.

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But know this - if you do indeed decide to open a flap - for a pair of headphones plugging in on the headphone jack, for example - you'll need to make sure you've plugged it back in to bring back the waterproofing. Don't expect to be listening to your earbuds in the rain without incident, in other words.

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In normal everyday use you can give this machine a dunk, on the other hand, as it does work with IP55 and IP57 standards for dust and water. Feel free to dunk this device in up to 1 meter of water - but do so with caution. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active, this device isn't marketed as a handset you'll want to go out of your way to get wet. It's protection, not an admission of submarine greatness.

Software

Like the Xperia ZL, this machine works with Sony's newest suite of unique media apps and a skin over Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. You'll be working with Google's own "Google Now" system on one hand, and Sony's own editions of social networking aggregation in Socialife on the other. Sony provides their own Sony Select store of apps if you're aiming to be exclusive about said business - each of these apps connected to the Google Play app store for purchase or otherwise free access.

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Inside you've also got Sony's Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited. If you're a Sony fan - if you've got an Xperia tablet and a PlayStation and aim for a PlayStation 4 and a PS Vita, these portals will be good for you to keep with the media you've purchased. If instead you're dedicated to Google for your cloud-based media purchases, the full suite of Google apps are here as well.

Above you'll be able to have a peek at a few benchmark results as well - this machine doesn't mess around for processing power!

In the end you've got another bit of UI that's unique in the industry. If you're looking for a visual experience that's Sony's own - especially if you're a big Sony fan - the Xperia Z will give you the best Sony-made Android experience on the market today.

Camera

There are two cameras on this machine, one of them on the front ringing in at 2-megapixels while the back-facing shooter sits at a cool 13-megapixels. Both devices are capable of HDR shooting, the front-facing amalgamation works with the Sony Exmor R sensor while the back uses the Sony Exmor RS sensor. Both of them bring the heat in most situations, light or dark.

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The result of Sony concentrating on cameras outside their Android business - having done so for quite some time now, well before the smartphone craze - is that both the photos and the video you're picking up here on both sides of the machine are top-notch. As the setup is essentially the same as they are on the Xperia ZL (and the international edition of the Xperia Z, of course, and the unlocked USA edition), we've got nothing to say that our Sony Xperia ZL Review didn't already.

Below: photo shot with the Xperia Z a the T-Mobile event in NYC today!

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Have a peek at some demo bits and pieces here and see what you make of them - stick close to the "Superior Auto" function if you're all about getting the most bang for your buck. It makes use of essentially the full suite of effects and adjustments available throughout this machine's camera app, here brought in based on what Sony's software recognizes it needs to send out the best photo it can possible bring on.

Above and below are videos you may have seen before - one of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active (another waterproof smartphone) and another of a LifeProof case. Both of these videos required that we get a bit wet - thus the Xperia Z's setup was in order!

Battery

This device works with a collection of three unique switches in its Power Saving Modes arena - each of them accessible in Power Management in the device's standard Settings setup. With Stamina Mode you've got an automatic disabling of you T-Mobile data when your screen is off - that means notifications go out the window, but you'll have no draw from mobile data when you're not in need.

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Another is Low battery mode, this time disabling functions of many types when the battery level in the Xperia Z is low. The third of three Power Saving Modes is Location-based Wi-Fi, in this case activating Wi-Fi connectivity whenever possible to, again, save battery time by not allowing it to drain with standard T-Mobile data use.

For most average smartphone users, this device will manage an easy morning-til-night life even without these power-saving abilities activated. Standby with power-saving modes activated makes an essentially unending experience brought fourth, with no need for display power to be used and no data coming in, the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor under this machine's hood keeps the whole system intelligently asleep. The longest we've been able to keep this machine powered up is a bit longer than 4 days.

Wrap-Up

Sony's greatest smartphone effort to date is now one of the most solid packages carried by T-Mobile USA. This device does battle with the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 like a champ, and isn't going to take their spot in the industry lightly. You'll want to make sure you check our Samsung Galaxy S 4 review as well as our HTC One review to see the differences between the three devices we've not yet gone over in-depth.

Please feel free to ask additional questions about this device as well - as long as the machine is in our possession, it's yours for the testing. Let the requests continue!


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  • energieon

    With my unlocked Arc S on T-mo I can tether to my tablet and laptop under the radar in the settings, can I do this with this phone?

  • wildcard6

    does the phone heats up a lot when is being used frequently through the day?

  • belle

    23/7/13 10pm bought sony xperia zl less than 2 days took back to kinta cinty sony center and got replaced with a new set due to speaker isnt functioning. 6/8/13 took back the replaced set because the phone isnt ringing n confirmed by them speaker is spoiled. But this round was not allowed to replace.

    Such a bad gadget. Pray hard the sony xperia z tab i bought which hasnt been using much will not be so bad! Was planning to but the sony duo 13 now with my bad to worse experience do u think i should consider?