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Xperia Z great for Philippine, London, Seattle, Tokyo users

I thought I’d write some of my thoughts and experiences on the Xperia Z Android-based smartphone in this mini review now that I’ve been using the mobile phone for quite some time. I’ve been using it as a second phone which replaces my old Xperia Neo V.

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If you’ve read about all the other Android phones in it’s class, I think you should consider the Xperia Z — from my eXperience it’s actually a great phone compared to all the other Android phones in its class.

The design and performance

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To start off things, Sony has introduced a unique power button design on the Xperia — nothing special just a sort of unique branding on it’s Xperia line of Android based phones. Personally, I think that it would have a lot more impact in terms of branding if Sony designed the unique button as a camera button instead of a power button — a button that would allow me to have a two-position focus/shoot operation. Sony is after all known for it’s great line of great cameras and lenses.

I like having glass on both sides of the simple slab design of the Xperia Z much like that of my previous iPhone 4. Would have been nice if Sony had incorporated a bumper like design on the edges to give some sort of extra grip and protection for the front and back glass without having to look for a bumper accessory that will work with the Xperia Z dock.

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Compared to my previous Xperia Neo V, I wish Sony had also placed the back camera somewhere near the middle to make it easier to hold the phone on the sides while taking pictures.

The Xperia Z might not sport the newer generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 found on the Xperia Z1 or the Google Nexus 5 but for a mobile phone having a full HD display (1080 x 1920 resolution) I don’t have any complaints about its performance. In fact for a smartphone that uses an older Qualcomm quad-core Krait chip, the Xperia Z actually performs quite well – I have yet to experience lagging on my Xperia Z even with playing games. I’m actually excited in Sony’s announcement of making the Android 4.4 upgrade available for the Xperia Z — according to Google they have placed a lot of optimizations on Android 4.4 to allow devices to run more efficiently which should make the performance on the Xperia Z even better.

Not afraid to get wet

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The unique thing about the Xperia Z compared to mobile phones like the HTC One, Nokia Lumia 925, BlackBerry Z10, the newer Google Nexus 5 and the LG G2 is that the Xperia Z is IP57 (International Protection rating) certified for water and dust resistance. It is certified to work even after the Xperia Z has been immersed in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.

By design, Sony has placed flaps over the ports, card and SIM slots in order to make it water and dust resistant. The Xperia Z even detects if a flap is open and gives a warning.

At first, I was a bit hesitant on having all these covers on the Xperia Z, but after several days of use, it is actually not much of a hassle. I almost never had to open the microSD and SIM slots. For the earphone cover – I only had to occasionally open it up to be able to listen to the FM radio. This can be easily done away with by using the TuneIn Radio app on Android. For listening to music, I use my Sony MW600 stereo bluetooth headset. Opening the USB port can be minimized by purchasing Sony’s Xperia Z charging dock.

I think that this adds such a great value when buying a mobile phone. In fact next to an all-day battery, I believe that all mobile phones should be water and dust resistant.

From a practical point of view, the water resistant feature is great for places like London, Seattle, Tokyo and the Philippines where people experience a lot of rainfall. It also offers protection in cases where the water you’re drinking suddenly spilled on the table. Dust protection would be great for places like the desert or outdoors.

I personally found it very useful in cases that I had to put my phone out of my pocket while it was raining — no more need for those water-proof cases. It’s also great for having a peace of mind that getting your phone wet when taking pictures on the beach wouldn’t render it useless — although I wouldn’t advice you to go swimming in salt water with it since I don’t think it was certified for it. 🙂

Sony media/content eXperience

One of those things that makes mobile phones these days so much better these days is content. Being able to listen to music, watch movies and TV shows, view and edit documents, take down notes and play games on a device that you can put in your pocket is a so cool. We don’t have to rely too much on our desktop computers these days to get things done.

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Perhaps another advantage of having an Xperia Z phone and probably any mobile phone made by Sony is the wide range of media/content that can be available on your smartphone. Besides Apple’s iTunes library of content, Sony is probably the only other smart phone maker that can offer a wide range of content — with Sony being a producer/publisher of content like music, movies and games.

Walkman Music eXperience – Sony has a history of providing products for listening to music way back from its Walkman player roots. With the Xperia, Sony has brought the Walkman music listening experience on the Xperia Z. Compared to a stock Android music player, the Walkman app offers several options on controlling how I listen to music. In the app, you have access to a 5-band equalizer with preset settings for Rock, Pop, Jazz to name a few. It also provides Clear Bass which lets you control the amount of Bass the music. Other things include Surround Sound settings, xLoud.

In my opinion, the Sony Walkman music app provides a better music listening eXperience than what my iPhone 5 offers especially when I use the Clear Bass and Surround Sound controls to customize my music listening sessions.

Another feature I like about the Xperia is an app called TrackID. The app lets me find out the title/artist of a music that is playing. It’s very useful when I’m listening on the radio and I want to find out information about the music being played in order to buy a copy of the song.

Photos and videos – The Xperia Z comes with a 13-megapixel main camera for shooting pictures. It’s able to record full HD video. A cool feature found on modern high-end smartphones these days, which is present on the Xperia Z, is the ability to take snapshots even while recording video.

Watch videos and photos on the Xperia Z is great for my taste especially considering that I have a full HD display right in front of me. I think I’ve read some sites say that the viewing angles are narrower but in my opinion mobile phones are a personal thing meaning I watch videos / photos dead center on the display anyway. If I need to let others watch a video with me, I can just send the output to a big screen like a Sony Bravia TV using an HDMI cable or wirelessly via Sony Throw (something similar to Apple’s AirPlay).

So far I have no qualms about taking videos and photos on the Xperia Z. Taking low light photos are good. Maybe one of these days, I’ll take the Xperia Z with me to a photo session adventure. But for normal snapshots, the features available are more than enough for me.

Great storage options

One of my favorite things about the Sony Xperia Z is storage options. If you look at the HTC One, LG G2, Nexus 4, Nokia Lumia 925 and even the new Google Nexus 5, it seems that most high-end smartphones, these days, don’t offer a microSD slot. I love that Sony has continued to include a microSD slot on the Xperia Z. This gives me lots of storage expansion especially since the I can use the Xperia Z as a media server.

Besides the microSD slot, you can read/write to an external storage like a USB flash drive via the Xperia Z’s microUSB port using a Host mode OTG cable. I’ve managed to buy a small microSD card reader and a small Host mode OTG adaptor which allows me to carry both of them in my pocket. Connected together (as shown in the collage below), it looks like a flash drive with a micro-USB port. I bought them locally for less than $3.

OTG-microSD-reader-combo

Lots of ways to connect

The Xperia Z offers a lot of options for connecting. The LTE version supports 6 different frequencies that cover most of the LTE frequencies used globally. Aside from that, you can connect using HSPA+, HSPA, 3G, EDGE and GPRS.

You can share the Internet connection with your other devices by activating the Hotspot functionality. Besides sharing via Wi-Fi, Internet access can also be shared via Bluetooth.

Connecting to your home Wi-Fi and public Internet Wi-Fi hotspots is also possible.

Battery

With all these capabilities on the Xperia Z, I had hoped Sony opted to include a battery higher than 2330 mAh. From my experience, the included battery is enough to last a whole day with average to medium use just in time for a re-charge at night.

That said, I guess I’m not one of those ordinary users. When I go out of the house, I usually use the Xperia Z as a hotspot for Internet access. When using the device in this mode, I find that heavy Internet access leads to only about 5 hours of non-stop use before I need to re-charge the Xperia Z again. This is probably because LTE is such a battery hog.

If it’s going to be a busy day outside the office/home for me, I just bring along an external power bank to recharge the Xperia Z.

eXtras

Some extra things you might also want to consider about the Xperia Z if you’re looking for a new mobile phone.

MyXperia – Similar to Find my iPhone for Apple’s mobile devices, MyXperia lets you find the Xperia Z using the GPS on the phone.

Sony Bridge for Mac – If you are a Mac user like me, the good news is that the Sony Bridge for the Mac enables the Xperia Z to sync music on the iTunes library and photos on iPhoto.

One of the things that made me decide on the Xperia Z is actually the Android software that comes with the Sony Xperia Z. Sony has minimized changes on the version of Android installed which makes it as close to pure Android as possible compared with other flavors of Android found on other phones.

I hope that sometime in the future, Sony would decide to provide a pure Nexus Android version much like what HTC and Samsung has done.

Overall, I love using my Xperia Z – the bigger screen, water and dust resistance, acceptable battery life, LTE connection and expandable storage.

 

Gerry Ilagan

Gerry Ilagan is into mobile apps and WordPress development at @speeqs. He loves to write about electronics, the Internet of Things, mobile phones, and #crazyideas.

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