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Sony Xperia Z Ultra smartphone review

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xperiaifa2Sony has pushed the smartphone barrier with its new Xperia Z Ultra device that boasts wafer thin design and a generous 6.4-inch screen.

Unveiled for the first time at the IFA consumer tech trade show in Berlin recently, the Z Ultra is the largest and thinnest Android-powered smartphone on the market.

It is as much a tablet as it is a smartphone thanks to the full high definition screen’s substantial proportions.

But Sony readily admits the device is aimed at the user who is more interested in consuming content rather that creating it.

For that, there’s the new Sony Xperia Z1 which has a 20.7-megapixel camera and a slick design.

DESIGN

The first reaction we got when we showed people the Sony Xperia Z Ultra was one of shock and surprise. Some even laughed at the size of it.

It’s not for everyone because of its girth but those who chose to take it on will be rewarded with great features and an excellent experience.

The user that will be attracted to a device like the Z Ultra is more than likely a huge consumer of content, loves to surf the web on a screen larger than a regular smartphone but doesn’t want to be burdened with a device like a larger tablet.

The Sony Xperia Z Ultra has a 6.4-inch screen

Also throw in the mix the fact it is actually a smartphone that can offer all of the benefits – calling, messaging and using apps and the fact that it’s also a connected device.

Figures show that almost half of all smartphone users also own a tablet but how many would carry both at the same time?

With a device like the Z Ultra a user could potentially have both a smartphone and tablet in one.

The size is the result of the 6.4-inch full high definition screen which is made of the same proprietary Sony Triluminos technology that went into the company’s impressive new range of smart TVs.

The back of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra - it has an 8-megapixel camera, but no flash

But despite its size the Z Ultra is remarkably thin at just 6.5mm. That’s thinner than Sony’s Xperia Z1 and even the iPhone 5S. And the device weighs just 212g.

The svelte design certainly adds to the appeal of the product. Even though it is a hefty size it can still be easily slipped into a bag or backpack. It will even fit into the inside pocket of a coat.

And just like its junior cousin the Xperia Z1 and the previous Xperia Z, the Z Ultra is completely waterproof.

It can be fully submerged in up to 1.5m of water. There are watertight doors on the left and right sides of the device for the SIM card, microSD card and the microUSB charge/sync port.

The Xperia Z Ultra is just 6.5mm thick

On the left edge is also a magnetic charging contact that works with Sony’s charging stand which can turn the Z Ultra into a digital picture frame while the battery is being recharged.

PERFORMANCE

The Z Ultra has a 2.2Ghz quad-core processor and is running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

Performance-wise the Z Ultra is fast and responsive and offers a slick and smooth user experience.

But what should be pointed out is what is missing from the Z Ultra.

Take a look on the back of the device and you’ll see the lens for the 8-megapixel camera – but there’s no flash.

The camera produces images of acceptable quality but it’s not in the same league of other smartphone shooters with built-in flashes and certainly way behind Sony’s own Xperia Z1 and its 20.7-megapixel camera.

The Sony Xperia Z Ultra (6.4-inch screen) dwarfs the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (5.7-inch screen) and the iPhone 5S (4-inch screen)

There is also no dedicated button to activate the camera and capture your images.

Sony knows that if photography is your focus then you’d be looking at the Xperia Z1 and not at the Z Ultra with its pocket stretching size. The Z Ultra can also capture full high definition video.

Making phone calls on the Z Ultra is an interesting experience. Holding this gargantuan device up to your head can look quite amusing.

It didn’t really bother us if we attracted some odd looks but be warned, you’re going to get them if you do want to cover up half of your face with Z Ultra resting on your ear.

If you’re a little sensitive about this, Sony has a solution – a small Bluetooth headset/handset called the SBH52.

The SBH52 can be used as a Bluetooth headset or can be held on your hand like a mini telephone if you wanted to keep the Z Ultra nestled in your bag within a 10m range.

An image captured with the Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Other Bluetooth headsets also pair quite easily as well so you’re not locked into the Sony solution.

On the battery side, the advantage of having a large device means a larger battery.

Sony delivers in this department with a battery that lasts all day, even when watching videos continuously or browsing the web and checking emails.

Of course the battery does have to power a larger screen so pound for pound it’s on par with other recent smartphones in terms of usage time between charges, talk time and standby time.

VERDICT

The Sony Z Ultra is a head-turning smartphone for a number of reasons.

The customers who are likely to buy the product the feature that will get their attention is the gorgeous 6.4-inch screen and all of the advantages that come with that.

The customers who probably won’t buy the device will just notice how big it is without looking beyond the size.

The Z Ultra is not for everyone but for those who choose to take it on will find it is a handy device that bridges the smartphone/tablet gap nicely and provides most of the strengths of both.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Price: $829

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