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Sony Xperia Z Ultra phablet review - hands-on

  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra


Sony is the latest manufacturer to jump on the plus-sized phone bandwagon, with the Xperia Z Ultra. It's a 6.4in phablet with a Full HD screen, and is a similar size to the 6.3in Samsung Galaxy Mega, but the two phones have significant differences.

For a start, the Xperia Z Ultra has a 1,920x1,080 screen as opposed to the 1,280x720 pixels of the Galaxy Mega. Also, while the Galaxy Mega has a fairly standard 1.7GHz dual-core processor, the Xperia Z Ultra has a screamingly fast 2.2GHz quad-core chip. There's a significant price difference, too; the Galaxy Mega is £400, but the Xperia Z Ultra looks like it will be more like £600.

In the hand, the Ultra feels like a cross between a jumbo Xperia Z and an Xperia SP. You have the glass front and rear of the Xperia Z and the pleasing metal frame of the SP, which helps make the phone comfortable to hold.

It's also a bit classier than the Galaxy Mega, which is all plastic. The Z Ultra also has the advantage that it's fully water-sealed, so will survive being used in the bath.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra
Big, but comfortable to hold, and waterproof

Considering its huge screen, the Ultra feels relatively compact. Sony claims it was designed to be the same width as a passport, so it will fit in your back or jacket pocket and, at 92mm, the Ultra fits easily in one hand. It's a full 30mm slimmer than the 7in Asus Fonepad, for example.

It's also extremely slim, at just 6.5mm thick. Sony says it has managed to make the Ultra so slim that the 3.5mm headphone jack is now the limiting factor, and that to make it even slimmer would require a redesigned audio output.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra
The Ultra is just 6.5mm thick

The 6.4in screen has a Full HD 1,920x1,080 resolution. This equates to a pixel density of 344 pixels per inch (ppi), which is higher than that of the current-generation iPad, if evidently not up there with 1080p smartphones such as the Xperia Z, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.

We were impressed with the screen; colours were vibrant and viewing angles wide, and the Z Ultra's screen had much purer whites than the Galaxy Mega's, which had a slight blue tinge.

PERFORMANCE

The Ultra is also extremely fast. It has a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, which is the highest clock speed we've seen in an Android device. It completed the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark, which is a reasonable indicator of web browsing performance, in an astounding 409ms - more than twice as fast as a Galaxy S4.

3DMark performance was even more impressive, where the Ultra managed to score 17,417 and 11,895 in Extreme mode. Up to now, the best score we’d seen in this challenging 3D graphics benchmark was 11,270 from the Samsung Galaxy S4. It's a seriously fast device, but the 3,000mAh battery should hopefully cope well with the processor and large screen.

SMART BLUETOOTH HANDSET

Even though it's essentially a tablet, you can use the Ultra as a phone. As with the Asus FonePad, though, you'll look a bit of a Charlie making a call. Sony has realised this and has launched the SBH52 Smart Bluetooth Handset to help. It looks a bit like a slightly larger Bluetooth headset, but is designed to be held like a small phone rather than clipped to your ear.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra
It's like phones used to be

The idea is that you keep the Ultra in your bag, and answer or make calls with the much more convenient Handset. It has a display, too, so you can read (but not answer) text messages, as well as scroll through your call list to find someone to ring.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra
Much less silly than holding a phablet to your ear

Phablets are a niche product, but if you're after a huge phone/compact 3G tablet, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra's HD screen and super-quick processor make it look like a serious contender.

The Ultra is scheduled for release in September, but there's no final pricing available yet. However, retailers such as Expansys have the Xperia Z Ultra listed for £640, so it certainly won't be cheap. Look out for our full review soon.

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