The Sony Xperia Z packs a 5" screen and it's hardly a shocker that it's not the most compact of devices, but screen bezel is kept to a minimum for something that can be conveniently used as an everyday phone trouble-free. It's recognizably a Sony device with its angular design but it departs from the arc-inspired back of the previous generation, moving closer to other current Androids with its flat glass-covered rear.
The Sony Xperia Z measures 139 x 71 x 7.9 mm and weighs 146g.
The screen is obviously the star of the show - at 5" and 1080p, it's the sharpest screen that Sony has put on a phone to date and, while not unique, its pixel density is probably beyond what the human eye can perceive.
Images are rendered beautifully (with Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine 2 bringing a noticeable boost), though we do have some complaints. The viewing angles could've been better and the glass covering teh screen is quite reflective too. Still, it's easily one of the best screens we've seen.
The back is made of the same shatter-proof glass as the front. The 13MP camera with Exmor RS sensor and LED flash are flush with the surrounding surface, which we like. On the downside, the glossy back readily took the fingerprints of everyone who handled the Xperia Z demo unit.
Around the edges of the Z we find an MHL USB port, a microSIM card slot and a microSD card slot, a 3.5mm audio jack, plus a hardware shutter key and two pogo pins for docking.
Most makers these days omit the shutter key and, quite often, the microSD card slot too. On the IP57-certified Xperia Z, the ports and slots are sealed with flaps but still easily accessible. The battery isn't user-replaceable.
To demonstrate the Xperia Z's dust and water-resistance, Sony had it in a fishbowl. The IP57 certification means it can withstand submersion of up to one meter.
The Sony Xperia Z offers a very good connectivity set: fast wireless connectivity with LTE and dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n, wireless 1080p TV out over Wi-Fi Direct via the Miracast standard and, of course, NFC.
NFC is cleverly used for what Sony calls, One-Touch features. You can touch the phone to a wireless speaker to start playing music on it (similar to what Nokia showed with their high-end Lumias). Alternatively, you can activate the wireless display mirroring feature by tapping the phone to a compatible Sony BRAVIA TV.
The smartphone will launch with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with Sony's latest customizations on top (the 4.2 update is to follow soon after). The S4 Pro chipset and the latest Android OS will ensure smooth operation of the interface.
A big part of the additions to stock Android are found in the audio department - the Xperia Z and its Walkman player pack a range of sound enhancement options, starting with the familiar xLoud, going through Surround Sound and Dynamic Normalizer to Clear Audio+ and Clear Phase.
The other place with big changes is the camera - we already mentioned the curious HDR movie mode, but there's also Superior Auto, which automatically selects the best mode, and there's an option to capture photos during video recording and even do burst shots (at 9MP resolution).
The front-facing camera has 2.2MP resolution and is capable of 1080p video recording too.
The Sony Xperia Z packs a 2,330mAh battery, good for over 20 days of standby with LTE on and up to 14 hours of talk-time on 3G. A so-called STAMINA mode turns off data when you turn off the phone. If you want some apps to stay connected even with the screen off (e.g. an IM app), you can add them to the STAMINA white list. Sony promises a 4x increase in battery life with precise estimates of how long the remaining battery charge will last you (it learns from your usage patterns).
We've also shot a brief hands-on video of the Xperia Z. Check it out: