Sony Xperia Z review: Zero hour
This must be the best time in a while to be a Sony fan. The year since parting ways with Ericsson has been one of filling in the blanks - fulfilling fans' wildest dreams was not too high on the agenda. This is not to say that the brand's loyal followers were let down over and over again. It's just that they had to teach themselves patience. Well, those who did have their reward at last.
The Xperia Z is a burst of confidence and inspiration that will rally the troops and send a warning to the opposition. Another message is delivered too, loud and clear: Ericsson is no longer a haunting shadow. Sony has moved on.
It wasn't too hard for the Xperia Z to steal the spotlight at CES - the phone has killer looks to match the wealth of skill and power. True, there wasn't much to draw the attention away from Sony's flagship but in hindsight, the top-tier rivals did well to excuse themselves.
That said, the biggest tests for the Xperia Z are yet to come. This one is only the second FullHD five-incher we're reviewing. The Oppo Find 5 is our only proper point of reference. The Chinese droid is powered by the same S4 Pro chipset as the Xperia Z and has a 13MP camera that isn't bad at all. The non-expandable memory and lack of LTE are perhaps Oppo Find 5's only possible deal breakers. We quite liked the gutsy underdog nonetheless.
Our HTC Butterfly review is coming up - but don't worry, there won't be any spoilers here. It's another S4 Pro-powered smartphone, with four Krait cores and Adreno 320. The screen size and resolution are the same too. So, basically, this argument will be down to the details. Sony clearly has the upper hand in imaging, and the water-resistant Xperia Z is better-looking too. We're yet to run the benchmarks though, and have a proper look at the HTC Butterfly's screen.
Well yes, we cannot pretend everything about Xperia Z is perfect. The screen indeed was a slight disappointment. Nothing to do with the size or the resolution - there's just not enough punch in it. Less than stellar contrast simply doesn't do it justice.
Elsewhere though, we're more than happy with how Sony did. The Xperia Z is the current benchmark champion, the Jelly Bean experience is excellent, with a number of custom value-adding apps like the media players and the image gallery. The Xepria Z is an impressive package and looks the part with glass-covered front and rear, and assertive upmarket design. And if you thought it doesn't get better than that, the smartphone is dust and water-resistant.
It certainly sounds like a package that's hard to beat. Not that the flagships of the last generation became obsolete overnight, but the likes of Nexus 4, Samsung's Galaxy S III and the LG Optimus G should be warming up to the thought that their days at the top are counted. And the Xperia Z is just the messenger - the arrival of their own successors (which now have no other option but to match and beat the Sony flagship experience) will seal their fate.
So, with most tier-one manufacturers yet to announce their next flagship generation and Barcelona just around the corner, the season is just about starting. The Xperia Z however puts Sony in pole position, and does so emphatically. In honesty, the experience must be new to it, but it's now the competition's turn to be nervous for a change.