Sony Xperia ZR review: Ready to dare

GSMArena team, 30 July 2013.
Pages: 1234567891011

Tags: Sony, Android

Album gallery

The Sony Xperia ZR comes with the custom Sony gallery, called Album. Images are organized into stacks of thumbnails and sorted by date. You can opt to show all of your albums in one place, and there are three tabs above the stacks - Pictures, Map and Online.

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The Album gallery

Pictures is the main tab and one of its features managed to impress us: you can use pinch gestures to make the image thumbnails bigger or smaller. The whole thing is super responsive and hundreds of thumbs fall in and out of differently sized grids in a nifty animation.

Map reminds us of the iOS gallery, where all geotagged pictures are shown on a world map.

The Online tab displays pictures from Google Picasa and Facebook. You have options to tag, like and comment on Facebook photos much like you did in the previous Xperia Gallery.

Images can be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also enabled.

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Viewing an image

Finally, the LED strip below the display lights up with different color (similar with the image on the screen) every time you scroll through the pictures.

Eye-candy video player, plays everything but struggles with AC3

The video player is dubbed Movies and it too has a new interface. It's connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies you have preloaded.

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The Movies app

The Xperia ZR did great with almost any file type and video codec we threw at it, including DivX and XviD. The only exceptions were MKV files and AC3 audio - videos with this audio codec played with no sound whatsoever.

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Watching a video on the Xperia V

Walkman music player

The Walkman music player we've been seeing in Xperia smartphones since the second half of 2012, is also on board. It offers the same cool interface as before, but this time it has even more sound enhancement options.

The Walkman interface is divided into Playing and My music panels. In the My music section, you can update your album art and music info such as album, year released, etc. SensMe is included, meaning you can filter your songs by mood - upbeat, energetic, mellow, dance, etc. Creating playlists is enabled and you can also view your Facebook friends' activity if they too use the Walkman player.

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The music player is decent looking and snappy

The Now Playing screen offers the standard music controls, as well as shortcuts to the library, an "Infinity" key and the song cover art. The Infinity key lets you quickly look up a song on YouTube or browse for the lyrics, among others.

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The Now Playing interface

Sony has improved on the Walkman player's settings. There's a new ClearAudio+ option, which determines the best audio quality settings depending on the song you're listening to. We liked how it changed the music when listening on the pre-bundled Sony headset.

There's Surround sound mode, which imitates the Studio, Club or Concert Hall experience. The Clear stereo mode enhances the perceivable stereo channel separation.

Speaker settings include Clear Phase, which adjusts the quality, while xLOUD enhances the loudness of the internal speaker.

Audiophiles will be pleased to find a configurable 5-band equalizer with bass adjustment. There're even more elaborate alternatives at the Play Store, with support for a 10 or even 20-band equalizer.

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Sound enhancements and EQ

Whenever the music player is on, there are music controls on the lockscreen. Swiping them to either side brings back the clock. The notification area also offers the now playing screen with music controls and the option to jump into the Walkman player.

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Music player controls on the lockscreen and notification area

The Sony Xperia ZR also features an FM Radio aboard complete with RDS support. The app automatically scans and saves stations in range, although you'll need to have a set of headphones attached to use as an antenna.

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The FM Radio

Google's own music player called Play Music is onboard as well. It went through a major UI overhaul and is now snappier and better looking. It features the brand new Listen Now feature which tries to determine what you like and uses the pattern of how you change tracks, so it can offer you relevant music to play next.

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Google's Play Music

The Now Playing screen uses the song album art and gives you a quick shortcut to the rest of the artist's songs along with the basic play controls.

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Google Play music Now Playing

Very good audio output

The Sony Xperia ZR performed excellently in the first part of our traditional audio quality test and was about on par with even the premium Xperia Z. The smartphone got great scores all over, and if it wasn't for its only average volume levels, it would have been perfect.

There's very little quality drop when you plug in a pair of headphones. The stereo crosstalk rises somewhat and some distortion creeps in, but neither of those is easy to notice without dedicated equipment. Volume levels remain average, but the overall performance is still quite good.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Sony Xperia ZR+0.11, -0.10-87.889.10.0320.030-88.3
Sony Xperia ZR (headphones attached)+0.45, -0.11-87.788.30.2080.158-56.3
Sony Xperia Z+0.11, -0.10-81.982.10.0430.041-81.3
Sony Xperia Z (headphones attached)+0.62, -0.09-81.781.50.2040.249-56.4
TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia L+0.11, -0.10-87.087.10.00850.047-88.0
Sony Xperia L (headphones attached)+0.58, -0.12-86.786.80.0100.169-58.5
Sony Xperia SP+0.11, -0.10-86.989.20.0590.047-88.3
Sony Xperia SP (headphones attached)+0.38, -0.16-86.788.90.1070.232-55.8

Sony Xperia ZR frequency response
Sony Xperia ZR frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

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