The layout of controls on the Sony Xperia ZR sticks to what seems the norm across the Sony smartphone lineup.
Starting from the top of the front panel you get the earpiece, with the VGA front-facing camera on one side, and the ambient light and proximity sensors on the other.
Like the rest of its siblings launched this year, the Xperia ZR relies on virtual on-screen keys rather than hardware buttons, so there is nothing to see below the display.
The primary microphone has been moved to the bottom of the phone, right next to the lanyard eyelet. The secondary one is at the back, but it's only visible when you remove the back cover.
On the left you get the MHL-enabled microUSB with USB host support. It's located underneath a small plastic cap, which helps maintain the IP58-required levels of water resistance. There are a couple of dock connectors below the port, too.
Jumping to the Xperia ZR's right side you see the volume rocker, the smartphone's signature power/lock key and the camera key. The shutter key could have been a bit wider and could have provided more tactile feedback, but it's certainly something you can get used to quickly enough.
Launching the camera straight from sleep state and enabling more comfortable photo taking without introducing needless camera shake by touching the screen, the camera key is a definite asset. It's also something the Xperia ZR can use to lure some people away from the Xperia Z, which lacks such a button.
At the top, you get another plastic lid with the 3.5mm audio jack hiding underneath. While the cover does well to keep dust away (in addition to the water-proofing), it does have a somewhat negative effect on its accessibility.
Around back, we spot the 13 megapixel camera lens, the LED flash and the loudspeaker grille. That's the exact same camera as on the Xperia Z flagship, but we are hoping Sony got the processing right this time (an update was issued for the Xperia Z specifically for that).
Underneath the back cover sit the microSD and microSIM card slots as well as the smartphone's juice pack.
According to the official numbers, the 2300 mAh battery that should keep the smartphone going for up to 13 hours of talk-time or 520 hours of stand-by. The numbers come slightly short of what the Xperia Z promised, but the real-life performance is a market improvement over the 5" flagship. The Xperia ZR managed an endurance rating of 62h in our dedicated test, easily beating its sibling in each of the tests and matching its stand-by efficiency.
That's hardly a surprise considering that the batteries and chipsets are the same and the ZR has a clear advantage as far as screen estate and resolution are concerned. We did experience strange battery drain on a couple of occasions when we left the phone idle overnight, so it wasn't always so great, though.
There's a 4.55" 720p (1280 x 720) LCD on the Sony Xperia ZR and the Mobile BRAVIA 2 engine to boost image quality.
The resolution is more than twice lower than on the Xperia Z, but since the screen size has also been decreased so the pixel density stands at the cool 323 ppi. It's as great as on the Xperia Z, but frankly you'd have to be looking from way closer than is comfortable to notice it. And since 1080p would have lead to an increase in battery consumption we'd say Sony made the right call here.
Brightness is adequate and the contrast looks good even without the Bravia engine optimizations. You can enable the BRAVIA 2 for a dash of extra punchiness to your colors.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|Sony Xperia ZR||0.13||128||1001||0.58||581||1004||Sony Xperia ZL||-||-||-||0.44||575||1294|
|Sony Xperia Z||-||-||-||0.70||492||705|
|Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4||0||201||∞||0||404||∞|
|Oppo Find 5||0.17||176||1123||0.51||565||1107|
|Samsung N7100 Galaxy Note II||0||215||∞||0||402||∞|
|LG Optimus G Pro||-||-||-||0.41||611||1489|
|Nokia Lumia 920||-||-||-||0.48||513||1065|
|LG Optimus G||0.14||197||1445||0.33||417||1438|
|Apple iPhone 5||0.13||200||1490||0.48||640||1320|
Surprisingly, the viewing angles on the Xperia ZR display are somewhat better than those of the Xperia Z screen. It's still far from perfect and you start to see contrast compression and color shift quite quickly, but the screen remains legible for longer than the Xperia Z.
Using the Sony Xperia ZR in bright outdoor conditions turned out quite a trouble-free experience. The smartphone even managed to slightly outdo the Xperia Z in our test.
You can find all about our display testing routines here.