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Sony Xperia Z: Review and Comparison to iPhone 5, Galaxy S3

by kenlo on ‎19-02-2013 18:00 - last edited on ‎20-02-2013 10:02 by handy giff-staffer victoriatagg

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Sony Xperia Z.jpgSony’s latest smartphone, the Xperia Z, won rave reviews when it was announced at CES last month. Featuring a large 1080p (full HD) display, a quad-core processor, a 13 megapixel camera, water-resistance and dust resistance, the phone lands in the UK next week. We look at what’s new and how it compares to the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S III.

 

Full HD (1080p) Display

 

Last year, the majority of high-end smartphones had a 720p high-definition display. Next week, Sony is due to push the boundaries in terms of mobile displays and will introduce a 1080p display on the Xperia Z (also referred to as a “full HD” display). Compared to 720p, 1080p has more than twice the number of pixels on the display. This should give sharper images and a better quality viewing experience.

 

Handset

Resolution

No. of Pixels

Pixel Density (pixels per inch)

Apple iPhone 4 & 4S

960x640 pixels

0.61 MP

326ppi (“Retina”)

Apple iPhone 5

1136x640 pixels

0.73 MP

326ppi (“Retina”)

Google Nexus 4

1280x768 pixels

0.98 MP

318ppi

Nokia Lumia 920

1280x768 pixels

0.98 MP

332ppi

Samsung Galaxy Note II

1280x720 pixels

0.92 MP

267ppi

Samsung Galaxy S III

1280x720 pixels

0.92 MP

306ppi

Sony Xperia Z

1920x1080 pixels

2.07 MP

441ppi

Comparison of screen resolution and pixel density on popular smartphones. The number of pixels is given in millions of pixels (megapixels or MP).

 

A key measure of display quality and “sharpness” is the pixel density. Pixel density tells you how closely individual pixel elements are packed together. It’s normally measured in pixels per inch (ppi) and the higher the ppi, the sharper the image should look.

 

With the Xperia Z, Sony has produced a display with 441 pixels per inch (441ppi). This is certainly impressive and it’s far beyond the 326ppi pixel density that Apple claimed to be at the limit of human vision (Apple uses a 326ppi “Retina” display on the iPhone 5). There’s an argument to say those extra pixels are simply wasted – regardless, the Xperia Z undoubtedly has one of the best screens on the market.

 

Form Factor: 5-Inch Display

 

In order to pack enough pixels in for full HD, Sony has upped the screen size on the Xperia Z to 5-inches. This makes it substantially larger than the iPhone 5 (which has a 4-inch display) and slightly larger than the Samsung Galaxy S III (which has a 4.8-inch display). Indeed, the Xperia Z is arguably big enough to classify as a “phablet” (a phone-tablet hybrid device with a screen size of 5-inches or more).

 

The following image shows how the Xperia Z sizes up against the iPhone 5, the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note II. A standard-sized credit card is also shown for comparison.

Form Factor Comparison.jpg

The Xperia Z has a 5-inch display. It’s significantly larger than the iPhone 5 (4-inches) and slightly larger than the Galaxy S III (4.8-inches). The Galaxy Note II (5.5-inches) is a typical “phablet”. Handsets and credit card are shown to scale.

 

Although the Xperia Z has a larger display than the Galaxy S III, it’s worth noting that both devices have a similar amount of usable screen space. This is because the Xperia Z has a row of on-screen navigation buttons. The use of on-screen navigation buttons also keeps the Xperia Z more compact.

 

Ruggedness: Waterproof & Dust Proof

 

Waterproof.jpgFor many people, losing their smartphone to water damage can be a major worry. Whether it’s the April showers that you’re worried about or accidentally putting your phone in the wash, having a phone that’s waterproof can be immensely reassuring. For people who spend a lot of time outdoors (e.g. at work or at a music festival), it’s a vital requirement.

 

Previously, water-proof smartphones had existed in a separate niche from high-end smartphones. Whilst there were a variety of waterproof smartphones like the Motorola Defy and the Samsung Galaxy Xcover, these were mainly low-end devices. If you were looking for a high-end device that was also waterproof, there were very few options to choose from. The majority of high-end devices simply don’t play well with water: that includes the iPhone 5, the Galaxy S III and the Nexus 4.

 

With the Xperia Z, Sony has introduced water-proof and dust-proof capabilities on their flagship device. This is significant: it means you no longer need to sacrifice processing power to have a waterproofed phone.

 

The Xperia Z has an Ingress Protection Rating of IP57. The first digit in the IP rating gives a dust-proof score out of 6. A score of 5/6 means that the Xperia Z is protected against the majority of dust. The second digit of the rating gives the water-proof rating of the device out of 8. A score of 7/8 means the Xperia Z is protected in water up to the depth of 1 metre. According to Sony, you should be able to take your phone under water for up to 30 minutes at a time.

 

One side-effect of making the Xperia Z waterproof is that Sony has compromised on the design of the ports. In order to keep water out, Sony has had to cover all external ports with a plastic flap. This includes the micro-USB port and the headphone socket. Every time you want to charge your phone or plug in some headphones, you’ll need to remove the cap. This can be frustrating, though it may be a small price to pay for waterproofing.

 

Camera: High-Dynamic Range (HDR) Video Recording

 

One of the most talked-about features on the Xperia Z is its camera. The Xperia Z features a 13 megapixel camera with a LED flash. It can also record video in High Dynamic Range (HDR) – a unique feature amongst smartphones.

 

High Dynamic Range is a photography technique used to maintain details across a range of light levels. The figure below shows two “standard” photographs at different exposure levels. The image on the left has a shorter exposure time which brings out details on the building in the foreground. Meanwhile, the image on the right has a longer exposure time to bring out details in the sky (e.g. the cloud patterns in the background).


HDR Photography.jpg
Two photographs of the same scene. The left image has a shorter exposure time and shows details in the building. Meanwhile, the right image has a longer exposure time and shows details in the night sky. CC-licensed images (1 & 2) by Kevin McCoy.

 

In order to create a single HDR photograph, several photos of the same scene must be taken at different exposure levels. Each photograph captures details in different parts of the image. The photos are then combined using HDR techniques taking care to preserve the details from each image. The resulting HDR image looks like the following:


HDR Photography 2.jpg

A HDR version of the same photo. This is created by combining 4 photographs taken at different exposure times. CC-licensed image by Kevin McCoy.

 

Over the past year, HDR photography has become a standard feature on high-end smartphones. This includes on the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S III.

 

On the Xperia Z, Sony has taken it one-step further by enabling HDR video recording. This is quite a technical challenge - the device needs to record several videos concurrently and must combine them in real-time to give a HDR video. It’s certainly an appealing feature if you record videos regularly.

 

Battery Stamina Mode

 

Battery Stamina Mode.jpgA key feature of the Xperia Z is the high-capacity Lithium-ion battery. The Xperia Z’s battery is rated for 2,330mAh: 62% greater capacity than the iPhone 5 and 11% greater capacity than the Galaxy S III. This should give strong all-day performance: Sony reckons you’ll get around 14 hours of talk time on a single charge.

 

A unique power-saving feature on the Xperia Z is its Battery Stamina Mode. Battery Stamina Mode is designed to extend your battery life by disabling certain features whenever your phone is in stand-by. For example, GPS, Wi-Fi or 3G data could be turned off automatically when you lock your phone. At the same time, it’s possible to keep certain apps running through a whitelist. This allows you to continue receiving e-mails and instant messages. According to Sony, using this feature can quadruple your battery life on standby. It’s perfect if you’ll be away from a power socket for a long time.

 

Owners of other Android-based devices can achieve a similar outcome with the free Juice Defender application.

 

Sony Xperia Z: Comparison to iPhone 5 & Galaxy S III

 

The Xperia Z is Sony’s latest attempt to challenge the dominance of the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S III. Specifications-wise, the Xperia Z stacks up incredibly well: it has a super-sharp HD display, a fast quad-core processor, a large battery and a high-quality camera. It’s also waterproof: a feature that is almost unique amongst high-end smartphones.

 

The specifications of the Xperia Z compare to those on the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S III as follows:

 

 

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z.jpg 

Apple iPhone 5

 iPhone 5 Front.jpg

Samsung Galaxy S III

 Marble White.jpg

Processor

1.5GHz quad-core

1.3GHz dual-core

1.4GHz quad-core

Display

5.0-inch TFT display

4.0-inch TFT display

4.8-inch AMOLED (organic LED) display

Screen Resolution

1920x1080 pixels

1136x640 pixels

1280x720 pixels

Pixel Density

441 pixels per inch (441 ppi)

326 pixels per inch (326 ppi)

306 pixels per inch (306 ppi)

Operating System

Google Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

Apple iOS 6

Google Android 4.0. Upgradable to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

RAM

2GB

1GB

1GB

Storage

16GB

16GB, 32GB or 64GB

16GB, 32GB or 64GB

MicroSD Expansion

Up to 32GB

No

Up to 64GB

Camera

13 megapixels with LED flash

8 megapixels with LED flash

8 megapixels with LED flash

Video recording

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second

Battery

2,330mAh (non-removable, 14 hours talk time)

1,440mAh (non-removable, 8 hours talk time)

2,100mAh (removable, 11.6 hours talk time)

Water Resistant

Yes, IP57 certified

No

No

NFC

Yes

No

Yes

Text Input

On-Screen Keyboard

On-Screen Keyboard

On-Screen Keyboard

Approx. Price

Approx. £500

£529

Approx. £370

SIM Card Size

Micro SIM

Nano SIM

Micro SIM

 

All three devices are compatible with giffgaff. Some great savings can be had if you buy the devices upfront and use one of our giffgaff goodybags. All new giffgaff SIM cards feature a pop-out Micro SIM so are ready to use in the Xperia Z and Galaxy S III.  For the iPhone 5, you’ll need to cut your SIM card down to Nano SIM dimensions.

 

Sony Xperia Z: Release Date

 

Xperia Z Bottom.jpgThe Sony Xperia Z is due to be released on Thursday 28th February (next week). You can pick up a SIM-free & unlocked version of the phone from £500. Simply insert a micro-SIM from the network of your choice and you can get going. It’s also available to buy on contract.

 

Your Thoughts…

 

In this article, we’ve looked at Sony’s newest flagship device: the Xperia Z. With a full HD display and a 13 megapixel camera with HDR video recording, the Xperia Z takes multimedia consumption and creation to the next level. The water-proofing capabilities and the extended battery life also make it a solid device for day-to-day use.

 

What do you think of the Xperia Z? Are you excited to see water-proof capabilities on a high-end Android device? Do you think Sony have done enough to take on Apple and Samsung? We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments… please drop us a message below and let us know what you think!

 

Ken Lo writes about mobile technology and the mobile industry at Ken's Tech Tips.

Comments
by stealthybigboss2 on ‎19-02-2013 18:21
thanks for the blog! battery stamina mode sounds interesting
by seang on ‎19-02-2013 19:42
Looks a very good phone. Some impressive vital statistics......and a bargain compared to the iPhone5.
by rg6 on ‎19-02-2013 22:14

Oh if only I had £500 to spare ............

by aiyubguntar on ‎19-02-2013 22:22

wow that pretty smashes the iphone 5 and the samsung s3 apart in nearly all formats..but it has been released later so no suprise there..

by gypsythedog on ‎19-02-2013 22:36

I want this phone!!!!!

 

@kenlo, do I suppose CC-license is Creative Commons???

 

thanks in advance

by joolzian on ‎20-02-2013 00:27

Nice blog, a little short on storage but the battery stamina mode seems a great improvement.

by kenlo on ‎20-02-2013 03:02

@gypsythedog Yep, the images were by Kevin McCoy and have been licensed under Creative Commons. You can see the full text of the license on the page that is linked to in the captions.

 

Ken

by piplisa on ‎20-02-2013 07:57

some nice phones

by soldiers33 on ‎20-02-2013 09:40

This is going to be my next phone unless sony make something even better. I would prfer the phone to be a bit smaller and larger battery instead. Whos cares about HD screen when the density is so high. Everything looks hd when the screen size is small enough.

 

Maybe there will be a smaller brother of the Z.

by tonnellato on ‎21-02-2013 10:13

Where can you get this phone out of contract?

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