Only two years ago, when Samsung started a new trend of producing smartphones with big screens with the Note model, everybody thought that nobody wanted to use a phone that big and that concept doesn’t have any sense. Today, smartphones with big screens and popular phablets (phone + tablet) are a part of everyday life for millions of people all around the world. Direct consequence of the fore-mentioned is the model Sony Xperia Z Ultra with a huge 6-inch screen. Whether this screen size, for something we call a phone, will become a usual size in the next years, we can’t say for sure, but to have for testing a smartphone that makes us look a bit strange during phone calls is an unexpected déjà vu.
After spending time with Sony Xperia Z model from few months ago, Ultra Z looks just like a large Xperia Z. And that’s the best description of Ultra Z: huge, or if you prefer ultra Z. Looking at specifications, it would seem that other improvements are also huge, but in practice, that’s not the case. Yes, Ultra is somewhat faster, has AC Wi-Fi, better battery and a weaker camera. All of that indicates that hardware in this giant is really improved. On the other hand, software is almost identical when compared to its smaller brother, Z. Also, Ultra is more resistant to water and dust when compared to the Z.
However, all of this is nothing compared to the fact that Ultra has a 6-inch screen. And that’s some screen. Sony calls it Triluminos, because that’s the well-known technology from Sony TV sets, which doesn’t mean much until you see it for yourself. Yes, black color isn’t as black as on Samsung S4 and it perhaps isn’t as bright as HTC One’s model, but the image feels very alive and looks sharp. It’s a real pleasure to watch a movie or images on this phone. Of course, expect to start noticing differences between more and less compressed video content, because on this screen, imperfections such as those are noticeable. But, let’s go back to the previous scene where you’re enjoying a movie in a comfortable chair on your brand new Sony phablet. Main component of every video material is the sound, an in case of Ultra model, it comes from one badly-positioned speaker on the lower edge, exactly where you put your hand when you’re using the phone in a horizontal (landscape) position. It’s expected from you to form a sound box with your hand over the mono speaker in order to get a better sound quality. However, that’s not that big of a deal considering that true multimedia fans use headphones and, if nothing else, the 3,5 mm out doesn’t have a lid, so using it is very simple.
Another advantage of Ultra compared to smaller Z and Z1 smartphones is a very sensitive screen. Especially to the graphite pen. That means that you can use a graphite pen as a stylus. This has many advantages. First of all, graphite pens are cheap and available everywhere, so even if you lose one, it’s not a problem. Graphite pens come in all shapes and sizes, so you can use the shape and size you prefer. And here we encounter additional issue, and that’s, once again, the screen. Sony Xperia Ultra Z doesn’t have Gorilla Glass protection, but rather real, scratch-proof glass. However, Sony placed a protective layer during the build process, to protect the screen in case the glass shatters, but also to protect the user from injury. In case you’re using graphite pen on Ultra Z, it’s likely that you’ll, sooner or later, scratch the protective layer. On our test model, the same protective layer was also covering the back side, which is also made of glass. This side was pretty scratched as a consequence of setting the phone down on various surfaces. While such scratches don’t interfere when fingers are used on the screen, the use of pencil in those cases is problematic, because the tip falls into the scratches and prevents fluid and continual drawing. Of course, this can be avoided by using “soft” pens (marked B, 2B, etc.), but the odds to avoid scratches on a phone this big are pretty slim. Of course, it also has the application for drawing (Sketch), so you can easily turn your creativity in virtual reality.
The next big difference is the camera. In the case of Xperia Z Ultra, Sony decide to use 8 MP which, let’s be honest, doesn’t provide the same image quality as 13 MP, which Xperia X has. Yes, Ultra Z has Exmor RS technology for enhancing details in images taken in poor light conditions, without increasing ISO value, which results in less noise and better details, but it’s still a photography of “just” 8 MP. That would have been ok if the images that this combination makes are good (they aren’t), even in better light conditions. Shooting videos is a different story, where everything works much better.
|Processor||Qualcomm quad core Krait 2.2 GHz|
|Memory||2 GB RAM, 16 GB (available 14.5 GB), microSD slot|
|Display||6.4'', 1920x1080 pix, Triluminos TFT capacitive|
|Interfaces||microUSB, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi ac, HSDPA, GPS, LTE, MHL|
|Camera||Back: Sony BSI 8 MP with autofocus and LED flash; Front: 2 MP|
|Battery||Li- Ion 3050 mAh|
|OS||Android OS 4.2.2|
|Dimensions||179 x 92 x 6.5 mm|
Next, we come to the biggest, literally, problem that Sony Xperia Z Ultra has. The size of this phone is, in most cases, its main flaw and its virtue. Due to specific size, you’re sentenced to use additional equipment designed only for this model. You can’t use cases that fit other phablets. You can’t use almost any other car holders. The pockets that can contain Xperia Z Ultra are rare. The much popular pouches will also have trouble containing this phone without taking out everything else. And despite all of this, Sony decided to make a hole in one corner for using a string of rope to wear it around the neck. This feature, if it can be called that, is implemented possibly specifically because of the American rapper Flavor Flav and his fans. One other consequence of large dimensions is the increased chance of phone breaking. On the other hand, this phone is waterproof, so in case of emergency you could use it as a surfboard or something like that.
Other interesting option that we’d like to mention is the Z Ultra’s landscape ability, because it applies to every screen. This especially goes for home screen, because that way it’s possible to put more widgets and icons than is the case with most other Android devices. Due to the screen size and resolution, it’s a real pleasure to use the virtual keyboard, even when writing long texts. Thanks to the magnetic contacts on the left side, Z Ultra can be mounted on the charging stand. Of course, that stand is not included in the standard package. Aside from the applications available on Google Play, you can access applications on Sony Select.
Lastly, it only remains to give our opinion on Sony Xperia Z Ultra: it was made just so Sony could say they made the biggest phablet. Yes, enjoying multimedia content can be a great experience, in case you have very good headphones. Yes, you can draw with a graphite pencil, which is the most natural solution. Yes, it will draw attention wherever you decide to use this Goliath of smartphones. Yes, it can be used as any other smartphone. All of this applies if you can handle its size. The only thing remaining is to decide how you want to define this device: as a huge smartphone or as a small tablet. Whatever you decide, one thing is sure – you want be using it with only one hand in most situations.