Phablets – a new breed of mega-smartphones that are almost as big as a tablet, hence that cringeworth moniker – are big business these days. Samsung’s Galaxy Note has popularised these pocket-busting monsters and Sony’s Xperia Z Ultra is a similarly sized beast with a 6.4-inch screen.
The Xperia Z Ultra is certainly a handful, as you can see in our pics, and we were surprised we didn’t notice the weight as soon as we lifted it. At 212g it’s even heftier than Nokia’s Lumia 920, but at least the weight is justified by that enormous screen, and it simply didn’t bother us.
Besides, any reservations we had around weight instantly disappeared when we tilted the phone and admired how ridiculously thin the damn thing is. The only other size zero mobile device to genuinely impress us like this is Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z (just a shade thicker at 6.9mm). Clutching the Xperia Z Ultra in landscape mode, it feels like a very skinny and sleek tablet – basically, like a crazy-thin Nexus 7.
Of course, it’s great that the Xperia Z Ultra is super thin, but can it fit inside your pocket? Well, we managed to squeeze it inside our baggy jeans, but it was poking clear at the top. We also reckon that climbing stairs with this thing in our pants might ‘cause us a mischief’, as our gran would say. Definitely best off stashing the phone in your jacket or bag.
We didn’t have a chance to test out the waterproof design, but the main ports (SIM card and Micro SD card) are covered up, just like the Xperia Tablet Z’s, to keep liquids out. We’ll be sure to give it a dunking when we get a final review unit.
We find it strangely amusing comparing the Xperia Z and Xperia Z Ultra side-by-side. The five-inch Xperia Z looked and felt like a giant when we first reviewed it, but next to the Xperia Z Ultra it’s like a sad-looking puppy, quivering in the shadow of an enormous growling Doberman.
The overall design ethos remains the same, however, right down to the fingerprint-loving glossy rear. Also interesting to see Sony has ditched the ‘Xperia’ logo from the back, replacing it with a simple ‘Sony’ label.
The Xperia Z Ultra’s main talking point is that 6.4-inch 1080p HD screen, boasting Sony’s Reality technology. We checked out some sample videos including a comparison with and without the Reality technology, which improves overall visual quality, by tweaking factors such as contrast and colour saturation. That massive screen means you won’t be squinting at your videos, and the movies we saw were impressively sharp.
Another interesting feature is the ability to scrawl directly on the screen with a standard pen or graphite pencil. We had a quick scribble and it works surprisingly well, and in fact you can even use a fingernail to write out words if you really hate the virtual keyboard.
It's not as neat an option as the Samsung S Pen but more convenient - although from a quick play, you clearly don't have as much control for artistic flourishes (after all, the Galaxy Note could tell how hard you were pressing on the screen with the stylus).
Our demonstrator reckons you’ll get about the same battery life from the Xperia Z Ultra as the Xperia Z, thanks to the 3000mAh battery. So, expect around four to five hours of video playback on each charge.
Unfortunately the demo area was far too dark to properly test the 8MP camera, but we’re big fans of Sony’s Superior Auto mode, and are confident that it’ll prove to be an excellent everyday snapper.
We’ll be bringing you a full Sony Xperia Z Ultra review later in the year!