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Sony's Xperia Z is the Aquaman of phones

Susie Ochs | July 11, 2013
Waterproof, dust-proof, and beach-ready: Neither sand nor surf nor bright sunlight can stop Sony's new Android phone.

Suddenly, hearing that telltale "plunk" sound isn't even a cause for panic. This would have saved me considerable heartache the time I had just stepped into the shower when my iPhone 4 slipped from its precarious perch on the toilet tank and dove into the bowl. Had it been the Xperia, I could have finished a leisurely shower instead of frantically jumping back out to rescue it, risking bodily injury and soaking the bathroom floor.

Once I had faith in the waterproofness of the Xperia, I couldn't stop thinking of new, ridiculous ways to use it. You can't actually use the touchscreen underwater, but you could start a video clip on the side of the pool that ended up underwater in the shallow end. Or you could wash the phone off under the sink instead of futzing with alcohol pads. Experiment with pouring beer on the screen to trigger the recording of a Vine video—I couldn't get that to work, but I was only willing to waste one beer trying. Take a call in the shower. Or just stop worrying about using your phone in crappy weather. Waterproofing is a great feature that makes more sense on a phone than on a tablet.

HD screen and specs to match
 

The Xperia Z's 5-inch, 1920-by-1080-pixel screen lends itself to sharp text and images—its density of 443 pixels per inch handily beats the iPhone 5's 326-ppi Retina display, and I saw no visible pixels aside from a stray low-res icon or two. The Xperia's Mobile Bravia Engine 2 is supposed to optimize the contrast of images and video, enhance sharpness, and reduce noise. Since you can toggle Mobile Bravia Engine 2 on and off (in Settings > Display), it was easy to see its effects: Still images clearly had more-saturated colors and deeper blacks, without skin tones getting messing up.

Inside, the Xperia Z boasts a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 2GB of RAM. It handled big games like Temple Run: Brave and averaged an impressive 56.3 frames per second in the Epic Citadel benchmark, running at 1800 by 1080 on the high performance level. (To compare, the Galaxy S4 hit 58.5 fps at 1920 by 1080, and the Nexus 4 churned out 51.2 fps at 1200 by 768 in the same test.) The Xperia did get warm when streaming video or downloading a bunch of apps at once. It runs Android 4.1.2, but Sony promises an update to the latest version, 4.2.2, soon.

My primary Android device is a Nexus 4 by LG, and its battery life is dismal, so I appreciated the Xperia Z's ability to go all day on a charge—as long as I didn't keep the beautiful screen at its full-brightness glory. Plus, its Battery Stamina mode can extend standby time by shutting down apps, the Wi-Fi radio, and data transfers when the screen is off and then turning them back on when you wake the phone up again—even though calls, texts, and alarms can always get through. Using Battery Stamina mode, I didn't notice a lag in performance when waking the phone up, either. Everything felt responsive and snappy.

 

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