If by all means you want to have the largest smartphone available, the Sony Z Ultra is perfect for you. This phone, available in two editions ( Xperia and Google Play ), is currently the leader in the size race, which has long been leading all major smartphone manufacturers.
These twin phones, separated at birth and raised by completely different parents, are very similar to each other. Both externally and internally. But still, because of their parents, they behave differently.
Two versions of Google Play smartphones ( Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One ) were released last summer, so we know how things are. Google provides its “clean” version of Android for these devices. However, while standard editions of the Galaxy S4 and One are available everywhere, the Google Play edition can only be purchased from Google itself.
But with the Z Ultra, things are a little different. Both versions are a niche product. The 6.4-inch giant phone, which costs $ 679.99 ( Sony ) and $ 649.99 (Google), is far from mainstream products for moms and dads who go shopping and choose the cheapest tariff plan for themselves. This smartphone is made for people who just want a big huge phone.
If you consider yourself part of this niche and understand what you are getting into when buying a phone with the largest screen that exists, you will ask yourself: which of the twins is better? Sony developed the smartphone itself and its design, so the Xperia software should sit like a glove. However, Google has developed the OS itself and is preferred by most other manufacturers, in addition, Google Play Z Ultra comes with the latest version of Android.
I spent several weeks using both devices, so now I am ready to share with you an opinion about each of them.
The defining feature of the Z Ultra is its massive screen. It doesn’t matter which version you choose, the screen is so huge that in comparison with it, other “big” smartphones ( HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 ) look like scammers.
The 6.4-inch Zp Ultra screen (which is only 0.6 inches smaller than the Nexus 7 screen, which is a tablet), is very saturated, bright and has excellent viewing angles. On this display, it’s nice to read books, watch movies, or just surf the Internet. However, for such dimensions you have to pay weight. A screen measuring 7.04 x 3.62 inches weighs as much as 213 grams, and this is too much for a phone. And despite these colossal dimensions, Sony still calls this gadget a phone and expects that you will use it as a phone. However, talking on such a “telephone”, as it is not difficult to guess, is not particularly convenient.
Z Ultra did not fit in any pocket on my pants, so I had to shove it either into the inside pocket of my jacket, or just carry the device in my bag. I got used to it when I used tablets, but I check the phone much more often than the tablet. And it annoys me that every time I have to fish it out of my inner pocket or open the bag. As a result of which, I just began to check my phone less (which may have benefited me), but I want the phone to be always available for prompt information and calls. That is the point of the mobile phone - in mobility.
Despite its weight, the Z Ultra is incredibly thin. With a thickness of 0.26 inches, it is even thinner than the iPhone 5S . However, this does not allow you to put it in your pocket, and the convenience of use, on the contrary, is lame because of this. The phone is very massive, but there is nothing to hold it for. I very often accidentally touched the screen when I simply lifted the phone from the table. In addition, it bends very easily, so if you can stick it in your pants pocket, be careful not to fold your gadget in half.
The Xperia version comes in white, black, or purple. While the Google Play Edition comes only in conservative black. I like the white version, but the stylish black color of the Google Play edition goes so well with this phone that even the sizes do not seem so big. Any color option carries a silver design around the power button and camera hole, which is very similar to other Sony gadgets. In addition, this phone is waterproof, so you can safely take it to the bathroom, pool or beach.
Under glass and metal, the Z Ultra has an impressive filling: the Snapdragon 800 processor with a frequency of 2.2GHz, 2GB RAM, 16GB of memory, not including a slot for Micro SD memory cards, as well as support for AT&T and T-Mobile LTE networks.
This device uses the same processor as the Nexus 5, and it is equally fast on both versions of the software.
Sony's eight-megapixel camera however disappoints. Photos come out blurry with lots of noise. Both phones carry a 3,000mAh battery with them, but the huge display doesn’t allow them to go around in terms of power consumption. Over the weeks of work on each of the devices, I managed to stretch out only 14-15 hours. It immediately becomes clear that the Z Ultra is in a completely different league than long-livers like Samsung Galaxy Note 3 or LG G2.
Sony's Way and the Google Trail
Sony's Z Ultra version, one that bears the proud name of Xperia, runs on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean , using its own interface and applications. This is the same version that Sony used for the Xperia Z and its other flagships. The interface is very bright, it has a lot of intricate animations and beautiful textures, which on ordinary Android are just black. The interface is quite attractive, it looks much better than the crafts that LG and Samsung use . But still, it is not as good as the most common interface from Google.
The Google edition of Z Ultra runs on Android 4.4.2 KitKat , but without any additional applications or services. In fact, this is the same thing that Google offers on the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 (but without the exclusive Nexus 5 launcher). Here we have a version of KitKat just fit for the big screen, and when I say that it is fit, I mean only the size of the image. Unfortunately, Google did not take advantage of the Z Ultra's large screen, so all applications, menus, settings, icons, etc., look exactly the same as on the Nexus 5.
Sony went a different way. In the Xperia OS version, all icons, menus, panels and fonts are reduced in size compared to the GP edition. To read some of the inscriptions, you have to squint that it’s no good. However, in this version of the interface, you can see more objects at a time. Application icons, for example, are even smaller than the icons on the iPhone 5S, despite the fact that the Z Ultra screen is 60% larger. But still, the Z Ultra launcher supports up to 30 icons per page, so it’s impossible to fit all your applications on one screen. Despite this, the interface still uses the Ultra features more intelligently.
Although Xperia does not launch applications for tablets, some ups use a special interface that takes advantage of the large screen. Not all applications are capable of this and it is difficult to say which ones will work in this mode and which ones will not. But still, it's nice to see that a huge screen was squeezed into this phone for a reason.
Sony does not offer a stylus in the kit, as Samsung does with its Galaxy Note, but in the keyboard menu you will be allowed to use the handwriting mode so that you can write on your smartphone with a regular pencil or pen. In terms of functionality, this software does not compare with what Samsung supplies for its Galaxy Note, but it’s still nice.
The Sony version also has a set of mini-applications with it: a calculator, notebook, etc., which pop up while other applications are running. I have already seen this feature on other gadgets from Sony, but here it first received an excuse and meaning. But still, I would really like for Sony to supply a stylus with a smartphone and develop convenient and functional software for it. The Z Ultra concept itself asks for this.
Xperia also has a pre-installed much more convenient application for shooting videos and photos (although in any case, the photos go so-so), a special energy management system and a few more unnecessary app that Sony pushes into your throat. In addition to this, Xperia uses the Sony PlayStation Mobile portal, which is not much better than the Play Store.
I rarely say this, but in the case of the Z Ultra, Sony's software provides more convenient and practical features than Google’s standard Android build. The Google Play version may and is slightly more advanced in firmware version, and most likely, updates for it will come out much faster than for Xperia, but I think it's worth giving Sony a chance. Moreover, recently, they have taken a good habit of frequently and methodically updating their software versions.
- Great screen
- Good iron characteristics
- Moisture protection of the case
- Inconvenient in the hands
- Short battery life
- Software could use screen sizes better
The time spent with the twins Sony Z Ultra showed that overgrown phones are not suitable for everyone. However, when properly executed, they can be useful and perform functions not available to other smaller phones. After testing, I came to the conclusion that Sony's software, oddly enough, is ahead of vanilla Google Android in most respects.
And then the question arises: “Why then do you need a Google Play edition?” These so-called phablets - smartphones are so large that they are almost tablets; they work best when the software for them is built around their size and strengths. This is a fact verified by Samsung with their Note 3 , which at the moment is the best device of this type. The whole point of Google Play publications is to let people enjoy Andoid in the form that Google itself has conceived. But although she created a good system for tablets and phones, pure Android is not suitable for what is between them.
Both versions are difficult to recommend, because the phone is too huge and expensive. Even for those who are not indifferent to the huge screens on their phones, the Galaxy Note 3 will probably do better. But if you are in a layer of people “must have the largest screen at all costs” then the Xperia version of Z Ultra (which costs $ 30 more) will suit you more than the edition from Google Play.