Xperia ZU.

Sony enters the big leagues with a 6.44-inch screen and the latest Snapdragon 800 CPU

Sony hasn't always found itself ahead of the technological curve when it comes to smartphone internals. Often it's lagged a generation of so behind the competition, giving the likes of HTC and Samsung the first shot at releasing phones running the latest mobile chips. Yet here we sit with one of the very first Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 devices, and above its ginormous screen sits a Sony logo.

Say hello to the Xperia Z Ultra.

The Ultra, as we'll call it, is also a first in terms of Sony's product portfolio. It's the first time the Japanese manufacturer has attempted a phone/tablet hybrid device, and the Ultra's 6.44-inch screen pushes it well beyond the realms of mainstream smartphones. With 5-inch devices now the norm - Sony itself released the Xperia Z and ZL internationally back in February - big screen phones are getting bigger. It's hoped that the Xperia Z Ultra's extremely svelte body will offset some concerns over its usability, however, and at 6.5mm it's definitely one of the thinnest phones out there. Like the Xperia Z, it's sporting a glass-backed design, which gives its chassis a classy, uncluttered appearance.

That said, this isn't what we'd call a mainstream handset, and using the Ultra one handed can be tricky. Aside from its sheer size, this is partly due to the design heritage it shares with the original Xperia Z - that phone was blocky and squarish, and it's ergonomics suffered as a result. The Ultra's thinner chassis goes some way towards compensating for this, as do its new, curvier sides. But for most users, this isn't going to be a device you can easily palm and operate at the same time. In addition, one notable tradeoff that's made in the name of thinness is the rear camera sensor size, which has been bumped down to 8MP, compared to the original Xperia Z's thirteen. It's also disappointing to see LED flash being omitted on a high end device. Sony has however managed to cram in a hefty 3,000mAh battery (non-removable, of course.)

Xperia Z Ultra. Xperia Z Ultra.

The Xperia Z Ultra's external heft is matched with suitably beefy internal hardware. As we mentioned, it's the first device we've used with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 800 SoC, which incorporates a quad core 2.2GHz Krait 400 CPU and a new Adreno 330 GPU. What that means is it's fast - really, really fast, in fact. The device flies through regular smartphone tasks, and from what we've seen it'll destroy most current chips in synthetic benchmarks too. We'll need to spend more time with a final retail device to be sure, but for the moment the Xperia Z Ultra shows signs of being one of the speediest smartphones around.

Sony's "Triluminos" display also impresses.  Gone are the days of Sony phone screens offering lackluster colors and poor viewing angles - the company's latest 1080p panel offers rich blacks, wide viewing angles and vivid colors. The Ultra's 6.44-inch panel is right up there with the latest SuperLCD3 and SuperAMOLED offerings.

The device is also waterproof and dust-resistant, and is rated IP55/IP58, an improvement upon the original Xperia Z's IP55/IP57 rating. As such, you'll still have to deal with the plastic flaps which protect various ports, though the 3.5mm headphone jack is exposed and fully waterproof this time around. In addition, an official magnetic charging dock will be available to make your daily charge a little easier.  Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note series, the Ultra doesn't include is own stylus. However Sony is advertising the device as having drawing support for pencils, capacitive styluses and metal pens with a diameter of more than 1mm. It's not quite Wacom (the technology used by Samsung's Note) but it works well enough.

Xperia Z Ultra.

On the software side we're dealing with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, lightly skinned with Sony's Xperia UI. The software interface hasn't changed too much from earlier incarnations, but it's noticeably smoother than before, and it's closeness to vanilla Android (and use of onscreen buttons) will please OS purists. Atop the latest version of Jelly Bean you get the usual Sony multimedia apps - Walkman for music, PlayStation Mobile, Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited - and new on the Ultra is the preloaded Sony Reader app. Naturally, if you're living in the Sony ecosystem you'll be right at home here.

The Xperia Z Ultra is due for release globally sometime in Q3, and our brief time with the device has left us impressed. This isn't a mainstream phone, but just like the Galaxy Note line it's not really trying to be. Sony's aiming for a heavy hitter with the Xperia Z Ultra, a device targeted at the growing audience of buyers who want a sizeable mobile device - something larger than a phone yet smaller than a tablet. And for the moment, Sony's 6.44-incher is the best big phone we've seen.


Reader comments

Sony Xperia Z Ultra hands-on


Sony will release this phone swiftly followed by about 3 others... then 2 more after that, maybe another phone just for good measure.

For some reason they can't just make a few great phones for each tier, they insist on throwing new phones to market every other day!

I think you might have mistaken Sony for Samsung. There the only company I know that can launch a flagship device and kill it within a month with another device of a similar name and then take it overboard. I lost track how many S4's are there in the market now???

No I defo meant Sony.

They're the only company that will release a flagship, miss things out.. release a new phone that's in a lower tier with functions it didn't have on the flagship.

Every other day I hear about a new phone from Sony.

The Xperia T came out but was in question whether it was the flagship as it felt like the V was, Then the Z came out, ZL, ZR etc etc etc....

They need to simplify things.

They have only one Flagship at a time, T was the Flag, V wasn't officially a flagship it's just a website that said that they considered V as Flag so every other tech site jumped on badwagon...

Z is the current flag, that's all. ZR/ZL are market specific version and it's not because they have "Z" in their name that they are also flagship...

I have read that GS4 will have a waterproof version, another version mini, and so on...

K thanks for clearing that out. I was kinda waiting to see when the V came out. What about the UL and the IL?

Actually the ZR is a 4.5/6 720P display but with better resistance IP58. The Z is the flagship smartphone and the Ultra the phablet.

I think you are just confusing yourself.

Posted via Droid RAZR M on the Android Central App

Galaxy S4
Galaxy S4 Active
Galaxy S4 Developer Edition
Galaxy S4 Google Edition
Galaxy S4 LTE-Advanced
Galaxy S4 Mini
Galaxy S4 Zoom

I think that's all of them? Lol

Only Samsung, ha!

Most will only find the main Galaxy S4 available to buy.

I've realized choice is a bad thing when it always invades your life. But Samsung has done a good thing, despite the long list above, keeping things simple. I mean: it's as simple as... you want a rugged S4? Active... you want a no-Touchwiz S4? Google edition. etc.

Anyway, this Sony device actually looks really good. The bezel makes it pretty large and no flash might be the dumbest thing though...

Just to clarify/add to what Jeff Kibuule stated... the Galaxy S4 Google Edition has an unlocked bootloader, Vanilla JB 4.2.2 (no Touchwiz).

And all of which serve different function?

Come on .. it boggles my mind that this is even a complaint. In fact it should be a compliment because if offers something for people with different want and needs.

Active is meant for those who wants waterproofing (with the additional bulk and what not), Google edition for those who wants the pure google version (with some lost of features it seems), mini for those who wants smaller version, zoom for those who actually wanted a ... phone with more camera functions.

Now some of these don't make sense to me and I won't buy then (I mean .. mini .. why?) but I am sure I do not represent the taste and preference of the entire human race ... something that I appear to sense from some of you. I am sure that there are at least a subset of humans who might actually like that, however hard it is for me to comprehend.

The only beef I have with them is not announcing the lineup at the same time so that people can make a truly informed choice.

You seems to have a misunderstanding of the Samsung range of product .. or are you really so confused between the difference between S4, S4 min, S4 active and so on?

S4 is still the main flagship model, active is targeted at those who wants the waterproofing feature which adds bulk, mini for those who want smaller form factor etc.

None of these model is ever meant to be a replacement of the other. How hard is that to understand?

My only real gripe with these bigger phones is lack of attention to the speaker(s). At least HTC did get something right with their front facing dual speakers. My wife's HTC One is loud even at half volume and she uses it to workout and I have to say the sound is amazing. I do like that Sony is trying here but as I said earlier, my only gripe is the speaker(s) and not with just this device but most 'phablets'.

I'm in for one. I wonder if my Samsung blue tooth pen would work with this.

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This product will does a company skimp on the flash in 2013? Should have never been launched without it.

EDIT: I do love the prospects of an ultra sensitive screen that also works with graphite pencils but this device is incomplete.

For real. I use the flash more as a flashlight than anything, and I couldn't own a phone without that. I could, but my shins would be significantly more bruised.

Kudos to Sony for actually using the extra screen space and resolution, I am getting tired of these phone manufacturers releasing huge 1080p phones with four columns of icons. Come on.

No flash? Who they think they are? Nokia?
Only Nokia puts flash and comes with a low light camera campaign

Interesting but smartphones with screens +6'' will be handy only when flexible displays cover entire front of the device.

[...] and new hero's coming:

The Note 2 is already big enough.. I'd rather have a 4.7" or 5" phone and a 7" tablet as a 2nd device then just one huge ass phone. That's just me tho..

The battery is too small 3,000 mAh isn't going to cut it. The Galaxy Mega 6.3 had a 720P display and a 3,200 mAh battery and people said it only lasted the whole day and on heavy use you'll need to charge it at least once through the day. This phone has a bigger better 1080P screen that looks very nice and bright but the battery will kill it at around 4PM. Why isn't anyone talking about this? This is a no go. I'll just get an HTC One.

I sometimes wonder if phones are getting bigger just for the sake of being big without too much thought into it. I mean, big screen with functionality that compliments it is one thing (like dual screen), but big screen for the sake of being big ... I don't know. For example, why can't Android or BB come up with a phone with big screen (4"+) and real keyboard? -OR- Have a real keyboard with virtual letters that can accept different languages?

I like it! I may get one, depending on how the next Nexus pans out, of course.

No flash is a huge bummer, though. I use the flash, on my GNex, a lot. It really comes in handy, when you need it.

Typos: "it's lagged a generation of so behind the competition" should be a generation or so.
Sony's "Triluminos" display also impresses -should be triluminous, unless they branded it as triliminos.

Just helping you out, Alex.

A flagship phone....released in 2013....that spanks the competition in many areas, and matches them where it doesn't. How in the HELL does this phone get released with NO FLASH? How hard is it to just tick off all the boxes when designing a flagship phone? If Sony had added that simple thing, the only thing most consumers would have to think about would be if they could live with the size of the thing. Now? A consumer has to compromise. Bad move....a really stupid design decision that will definitely cost them sales.

Yeah, I was all set to buy it. But, no flash, kills it for me. It sucks, because it looks to be a great handset. But, I use my flashlight app A LOT, especially those times, when you don't have a conventional flashlight handy.

I would have loved to have seen the purple case on display. The handset reviewers are gonna have a field day with this device when it comes to the camera review.

@Alex Dobie

Thanks for the post.

Cool stuff from SONY. But non removable battery is odd point. why do they make useless upside n downside so much space? Sony should change their outlook little bit change n attractive also.

Thanks in Advance

I wish the bezels where a bit smaller, but I do really like the phone. It has some pretty amazing features. Having a water proof phone is pretty neat. The screen is also amazing. I'd like to see how it holds up in direct sunlight.


I like the slim design, looks much better than other large phones such as Note2 and Galaxy Mega. However it's not suitable to be a phone imho, may be we should treat it as a mini mini-tablet.

I was really hoping this would be worth considering. But no flash? Really? No integrated pen, giant bezels, too thin to put a decent size battery in. Say what you want about Samsung, but there's a reason they're on top...they get simple stuff like this right. Hopefully HTC's attempt will be stronger.

Nit & Pic..

Like the reviewer said.. This Telephone is not for everyone.. Especially, little average guys with little average hands...

But it gives us Big Men another choice.. HTC MAX, THE MEGA, THE ULTRA, THE NOTE 3..

Thanks for taking care of the Big Men.

We will see you all on Black Friday.. And make our decision then...

Never been a big fan of Sony devices. It's good to see them compete though, especially with the Snapdragon 800. Can't wait to get a phone with that chipset.

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No removable battery? More importantly, no LED FLASH? It's 2013, flash being a standard is an understatement.

Hey Alex, I was just wondering, on Sony's new 4.2.2 UI it seems that they've added a new navigation drawer to their app drawer, can you talk more about that? Thanks

Sony, you are [--] close to getting me to buy one of your phones. Had they included an active digitizer I would be saving my pennies right now. I like the idea of the Note but I don't like Samsung's design. Arrg! Sooooo close...

I liked the specifications a lot, but I find it too big and "too squared". Looking at the video, it seems to me that it's difficult to handle it even using both hands. Such a pity.

So many of us use the larger screen phones more like tablets anyway. I make fewer calls now. Email, plus web and other screen and keyboard intensive Apps dominate my use of my "phone". Because Sony have left out the flash, locked in the battery and have tiny covers over the ports - I would still prefer the Samsung approach. But are Sony simply making a pocketable tablet that many people want?

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Just got one of these Ultras.

Works ultra fast (lovely thing for pdf/dwg viewing!)

Camera pixelates badly for such a large screen, no zoom.

Battery drains down to 2% within 12 hours (for me it was 3 hours of total talk time, 3 hours internet surfing, 2 hours of texting/whatsapp and the rest simply on standby)

SIM card slot went haywire within 2 days of usage (sometimes pickup signal, sometimes don't... VERY BAD)

Saw a lot of reviews saying the screen goes crazy... starting to get a little bit of that as well...

so yeah, I am gonna try to resell it to some second hand broker after 1 week :(

I regret selling my note II for this :~(