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printed November 24, 2014
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Review: Sony Xperia Z for T-Mobile USA

Form Performance Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  3  

Screen

Sony likes to use a lot of flashy marketing lingo to describe its displays. The Xperia Z has a 5-inch 1080p HD screen with Sony's mobile Bravia Engine 2 for added clarity. I've yet to run across a Sony display that I didn't like, and the Z is no exception. It offers razor-sharp clarity, excellent colors, and enough brightness for the device to be used outdoors with no trouble. Interestingly, you can turn the Bravia Engine on or off, as well as control the white balance (turning the overall hue more blue or more yellow.) It’s a great screen on which to watch HD movies, view slideshows, or browse the web. My one complaint is that there is a little bit of a color shift (turns blue) when the display is tilted side to side.

Signal

The Xperia Z performed on par with other T-Mobile devices that I have tested. In areas where there was weak coverage, it struggled a bit to connect calls, but it worked flawlessly in strong coverage zones. It the mountains of upstate New York, it rarely saw anything other than EDGE coverage, but in northern New Jersey it latched onto T-Mobile's HSPA+ network strongly. It didn't drop any calls, but it took several attempts to connect calls in poor coverage areas. I didn't miss any calls, though. I was unable to test the Z on T-Mobile's LTE 4G network due to the network’s limited footprint.

Sound

Phone calls sounded really good. The earpiece produced loud, clear sound. I had no trouble hearing callers even in loud restaurants. Calls had a really nice, warm sound, and voices were pleasant to listen to. Similarly, the speakerphone produced easy-to-hear calls that were free of interference. I would say the speakerphone will suffice in a noisy home or office space, but may not be the best choice in the boardroom. People with whom I spoke through the Z said I sounded a bit distant and quiet. Ringers and alerts were plenty loud to get my attention, even when walking down noisy city streets. The vibrate alert could have been a little bit stronger, but it has a pleasant pattern to it.

Battery

Sony has done well with it smartphones of late when it comes to power use. The Z easily managed to live through an entire day, which means it kept a charge between 7am and 11pm most days I used it. Keep in mind, though, that we were unable to use the Z on T-Mobile's LTE network. The Z offers plenty of tools to help manage battery life, too. For example, it includes Sony's Stamina Mode, which turns off the data radio whenever the screen is off. There's also a Low Battery mode that automatically turns off a customizable set of features (brightness, vibrate, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, sync, mobile data) when the power level drops below 30%. With these tools, I have no doubt most users will be able to get a full day of solid use out of the Z. The controls help offset the lack of a removeable battery just a wee bit.

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