The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is like a big, dumb dog -- it's great to play around with, but you wouldn't necessarily want to live with it every day.
An extension to Sony Mobile's flagship line, the Z Ultra is essentially a standard Xperia Z with a couple of extra features and a gargantuan 6.4-inch, Full-HD display. Indeed, Sony claims that the phone features the world's largest Full HD smartphone display, and that's an important point. Sony isn't selling this device as a small tablet that can make calls -- the Z Ultra is just a really, really big phone.
I hate the word "phablet" but if you were going to assign it to anything, this would be it. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 appears puny in comparison. But then again, this phone's natural rival would be the Galaxy Mega 6.3, so we'll use that as a benchmark.
On the face of it, the TFT display is hugely impressive. It was developed by Sony's Bravia TV engineers, and features what the brand calls a Triluminos Display, which Sony says delivers a wider colour gamut and a wider sense of depth. Compared to your average LCD screen, it looks fantastic, with rich reds, blues and greens set against dark blacks.
The display is also surprisingly sharp, given how large it is. Sony claims 342 pixels per inch — which is way better than the Galaxy Ultra's 233 ppi. Indeed, the Galaxy Ultra doesn't even offer Full HD. There's no denying that the Z Ultra makes content look crisp and brilliant.
In fact, you don't even have to be watching HD content to appreciate this brilliance. Sony claims that its new X-Reality engine can process and upscale process low-resolution Web videos so that they appear much cleaner on the screen. In real life, the improvements are noticeable, and it means you don't have to stream HD content all the time. That saves on data costs if you're watching videos on the go, and time if your Internet connection isn't particularly fast.
However, you don't really notice any of this stuff as you're using the Z Ultra, because it's just so big. Without Sony's display mettle, such a screen would probably look horrible, but because you kind of expect the phone to have a good display, it's easy to forget about the tech that's gone into it and simply focus on the size of the thing. And the size of Z Ultra can lead to a lot of frustration.
It might be great having a big screen to watch HD videos on, but you have to sacrifice an awful lot for the privilege. For one thing, in the hot, humid months of summer, it's all too easy to get a lot of condensation on the screen. And while the phone is thankfully waterproof -- like the standard Xperia Z — the device will register touches from the droplets of condensation, making it annoying to use outside. Realistically, you have to wipe the screen down every time you want to use the phone outside.
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