JAPANESE PHONE MAKER Sony entered the growing phablet race on Tuesday, unveiling the Xperia Z Ultra smartphone that features a 6.4in 1920x1080 HD screen.
Sony seems to be hoping that going one step further than Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 2 features a 5.5in screen, will pay off, while others might question whether there really is a market for a 6.4in smartphone.
There's really no nice way of putting this, but the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is simply too big. While we can forgive the Asus Fonepad for its 7in screen, given that some will buy it just to use it as a tablet, Sony is marketing the Xperia Z Ultra as a smartphone device, and we can't help but think it has gone too far.
While the device is impressively thin at a mere 6.5mm thick and surprisingly light at 212g, at 92.2mm wide the device is simply too large for one-handed use. Sony was keen to talk up the fact that it designed the phone with a shrunken keyboard that's ideal for one-handed typing, but we couldn't get to grips with it, struggling to clasp our fingers around the mammoth device.
Although we think the handset is too big, it is a good looking device, sporting a frame that's similar to that of the Sony Xperia Z. We got our hands on the black Sony Xperia Z Ultra, which features the same glossy, glass-coated design as its predecessor, echoing the design of Sony's high-end TVs.
As well as looking stylish, the case is resistant against both water and dust thanks to the Xperia Z Ultra's IP57 certification. It's resistant against scratches too, as the screen features shatterproof and scratchproof glass.
The picture quality of the Xperia Z Ultra's screen is among the best we've seen on a smartphone. At 6.4in and with 1920x1080 resolution, making this handset the largest full HD smartphone on the market, the quality outshines most of Sony's competition, including the Samsung Galaxy S4.
We watched an HD movie on the handset, and were impressed with the vivid colours and deep blacks, which are thanks to Sony's Triluminos Bravia technology. While Sony's custom user interface can sometimes make menus look a little washed out, this is the best screen we've seen on a Sony smartphone yet.
The Sony Xperia Z Ultra comes with stylus support too. However, unlike similar devices, the handset also supports input using a standard pencil - handy if you lose the dedicated stylus. That said, we had a bit of trouble trying to get the phone to pick up our handwriting while using a pencil, although we'll give it a thorough test in our full review.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is its processor. Despite being 6.5mm thick, the handset manages to squeeze in a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. While we have yet to fully put this processor through its paces, the handset seemed impressively quick and smooth, with apps firing open almost instantly.
The Sony Xperia Z Ultra also features 8MP and 2MP Exmor R cameras, 16GB of internal storage expandable up to 64GB via microSD card, 4G connectivity and a 3,000mAh battery.
The Sony Xperia Z Ultra runs Google's Android 4.2 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, which Sony has smothered in the same custom user interface (UI) found on the Xperia Z, although we prefer Sony's UI to Samsung's cluttered Touchwiz UI.
Though we have yet to explore this fully, it's hard to miss the number of custom applications preloaded onto the phone, including Sony's Music and Video Unlimited services and access to the Playstation Store.
The Sony Xperia Z Ultra impressed us in almost every category apart from its size. It has the fastest mobile processor on the market, it has a great design and the screen is among the best, if not the best, on the smartphone market today.
We're just not sure that the phone's 6.4in screen is going to appeal to buyers, although we did say the same about the Galaxy Note 2. µ