Is This The Phablet to Get?
In a somewhat strange move, alongside the colossal 6.4-inch display and powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, Sony opted for a relatively small 3,000 mAh battery. The idea here Im sure was to keep the device to its svelte 6.5mm thick body, but it doesnt bode well for battery life.
The good news is that the standby time is impressive, because the screen isnt powered on. The bad news is that the screen on time is mediocre, because, of course, the screen is sucking a significant portion of the juice available. This means that in regular usage, youll likely find the Z Ultra barely lasting an entire day, and youll probably have to monitor the battery life closely to ensure you dont need to scramble to find a charger.
Compared to other flagships that Ive used recently, including the Lumia 925, HTC One and Galaxy S4, the Z Ultra had a significantly shorter battery life, perhaps even shorter than the Xperia Z I used towards the start of the year. The 11.6 Wh battery struggles when youre using the display for things like games, but also for social media which can be a gradual drain.
Sony has included a Stamina Mode which can increase the battery life by a reasonable amount, probably bringing it on par with this years other high-end Android phones. However this comes through sacrificing background data usage, which is one of the advantages of having a smartphone; you will lose social media notifications and emails unless you set up exceptions, which then defeats the purpose of the mode in the first place.
Below Ive compared the Z Ultras battery life to other smartphones on the market in our battery life test. In this test, a 720p video is looped at 75% brightness in airplane mode until the battery dies. Generally speaking, a phone which scores more than eight hours in this test has a good all-round battery life.
Putting It All Together
After enjoying my time with the Xperia Z, I have to say that Im disappointed with the Xperia Z Ultra. The device is insanely fast and complemented by a massive, beautiful 1080p display, but Sony has failed to deliver the necessary software to take advantage of the phones interesting hardware features.
For one, the touchscreen can be used with pencils and any metal object, which allows you to bring your own stylus to use with the device. However, the note-taking app is bewilderingly split in two, meaning you cant take text notes and annotate them from within the same application. Then theres the general operating system, which takes no advantage of the extra screen real estate, leaving you with essentially just a larger phone.
The battery life is also mediocre, failing to live up to the Galaxy Note II and flagship smartphones that have been released throughout this year. The Ultra definitely does have an awesome 6.4-inch display complemented by the Mobile Bravia Engine 2 and decent brightness, but thats not particularly useful when more than two hours of screen-on time is off limits.
Then theres the design, which leaves me torn. The Xperia Z Ultra is a stunning piece of hardware, combining top-end materials with an ultra-slim, premium composition. But at the same time its impractically large, hard to use as a handset, and a general hindrance in a number of everyday tasks. The phone has been crafted for its large display, but it perhaps turned out a bit too large.
Ultimately I cant recommend this phone over Samsungs Galaxy Note range, especially with the Galaxy Note III on the horizon, because it lacks an overall polish that you need from a large, note-taking-cum-multimedia device. In some respects the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is wonderful, but its the critical areas where it falls behind the mark.
Pros: Slim, beautiful and waterproof design constructed from premium materials. Snapdragon 800 is blazingly fast. Quality 1080p display with multi-stylus support.
Cons: Huge size is more a burden than a bonus. Under--developed software takes no advantage of screen real estate or stylus features. Disappointing battery life for its class.