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Sony Xperia Z Ultra review: Hands on with the biggest phone ever

We’ve gotten pretty good at accepting smartphone manufacturers pushing the boundaries of phone size, we think. It was a struggle for a while with the Galaxy Note, but now we love it. LG G2? That’s a phone. Xperia Z? Also a phone. But when the Xperia Z Ultra from Sony arrived ahead of its September release date at Gadget Helpline HQ, much scoffing was done.

First Impressions

This thing is a monster, make no mistake about it. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest smartphone we’ve ever seen and handled. With a 6.4-inch display it dwarves even the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 and isn’t all that far off the size of the Nexus 7 and other 7-inch tablets. As such, we’re already of the belief that the Xperia Z Ultra is not a phone and is far too big to be a phone – and no, unlike with the Galaxy Note, we don’t think we’ll come to accept it.

The big screen on the go

With that said, size aside this thing is one of the best multimedia devices we’ve had the joy of using. That 6.4-inch display sports a Full HD resolution, meaning that movies on the go never looked this good. It also makes web browsing a dream, with so much screen real estate meaning that you don’t really have to ever pan around pages, zooming in and out to read individual artefacts.

Unlike Samsung’s large Note series of phones, Sony hasn’t paired such a huge screen with a stylus. We didn’t think much of it until we found ourselves messing around in Sketch, a fun app which does as the title says; sketch out drawings on the glorious Full HD display, with a range of brushes, colours and stickers. There’s no note taking or productivity on board from what we can tell, so it doesn’t look as though Sony is gunning for the Galaxy Note’s success here.

Speedy

The 2GB of RAM paired up with the super-fast 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip make the phone blazing fast, with games both performing and looking tip-top. With the extra screen real estate, games like Dead Trigger are much easier and far more fun to play, which we put down to the on screen controls being much more spaced out. Multitasking presents no problems at all for the Z Ultra, with 10 or more apps running in the background and switching between them causing absolutely no problems at all.

Design

Whilst the Z Ultra is a monster, measuring 179.4mm long and 92.2mm wide, Sony has managed to make it their thinnest phone yet at just 6.5mm thick. The Ultra puts its predecessor, the Z, to shame in terms of thickness, but we think that a little extra girth might have actually made this phone a little easier to hold. Its razor-thin nature and both squared edges and corners certainly don’t make for a comfortable hold in the hand, and couple with its gargantuan size, we feel that many will constantly be shuffling it around in the hand in a bid to get a firm grip, just as we did.

Overall, the Ultra shares many design aspects with its smaller Xperia Z brother. The power button is Sony’s now trademark raised silver nubbin located on the right edge, with a volume rocker just below. Both the front and back are huge slabs of glossy glass, which unfortunately makes the Z Ultra one big fingerprint magnet, but once cleaned up it certainly looks like a top-end gadget.

Being IP58 certified – meaning dustproof and waterproof – all sockets, bar the headphone jack on the top right corner are protected by smooth, sealed flaps. There’s also a magnetic connection on the left edge which we’re presuming will allow the Ultra to be docked and charged in landscape mode. We didn’t dare dunk ours underwater as we did with the Xperia Z, mostly because the headphone socket is unprotected, although Sony assures us this won’t cause any problems in up to 1 metre of water.

Verdict

From our brief time with the Z Ultra we’ve been left with mixed emotions. It’s potentially the best device we’ve had the pleasure of using for multimedia of all types; movies are a dream, gaming is fast and sharp and web browsing is excellent. However, there’s just no getting away from the fact that this thing is far too big as a phone. Holding it up to your face to make a call will all but conceal your identity on one side, whilst the 7-inches or so of glass covering the front will gradually warm up your cheek. And your ear. And your chin.

The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is set to hit the UK mid-September with a price tag of around £600. If you’ve got big pockets to both pay the high price tag and fit the phone, most UK networks will be stocking it from late September whilst SIM-free retailers will have it a little earlier.

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