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Sony Xperia Z Ultra review

Is it a tablet? Is it a phone? Really... do you care?

Being an Android device, the Xperia Z Ultra supports all manner of messaging solutions, and it manages to do them all a good service.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

First of all, there are the email clients. Users are spoilt with two email options out of the box. There's the standard Android email app that you get on most other Google-esque devices. It supports POP3, IMAP and Exchange folders and is pretty run of the mill.

Gmail users are automatically signed in to Google's own email app which handles Gmail with style and seamlessly integrates with mailboxes, labels and so on. Even priority and social inboxes get the treatment.

As for SMS, again, it's the standard affair. It's nothing to write home about, nor is it so bad that you'll find yourself writing home about it to complain. SMS and MMS messages are handled through the same app.

You turn an SMS into an MMS by simply tapping the paperclip icon next to the text entry field and then choosing your attachment of choice.

Or you can go into the likes of the gallery app and pick what it is you want and then compose a message that way.

One of the really cool features of Android's messaging system is the preview option. This means that when you get a message, before the envelope appears in the notification area at the top, the actual text will scroll along.

So, you're sitting at your desk and your phone beeps – you glance across and you are then able to actually read the entire message in all its glory without even lifting a finger and picking it up.

Write straight onto the screen with a pencil

Social media is integrated in as much as you can download the relevant apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and have them then link into the OS, allowing you to share content via them and have them pop up with notifications in the notification bar up top.

The Xperia Ultra also invites you to sign into Facebook as you set it up from scratch so that it's able to then start popping users' profile pics into your address book. It's a functional integration without being too overbearing.

We are still scarred by the Timescape UI of old Xperia days that saw us plagued with constant notifications.

This, thankfully, strikes a happy medium. There is an app called SocialLife – a Sony take on those social media aggregators that put all of your Twitter and Facebook feeds in one place. It's a bit bland, but does the job if you like that sort of thing.

Of course, part of the whole messaging experience is being able to type your musings easily and this is where some will fall down. No matter how nimble you are, you may struggle to type on a device that has more in common with a paving slab.

Luckily, Sony has thought this through. There is personalisation on the keyboard here on a mass scale. Firstly, you can choose the look of your keyboard through a skin (very important for the shallow among us) and decide if you prefer Sony's lighter shades or a grey and black MacBook Pro style.

There's also a one-handed mode that actually works rather well considering the way the Xperia Ultra balances in the hand thanks to that even weight distribution.

When holding it in both palms, it's fairly easy to type onto and there is also the Sony version of Swype (now adopted by Google, SwiftKey and a whole lot more) that lets you swipe between letters and works far too well for it to be considered a gimmick.

If you just want to, y'know, type the old fashioned way, they keyboard has haptic feedback built in. Not something we'd normally mention but it deserves it here if only for comedy reasons. It is really strong. Which makes it sound really loud with that motor.

When typing messages quickly, it sounded like we were trying to jump start a car. The neighbours actually came around to see if everything was OK.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra
A choice of keyboards

And then we have something new – pencil integration. Think the S-Pen of the Samsung Note range, but imagine you could do the same kind of thing with a pencil. That's what the Ultra allows. In the demos, it looked fantastic. In practice, we found it not so great.

And it came down to one simple reason – we just never seemed to have a pencil around. In fact, we asked around, and everybody had pens – blue, red, green, black – you name it, they had the colours. But nobody seems to carry pencils any more apart from teachers and artists.

So to use this kind of functionality, you have to come prepared. Which then makes you wonder why Sony didn't just have a little pen in a dock like Samsung and be done with it. Either way, it works.

And though it seemed to lack the clarity of the S-Pen a bit as well as the fabulous Note apps that go with that. But for most people who just want a glorified stylus, it's enough.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported64 GB
Built-in Memory16 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA
SAR Value0.34 W/kg
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationYes
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyXperia Z Ultra
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1700, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100, LTE 800, LTE 850, LTE 900, LTE 1700, LTE 1800, LTE 1900, LTE 2100, LTE 2600
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution8 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD, microSD Extended Capacity (microSDXC)
Phone StyleBar
ColourWhite
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSony Mobile
Battery Talk Time16 Hour
Screen Size16.3 cm (6.4")
Screen Resolution1920 x 1080
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)212 g
Processor CoreQuad-core (4 Core)
Green CompliantYes
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityWEEE
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Operating System VersionAndroid 4.2 Jelly Bean
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
USB StandardUSB 2.0
Pixel Density344 ppi
Front Camera Resolution2 Megapixel
Height179.4 mm
Width92.2 mm
Depth6.5 mm
Radio TunerYes
Battery Standby Time820 Hour
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product NameXperia Z Ultra Smartphone
Processor Speed2.20 GHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon 800
Product LineXperia Z Ultra
Screen TypeLCD
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Gyro Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass
Manufacturer Part Number1276-0434
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sony.co.uk
Marketing InformationThe world's largest Full HD smartphone display

The first Android smartphone with a 6.4" Full HD Display - and the first one ever to incorporate a TRILUMINOS™ Display with X-Reality for mobile - Xperia Z Ultra is the smartphone that takes you beyond your wildest dreams. The result? An on-the-go viewing experience that maximises everything.

The world's slimmest Full HD smartphone

With its 6.5 mm body, reflective glass surface and at 212 grams, this premium big screen phone is impressively slim, light and slick.