Sony Xperia Z Ultra review

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

Sony Xperia Z Ultra review
Yeah, it's big. Really big.

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The Sony Xperia Z Ultra takes the phablet concept, adds a bit more size, a lot more elegance and throws in specs to die for.

More connectivity options than a very connected thing, more grunt than a Ferrari. Sony knows it will be a very niche device. But it clearly wants the Xperia Z Ultra to be the niche device. It's thrown money and specs at it. Will that be enough?

We liked:

The Xperia Z Ultra has phenomenal specs – from that beautiful screen, to its breathtaking design and powerful innards, there is so much that Sony has gotten right here.

It's not a gimmicky device and has given power users one of the things they often desperately crave – a good battery performance and top speeds.

We like that we can use it for the high-drain things: browsing the web and watching video, as well as a spot of Google navigation through the maps app. When you've got a phone like this with a screen that's phenomenal, it deserves to be used.

Having a microSD slot, as well as the open headphone jack, are great additions that make us feel like we're looking at a well-thought out handset that will be fine to come swimming with us.

We disliked:

The camera just ruined the entire experience for us. It's not that we intend to use the Xperia Z Ultra just to take photos, but it's the way that Sony has just not bothered to even try to make it usable. It leaves us worrying what other corners have been cut inside, away from view.

There's not a lot else wrong with the phone, thanks to the fact it brings top end technology in a different package. A lot of people will find the phone too large, simply due to hand size - there's an argument that with this phablet Sony has erred to hard on the side of 'ablet' over 'ph'.

Calling on this phone predictably becomes a chore. If you have to add a Bluetooth headset to make it work, you're doing it wrong.

Final verdict

The Xperia Z Ultra is one of those devices that makes you gasp. Partly because of its beautiful design and partly because its specs are so great. It's a phablet, but Sony wants you to also remember it's a phone.

The market is increasingly getting competitive and the Galaxy Note 3 is a strong challenger. But if you need something bigger, the race is strictly between the Xperia Z Ultra and the Galaxy Mega. And this wipes Samsung's offering off the table.

If you want something to surf the web on, play games and make occasional calls – and size isn't a problem – then the Xperia Z Ultra is it.

But if you even want to take occasional photos, then don't bother. Sony's really let itself down here. We admit that a camera on a phablet isn't the reason to buy a device, but we expected a lot more from Sony.

This is an excellent phablet, and one that will impress many. But with the higher base price, it could be a lot more impressive in some areas.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.