The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is Sony's answer to a growing breed of devices which blur the line between tablet and smartphone.
It's blurred the line so much, in fact, that we can barely see it all. Figuratively speaking of course, because this thing is just huge. Here's how our hands got on with the Sony's smartphone Goliath.
Design and build: did we mention it's big?
It's going to be hard not to overuse the word 'big' here, because the Xperia Z Ultra is very, very big. It's all thanks to its borderline tablet-sized 6.4in 1080p screen, and holding the Xperia Z Ultra feels like cradling something in between the Xperia Z and Xperia Tablet Z. The iPhone 5 looks like a child's plaything next to it.
Its extremely thin 6.4mm aluminium and glass body actually feels quite comfortable in the hand, partly due to its svelteness, and partly due to the quality of materials used.
There's no creaking or flexing to be found, and the build quality of its Xperia brothers is definitely present. Holding the Xperia Z Ultra side-on makes us feel like slicing up a few pieces of well-thrown fruit, but it'd be a shame to dirty such a nice looking device.
The Xperia Z Ultra features the same waterproof powers as its Xperia Z phone and tablet counterparts, which means it's harbouring cleverly hidden micro SIM, micro SD and micro USB ports, all of which are squirreled behind flaps in the surrounding brushed metal aluminium band.
There's also a magnetic charging port which can be used with an optional docking station to charge the handset as well as providing a comfortable angle for watching movies or turning the Xperia Z Ultra into a huge alarm clock. It's a nice feature we wish more manufacturers would include in their handset designs.
Screen: a six-inch stunner
The screen is of course the standout feature of the Xperia Z Ultra, and it doesn't disappoint. Despite having a lower ppi count in comparison to its smaller full HD rivals, our eyes simply didn't notice a difference, and icons, pictures and movies look crisp, clear and bright, with vividly natural colours. That could be down to Sony's Triluminous Bravia screen technology and X-Reality engine, but either way, our eyes were impressed.
Not only that, but we can also confirm that the screen does indeed work with a normal Biro – no dedicated stylus required. Sony tells us that this techno-witchcraft is possible thanks to a very thin 'sensor-on-lens', though we're not sure what that is or how it can magically work with anything from a biro to a fountain pen. Anything pen-shaped at all, in fact.
Still, work it did, though we found that we had to press a little harder than we liked at times to get the pen nib to register. The screen also feels almost sticky when using a pen, though that could be down to the ink residue on the Biro nib. All in all, we'd rather use a pencil to stay on the safe side, despite the promised scratch resistance.
There's still a little dullness in colour from wide viewing angles, but it's not as pronounced as with the Xperia Z. We'll get a review sample before the September on-sale date, so stay tuned for our full verdict.
Two hands work better than one
The Xperia Z Ultra will seem massive even to phablet veterans. Cleverly, though, typing with one hand is made easy by the Ultra's one-handed keyboard layout, which shrinks things down to a manageable size on either side of the screen. Dragging the status bar down with a single thumb was impossible, mind you, to the point where we we on the verge of muscle spasms.
This will definitely be a two-handed phone for most people, unless you snap up an accessory like the Smart Bluetooth handset – a tiny 'companion phone' module which lets you make and receive calls as well as listen to music. Here we commend Sony for not suggesting we just get a Bluetooth headset.
Using it as a phone
Don't. Seriously, don't. Look at the picture above. Do you want that to be you? Of course you don't. Get the Smart Bluetooth handset for goodness' sake.