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Sony Xperia Z1 vs Sony Xperia Z Ultra

on November 8, 2013 – 8:57 pmNo Comment

Sony introduced their first camera centric flagship – Sony Xperia Z1 at the IFA 2013 in Berlin. Sony Xperia Z1 had leaked numerous times prior to launch and when Sony announced it, nothing came as a surprise – even the 20.7MP camera. Sony Xperia Z1 has the biggest camera sensor on an Android smartphone, even bigger than the one on the camera-phone – Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, but without the optical zoom.

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Sony Xperia Z Ultra was launched by Sony sometime back before the IFA and it was Sony’s first phablet with a gigantic screen that was just millimeters away from being a tablet. Sony Xperia Z Ultra was the first smart device(we will try to avoid the term “phone”) to run on Snapdragon 800 and it sported a huge 6.44inch Full HD display. Xperia Z Ultra was a Galaxy Note competitor with a huge screen, but no in-built stylus. Sony announced that any pointed input item like a pencil could be used to write on the display instead of a single restricted stylus.

Today, we will be bringing you the comparison of Sony Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z Ultra. Both the phones share the same beast of a processor – Snapdragon 800, similar design language, almost identical software features and are water/dust resistant, but are still vastly different. Lets dive right into the differences. You can check out our quick hands-on comparison video right below.

Design and Build Quality

In terms of looks, Xperia Z1 and Z Ultra are not much different. Both the devices share the same industrial design with a rectangular build and a single piece of aluminum at the center and glass for the center and back. When the industry first moved towards glass for the devices, we were impressed, but Sony has started using it almost for all of its flagship and the design language may have begun to fade interest that it once piqued. Xperia Z1 is big for its size especially when you consider what the competition are doing – Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and LG G2 have done a great job of keeping the body small despite having same or even bigger display. Xperia Z Ultra is undoubtedly the biggest device to be called as a smartphone.

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In terms of dimensions, the Xperia Z1 is shorter, less wider and thicker than the Xperia Z Ultra. The Xperia Z Ultra is amazingly thin for its size and in fact, it is the thinnest smartphone with a Full HD display as claimed by Sony. As far as the weight is concerned, both the phones are not light. Among the two, Xperia Z1 is the lighter one weighing about 170g while the Xperia Z Ultra crosses the 200g mark and weighs 212g.

On the front of the phone, as always display dominates most of the real estate. The bezels are not too thin to be spoke about and they are just regular. On the Xperia Z1, above the display, the earpiece is along the top edge and on the right side of the Sony logo, we have the 2MP front camera. On the left side of the Logo, we have the proximity and Ambient sensors. On the Xperia Z Ultra as well, we have the earpiece along the top edge above the Sony logo. However on the Z Ultra, in addition to the proximity and ambient sensors on the left side of the logo, there is the front camera.

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Below the display, there are no navigation keys on both the phones and everything is restricted to on screen buttons which is becoming the trend these days. The mouthpiece is along the bottom edge on the Xperia Z Ultra and it seems to be hidden on the Xperia Z1. The display is protected by shatter proof and scratch resistant glass of unknown make.

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Being made by the same manufacturer, the positioning of keys is quite similar on both the phones. On the right side, both the devices have the circular and symbolic Sony power lock button, volume rocker and microSIM card slot. On the Xperia Z1, we have an extra camera shutter key since it is a camera centric device. On the Xperia Z Ultra, we have the microSD card slot inside the same compartment as the microSIM slot and a 3.5mm audio jack.

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On the bottom, both the phones have their loud speakers. The speakers on the Xperia Z1 are quite big while the one on the Xperia Z Ultra is quite small.

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On the left side, we have provision for docking at the center on both the devices and there is a covered microUSB charging port. On the Xperia Z1, in addition to the microUSB port, we also have the microSD card slot here.

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On the top, Xperia Z1 has a 3.5mm audio jack while the Xperia Z Ultra has a secondary mic. All the ports except the 3.5mm audio jack are covered with flaps in both the phones to make it dust and water resistant.

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Moving to the back of the device, we find that both the phones are quite similar – Similar material and similar design language. The glass back is not removable on both the phones and it is a fingerprint magnet. The back is also slippery. Xperia Z1 has the 20.7MP camera sensor on the top left corner while the Xperia Z Ultra has a 8MP towards the top center. Xperia Z1 comes with a LED flash below the camera which is absent on the Z Ultra. There is Sony branding at the center and at the bottom, we have the Xperia branding on both the devices.

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Overall, the industrial build quality is nice, but the design language seems to be repetitive. In terms of handling, both the phones have their concerns. Xperia Z1 may be small relatively, but can be quite big for small hands. Xperia Z Ultra is huge and single handed usage is definitely out of question. Pocketability is an issue with both the phones because of Z1′s relatively high thickness and Z Ultra’s huge size. Z1 is the winner because of better handling and pocketability.

Display

Being Sony’s latest, both the devices sport Sony’s Triluminous Full HD displays. Xperia Z1 has a 5inch Full HD display with a pixel density of 441ppi while the huge Xperia Z Ultra has a 6.44inch Full HD display with a pixel density of 344ppi.

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Despite its lesser sharp display, the Xperia Z Ultra has a display with better brightness, better contrast and much much better viewing angles. The viewing angles of Xperia Z1 are very poor and remind us of the screen of Xperia Z which suffered from similar problems. When seen from a slightly different angle, the screen of Xperia Z1 appears whitish.

Overall, the bigger display on the Xperia Z Ultra is much better.

Hardware and Performance

Both the phones that we have today have the best processor available in the market – Snapdragon 800 SoC. The specifications of both these phones are identical and they house a Quad-Core Snapdragon 800 SoC clocked at 2.26GHz, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB RAM.

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Both the phones come with 2GB RAM and out of the 2GB RAM, Xperia Z1 has 1.7GB usable RAM and when the device is idle, around 1GB is free while the Xperia Z Ultra has 1.8GB is usable and when the device is idle, around 1.1GB is free.

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In terms of internal storage, there is 16GB internal storage on both the phones and both of them have a support for microSD cards. Out of the 16GB, around 11.7GB is user-accessible on both the phones.

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Since both the phones have the same processor, same amount of RAM, there is very difference in the benchmarks. In terms of day to day performance, both the phones are blazing fast. Opening apps, switching between them is so fast on both the phones.

Overall, it is a tie.

Camera

Sony Xperia Z1 is the company’s first step towards a camera centric flagship as it comes with the biggest sensor on an Android smartphone. The Xperia Z1 comes with a 20.7MP Sony G Lens sensor and houses Sony’s own Bionz Image processor for superior image quality. Though the Sony Xperia Z1 runs on Snapdragon 800 SoC, there is no 4K video recording and you do not even get 1080p Full HD recording at 60fps which you find on LG G2 and Note 3. The front camera on the Xperia Z1 is nothing special as it is just a 2MP one which can record 1080p videos as well. Xperia Z Ultra comes with a normal 8MP camera at the back without a LED flash and a 2MP camera on the front.

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In terms of camera UI, despite coming from the same manufacturer, there is some notable difference. On the Xperia Z1, the camera UI is different as the mode selection button is present on the bottom right corner above which we have the camera shutter key and video record button. The shortcut to recent images is on the top right corner. On the left side, we have the toggles for Flash and switch for Front/Back camera. Below it is the three vertical dot icon for settings. While on the Xperia Z Ultra, the mode selection mode is on the top left corner and the rest are pretty similar. There is difference in the various shooting modes available as the Xperia Z1 includes the regular Superior Auto mode, Manual mode, Timeshift Burst mode, Picture effect mode, sweep panorama, AR Effect, Social Live and Info-eye. The special modes in the Xperia Z Ultra are restricted to Burst mode, Picture Effect and sweep panorama. Also Xperia Z1 produces over-sampled 8MP images in Superior Auto mode. This is one of the first Android smartphones to produce over-sampled images (which was introduced to smartphones by Nokia).

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In terms of image quality, the photos and videos taken on the Xperia Z1 are much better with better details and more colors. Clearly, the Xperia Z1 is the winner as you can see in the camera comparison video right below.

Software Features

Both the phones run on Android 4.2.2 JellyBean with customized Sony skin. The UI is exactly same on the both the phones. Since the Xperia Z Ultra has a huge screen, more icons are fit into the display and UI.
The app drawer on both the phones is quite same and both of them allow you arrange the icons in any order, alphabetical order or most recently used first. On the notification bar, both the phones have exactly ten toggles for various connectivity options like Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC and so on. Both the phones have Sony’s small apps which can be accessed by pressing the third navigation key that also opens the list of already open apps. There are various small apps like calculator, recorder, timer, bookmarks and so on. You can open any number of these apps at a time and have them on screen. They are always present on the screen unless you close them. Instead of closing them, you can drag them to the right side of the screen where they become small icon and attach themselves to the right side of the screen. On clicking those minimized icons, they are visible again. These small apps can be very useful for taking down notes and doing small things in a fast manner.

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Since both the phones have exactly the same in terms of software, it is an obvious tie.

Multimedia

Multimedia apps like Album, Walkman, Movies are exactly the same on both the phones. The Album app which is the image gallery is quite functional as it supports pinch to zoom feature. When you pinch out inside the app, all the images rearrange themselves to the smallest possible thumbnail size and when you pinch in, they zoom in and keep zooming in until you are with a single image and even when pinch in further, they zoom the picture. The rearranging takes place so fast thanks to the Snapdragon 800. Walkman is Sony’s trademark music player and comes with all the features and some good Eye-candy. Movies is the video player for Sony smartphones and not it does it play the movie, but also fetches information about the movie from the Internet which gives you a quick summary of the movie. Snapdragon 800 is capable of 4K video playback, but neither of these phones support 4K videos. The loudspeaker performance is definitely better on the Xperia Z1.

Gaming

Both the phones are absolutely great for gaming because of the Snapdragon 800 SoC. But since the display on the Xperia Z1 is small and sub-standard when compared to the Z Ultra, Z Ultra is a better device for gaming. We noticed that both the devices heated up while playing graphics intense games.

Battery and Connectivity

One of the surprisingly good things about the Xperia Z1 is its amazing battery. Despite its relatively small size when compared to the Xperia Z Ultra, it houses a similar sized battery. The Xperia Z1 comes with a 3000mAh non-removable Li-ion battery while the Z Ultra comes with a 3050mAh battery of the similar variety. Both the batteries are great and will definitely last more than a single day. Since the Xperia Z Ultra has a bigger display, the battery life was better on the Xperia Z1.

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In terms of connectivity, both the phones are equipped with WiFi(802.11 a/b/g/n/ac), DLNA, WiFi Direct, WiFi Hotspot, Bluetooth, TV out(via MHL), GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS, NFC, microUSB and USB OTG. However, only the Xperia Z Ultra has dual-band WiFi ensures faster WiFi speeds.

Conclusion

Sony Xperia Z1 is the company’s first camera centric flagship while the Z Ultra is the first phablet. Unlike previous years, where Sony was late to the party in terms of specifications, for a change, Sony is leading the specs race as the Xperia Z Ultra was the first smart device to feature the Snapdragon 800 SoC. Things are looking good for the Japanese company, but the sales of its flagships are yet to make it their own game. Xperia Z1 shines in most of the aspects as a smartphone, but since it is being portrayed as a camera smartphone, it has lost some of its key points. Yes, the camera on the Xperia Z1 is great by Android standards, but when you put it up against something like Lumia 1020, it doesn’t even come half as good. Xperia Z Ultra is huge which is both good and bad. The extra large size makes it very tough to handle and that can be a turn off for the larger set of folks. When you compare both the phones against each other, it is only a matter of choice, bigger display against a better camera. Other than the camera and the display, the rest of the features are pretty much quite same. Sony Xperia Z1 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra are available for around Rs. 43,000.

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Advantages of Sony Xperia Z1 over Sony Xperia Z Ultra

  • Better camera
  • Relatively compact size

Advantages of Sony Xperia Z Ultra over Sony Xperia Z1

  • Bigger and much better display
  • Very slim
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Monish is passionate about smartphones who is also interested in User Experience and Design. He is currently using Samsung Galaxy S3. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+