Hands on: Sony’s Xperia Z wants to be your 1080p bathtub buddy

Today, Sony continued its mission to make an Xperia phone with every letter of the alphabet. Joining the Xperia J, U, P, T(ipo), SL, and M(iro), is the new Xperia Z. Officially unveiled yesterday at Sony’s CES press event, the Z follows all of the new trends at CES this year: it has a 5-inch 1080p screen, 2GB of RAM, 16GB (+microSD) of storage, it’s super thin, has a 13-megapixel camera, and it has a quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor. Unlike the many Xperia’s before it, the Xperia Z may mark Sony’s first chance to really stand out from the crowd and get some attention thanks to one big feature: water resistance. The Xperia Z may be one of the first high-end smartphones in the U.S. that you can use in the bathtub.

It isn’t waterproof, but it’s close

Water resistant (you can’t say “proof” anymore) phones have been sprouting up for the last two years, and you can’t walk through the CES show floor without seeing half a dozen sprays and technologies promising to waterproof our devices. These demonstrations are easy to spot – just look for fish tanks. But so far, waterproof tech has mostly been relegated to gimmicky devices or phones that never hit U.S. carriers. With the Xperia Z, Sony may bring this to our shores in a top-notch phone. With the Xperia Z, you may be able to get a waterproof phone that also has everything else you’d expect in a 2013 device. Sony hasn’t demonstrated the water resistance, but says that you can use the Z in the bathtub and showed a picture of water being poured all over it. It looks like we may have to buy a fish tank of our own at DT to test it out.

sony xperia z hands on olympus digital camera

It’s so lightweight

I never thought I’d hold a phone with a 5-inch screen and say it’s comfortable, but like the Droid DNA, the Xperia Z is thin enough and has a small enough bezel that most people should be able to hold it in one hand without too much difficulty. At only 7.9mm thick, it’s also the most compact Sony phone I’ve seen yet. Borrowing some design cues from LG and its Optimus G (Nexus 4), it abandons the curved designs of previous Xperia phones and instead has a sparkly glass back, and comes in fancy colors – you know, like purple and white.

The only issue we’ve had with the design is the odd placement of the power button and volume controls. They’re on the right side of the phone, but are placed abnormally low, making them a little odd to press in some circumstances, though with a phone as big as this, there’s almost no perfect place for buttons.

A good camera?

Sony spent a lot of time bragging about its new 13-megapixel rear camera with “Exmor RS” built in, claiming that it integrates technology from Sony’s dedicated cameras. I’m told this technology will help when you’re taking pictures at night or in dim conditions – two areas where all cameras struggle. Unfortunately, to test this feature, we’d have to steal a phone from Sony’s CES booth and, despite the devil on my shoulder begging me to make a run for it, I just couldn’t get myself to tear off with Sony’s new jewel. I’ll have to save my camera judgements for later. Either way, at 13 megapixels, you’ll be able to take some detailed photos. Sony also claims it can record video in HDR (high-dynamic range) which would be a first.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to buy it

I know you desperately want to play with the Xperia Z in the bathtub with your rubber ducky, but I can’t guarantee that will be an option for you. In fact, unless you’re on AT&T, it’s unlikely. Sony hasn’t announced pricing or availability. What it needs to do is get the Xperia Z on every major (or most) carrier in the U.S. Samsung is doing this with its Galaxy phones and to compete, Sony needs to build relationships with carriers outside of AT&T, where its phones have almost exclusively lived for more than half a decade. That is, when they arrive in the United States at all.

Here’s to hoping Sony will price the Xperia Z competitively and work to give everyone the opportunity to buy it here. Then, finally, you won’t have to worry about taking your phone out when its raining.

Product Review

With the RX100 VI, Sony proves it still makes the best point-and-shoot camera

The sixth generation of Sony's powerful but compact RX100 camera delivers more zoom, incredible speed, robust 4K video, and still fits in the palm of your hand.
Home Theater

Sony slowly rolls out its 2019 lineup of enormous TVs, with pricing to match

Like the slowly retreating glacier that is the winter of 2019, new TV prices are beginning to be uncovered. Sony is the latest company to reveal what we'll have to pay, but so far, only one model has shown up.
Deals

Amazon delivers a sale on Sony wireless noise-canceling headphones

Among the most popular noise-canceling wireless headphone brands are Sony, Beats by Dre, Sennheiser, and Bose, but they can all be expensive. Amazon is discounting Sony's WH-CH700N wireless headphones now. Pick up a great pair of…
Computing

Is AMD's Navi back on track for 2019? Here's everything you need to know

AMD's Navi graphics cards could be available as soon as July 2019 — as long as it's not delayed by stock problems. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 5.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Galaxy S9: How much better is Samsung’s new flagship?

You'd naturally expect the Samsung Galaxy S10 to be better than last year's S9, but just how do the two phones differ? We break down the specs and compare Samsung's flagships in various categories to pick a winner.
Product Review

Galaxy Watch Active is the right size, no matter how big or small your wrist is

Launched among a massive array of other new products, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active could easily have been missed at Galaxy Unpacked 2019 -- which would be unfortunate. This is a sensibly designed, correctly sized smartwatch suitable for…
Mobile

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e in the U.K.

The Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e have all been officially announced and can be pre-ordered right now, with deliveries expected on March 8. If you're in the U.K., this is where you need to go to buy one.
Mobile

Protect and style your Samsung Galaxy S10 with the best cases and covers

If you've splashed the cash for a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S10, then you'll want to take steps to protect your investment. With a metal frame and glass curves, the S10 needs some cover. Check out the best Samsung Galaxy S10 cases.
Mobile

You can now pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, or S10e

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is one of the most-anticipated phones of the year, offering a new chipset, beautiful display, and more. Now that the phone has been announced you might be wondering where you can get it for yourself.
Mobile

Sony partnership with Light aims to take smartphone photography to new heights

Smartphone photography is in its ascendancy, and a new partnership between Light and Sony hopes to lift it to new heights through the development of multi-image sensor solutions for smartphones. We spoke to Light to find out more.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Google Pixel 3: Can Samsung beat the stock Android king?

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is here, offering modern specs, a beautifully high-resolution display, and an edge-to-edge design with a small cutout in the display for the front-facing camera. But can the phone take out the Google Pixel 3?
Deals

Protect your iPhone or iPad with the IPVanish VPN, on sale through February

One of our favorite virtual private networks for iPhones and iPads, IPVanish, is now offering a huge discount on its two-year subscription as part of its 7th-birthday promotion. Read on to find out more about how this VPN works and how you…
Mobile

Verizon is launching real standards-based 5G in 30 cities in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. OnePlus 6T: Can the Flagship Killer survive?

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the new affordable flagship on the block, but at $750, it's $200 more than the OnePlus 6T. Does the Flagship Killer stand a chance against the new generation of flagship devices? Let's take a closer look.