The Xperia Z is a key release for Sony. It comes after a dark period for the firm, which in 2012 had failed to make any significant waves in the smartphone world, with its Xperia S and T handsets getting an at best tepid customer and critical response.
Chief among the S and T's crimes was that despite costing the same as an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3, the handsets ran on outdated versions of Google's Android operating system and possessed dual, not quad-core processors.
This meant that despite packing a number of innovative features, like beautiful Bravia-powered screens and better than average cameras, the devices were still a let down and only accrued modest sales.
Aiming to regain a share of the top-end handset market, Sony's Xperia Z looks to fix these problems, loading the Z with pretty much every feature it could think of. But will that be enough to entice buyers in an increasingly crowded market?
Design and build Visually the Z looks like a blown up version the Xperia T featuring the same hard edge, rectangular 'OmniBalance' design.
OmniBalance is a design approach that aims to give the Xperia Z a consistent appearance from whatever angle its viewed at.
The differences between the two only become apparent when you get up close to the Z and realise it has a polished glass-like back and is slightly larger measuring in at 139x71x7.9mm. The T by comparison measures in at a more compact, 129x67x9.4mm.
The increased size means that the Z is also slightly heavier than the 139g T, weighing in at a still reasonable 146g.
Sony's also made sure that like the Xperia T, the Z is a robust device being IP57 certified. This means that the Z can survive more than the usual wear and tear being scratch, bump, water and dust resistant.
In fact, the Z is meant to be water resistant up to one metre for up to 30 minutes. While we haven't had a chance to push the Z to its submersion limits, we have tested the water claim by running the device under a cold tap and dunking it in a jug of water. We found the Z managed to remain undamaged.
The one downside to the Z's robust nature is that it means the microUSB and headphone jacks are both covered. This wouldn't be a problem other than the fact that the plugs are fairly stiff, meaning at times they could get stuck and become difficult to pry open.
The only other design issue we noticed is that, while pleasing on the eye, the Z's increased size combined with its hard edges could make it fairly unwieldy for users with petite hands. However, to those used to plus-sized handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X+ the device will still be fairly comfortable to use.
For a look at some of these features in action, check out our Sony Xperia Z video review below.
Next: Review continues - Design and build, display, operating system and software