Keith I Myers – 2014-06-16 00:57:39-0400 – Updated: 2014-06-16 00:57:39-0400<teenage girl squeal> I am using the same phone as the great +Jean-Baptiste QuéruOriginally shared by Jean-Baptiste Quéru6 months with a Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition
For the last 6 months, I’ve been using a +Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition as one of my personal computing devices.
There, I’ll spill the beans: it’s definitely my favorite device, and if I somehow had to use only one device I’d keep that one, without any doubt.
The killer feature of the Z Ultra is its screen. Obviously, it is huge (at 6.4″). Also, it is bright, contrasty, and displays pleasant colors. My wife +Eugenia Loli (who is an artist) comments that her works look accurate on this screen. Most impressively, the brightness, contrast and color rendering remain essentially unchanged at all necessary viewing angles and even at some unnecessary viewing angles.
In spite of that huge screen, Sony did some miracles and the Z Ultra feels much smaller than a 7″ tablet. With narrow side bezels, it feels very comfortable in one hand, and it fits smoothly in a jacket pocket (unlike 7″ tablets that need some care there). Also, the device is incredibly thin throughout, such that Sony didn’t need to play tricks with tapered borders, and the Z Ultra has classy smooth glass surfaces on both the front and back sides, edge to edge.
In that incredibly thin package, Sony somehow managed to cram a large 3000mAh battery. Obviously, larger screens create a lot of design freedom for the hardware. However, running such a large screen requires quite some power, such that the battery life is great but not exceptional. It’s worth mentioning that it’s easy to make the Z Ultra use more power than a basic 500mA USB port can provide, putting it in amusing situations where it’s plugged in but still discharging.
Software-wise, it’s a Google Play edition device, which means that it runs an unmodified version of Android and gets updated very quickly. I had Kitkat essentially from the day it was released, and I’ve had 4.4.3 on it for about a week already. So much has been written about KitKat that I won’t get into details. KitKat definitely feels right at home on the Z Ultra. Stability is great but not perfect; the device occasionally crashes while playing games but such crashes remain rare. This might be an issue with the OpenGL drivers.
As a user, I’m able to do almost everything I want on my Z Ultra, and I’ve been using my Chromebook a lot less in the last 6 months. I only get to the Chromebook when I want to a real computer, especially to run Google Spreadsheets for which the Android version is still far behind its web counterpart, or when I need a full-size keyboard. For everything else that I care about on a daily basis, I get a better experience with Android apps than with the equivalent web pages, and I only use Chrome on the Z Ultra for unusual tasks.
Everything is fast. Period. Nothing to report here.
The Z Ultra is technically a phone, which has pros and cons. Obviously, it can communicate over voice and SMS, which can’t be done with a tablet. Before you ask, the device is large enough that holding it to one’s face to make a phone call is indeed quite ridiculous (but it can be done in a pinch). The size of the device doesn’t matter when calling over Bluetooth, e.g. in a car. The biggest drawback of being a phone is that Android’s multiuser isn’t available.
Being a phone has some less obvious advantages: being a phone give me access to phone plans at +T-Mobile, including unlimited data and international roaming, which I can’t get on a tablet.
The extreme thinness of the device seems to have forced Sony into making some compromises: the rear camera is merely good and doesn’t feature a light, and the speaker is weak and tinny.
Over the last 6 months, I’ve only had a few gripes with the device.
One is that it advertises itself as a 400dpi device (which is a new feature in KitKat), even though it’s physically much closer to 320dpi. This makes UI elements appear a bit larger than they need to be. Mostly, the biggest annoyance is that Google Play store doesn’t recognize 400dpi as a valid screen density, and applications that target specific screen sizes or densities (with <compatible-screens>) can’t be made available on the Z Ultra. It’s ironic that part of Google would sell the device in +Google Play but another part wouldn’t support it in the app store under the same brand.
Another one is the MHL connection: the video over MHL severely lags behind the built-in screen, while MHL audio is in sync with the built-in screen, such that on the TV the audio and video are very far out of sync. I use MHL to play music and it works great for that, but for video it’s not a practical option. Miracast doesn’t have that problem, but the image quality is visibly lower.
A2DP audio over Bluetooth could be better. It’s just fine in a car where the environment is obviously noisy, but at home with a good receiver and good speakers, it’s one notch below an iPad. This isn’t unique to the Z Ultra, and I’ve experienced the same with other devices based on the same chipset.
Finally, the wired connectivity could be improved. A single USB port isn’t enough for power, MHL and USB-OTG (and, as a stretch, for ADB when doing application development). While it’s possible to fall back to some wireless options, the Z Ultra would benefit from having 3 or 4 USB ports.
Very very much a recommended device, which I intend to continue using for a long time.
Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition
Shared with: Public, Jean-Baptiste Quéru+1’d by: Daniel Mery, Ana Medina, Chris Sullins, Killa Gaming, Andy Nguyen, Joseph Hindy, Court Mejias, Jean-Baptiste QuéruChris Sullins – 2014-06-16 06:29:45-0400If only Google had a Galaxy Note 3 GPE device.