Game-changer. You hear that term so often being thrown around in relation to this or that smartphone, this or that tablet that it’s essentially lost any meaning and value it ever had. But where does that leave us when a true game-changer comes our way?
Well, we have to think of other attributes to describe it. How about, say, “ultra”? It doesn’t sound so catchy by itself, so let’s attach it to the words “Sony”, “Xperia” and the letter “Z”. The result? The Sony Xperia Z Ultra, probably the most spectacular Android device released so far in 2013. Scratch that, in history.
Yes, it’s big, in fact yes, it’s massive, but when did that become a downside? Worst case scenario, it’s an inconvenience, but one that I know most of you will be willing to neglect once you hear of the thing’s other specs.
Now, I already called the Z Ultra the most spectacular Android device ever, but is it also the best? No other way to tell but compare it to the current best. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the first, the ultimate, the comprehensive Xperia Z Ultra vs Galaxy S4 comparison.
Design and build quality
This is no way to start a versus post, but a little disclaimer before anything. No one’s touched the Z Ultra yet (well, for more than a few minutes or so), no one’s played with it (enough), so all we have right now are cold numbers, assumptions and impressions from the outside.
That said, I’m pretty sure there’s no way the Ultra will look and feel in any way poorer when held in hand than the way it does on paper. Yes, the thing is massive and yes, you might look ridiculous holding it next to your ear.
But who cares when it’s 6.5 mm thin, made of aluminum and glass, premium in every way, sleek, svelte and graceful? Meanwhile, you probably already know what GS4’s deal is. It looks fairly nice by some standards, but much too plasticky and cheap for me.
Winner: Z Ultra
Comparing a 5-inch panel with a 6.4-incher might be like apples and oranges in a sense, but ultimately it’s not about the size, it’s how you use it. Erm, the display, I mean. We already know GS4’s Super AMOLED screen is spectacular, with a 441 ppi, impressive viewing angles and very bright colors, so the question is how does the Z Ultra compare.
It should compare very nice, since it’s Triluminos (read: brighter and more colorful than the norm) and Full HD. That’s in theory, while in reality, based on a few existent hands-on previews… it’s still very cool. Clearly better than Xperia Z’s in every way, but probably poorer than GS4’s in terms of contrast.
Then again, it works with all kinds of pens and styluses, which is a big plus.
Winner: It’s a tie
Processing speed and cameras
I know, I know, it’s not fair to compare a new phone with one that’s almost three months old, but the fact of the matter is between the time the Ultra is released and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 becomes available, Sony has the upper hand against old Sammy here.
That’s because the Z Ultra comes with Snapdragon 800 heat in tow. And based on preliminary benchmarks, Qualcomm’s newest quad-core chip should be at least 20% faster than the 600 found inside the GS4.
In terms of cameras however, Sony seems to have dropped the ball, inexplicably fitting an 8 MP snapper on Z Ultra’s back. True, a higher megapixel count does not automatically a better cam make, but even Xperia Z’s 13 MP unit was worse than Galaxy S4’s, so there’s no real fight here.
Winner: Another tie
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean vs Android 4.2 and we seem to have another tie on our hands. Well, not so fast, since most of the times the difference here is made by the little details. You know, the pre-loaded goodies, the skins and so on and so forth.
The thing is both these individuals have their ups and downs. The GS4 has oodles of exciting special features, like Smart Stay or Smart Pause, but most of them are gimmicks. The others, don’t really work as advertised.
Meanwhile, the Z Ultra has a more toned down customized UI, a closer to stock Android experience, but, and this might sound strange, not enough gimmicks. What can I say, a gimmick or two never hurt anyone.
Winner: Tie again?!?
I’m not going to beat it around the bush here, as it’s much early to proclaim a battery life winner. Even on paper it’s hard to give one or the other the edge, since the S4 is a 5-incher packed with a 2,600 mAh ticker, whereas the Z Ultra has a 6.4-inch screen and 3,050 mAh battery. Oh, well, the reviews and battery tests are coming, so let’s wait and see.
While Sony is yet to make an official statement regarding price, the Z Ultra will likely be costlier than the S4. By how much, we don’t know. Another small but important detail that can tip the balance one way or the other is Samsung’s flagship can be found everywhere from major electronics retailers to grocery stores, while Sony’s crown jewel is unlikely to come earlier than August.
On the flipside, the Ultra is protected against water and dust, two features that are really starting to count for some.
All in all though, I have to declare this battle a tie too, which brings me to the final verdict. That’s right, you guessed it, the two phones are tied overall. Yes, the Z Ultra has a few extra aces up its sleeve, but ultimately 6.4-inch “handhelds” are not for everyone.
What I’m trying to say is if you want portability (well, kind of), go for the S4. If you want speed and great looks, wait for Sony’s Xperia Z Ultra. It will be worth it, trust me.