How big is too big? There is absolutely something to be said about having a larger display on your smartphone, because having that bigger screen makes it so much easier to play games and watch videos, but at what point does a so-called “phablet” become unwieldy? Definitely pushing the envelope in this sector is the positively mammoth Sony Xperia Z Ultra. With an extra large 6.4-inch display, some may say that this superphone is almost comical, but is that such a bad thing?

Go Big or Go Home?


The trend may have started with the Dell Streak and picked up in surprising popularity with the Samsung Galaxy Note, but it seems that more and more manufacturers are embracing the “phablet” form factor. You have to remember that the Dell Streak “only” had a 5-inch display, which has now become the “normal” size for a flagship smartphone like the LG G2 or Sony Xperia Z1. In this way, in order to be a phablet these days, you have to be even bigger.

Announced as a Bell Mobility exclusive in Canada, the Xperia Z Ultra is definitely bigger. That is going to the first reaction that anyone is going to get when they first lay their eyes on this device. It measures 179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5mm, which is even decidedly bigger than something like the Galaxy Note 3 (in the center of the above picture). It’s not quite as large as a Nexus 7 or other 7-inch tablets, but it’s getting awfully close.

The good news is that it boasts the horsepower to back up its larger frame. You get a quad-core 2.2GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, microSD expansion for up to 64GB more, IP58 certification, and a glorious 1080 x 1920 pixels spread out over that 6.4-inch Triluminos display with X-Reality Engine. One sticking point for me is that, unlike some of the other flagship level Xperia phones, this one only gets an 8MP camera and there’s no flash either. Check out the unboxing video for a closer, hands-on look at the Xperia Z Ultra.

A Beautiful Black Monolith


Yes, it may be very large, but the Xperia Z Ultra is also quite the looker. Sony has continued many of the design cues that we’ve seen in other Xperia Z series devices, like the prominent silver round power button on the side. The Xperia Z Ultra is remarkably thin and the display blends right into the black bezel. What results is an utterly elegant design that is both classy and well-built.

That being said, this comes at something of a cost. It is nearly impossible to use the Xperia Z Ultra one-handed, so you will find yourself using two hands like how you would with a small tablet. What’s more, even though that glossy black back is mighty attractive, it’s also incredibly slippery. When you have something quite this large and with not much grip, you constantly worry that you’re going to drop this beautiful black monolith. Sure, you could get a protective case, but that would take away so much from the overall appeal.

Display and Daily Abuse


It can be initially shocking to use a phone quite this large, but after a while, you really do get used to it. Yes, it still only has the same number of pixels as some of its smaller brethren, but the larger display does make it more enjoyable to watch high definition videos or to engage in certain games. Indeed, when I let my cousin’s school-aged children try some Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies on the Z Ultra, they told me that they enjoyed playing on this phone far better than the much smaller iPhone.

To be fair, these kids don’t exactly make a lot of phone calls, but they do show that there is value in having a larger display. Browsing the web is easier and playing games is more accurate (because your finger has more wiggle-room, so to speak). And yes, you can still make phone calls, but I found this was the first device where I had to be conscious of where I was placing the earpiece relative to my head. Yes, I had to “aim” it at my ear.

The Sony display technology doesn’t produce the same kind of over-saturated look that you get with AMOLED-based displays and that’s simply a matter of personal preference. It does suffer somewhat with viewing angles, however, and the display doesn’t get as bright overall.

Big Productivity, Small Apps


If you’re going to have that extra real estate, you may as well make use of it. Just like you’d find with Sony’s tablet offerings, the Xperia Z Ultra also has something called Small Apps. These are little apps that effectively “float” on top of whatever else you are doing, giving you access to true multitasking. For example, you can bring up the calculator small app if you want to do a quick calculation, all while still viewing a webpage in the browser or participating in an IM chat with a colleague.

You can also bring up a voice recorder to take a quick note, a screen capture small app to take screenshots, or a full-fledged web browser to look up whatever information you need. What’s great is that it is even possible to bring up more than one “small app” at a time, so you can literally flood your display with productivity. Some of them, like the browser, are also resizable and you can “snap” them off to the edge when you don’t need them, pulling them back in when you do. The small apps are accessed by hitting the multitasking button baked into Android.

No Flash for the Camera

Sony Xperia Z Ultra Sample Photos

Compared to the ZL, Z and Z1, the camera on the Sony Xperia Z Ultra just isn’t up to snuff. It’ll function just fine as a cameraphone for your candids and selfies, but at just eight megapixels and with a lack of flash, it doesn’t hold its own against some of the heavier hitters in this range. Low light and night time shots particularly suffer, resulting in a lot of fuzziness, graininess, and noise.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra Sample Photos

When lighting is ample and your subjects are reasonably steady, the shots turn out perfectly fine, as you can see in this shot from the mall. You could certainly do a lot worse, but given how much money you’d be spending to get your hands on this phablet, you could also do better. It really depends on where you want to place your priorities. I don’t use flash very often, but it does seem like a glaring omission.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra Sample Photos

And yes, the camera is capable of shooting 1080p full HD video, but you’re best sticking with good lighting there too. Here’s a night sample video to give you an idea of what to expect.

AnTutu and Quadrant Benchmarks

xperia-z-ultra (16)

Performance junkies will find a lot to like in this phone. It score over 21,000 in the Quadrant Standard benchmark and into the 34,000 range in the AnTuTu benchmark. That puts it above other heavy hitters like the Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4, HTC One and even Sony’s own Xperia Z. It handles graphics like a champ and does particularly well with multitasking.

MEGATechie Ultra Combo or MEGATechie Excessive Overkill?


If you can get past the initial comical reaction that you’ll have when you see this device, there is actually a lot to like about the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. The overall performance is truly top-notch, the larger display can make your life a lot easier, and the small apps definitely help with multitasking and productivity. The stylish design exudes a sense of class without being gaudy and the razor-thin profile is truly impressive.

But it’s still gigantic and not all that practical as a phone. When asked whether this will fit in a pocket, I kept telling people that it depended on the size of the pocket. All this being said, because it is impractically large and cannot be used one-handed under any sort of reasonable circumstance, I’m not sure I could recommend this device unless you plan on using it more like a tablet and less like a phone.

The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is available now for about $550 factory unlocked or $100 on contract with Bell Mobility.

Share This With The World!