You may have already read our Sony Xperia Z Ultra hands-on last week, but since then we've also been able to spend a tiny bit more time with a pre-production unit (with firmware build 14.1.B.1.277). Instead of going over again how hilariously large this 6.4-inch, pen-friendly phone is, this time we'll focus on some early benchmark results, camera performance and Sony's very own UX features.
As you'll see after the break, many of the benchmark scores aren't too far off from what we saw on the MDP phone with the same Snapdragon 800 SoC, and the final units should be optimized with higher numbers. While we didn't manage to get CF-Bench and Quadrant running on the phone, the higher-than-before 3DMark score did cheer us up, meaning either Sony or Qualcomm's managed to fine tune the latter's new Adreno 330 GPU.
Sony Xperia Z Ultra
S800 MDP phone (MSM8974)
S4 Pro MDP tablet (APQ8064)
Samsung Galaxy S 4 (Exynos 5 Octa)
SunSpider 1.0 (ms)
GLBenchmark Egypt 2.5 Offscreen (fps)
3DMark (Ice Storm)
SunSpider: lower scores are better
Sadly, it appears that there's much work to be done on the camera side. As our very own Mat Smith pointed out in his earlier hands-on, photos taken in darker environments are surprisingly noisy; and the lack of LED flash here only rubs salt into the wound. The exposure and white balance are not ideal, either; but again, we expect these to be fixed by the time this waterproof phone reaches the stores. Remember: this is still work-in-development, after all.%Gallery-192435%
On the bright side, we're pleased to see the plethora of handy software features included on this slate. The camera app, for instance, comes with many scenes, filters and modes that are already seen on the smaller Xperia Z; though we're not sure if the app's UI will be updated to the recently leaked Honami version. Then there's also the set of Sony's handy UX tweaks, including the usual app tray sorting modes, power saving modes, sound effects and PlayStation DualShock 3 controller connectivity.
One of Sony's most underrated weapons is its signature Smart Connect app, which comes preinstalled on the Xperia Z Ultra. This lets the user set automatic actions at a specified time and device-aware event (via headphone jack, NFC, USB or MHL). For example, you can set the phone so that when it's plugged into the charger from 10pm to 7am, it loads up the clock app and switches to silent mode. Or it can be as simple as setting the phone to run a specified music app when your headphones are plugged in.
We could go on and on, but for now, we'll wrap up with one new feature tailored to single-hand usage on the 6.4-inch screen: the one-handed keyboard. Like on the Huawei Ascend Mate, you can toggle a narrower keyboard that can stick to either the left or right side, depending on which hand you prefer using; or you can switch back to the full-size keyboard as well. As a bonus, you can also change the keyboard skin, but we'd rather Sony focus on delivering more single-hand features -- like the Vivo Xplay's "Free Touch" mini window.
Alas, we didn't have enough time with the phone to properly benchmark its battery life. But hey, that's what reviews are for, right? So stay tuned on Engadget for more.