Pros: Premium design. Stunningly clear display. Excellent, sleek user interface. Great multimedia machine. Very good performance. Water and dust-proof!
Cons: The camera is not on par with the rest of the phone and neither are viewing angles. Average battery life. High price. Some minor details..
Truly a fine comeback for Sony. The phone is put together with a precision you normally don't find with Android phones and it feels sleek and premium in the hand. It has a very clean, modern look to it and the overall visual impression is as good - if not better - than Apples latest iPhones. The weight feels just perfect; light enough to not feel bulky and hefty enough to not feel cheap. Compared to Samsung's plastic phones, this is miles beyond.
The 5 inch display is a thrill to watch overall. The Full-HD resolution allows for an extremely high PPI and a very crisp image. Watching HD content and reading text is a joy with this screen! Colors are great too, natural and well saturated. Contrast levels are not the best, with blacks lacking a bit compared to the best offerings from HTC and especially Samsung. But it's not bad, and what the display lacks in the very deep blacks it makes up for with it's very high brightness and great sunlight visibility.
Viewing angles on the other hand, are not good at all. It doesn't bother me in everyday use, but it's something worth noting.
Bravia Engine 2 makes the colors very saturated and vibrant but leaving it off is the way to go if you seek a natural image.
(Removing the factory installed screen protector does make the screen slightly more clear)
As far as user experience goes, the Xperia Z scores a jackpot.
Not only is Sony's custom UI visually pleasing, it offers just the right balance between features and loyalty towards the vanilla android experience. The add-ons by Sony here are all to the positive, nothing feels gimmicky and everything is well thought-through. Just look at the gallery and walkman apps, Sony sure knows how to design their software. Bravo!
The user experience is quick with very few bugs, but installing Nova launcher does help for a smoother home screen scrolling, without sacrificing Sony's custom apps.
As a multimedia powerhouse, this phone does the trick and does it very well. File support is great, the 5 inch display is excellent for movies and games, the walkman app has all the features you'll ever need (including EQ and tweaking options that actually do quite well) and the audio is great. I noticed zero difference in audio between this and the iPhone 5 in a subjective listening comparison, other than that the iPhone could play louder. But this is a software limit in most android phones these days.
You also have LTE, micro SD slot and all the bells and whistles you would want in a premium, flagship handset.
The only major negative aspect about the phone I can find is the camera. At times, in some conditions, it takes really excellent photos (on par or even better than the Galaxy S III) and it's wicked fast but on most occasions it just doesn't impress. Photos are compressed to small file sizes and the results are clearly visible when you zoom in or view the photos on a large display; the little details in photos turn into blurr.
The camera also seems to have issues with white balance and color in some lighting conditions, and in darker environments the results are very noisy.
I think this camera can be improved significantly with a software tweak, if Sony wants to. But for now, this just isn't a suitable phone for the photo enthusiast seeking a point and shoot - replacement. The results are too inconsistent for that.
Battery life is nothing special. With the Stamina mode on, standby time is above average. But as soon as you turn on that beautiful, 440 PPI screen, the phone drains battery like crazy...
Overall this is definitely the best smartphone I've yet laid my hands on. Time will tell if the HTC One can challenge it, but if you are like me and HTC Sense and the Beats Audio branding don't appeal to you, this is the best you can get at the moment. A beautiful, premium phone with an excellent display, a stunning Android experience with no compromises when it comes to performance and features. As long as you don't need a top-end cameraphone, this is a definite, if expensive, consideration.