Buying Guide, Top mobile phones compared: what phone is best for you?
15. Sony Xperia Z
The Sony Xperia Z is no longer the top dog for the Japanese firm since the Xperia Z1 (and now the Xperia Z1 Compact) has launched. But when it came out, the handset was definitely the most impressive the firm has launched either in its current guise or as Sony Ericsson.
You can see the Sony influence throughout the handset as it oozes quality and build from the large screen, which fits close to the edges of the bezel, to the intelligent camera that allows you to snap some really premium photos without needing to fiddle about with the settings.
And it’s water and dust resistant too, which makes it excellent for general life business. There’s a certain freedom that comes from knowing that the heart-stopping moment of your phone falling in a pint of beer is gone for good.
It’s also packing a microSD card slot in an nicely-thin chassis, for which we laud the phone even higher. Add to that the Bravia Engine 2, (which is as much as you need – the Z1’s Triluminous technology doesn’t really further the message much further forward.)
It doesn’t run the Snapdragon 800 processor, but it does have a good spec list and uses them well – a crisper video experience, a more powerful camera, being waterproof, expandable memory are all great elements.
While it doesn’t quite pack the clout of the phones from HTC and Samsung, the Xperia Z is a phone that says Sony is definitely back at the sharp end of the smartphone game.
It’s a shame it hasn’t dropped in price much since its successor appeared, but there’s still a lot of decent tech in a phone that really pushed things forwards in terms of waterproofing.
14. Sony Xperia Z Ultra
The Xperia Z Ultra is the kind of phone we love to take out for a spin once in a while: it’s so packed with tech, and is so light and thin, that we can’t help but laud it.
The camera is powerful, the waterproof shell impressive and the Snapdragon 800 chip is really strong. On top of that the large 6.4-inch screen is full of good Sony tech, and the IPS addition means it looks so much better than the Z and Z1.
Then again, this is a massive phone… so big, it’s even winning awards as a tablet. It’s really, really big, and you’ll need to want it rather badly to shell out the large amount of cash you’ll need to in order to own one.
The Xperia Z Ultra is one of those devices that makes you gasp. Partly because of its beautiful design and partly because its specs are so great. It’s a phablet, but Sony wants you to also remember it’s a phone.
The market is increasingly getting competitive and the Galaxy Note 3 is a strong challenger. But if you need something bigger, the race is strictly between the Xperia Z Ultra and the Galaxy Mega. And this wipes Samsung’s offering off the table.
13. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
The Galaxy S4 Mini takes the design language of the full-fat S4, and does well to shrink it down without losing the same ‘atmosphere’.
A vibrant screen, bright and clear enough, added to the fact it’s only 4.3-inches large, mean the S4 Mini is a lot easier to hold in the hand, and the camera is as powerful as we’d expect on a phone of this size and price point.
What you get with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is a far better trade off of price and features than you got with the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini, and a phone that sits very comfortably within the S4 range.
It’s got a lot of the S4 power at a lower price point, and while the S3 to S3 Mini divide was just too great in our eyes, the S4 Mini is a lot closer to its bigger brother.
It lacks the power of the main version, but strips out the right amount of stuff to still be desirable.
12. Nokia Lumia 1520
The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a trailblazing 6-inch smartphone that forges a path for Windows Phone 8 into true high-end territory. And what a swathe this oversized phablet cuts – it’s huge.
The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a well put together smartphone with Nokia’s typical build quality.
Its 6-inch 1080p display is a thing of beauty, and is a great way to watch videos and view photos on the go.
Nokia has produced another excellent camera phone here, learning lessons from the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the Nokia Lumia 925 to produce a very well balanced snapper.
However, there’s also no denying that this is a ridiculously large phone, and whipping one out in public will be as embarrassing as it is tricky to wield for those who appreciate a little subtly and mobility from their phones.
Then there’s that age old problem of the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem, which still lacks apps, not to mention a video store to fully capitalise on that cinematic screen
The Nokia Lumia 1520 is an absolute beast of a phone that we suspect only the large-handed and generous pocketed will be able to live with day to day.
Those who accept the challenge will find the most capable Windows Phone 8 device yet, with top-of-the-range specs that include a stunning 1080p display and a superb 20-megapixel camera.
It’s not quite the Windows Phone phablet we’re waiting for, but it’s a massive step forward.
11. Sony Xperia Z1
The Sony Xperia Z1 is another powerhouse of a phone. With a 20.7MP camera with G Lens technology, the ability to withstand rain, snow and sand and a superfast Snapdragon 800 processor running the show, it’s clearly a great handset to have around.
It also comes in a variety of funky colours, has a pleasing build quality that helps justify the higher price to a degree and basically offers the best of the Sony brand in a smartphone.
We do have a few reservations insofar as the Z1 doesn’t really carry the mantle the Xperia Z created; it’s got a massively uprated camera and screen technology, but neither particularly wow.
Don’t think that this is anything less than a leading phone from Sony. It’s just that the added thickness to accommodate the camera doesn’t impress enough to plop it into the top five, nor the sub-par screen, and after the really great showing from the Xperia Z, we were a little disappointed.
However, the slick interface that make Android feel more simple, the fun Walkman and Movies app and the overall power and battery life make this a really nice phone that once again shows Sony knows how to make a smartphone.
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