Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10

In this review we compare the best Android phone the Sony Xperia Z with the best BlackBerry phone the BlackBerry Z10.

Reader, you are blessed. We are living in a period of unprecedented riches in the high-end smartphone space. The iPhone 5 remains a brilliant option, and there's the Nexus 4 for Android bargain hunters. The all-new HTC One is another exciting Android prospect, and while the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note III handsets are imminent, the Galaxy S3 and Samsung Galaxy Note II are far from spent forces in the Android world. And then there are the wild cards, high-end Windows Phone 8 handsets such as Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC Windows Phone 8S, and BlackBerry's comeback device - the BlackBerry Z10.

You can read our regularly updated Best smartphone, Best Android phone and Best Windows phone group tests to work out which smartphone is best for you. Here we pit together the Xperia Z and BlackBerry Z10 to find out how they compare.

Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: Design and build

All modern smartphones all look the same, and the Z10 and Xperia Z don't buck this trend. Face up on a table both the handsets we have are thin and stylish rectangular slabs of black. (The Xperia Z comes also in white and purple, and the Z10 in white.) Touchscreens take up most of the real estate on the front of both smartphones. But differences are apparent.

The Xperia Z has a clean and uninterrupted glass covered-front, and an iPhone-esque tempered glass rear cover. It's all glass, basically. The Z10 is BlackBerry's first fully touchscreen smartphone - it has no physical keys or buttons for navigation - but unlike the all-glass Xperia Z the front of the Z10 features metallic panels at the top and bottom of its display.

The BlackBerry Z10 is clean, simple and stylish; it closely resembles the iPhone 5 with straight edges and rounded corners. Indeed, the front looks almost exactly like the back of the iPhone 5 (but with a screen instead of an aluminium panel in between two narrow bezel panels), while the rear looks like a plastic version of the iPhone, featuring a big BlackBerry badge.

BlackBerry Z10 back coverThe Z10's rear cover is slightly rounded at the edges making it more forgiving and comfortable in the hand than the iPhone. The rubbery texture made up of tiny dimples is very similar to that of the Nexus 7. When you take off the rear cover it feels thin and bendy, but robust.

There are no physical or even touch sensitive, buttons on the front of either the Z10 of the Xperia Z. All navigation is done with gestures on the touchscreen. There is a power button on top of the Z10 and to the side of the Xperia Z. On both phones volume and mute buttons reside on the right hand side.

The Z10 measures 66x130mm and is a pretty slim 9.2mm. It's nice and light at 135g and fits snugly in your hand. The Xperia Z is noticably bigger, but also thinner.

Indeed, despite being a very large phone the Xperia Z doesn't feel at all oversized in use. It's very thin at and light for phone its size – just 7.9mm and 145g. Furthermore the Xperia Z is dust- and waterproof which is good news for anyone who wants to use their phone in the bath. (Some people might.)

This does mean that mean things such as the headphone- and micro SD ports must be hidden behind flaps which stick out when you have headphones plugged in. They and the big silver power button are the only aspects of the Xperia that feel less than stellar. Overall the Xperia Z has a premium, desirable feel. Build quality is excellent and the attention to detail exemplary. Sony says there is a shatterproof coating on the glass, but we chose not to test this for obvious reasons!

Xperia ZHowever, there is one small element of the Xperia Z that we don't like at all. There is a tiny gap on the front and back of the Xperia Z between the glass panel and the frame of the phone. This invites dirt and dust, and a ring of fluff is not a great visual element on an otherwise stunning phone.

The BlackBerry Z10 has a slightly less premium feel than the Xperia Z in part because of its removable plastic back cover. But use it for a while and there are some sound reasons for this. The Z10 is a workhorse, designed to travel everywhere without breaking. In a perverse way the lack of a shiny back cover makes it feel less likely to mark or break. Don't get me wrong, the Xperia Z is a beautifully constructed handset (flaps excepted), but I would be slightly worried about spoiling such looks.

Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: Hardware and performance

The Xperia Z has powerful core specifications. The 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM yielded a good result in the Geekbench 2 test of 1986. The Xperia Z with its Adreno 320 also managed a very impressive 30fps in the GLBenchmark 2.5.1 graphics test. The Sony didn't do so well in the SunSpider JavaScript test, however, with an average time of 1791ms. This is a way off the leaders which are around and under the 1,000ms mark but we found surfing the web on the pre-installed Chrome browser very smooth and responsive indeed.

BlackBerry has opted for a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM for the Z10's engine room. The dual-core chip might sound mid-range since most top end smartphones have a quad-core processor, but with the BlackBerry 10 OS we don't see this as a problem. The BlackBerry 10 operating system is nippy and shows no signs of lag in use on the Z10. Indeed its Geekbench 2 score of 1725 puts it in the upper echelons of current smartphones, even if it does mean the Xperia Z is marginally faster of the two.

Browsing the web is particularly speedy, as BlackBerry said it would be. The relatively slow result of 1710ms in the SunSpider JavaScript test is slightly faster than the Xperia Z, and doesn't anyway reflect the browser's performance in our tests. It wasn't flawless, but it wasn't far off.

Because of the relative lack of third-party software for BlackBerry phones we can't run our GLBenchmark graphics test on the Z10, but don't let that put you off. It's a fast phone. They both are, and performance is neck and neck.

Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: Display

A 5in Reality Display with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution makes the Xperia Z stand out from any crowd, and the Z10 can't compete. The Xperia Z's screen is nothing short of stunning and easily the best we've ever seen on a smartphone. But this shouldn't lead you to think that the Z10 has a poor screen, far from it.

At 4.2in the screen on the BlackBerry Z10 is quite small when you compare it to the Xperia Z. But the size isn't a problem; it's big enough to comfortably browse the web, use apps and watch video content. The screen size coupled with the resolution of 768x1280 used to give the BlackBerry Z10 the highest pixel density of any phone we'd reviewed... until a certain Sony handset launched. At 355ppi the BlackBerry Z10 beats the Nokia Lumia 920, iPhone 5, HTC Windows Phone 8X and Sony Xperia S. However, the Xperia Z stamps all over it.

Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10 displayIt's hard to find fault with the BlackBerry Z10's screen. At 355ppi it's not really a surprise that text and images look crisp and clear. Colours are vibrant, contrast is good and there's plenty of brightness should you need it. Our main concern is how quickly the display gets dirty with finger print marks, there's clearly no kind of oleophobic coating on the Z10.

Shift over to the Xperia Z and content looks incredibly sharp thanks to its whopping 441ppi pixel density, the highest we've ever seen on a phone, and colours look particularly rich and vibrant. It really is like holding a TV in your hand and watching a feature length film finally makes sense on a smartphone.

The Mobile Bravia Engine 2 which is designed to enhance the quality of photos and video mostly brings more saturation to colours on the Xperia Z. For some content it's a bit overkill and introduces an unrealistic tone. You can turn the engine off in the settings if it's not to your taste.

It's important to remember that this screen is big, and that's no understatement. At 5in it's difficult to reach a portion, mainly the top, of the display when using the Xperia Z with one hand. Unfortunately for those who it would suit there's no smaller version. It's interesting, though, that the Xperia Z is only marginally bigger than the HTC One X+, for example, which has a 4.7in screen.

Both the Z10 and Xperia Z have great screens, unimaginable even 18 months ago. The Xperia Z is categorically better, but it is also bigger which means the phone is bigger: a few people might find that the Z10 is better for their needs.

NEXT PAGE: Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: Storage, connectivity, cameras >>

We continue our Sony Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10 review with a look at storage and connectivity, as well as the best cameras on these two high-end smartphones.

Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: Storage and connectivity

In the modern age of smartphone, both the Xperia Z and BlackBerry Z10 are a bit limited on the storage front with only 16GB models. There is a microSD card for up to 32GB- and 64GB cards respectively, though. Storage wise the BlackBerry may have a greater potential expanded capacity than the Xperia Z, but before you even go downloading some apps, adding music and taking some snaps, a total of 4GB, a quarter of the storage, is already used up by the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The Xperia Z is not short on connectivity, there's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC (near-field communications), aGPS and DLNA (digital living network alliance) certifications. Beyond the usual microUSB and headphone ports, there are two metal contacts on the left hand side of the handset for use with a docking station. Furthermore, the Xperia Z comes with support for 4G LTE networks.

With NFC, the Xperia Z can connect to a range of Sony accessories with one touch including speakers, headphones and Sony's 2013 TV range.

The BlackBerry Z10  has a microUSB slot and headphone port, with an additional Micro HDMI port – handy if you like connecting your phone to a larger display. Inside there is dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and NFC which is what we've come to expect from a high-end smartphone (see also the Xperia Z).

The Z10 also supports 4G LTE mobile networks. So even if you don't want to use EE, still the UK's only 4G network, the Z10 will be compatible when others are rolled out. However, we've noticed that the 800MHz spectrum (one of the two frequencies being auctioned in the UK currently) isn't supported which could cause problems.

Overall? Storage is disappointing on both of these handsets - but the BlackBerry Z10 and Sony Xperia Z are both well-connected handsets.

Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: Camera

Sony's smartphone cameras are often good, and the Xperia Z is no exception. It has a 13Mp rear facing camera with Sony's Exmor RS sensor. We're very impressed with the camera software and the resulting photos and video. The Superior Auto mode always knows what's going on and adjusts the settings accordingly, although we did get a better result once or twice by switching it to normal.

There's a burst mode (10 frames per second), sweep panorama, various filter effects and the HRD mode is particularly good. The Xperia Z is the first smartphone to enable HDR in video mode. There's also a decent 2Mp front facing webcam. Like the rear camera, it can shoot Full HD 1080p video.

The main downside on the camera side of things is that Sony has ditched the dedicated shutter button which it so often uses. You can find sample shots on our Sony Xperia Z review.

By contrast the Z10's main camera is 8Mp with an LED flash, BSI (back side illumination), a dedicated ISP (image signal processor) and a F2.2 lens. The rear camera can record video in up to Full HD 1080p quality.

Photos are okay for a high-end smartphjone, but nothing more. You can select anywhere on the touchscreen to focus and then take a picture. The Z10 has a mind of its own with this method but fortunately you can use either volume button to operate the shutter. You can find sample images in our BlackBerry Z10 review.

The main show off feature of the Z10's camera is Time Shift. By taking numerous snaps in one go, you can adjust the whole image or individual elements like someone's face. It's a nice feature but don't be fooled into thinking it's new; the Nokia Lumia smartphones have a similar thing called Smart Shoot.

We like the editing software built in to BlackBerry 10 which allows you comprehensively edit and tweak your pictures. You can crop, rotate, adjust settings like white balance and add Instagram-style filters and borders.

We tested out the front facing 2Mp camera by having a video chat in BBM Video (a new feature of BlackBerry 10). The camera shoots video in 720p quality and we thought it looked pretty good.

Again both handsets offer high-calibre cameras, but the Xperia Z wins this one in our book.

BlackBerry Z10

Sony Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: Software

The Xperia Z comes pre-loaded with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and will be upgrade to version 4.2 shortly after launch according to Sony. The BlackBerry Z10 is the first device to run BlackBerry 10 - the company's all-new operating system.

Jelly Bean is a known concept, although the Sony interface is slightly tweaked. The lockscreen is basic compared to others with access only to the notifications menu, camera and music player controls. It does have a nice visual blind effect, though. With an almost up-to-date version of Jelly Bean there are expandable notifications and importantly Google Now. There's no quick settings pull down bar but Sony has placed a few at the top of the normal notifications bar anyway.

The rest of the interface is visually attractive with plenty of wallpapers and widgets for customisation. Pinching on a homescreen panel no longer pulls all the widgets together in the unique way it used to. Instead it simply brings up the editing screen for adding app shortcuts, widgets and the like.

The recent apps aspect of Android displays in the usual vertical strip but like the Xperia T there are additional 'small apps' including a timer and sticky notes which float around the homescreen like a Windows gadget and can be pinned to either side of the screen as a tab.

There is, of course, access to the Google Play Store for apps, books, magazines, films and music. But Sony also provides its own such as Music Unlimited and PlayStation Mobile as part of the Sony Entertainment Network. It's a pain, though, that many of the apps in the menu open the Play Store or web browser and ask you to download them.

On to the BlackBerry Z10. For a more detailed look at BlackBerry's new operating system take a look at our BlackBerry 10 review. Depending on your previous experience, you may wish to: using BlackBerry 10 can be a bit baffling. It's worth perservering, however, as in a short time the swiping navigation starts to make sense.

BlackBerry 10 has a main home screen which is blank until you launch an app. Start using apps and open apps are shown in small windows, most recent first. We would have like a way to rearrange the windows or pin favourites so they don't move off the screen. Tapping an app opens it and swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen navigates back to the home screen. Apps remain running unless you actively close them. An app menu sits to the right of the main home screen only a swipe away. Swiping from the top of the screen brings up phone settings or options.

The BlackBerry Hub sits to the left of the main home screen. This is an all-in-one inbox and notification centre for all your accounts. Swiping from the bottom of the screen minimises what you have open and shows you notifications on the left. You can then choose whether to open the Hub by swiping to the right, swipe back down to return you your app or go straight up to head to the home screen.

Another big feature of BlackBerry 10 is the keyboard. The more you use it the better it can predict which words you need to construct your sentence. Suggested words are spread across the keyboard and choosing one involves flicking it upwards with a satisfying swipe. It's good, but different, like much of BlackBerry 10.

What is different but not so good is BlackBerry World. The BlackBerry app store has tens of thousands of apps, games, music and movies on offer, while magazines are available from the BlackBerry Newsstand. Indeed the Z10 has apps such as Facebook and Twitter pre-installed, but there are many big names missing from BlackBerry World that can be found in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Amazon Kindle, Skype, National Rail and Whatsapp are just a few.

BlackBerry says many of the top names are 'committed' to getting apps on to the store. We'll see. Because of Android's greater popularity, the Xperia Z shades this one.

NEXT PAGE: Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10 - for work and play, battery life, verdict >>

On the final page of our Sony Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10 comparison review we consider using both devices for work and play. Also, which has the better battery life: Xperia Z or BlackBerry Z10?

Sony Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: for work and play

One area in which the Z10 is a winner is email. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a BlackBerry, it is a brilliant email device. Pulling down messages more quickly than either the Xperia Z or indeed the iPhone 5 we were using on the same network on a recent business trip, and offering a simple and easy way to respond to professional and personal messages.

The Z10 also offers BlackBerry's Balance feature, which allows you to partition off the 'work' aspects of your device from the 'play' time you have with it. Combined with the ability BlackBerry offers your network admin to monitor and update your device via BlackBerry's free server software, and the bundled Docs To Go software, and you can see that the Z10 is the better choice if you are looking for a business smartphone.

On the flip side the Xperia Z offers access to many more apps, and much more music, movies, magazines and ebooks, all of which you will enjoy more on its great big screen.

Sony Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: Battery life

With a 2330mAh battery providing juice for the Xperia Z's components and, most importantly, the Full HD screen we were apprehensive about battery life. We were pleased to find the Xperia Z not only lasted a day but went a good way through a second. As you can see from the screenshot we went 31 hours and still had 20 percent of the battery remaining. It's worth noting that we achieved this with moderate usage pattern the Stamina Mode switched on.

The BlackBerry Z10 has a removable battery pack with a capacity of 6.7Wh (1800mAh), lower than most. BlackBerry says it will last up to 13 days on standby and 10 hours talk time.

We got about what we expected from the Z10 which was no more than a day of battery life. It's a shame that it’s a smartphone that you'll have to charge every night, many of the top smartphones last a couple of days. We were hoping it might be an area where BlackBerry could offer something more.

Sony Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: verdict

Make no mistake these are both great smartphones. Each offers access to email, web, apps, games, music, movies and more. Both have solid battery lives of around a day in moderate use. They are fast performers, beautifully built. The Z10 is the better business phone, fits in your pocket a little easier and feels less likely to be damaged. But the Xperia Z has a better (the best ever) display, has access to the greater riches of the Play store and has a better camera.

Sony Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10: video review

Sony Xperia Z: Specs

  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS
  • 5in Reality Display (1080x1920)
  • Sony Mobile Bravia Engine 2
  • 1.5GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 13Mp rear camera AF with LED Flash
  • 2.2Mp front camera
  • Video recording at 1080p
  • HSDPA, 42 Mbps
  • HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
  • 4G LTE, Cat3
  • 2330mAh battery
  • 71x139x7.9mm
  • 145g
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS
  • 5in Reality Display (1080x1920)
  • Sony Mobile Bravia Engine 2
  • 1.5GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 13Mp rear camera AF with LED Flash
  • 2.2Mp front camera
  • Video recording at 1080p
  • HSDPA, 42 Mbps
  • HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
  • 4G LTE, Cat3
  • 2330mAh battery
  • 71x139x7.9mm
  • 145g

OUR VERDICT

The Z10 is the better business phone, fits in your pocket a little easier and feels less likely to be damaged. But the Xperia Z has a better (the best ever) display, has access to the greater riches of the Play store and has a better camera.

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