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 >>

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