By I-Hsien Sherwood | ( | First Posted: Feb 20, 2013 01:43 PM EST

The Sony Xperia Z smartphone is now available in Europe. What are reviewers saying about it?

The specs are impressive enough. "There's a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, a 13.1-megapixel camera, 4G cellular connectivity and 16GB of built-in storage, which can be augmented using microSD cards," writes CNET UK. And the phone is rugged, as well.

"All of that lovely cutting-edge tech is protected by case design which will survive a dip in water of a depth of up to 1 metre for thirty minutes. And it's dustproof as well."

The Xperia Z earns its 4.5 stars from CNET. "The Xperia Z's 5-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel 'Reality Display' pops with colour and vibrancy, and packs a pixel density of 443ppi -- leaving the iPhone 5's 326ppi panel eating dust. If rumours are to be believed, it should also be impressive enough to go toe-to-toe with the Galaxy S4's display."

For now, it also outprocesses the Galaxy S III. "The usual gamut of benchmark tests reveal some truly fearsome power. Antutu Benchmark gives the phone a score of 20,031, pulverising the Samsung Galaxy S3's 12,467, while Quadrant Standard awards the phone a 7,995, which trumps the HTC One X's rating of 4,904."

The Independent is equally wowed. "The 5in display has as many pixels as a 55in Full HD flatscreen TV. That's around 2 million, if you're counting."

"This is Sony's classiest, neatest and biggest phone yet. It's full of innovations, has excellent, quiet styling and is enjoyable to use. This is a striking, well-crafted, highly appealing phone."

Engadget has no star rating, but the UK editors are a bit more equivocal in their praise of the Xperia Z.

It's not that the phone itself isn't impressive. "This is Sony's best-looking smartphone ever."

But there are several competitive options from other manufacturers, both already on the market and due out this year. "Comparing the Xperia Z against the only other 1080p phone we've reviewed, the Droid DNA, Sony unfortunately comes in second place. Its performance doesn't offer the same viewing angles, or outdoor performance, of HTC's Super LCD 3 screen. "

"We can expect to see many, many more 1080p phones through 2013, and while the Xperia Z might not best the overall quality of HTC's 5-inch panel, the phone itself has a far more distinctive look than its competitors. While the Snapdragon S4 Pro was the best of the 2012 processor bunch, we already know what to expect from phones later this year -- maybe Sony should have waited a little longer?"

Final verdict: the Xperia Z is Sony's best phone to date. It is sleek, stylish and powerful, with an impressive display and camera.

But even with all that, it doesn't necessarily outclass the rest of the field. To the benefit of consumers, the smartphone market is getting crowded with impressive offerings, and the Xperia Z may just get lost in a very tall crowd.

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