Sony Xperia ZR review: Ready to dare

Ready to dare

GSMArena team, 30 July 2013.

Controls

The layout of controls on the Sony Xperia ZR sticks to what seems the norm across the Sony smartphone lineup.

Starting from the top of the front panel you get the earpiece, with the VGA front-facing camera on one side, and the ambient light and proximity sensors on the other.

Sony Xperia ZR
The front-facer has been downgraded to VGA resolution

Like the rest of its siblings launched this year, the Xperia ZR relies on virtual on-screen keys rather than hardware buttons, so there is nothing to see below the display.

Sony Xperia ZR
There's no need for hardware keys under the screen

The primary microphone has been moved to the bottom of the phone, right next to the lanyard eyelet. The secondary one is at the back, but it's only visible when you remove the back cover.

Sony Xperia ZR Sony Xperia ZR
The primary microphone is at the bottom

On the left you get the MHL-enabled microUSB with USB host support. It's located underneath a small plastic cap, which helps maintain the IP58-required levels of water resistance. There are a couple of dock connectors below the port, too.

Sony Xperia ZR Sony Xperia ZR
The microUSB port and the dock connectors on the left

Jumping to the Xperia ZR's right side you see the volume rocker, the smartphone's signature power/lock key and the camera key. The shutter key could have been a bit wider and could have provided more tactile feedback, but it's certainly something you can get used to quickly enough.

Sony Xperia ZR Sony Xperia ZR Sony Xperia ZR
There's a trio of keys on the right

Launching the camera straight from sleep state and enabling more comfortable photo taking without introducing needless camera shake by touching the screen, the camera key is a definite asset. It's also something the Xperia ZR can use to lure some people away from the Xperia Z, which lacks such a button.

At the top, you get another plastic lid with the 3.5mm audio jack hiding underneath. While the cover does well to keep dust away (in addition to the water-proofing), it does have a somewhat negative effect on its accessibility.

Sony Xperia ZR Sony Xperia ZR
The audio jack sits on top

Around back, we spot the 13 megapixel camera lens, the LED flash and the loudspeaker grille. That's the exact same camera as on the Xperia Z flagship, but we are hoping Sony got the processing right this time (an update was issued for the Xperia Z specifically for that).

Sony Xperia ZR Sony Xperia ZR
The 13MP camera lens is the star backstage

Underneath the back cover sit the microSD and microSIM card slots as well as the smartphone's juice pack.

Battery life

According to the official numbers, the 2300 mAh battery that should keep the smartphone going for up to 13 hours of talk-time or 520 hours of stand-by. The numbers come slightly short of what the Xperia Z promised, but the real-life performance is a market improvement over the 5" flagship. The Xperia ZR managed an endurance rating of 62h in our dedicated test, easily beating its sibling in each of the tests and matching its stand-by efficiency.

That's hardly a surprise considering that the batteries and chipsets are the same and the ZR has a clear advantage as far as screen estate and resolution are concerned. We did experience strange battery drain on a couple of occasions when we left the phone idle overnight, so it wasn't always so great, though.

Display

There's a 4.55" 720p (1280 x 720) LCD on the Sony Xperia ZR and the Mobile BRAVIA 2 engine to boost image quality.

The resolution is more than twice lower than on the Xperia Z, but since the screen size has also been decreased so the pixel density stands at the cool 323 ppi. It's as great as on the Xperia Z, but frankly you'd have to be looking from way closer than is comfortable to notice it. And since 1080p would have lead to an increase in battery consumption we'd say Sony made the right call here.

Brightness is adequate and the contrast looks good even without the Bravia engine optimizations. You can enable the BRAVIA 2 for a dash of extra punchiness to your colors.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia ZR 0.13 128 1001 0.58 581 1004
Sony Xperia ZL - - - 0.44 575 1294
Sony Xperia Z - - - 0.70 492 705
HTC One 0.13 205 1580 0.42 647 1541
HTC Butterfly 0.14 173 1200 0.45 501 1104
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 0 201 0 404
Oppo Find 5 0.17 176 1123 0.51 565 1107
Samsung N7100 Galaxy Note II 0 215 0 402
LG Optimus G Pro - - - 0.41 611 1489
Nokia Lumia 920 - - - 0.48 513 1065
LG Optimus G 0.14 197 1445 0.33 417 1438
Apple iPhone 5 0.13 200 1490 0.48 640 1320

Surprisingly, the viewing angles on the Xperia ZR display are somewhat better than those of the Xperia Z screen. It's still far from perfect and you start to see contrast compression and color shift quite quickly, but the screen remains legible for longer than the Xperia Z.

Using the Sony Xperia ZR in bright outdoor conditions turned out quite a trouble-free experience. The smartphone even managed to slightly outdo the Xperia Z in our test.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.970
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.680
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • HTC Desire C
    1.300
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.180
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

You can find all about our display testing routines here.

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

Can i use xperia zr without battery as tv box? It support mhl and mhl charge speed not enough to power on zr all the time.There is a dock charge port and alkol micro usb port.

  • Anonymous

You should need a old charger cut the pin of charger and get red wire in positive terminal of bettery and negitv to negitive after 3 to 4 minuts clean the bettery connecter using blad or knife and clean the bettery gold plated pins using blade or kni...

  • Zeeqqqzzz

My Xperia ZR cant power on...can someone help me how to power on my device...please help me