Sony Xperia ZR Review: Waterproof, Powerful, and Compact

Sony Xperia ZR Review: Waterproof, Powerful, and Compact

Sony Xperia ZR Review
Sony Xperia ZR Review

Review: Sony Xperia ZR

The Sony Xperia ZR was announced a few months after the launch of the highly successful Sony Xperia Z. While the Sony Xperia Z was “water-resistant”, you couldn’t actually operate it underwater since the display wasn’t optimized for usage in that environment. The Sony Xperia ZR, on the other hand, was made specifically for that kind of situation. It’s fully waterproof which makes it a good smartphone for people who like to take underwater shots. Add to that the highly competitive specifications and LTE connectivity, you end up with a winning proposition.

We’ve had the Sony Xperia ZR for well over a week now (loaner unit from Widget City) and we’d like to share with you guys our review. As usual though let’s quickly take a refresher on the specifications.

Sony Xperia ZR Spec Sheet

  • 1.5GHz Quad-core CPU, Snapdragon APQ8064 Chipset
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 8GB Internal Storage, expandable up to 32GB via microSD
  • 4.55-inches TFT capacitive touchscreen
  • 720 x 1280 resolution, 323 pixels per inch, Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2
  • Shatterproof, scratch resistant glass
  • 13.1-megapixels rear-facing camera with autofocus and LED flash
  • Records video 1080p@30fps, HDR
  • VGA front-facing camera
  • WiFi a/b/g/n, WiFi Direct, WiFi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS/aGPS, NFC
  • HSDPA, 3G, LTE
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • 2,300mAh Battery

>>> SEE ALSO: Sony Xperia Z Review

As you can see above, the specs are very similar to the Sony Xperia Z. The biggest difference is probably with the display, resolution (smaller and lower pixel density), and internal storage. Other than that it packs the same quad-core processor, GPU, RAM, and camera. Not bad.

Hardware: Compact, plastic back cover, water-proof

Smaller but a little thicker compared to the Xperia Z
Smaller but a little thicker compared to the Xperia Z

Compared to the Sony Xperia Z, the Sony Xperia ZR has a smaller display coming in at just 4.55-inches. The double-glass design is also gone and instead we get a removable plastic back cover. The chrome finish along the sides is still there and the buttons are still neatly placed.

Not the thinnest smartphone in the bunch
Not the thinnest smartphone in the bunch
Removable back cover
Removable back cover

For the ports they are covered with doors that you have to open when you need to access them. The covers are obvious though since this phone was meant to be used underwater. However it’s still annoying having to need to open the micro USB port each time you need to charge (which is everyday) so we’re wary that one day the cover will just tear itself off. Hopefully one day engineers and designers will figure out how to make a water resistant micro USB port, lol.

Over-all the device feels sturdy and compact but it does feel kinda thick especially when you take a look at other flagship models out there like the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, or even the Sony Xperia Z. If you want a more detailed take on the hardware please do check out our unboxing and initial impressions post of the Sony Xperia ZR.

Powerful and high-performance smartphone


Don’t let the price tag or the “waterproof” claim fool you into thinking that this is just another gimmick phone. Based on our Antutu Benchmark Test, the Sony Xperia ZR is at the top echelon of smartphones. It’s in the same league as the Sony Xperia Z, HTC One, and Galaxy S4 when it comes to performance. That’s definitely quite a feat considering this is supposed to sell lower than the Sony Xperia Z.

How does this translate to real world experience? During our two weeks with the Sony Xperia ZR we rarely felt any lag or delays in core functions. There were no slowdowns in transitions, animations, and app switching despite having several active widgets on the home screen and a live wallpaper. Contacts also didn’t take forever to load even if we had over 3,000 entries in it. It looks like this is really the sweet spot when it comes to Android (20,000 mark on Antutu) as you get optimal performance.

It was even smoother when we removed the Sony UI and replaced it with Nova Launcher. We also put in the Click UI icon set as we were going for a minimalist look. Awesome eh?

Beauty of Android = customize to your hearts content
Beauty of Android = customize to your hearts content

We strongly recommend you guys get a launcher. Works wonders especially for those who want to heavily customize the user interface.

Great for gaming

Walang kamatayang Dead Trigger
Walang kamatayang Dead Trigger

We loaded the usual gaming titles on the Xperia ZR to test if it could handle graphics intensive apps. As expected it did pretty well as games like Dead Trigger (on max settings), Wild Blood, and NBA 2k13 all played out smoothly even if there were a lot of elements in the screen (aka hordes of zombies). We also ended up appreciating the “slight” bulk of the device as it gave us a more comfortable grip while using the phone like a controller for the games.

Okay for Media


Unfortunately we’ve been spoiled with 5-inch displays. Anything lower than that isn’t really that much of a good video experience anymore. It plays the videos well but if you’re used to bigger screens this might be a letdown. If you want it small though then this should work for you (at least it’s still bigger than the screen of the iPhone 5).

Perfect for Social Networking

Facebooooook~~! Like us
Facebooooook~~! Like us

If you’re the type that updates every other 10 minutes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the Sony Xperia ZR is perfect for you. It’s easy to use with one hand given the form factor and even more efficient and faster when you use both hands. Mashing the on-screen keyboard was a joy for us especially since we had Swiftkey installed.


4G baby.
4G baby.

This feature completes the Sony Xperia ZR and makes it a legitimate flagship material device — LTE Connectivity. With 4G mobile internet speeds are much faster and with the expansive rollout of Smart we were able to enjoy LTE almost anywhere in Metro Manila (especially in Makati, San Juan, and Ortigas).

If we’re going to spend over Php20,000 on a smartphone it better have LTE or else we feel it will just be a waste of hard earned cash as we won’t be able to take advantage of the latest available technology (feels like a step backward).

Camera: Just like the Sony Xperia Z

The Sony Xperia ZR packs the same optics as the Sony Xperia Z making it quite a good snapper. We were pretty impressed with the photo quality of the shots we took especially when it came to the level of detail captured despite in low-medium lighting conditions.

Here are some sample shots:





What about the underwater stuff?

We took some tests but decided not to upload it so it won’t preempt the next Unbox Video podcast. Suffice to say it lives up to the underwater claim and we’ll feature that more in detail during the podcast next Monday! Be sure to tune in Monday 7:30PM at The New Media Factory.

Battery Life: Surprisingly Long

The Sony Xperia ZR also registered better battery life than the Sony Xperia Z. Maybe it’s because of the lower pixel density and smaller display but we got over 9 hours of use in one charge on the Xperia ZR with LTE on. That’s quite a feat considering our level of usage.

Verdict: A Good Waterproof High-Performance Smartphone


All things considered we can say that the Sony Xperia ZR offers good value given the feature set, strong internals, and reliable optics. If you’re looking for an underwater-capable phone then this is definitely one to consider as it doesn’t offer any major compromises when it comes to features and over-all performance.

The Sony Xperia ZR is available for Php22,990 at Widget City.

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