Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gadget Goodies 22

image used under Creative Commons license
photo by Flickr user pestoverde
Last time, we reviewed the Sony Xperia Z Ultra.  That's one to the left.  We thought we'd talk about Z Ultra accessories, this time.  But there's a little more we wanted to say about the phone.

If you notice the water in today's first illustration, that should make a point. The Ultra meets protective standards IP55 and IP58.  Which means, when the covers are properly closed, the phone is dust and water resistant.  Further, with the covers closed properly, it's usable in up to 3.28 feet of fresh water for up to 30 minutes.  We've all been around a klutz who knocks over a beverage.  Sometimes, we are that klutz. With the Z Ultra, we can worry less about the phone being damaged by liquid spills.  That's good news.  Let's move on to the accessories.

Accessories for the Ultra are limited.  It's like the Ultra is the poor stepchild that no one wants to acknowledge.  For instance, the big three of protective cases are Otterbox, Trident and Seidio.  They all make cases for the LG G Flex, the Samsung Galaxy Mega, and smaller Xperia models, but not the Z Ultra.  But there are cases.  Let's take a look.

Photo courtesy of Sony Mobile
When I bought the Z Ultra, I was switching from a larger smartphone and a small tablet to carrying one device.  Which meant that I was giving up alternating devices to stretch battery life.  Sony makes a folio case with built in extra battery, model number CP12.  That's it in landscape mode, to the right.  The large bar is where the phone's magnetic charging connection meets the magnetic charging connector on the case.  That bar also holds a pointed stylus.

Let's hit the negatives, first.  The picture is deceptive.  The cover pieces aren't stiff enough to work well as a stand.  Plus the lip intended to hold it in place isn't prominent enough to do the job.  Forget using the case as a landscape stand.  Fortunately, for me, that would have been a plus, but far from the main reason I bought it.  Along with that, the case does add size and weight to an already large and hefty phone.  Finally, this case is pricey.  $149.99 US might make anyone think twice about buying this one.  I know I waffled on this one for a week before deciding to go for it.

Now, for the good stuff.  And I'll admit this is a somewhat subjective evaluation.  I tend to be a heavy user: multiple social media sites and accounts, multiple email accounts, apps for work, study and reading, multimedia streaming, plus, of course, phone and texting.  I expected to need the help.  

The battery in the case is slightly smaller in power than the phone's battery.  The phone gives a warning when the battery hits 30%, argues when you get below 20%.  From 18-20%, the case will bring the phone back to 98% or 99%.  From 40-50%, it'll get back to 100% once, then partially recharge again, if needed.  Is that sufficient to make it worth the price?  The honest answer is a resounding maybe.  

On a light day, the Z Ultra can go as long as 19 hours between charges and be charged before I'm back up, without using the case, 5 hours later.  On a heavy day, I've gone as low as 9 hours.  A second charge from the case gives me the freedom to go from my usual 7:30 am wake up to my usual 1-2 am bedtime without any down time for the device.  The case charges the phone while I'm still using it.  A regularly heavy user would find the charging case a godsend.  

There are some less expensive Chinese alternatives.  However, I don't have names or prices and I haven't tried them to know how they compare.  There are also external batteries, but I'm not sure how convenient having one of those dangling off the side of my Ultra those might be.  So, for me, when there are long days away from my desk and home, this case saves my bacon.  If the longer unplugged time holds interest for you, you can get the CP12 case directly from Sony at http://www.sonymobile.com or from Amazon.

image courtesy of Amazon
I bought a soft PU case for my Z Ultra on the off chance that there might be some hope of sometimes pocketing the Ultra.  I didn't want to add too much to the size.  This one, while not as attractive as some of the opaque colored alternatives, leaves more space around the usable screen area.  And it appeared to be more sturdy.  

At under $6 US (including shipping) on Amazon, it was worth a try.  The case turned out to be firm and substantial, giving some decent protection for the phone.  There's also an included screen protector.  It only has two potential downsides.  Shipping is by international postal service, which can be slow.  Although mine came fairly quickly.  The other possible issue is if you don't like translucent rubber cases.  But, if those aren't problems, it's worth a look.  You can find it here: http://amzn.to/1jKmcHX.

image courtesy of Amazon
There's one more case I want to look at, today.  I wasn't sure how soon the above case would show up.  And I had assumed, correctly, that I might not want to always carry the added weight of the CP12 battery case.  So, I wanted to have something that I could get quickly and make sure my phone was protected till I found the alternative I wanted.  At $9.95 US and free 2 day shipping (Amazon Prime), this seemed like a good possibility.  At least till I found my regular alternate to the CP12 case.

The full title of this cover/case on Amazon is "Sony Xperia Z Ultra Slim Fit Flip Case with Stand Function (Black)". Definitely a mouthful.  There's also mention of "PU leather" to describe the outside.  It's really more of a finely woven cloth texture. Which is still good for a good grip and looks.  The case is basically hard plastic in several pieces. The inside of the cover has a thin plush covering.  And, unlike the CP12, it's stiff enough to work as a stand case.  While this case will never be mistaken for an expensive purchase, it won't be an embarrassment, either.  And it has the double benefit of being extremely light and thin.  This case is worth considering.  You can buy it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1jKmkHt.

As you may have noticed, non-Sony accessories that are specifically for the Xperia Z Ultra seem to be less expensive than their counterparts for other phones.  Which I'm enjoying thoroughly.  A great phone that fully fills the functions of both phone and tablet, plus inexpensive quality accessories. Sounds like a winning combination to me.  There are three more accessories we'll discuss next week, including my favorite case.

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