Sony's NZ$1000 flagship Xperia Z1 cost more than twice as much as the Acer Chromebook C720. I'm using both devices for a week of working exclusively with Google software.
The smartphone's five-inch screen packs more pixels than the C720. From the right viewing angle it looks better. Although the text is much smaller, it is easier to read.
Which poses a question. Would it be possible or even practical to do all this week’s work on the phone and not the Chromebook?
The simple answer is, yes, that's possible, but I would need to use a Bluetooth keyboard for typing.
Sony Xperia Z1, computer in a phone
Typing aside, there's not much of my normal weekly workload that the Xperia Z1 couldn't handle. The apps are all there. It packs more processing power and, its 16GB built-in plus a MicrosSD slot means there is more memory than the Acer Chromebook C720.
In the right parts of town it rocks along at 4G speeds. The only problem is 4G coverage is still patchy in places, when the phone drops to 3G it is not fun.
That five-inch screen is a double-edged sword. It's big, bright and readable. Yet it is also large by 2013 smartphone standards. You can control the smaller iPhone one-handed. I need two hands to work the Xperia Z1. It's also big to carry in the pocket compared with an iPhone.
The camera is first class - but that now seems to be the case with all the high-end smartphones. If photography is your thing, you may find it easier on this hardware than on some other phones which often hide controls.
One feature I got to test is the phone's waterproofing. You don't need to wait long in Auckland for a rain shower and I decided to let the phone get a soaking. It still worked just fine.
A work phone?
All this adds up to a decent work phone. However, Sony would probably prefer customers to think of it as a fun device as well.
Sony refrained from tinkering too much with the stock Android software. That's a good thing, but the phone is on Android 4.2 while most of Sony’s rivals have moved on to 4.3. The soft keyboard is better than most Android phones and the text prediction is the best outside of Windows Phone 8.
There is some included crapware, but that stays out of the way for the most part. The Twitter app doesn't show the envelope icon, so there's no way to read incoming Twitter direct messages. It's not a deal breaker.
Which brings us to an interesting point. Is Android a better OS for work than ChromeOS? It’s not clear. It's good that Google is giving both options a run. The radical simplicity and minimalism of the Chromebook is great. On the other hand it feels limited. The Sony Xperia Z1 has fewer limits.
Sony has resisted packing tons of its own software on top of the stock Android, so the phone's OS has a spare feel. If Sony Xperia Z1 came with an 11-inch screen and a keyboard it would be a better, albeit more expensive, work tool than the Chromebook.