The Sony Xperia Z phone is tougher than it looks.
The phone is waterproof -- in water up to three feet deep for a half-hour, according to Sony -- but it looks like a standard smartphone, lacking the macho armoring of most devices built to withstand the elements.
The phone uses an Android operating system and is powered by a quad core Snapdragon chip, which, at least on paper, isn't as fast as the chips in some competing phones. But the chip is snappy nonetheless.
The device is on the larger side, with a 5-inch, 1920 x 1080p HD screen. Sony makes much of its access to Bravia TV technology, but the screen is not definitively better than an Apple Retina or Samsung Amoled screen.
The phone also has a 13-megapixel camera with High Dynamic Range capability, which means that in a sunlit room, it should capture details from the shadows without having the window look like a glowing rectangle. In practice, its photos weren't clearly better than those from the aforementioned competitors.
The Z has NFC capability, so it can trade information with other NFC devices with a touch. Sony has cleverly marked the NFC spot on the back of the phone, so you're not reduced to rubbing your phone all over some other device hoping to connect, as is often required with NFC.
A battery "stamina" mode shuts down background operations while the phone is sleeping. You can designate which apps should keep running, so you can still get alerts.
With the Android Jellybean 4.2 operating system, it of course connects to the full suite of Google goodies, including Web backup to contacts and your calendar, as well as easy access to Google Plus, Google Maps, YouTube and the Chrome browser.
The Xperia Z is available through T-Mobile for $100 upfront with 24 monthly payments of $20, for a total of $580.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.