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Full Review

Sony has already impressed us with its flagship 5in smartphone the Xperia Z, and now they’ve come back with another stunner in the shape of the Xperia Z1, that continues to wow with its great accessories, and impressive 20MP snapper. This really is one of the must-have devices of 2013 – read on to find out why…

Looking good

If you’re a fan of Sony handsets, you’ll see that the Xperia Z1 looks pretty much like most of the other phones – with its rectangular chassis, black finish and 5in screen. It’s still a sleek, desirable device, even if its one-piece aluminium body is a tad chunkier than its forebear (but then that’s to fit in a few improved internal features and a larger battery).

One of the things we didn’t like about the Xperia Z was the trench that sat around the front edge, and proved a real dust magnet, which you ended up having to dig out with the edge of a fingernail. Happily, Sony has done away with it on the Z1, for a far neater, slicker look.

Sony Xperia Z1 Power Button
The back of the phone is glossy glass, which does attract rather a lot of fingerprints, but despite this it is still a fabulous-looking phone and a truly desirable device.

The Xperia Z1 may be a little chunkier than its older brother but it is barely noticeable in use, and it feels good to hold and slips into a jeans pocket quite easily. But we do think most folk will choose to hold the device in two hands, thanks to that large screen and rectangular chassis.

It’s not all about its good looks though – the Xperia Z1 proves really tough too. It’s waterproof, so will survive being dropped into the toilet – and it’s amazing how often this seems to happen to people! Flaps cover the micro USB and microSD ports as well as the SIM card slot, which sits on the right side of the phone. Even the headphone jack has been designed to not let in water (or any other liquid). It means that, should you wish, you could dip the handset into water for half and hour and it would still be fine when you took it out. Great if you want to check your texts while you’re in the bath!

The back and front of the handset are glass covered, which makes it really solid, but you do wonder if they might not survive too well if they come into contact with the keys in your bag, for example. However, Sony maintains that the tempered glass is strong enough to last up to quite a bit of punishment – and we have to say that after testing the phone solidly for four days, it doesn’t seem to have sustained any damage whatsoever. Having said that, we’d be tempted to put a screen protector on, just in case. 

User friendly

Sony has overlaid Android 4.2.2 with its Xperia interface, which appears as smooth as ever in use, with the usual electro-swirls appearing in the background. Sony has done some other tweaking behind the scenes – so things such as One Touch make it even easier to pair the handset with other devices from Sony.
Sony fans will enjoy the NFC pairing provided on the Xperia Z1 – just tap the device against your TV, wireless headphones or another NFC device and they will pair up straight away. The vision of a connected home is coming into shape – and offers a lot of scope when expanding the features of the Xperia Z1. You can, for example, clip the new CyberShot Attachable Lens-style Camera to the back of the Xperia. This powerful compact camera, which features an optical zoom, can communicate with the handset to take snaps using the touchscreen controls of the phone.

Big screen star 

Sony Xperia Z1 Display

When you fire up the Xperia Z1, the 5in Triluminos screen really wows. It’s a pity it’s not brighter, as in strong sunlight it was hard to read. Nonetheless, the display is really sharp, thanks to the resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, offering 441 ppi. That’s as good as the displays on the Galaxy Note 3 and Samsung Galaxy S4. Great for viewing photos and watching HD films. It also proves very responsive, whether you’re browsing online or nipping through the Android menus.

Images look clean, with very little distortion or noise, even when watching fast-moving video. Often footie clips feature a blurred football, but not here. The colours are wonderful and vibrant, bringing everything to life. Viewing angles are fantastic.

Onboard already are a range of Sony apps – if you like them fair enough, if not, you’ll want to get rid of them to free up some storage space. For us, they’re just a bit of a nuisance – we don’t see the point of Xperia Privilege and Socialife – and there’s nothing more than an odd choice of Japanese-esque games and apps in the Playstation Mobile app.

Talking of storage, take note that out of the 16GB of onboard storage only 11.7GB is usable, so anyone who takes a lot of snaps, carries around a lot of media or downloads plenty of apps, will want to pop in a microSD memory card. 

I got the power

The Xperia Z1 is one of the most powerful smartphones available, thanks to its 2.2GHz quad-core chip. Mind you it doesn’t mean it doesn’t suffer from the odd glitch – a couple of times it crashed out of apps for no apparent reason – but that only happened when it was really under pressure. Media, games and apps loaded straight away and we never experienced any slowdown. And of course with 4G LTE connectivity, web browsing is super fast.

The Xperia Z had disappointing battery life, but Sony has chosen to pop in a bigger battery this time around, so rather than a phone that only just makes it through 24 hours, and that dies after less than four hours of video streaming, we now have a handset that can last a couple of days between charges and will let you stream video for five and a half hours before the battery dies a death.

Happy snapper

If you like taking snaps with your phone, the 20-megapixel camera will be a delight. It has plenty of features, including the ever-impressive Superior Auto mode. Shots out of doors are pretty much always perfect and moody lighting features well in evening snaps.

Close-up macro shots feature plenty of detail, even when you zoom right in. Lower light images were also impressive – unlike the blurry, dim efforts seen on a lot of other phones. Sony’s image stabilisation technology is to thank for that.
For photographers who like a bit more control, there is a Manual mode, which lets you choose white balance, ISO, quality levels and more. Choose scene modes for night, pet, portrait and soft skin.

More modes

That’s not all you get though – there’s panorama, and a really cute addition called AR Effect. This adds cartoon images such as elves and dinosaurs to the scenes you’re taking snaps of. Children will enjoy playing with it for a while, although it can be a tad tricky to get working. They’ll also like Picture Effect mode, which adds some unusual features, which turn images into a sepia nightmare or cartoon, for example.

What is useful is Timeshot Burst mode, which grabs 16 images in a couple of seconds, and then shows them to you presented on a scrollable wheel, so you can choose your favourite. Amazingly, it grabs the image a second either side of you tapping the shutter button, so grabs the shot even if you’re a bit slow on the uptake. It’s excellent for capturing action shots – and if you change your mind about that favourite shot, the good news is it saves all of the snaps, not just your initial choice.

Another neat feature is Info-eye mode, which tries to give you detailed information on what you take pictures of. Here’s an example – we took images of some book covers and the Z1 quickly offered us descriptions, similar titles we might like to read and GoodReads reviews. We took a snap of the Brandenburg Gate and Info-eye gave us some history and other details. It did a similarly good job with the Sydney Opera House.

However, it’s far from perfect – it finds logos hard to recognise and CD and DVD covers are also a problem. But for an experimental technology it certainly shows plenty of promise.
Social Live mode is also interesting – it allows you to stream live video from the handset’s phone to Facebook and lets your friends leave their comments in real time. Videos are then kept in case anyone wants to view them later. It’s a good way of live blogging events and should prove useful to commercial ventures.

Our conclusion

We’d go so far as to say that the Xperia Z1 from Sony is a design and technology masterpiece – and a real must-have device. It may be a bit on the chunky side, but under the waterproof one-piece body sits a 2.2GHz chip that offers great power – and loads of features. From the impressive 20-megapixel snapper to the smooth NFC connectivity, there are just loads to recommend this phone.



Dimensions : 144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5mm

Weight: 169g

Screen size: 5 inch TRILUMINOS display

Screen Resolution: 1920 *1080 pixels

Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 440

Processor: 2.2 Ghz Octa-core processor


Battery capacity :  3000 mAh

Onboard Memory: 16GB (microSD support)

Camera :  20.7 mega-pixel camera

                2 mega-pixel front-facing camera.

Operating system: Google Android

Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE : Yes / Yes / Yes

Bluetooth / NFC : Yes / Yes

Colours : Black, White & Purple

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