Sony Xperia Z1 review: Walking on water

GSMArena team, 19 September 2013.
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Tags: Sony, Android

Introduction

Sony's got a plan and it's sticking to it - while other makers pile software feature upon feature, the Japanese focus on their historical strengths, such as beautiful, durable design, photographic excellence and enviable display tech. That in short is what the Xperia Z1 is all about.


Sony Xperia Z1 official images

The upper Xperia echelon is known for its slim design and the Z1 is no exception - 8.5mm doesn't sound wafer thin, but not until you realize that inside this phone's body there's a 1/2.3" sensor and a 3,000mAh battery. The sensor is 70% bigger in terms of surface area than what smartphones usually get (1/3") and large sensors require bigger optics, hence thicker phones. The same goes for high-capacity batteries.

Of course, the big, high-resolution sensor will give the Xperia Z1 a leg up on the competition in the imaging department. But Sony is also responding to Nokia's propensity for name-dropping (ZEISS lenses) by using its own sensor brand and lens design, plus a BIONZ image processor.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support; 3G with 42Mbps HSPA; 150Mbps LTE
  • 5" 16M-color 1080p capacitive touchscreen Triluminos display (441ppi pixel density); X-Reality engine
  • Android OS v4.2.2 Jelly Bean with custom UI
  • Quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400 CPU, 2 GB RAM, Adreno 330 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset
  • 20.7MP autofocus camera with a 1/2.3" Exmor RS sensor and F/2.0 Sony G Lens; Info-eye, AR effects
  • 1080p video recording @ 30fps, continuous autofocus and stereo sound; live video streaming to Facebook
  • 2 MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
  • IP 58 certification - dust resistant and water resistant
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA; Wireless TV out
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
  • 16GB of built-in storage; microSD card slot
  • MHL-enabled microUSB port
  • Bluetooth v4.0
  • NFC
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Accelerometer and proximity sensor
  • Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
  • Ample 3,000mAh battery

Main disadvantage

  • Quite big even for a 5-inch screen phone
  • Non-user-replaceable battery
  • Below average loudspeaker performance (probably due to the enhanced waterproofing)
  • No proper video playback decoders (XviD, DivX) out of the box

With no unsightly humps (looking at you, Lumia 1020 and Galaxy S4 zoom) the Xperia Z1 makes the OmniBalance design shine. It's an aluminum frame, with durable glass panels on both the front and back, and design accents like the aluminum power key and the color notification light.

Don't forget the IP58 certification, which means the phone will easily go swimming with you so you can take it in the pool or wade into the sea. Water resistance is good all year round, not just summer vacation - a spilled glass can turn a $600+ gadget into a paperweight. You or someone you know has at one point stood over a bag of rice hoping to bring their wet phone back to life.

Sony Xperia Z1 Sony Xperia Z1 Sony Xperia Z1 Sony Xperia Z1
Sony Xperia Z1 chilling in our office

And unlike their treatment of the Xperia Z, this time around Sony is using the best chipset on the market, the Snapdragon 800. Also, a good deal of work has gone into the screen, another point the Xperia Z was criticized on. Finally, the Sony Xperia Z1 even manages to shame the competition by having expandable storage, even though this complicates the waterproofing process.

Sony's recent press releases indicate that the mobile phone business is becoming one of the main money makers (same goes for Samsung) and you can tell the company's heart is into making the best product around. Jump over to the next page to see whether ambition has matched competence.

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