A bit late to the android smartphone market, Sony has been making strides with respect to its hardware offerings complimented by Android inside. Sony Xperia Z1 is its latest offering, a successor of reasonably successful Xperia Z. Carrying forward one of the greatest strengths and ‘X’ factor of Xperia Z, Sony has specced up Xperia Z1 with improved hardware, software and sturdiness. Let us take a look at Sony Xperia Z1 review and see how well it fares in day to day usage.
Ergonomics – Build Quality
To begin with let me just say Sony Xperia Z1 looks very similar to its predecessor Xperia Z. Both the front and back of the device are made of glass. The rear is said to have been made of tempered glass, which even though not being Gorilla Glass doesn’t easily gets scratched. So while you can appreciate the overall sleek looks of the device, you also get rugged usability (not to forget Water and Dust resistance).
On the front there aren’t any capacitive menu navigation keys, instead Sony has gone with Android’s on-screen software keys which adds to the cleaner look at the front. At the sides the phone features a volume rocker, SIM card slot, a shiny circular lock/screen on-off button and a shutter key for the camera on the right side. On the left side are the microSD card slot, USB port and a dock connector. The top of the device houses a 3.5 mm audio jack and bottom carries a speaker grill.
Resistance To Water And Dust – IP58 Certification
Xperia Z1 is IP58 certified, which in layman terms means that the phone can withstand effects of dust and water. In more technical sense, the number ‘5’ in IP58 stands for protection against dust particles, whereas number ‘8’ states phone’s ability to withstand water immersion of up to 1 meter.
What this really means for you and I as a user is we don’t have to worry about Xperia Z1 if in case we are soaked in water during Holi or on a rainy day nor do we have to constantly look after the device ensuring dust doesn’t get settled on the surface. Xperia Z1 is capable enough to handle all these issues all by itself. Maintenance free android experience 😉
Xperia Z1 sports a 5″ Full HD screen (1080 x 1920 pixels with approximately 441 ppi pixel density) loaded with Sony’s Bravia, Triluminous, X-Reality display technology. Honestly speaking these are just fancy terms for me and in terms of daily usage all I can say is that the screen is sharp and crisp. Color production is far more natural when compared to Samsung AMOLED display but for those coming from Samsung Galaxy’s this might be an issue.
Xperia Z1 comes loaded with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset powering the device at 2.2 GHz. It carries 2 GB RAM, 16 GB of internal storage (expandable up to 64 GB via external microSD card). For budding photographers there’s a 20.7 MP camera at the back with LED flash.
This was about the raw power, in terms of software Xperia Z1 ships with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean carrying Sony’s own customization on top. Speaking about Sony’s customization, I am not really a fan of it, there’s lack of uniformity and it kind of feels out of place. However this doesn’t mean every aspect of it is bad, amongst the other things the most I loved was its unlock animation that closely mimics window blinds.
As for usage Sony Xperia Z1 runs smooth, buttery smooth, there’s no denying this fact. During the device trial period, I never faced any sort of lag while window transitions, application launches, audio playback or elsewhere. Moreover almost every game we threw at it worked without any hitch! Snappy performance overall.
One more aspect of Xperia Z1 I’d like to discuss is its multimedia capabilities and that’s because its a Sony production and it is bound to stack media power, infact it is expected to. On the front lines are Sound effects such as ClearAudio+, Dynamic Normaliser, Clear Bass, Preset EQ’s, Clear Stereo, xLoud and whatnot, Sony has put in as many sound improvement features as it could and the best part is all of them work nicely together. As a matter of fact, I have been using PowerAmp and it’s sound settings on my Note 3 but with Xperia Z1, Walkman (default music player with sound settings) turned out to be my first preference.
Coming to the subject of video playback, the built-in video player handles popular formats like MP4, DivX, XviD, and MKV without any trouble. For an average user use of 3rd part video app such as MXPlayer isn’t required at all.
All in all, the mutimedia experience on Xperia Z1 stands up to Sony’s reputation, it provides natural video display complemented well with a nice punchy sound output. Music lovers will enjoy Walkman experience and travelers are going to appreciate videos on the go. Packed solution for everyone!
With Samsung making in-roads with Multi-window display, the degree of multi-tasking is on the rise and sought after. Xperia Z1 does offer some degree of extended multi-tasking functionality with its ‘small apps’ feature that allows you to use calculator, recorder, timer etc in windowed mode. For instance, you can use calculator whilst editing a document in the background. These miniature windowed applications are available from within the app switching screen, closely tied to default app switcher of Android.
Camera – Still Images and Video Shooting
Sony Xperia Z1 is the only Android smartphone to sport a 1/2.3-type CMOS image sensor, generally found on point-and-shoot cameras. There is a rear facing 20.7 MP camera carrying a 27 mm wide angle ‘G-Lens’, LED flash and 2.1 MP front facing camera. The camera offers Superior Auto, allowing automatic tuning of settings best suited to environment, and Manual modes, which gives more control to user with regard to Scene Selection, Color Adjustment, etc.
This was more of a technical talk, lets put some sense into it, if you were to click an image in broad daylight, you will get sharp images with a good amount of detail. The camera software doesn’t try to artificially buck up the images with color enhancement and thus the outcome is a more accurate, natural reproduction of images. As for night time photography, there is an Exmor RS sensor on-board, which is supposed to producing better than the rest low-light shots and it does work. The phone does manage to produce reasonably good night time images.
Among other things, Camera also comes with some useful inclusions viz. Info-Eye (QR, UPC Code scanner), Stream Live (live streaming to Facebook), AR Effects (allowing you to place animations while capturing still images), Panaroma, Timeshift Burst (essentially Burst Mode), etc.
Regarding video recording, the phone can record full HD 1080p videos at 30 fps.
On a side note, I’d like to notify users than there were previous complaints about Xperia Z1 producing grainy images and overall poor performance of Camera app. However Sony has pushed a software update (ver. 14.1.G.2.257) to fix this issue and Camera performance has improved a lot.
Xperia Z1 comes with 3000 mAh Li-Ion non-removable battery. Our usage of device varied, in more intensive use with intermittent use of Wi-Fi, 3 hours of music playback, 80 minutes of video viewing (including internet streaming and from offline storage), Facebook sync, a quarter of gmail accounts in sync, Whatsapp, Hangouts, Twitter sync running in background, Xperia Z1 served for 16 hours and in more casual, less intensive usage I was able to extract more than a days usage!
Battery performance is a sketchy issue for the most part since it depends on usage pattern of every individual and type of apps being used but with Xperia Z1 you can safely make it through the day without reaching out for wall socket.
Final Say – Verdict
Xperia Z1 can put any flagship phone to shame, clearly evident from Antutu benchmark scores (above). The Xperia Z1 is a stellar device, premium glass block design, IP58 certification, Sony backed enriching multimedia experience, 20.7 MP camera and good battery life are some of the more moving factors apart from great hardware it packs. The only icky thing about Xperia Z1 is Sony’s customized UI layer, it is not a deal breaker but neither something to be proud of. If you can deal with it (either in its entirety or by flashing it with custom ROM altogether) then Xperia Z1 is a great device to invest your money in.