Xperia Z1 Review – It came, it saw, it captured

INTRODUCTION

Here we are, with the review all of you have been waiting for. A few days ago, we had teased you with a shot of our Xperia Z1, and Sony’s flagship’s review is finally here. In our eyes, Sony has firmly hit the nail on the head with this device. Their previous iteration, released just 8 months ago in February, the Xperia Z was almost there.

The Xperia Z1 has not only arrived there, it has bulldozed past with the speed of a freight train. The Xperia line is known for its good looks, and the top-of-the-line Z1 is no exception.

While 8.5mm may not sound very thin, and as Sony says, this is the thinnest device with a camera sensor larger than 1/3 inch. The phone also has a monstrous 3000 mAh battery, which frankly is a minimum today for full HD devices.

The sensor is 70% bigger in terms of surface area (1/2.3″) than what smartphones usually get and large sensors require bigger optics, hence thicker phones.

The same goes for high-capacity batteries. Sony has decided to go all out in selling the Xperia Z1 based mainly on its camera, hence in nearly every commercial, you will be guaranteed to see Sony’s own G-lens, BIONZ image processing, and Exmor RS sensor branding thrown in.

All these are simply there to draw attention though, because the more informed public buys depending on performance. First and foremost, let’s begin by having a look at this device’s specifications.

  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S800 processor, clocked at 2.2 GHz
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16 GB expandable storage
  • micro-SD card slot
  • 5 inch 16M-color Full HD 1080p capacitive touchscreen Triluminos display (441ppi pixel density); X-Reality engine
  • 20.7MP autofocus camera with a 1/2.3″ Exmor RS sensor and F/2.0 Sony G Lens with BIONZ image processing engine
  • 3000 mAh battery
  • IP55/58 cerification – dust and water proof (up till 1.5m for 30 minutes)
  • NFC
  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support; 3G with 42Mbps HSPA; 150Mbps LTE

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Many critics of Sony and the Z1 have repeatedly highlighted the larger than usual size, but those critics a missing a key point (like a really obvious one) – if you want a slim design, without the unsightly and unwieldy hump that a good quality camera phone has (cough Lumia 1020, Samsung Galaxy Zoom cough), you have to go vertical and horizontal.

The Xperia Z introduced Sony’s new OmniBalance design philosophy, and the Z1 has perfected it. The Z1 has an  aluminum frame, with durable tempered glass panels on both the front and back, and design accents like the aluminium power key and the color notification light.

Aside from the camera, the second best (and most practical we might say) aspect of this phone is the IP55/58 certification, of course. Having dunked our Z1 in tubs full of water as well as taken it swimming it with us, we can safely say that having this feature is a godsend.

After all, dropping your phone into the pool or at the beach can quickly transform it into a very expensive paperweight. Anyway, with the hi-s and hello-s over, let’s move on to the unboxing and design.

UNBOXING AND DESIGN

Upon looking the the box, you are initially surprised at how small it is. After all, a 5 inch monster is lurking below. However, the reason this is because Sony has surprisingly decided not to include a headset, although we don’t know if it will be the same way for a retail set.

While people who care about sound would probably use their own, we still expected to have one in the box – this is an expensive flagship after all.

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Inside the box itself, you will find the phone, a micro USB cable, and a charger, which uses the micro USB cable to charge. The Sony Xperia Z1 measures 144 x 74 x 8.5 mm – it’s thin but almost 6mm taller and 3mm wider than the LG G2 (with a 5.2″ screen).

The 170g of weight is above average too. Yes, the Lumia 920 was heavier, but the xenon-packing Lumia 1020 and 928 are both around 160g. As said above, OmniBalance is Sony’s secret design weapon, and we have to admit, this device looks extremely gorgeous.

It makes the low and mid range devices look a little bit more premium, and makes the flagships stand out. Undeniably, there’s no mistaking the Z1 for anything else (except maybe the Z), and the sexiest phone of 2013 would be a hotly contested race between the Z1, the HTC One, and the iPhone 5S.

The aluminum chassis is carved out of a solid block of aluminum and it really is just a frame – most of the material is removed, leaving only a light but tough frame. The two scratch-resistant glass panels on the front and back, the big battery and the water-resistant seals are surely to blame for making the Xperia Z1 heavier than the competition.

However, as you will read on, we quite welcome the weight trade-off, especially when it means you get a wonderful camera, and IP55/58 certification.

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The Xperia Z1 (right) with its predecessor, the Xperia Z
The aluminium and glass combination make this phone look like an angel, and even though plastic would have allowed weight to be cut, we can safely say that you will never get the same premium feel when holding the phone in your hand. And to those who claim a premium feel is not important, we invite you to hold this phone in your hand.

Talking about holding this phone in your hand, even though the phone is 144 mm long, and 74 mm wide, it is still an extremely slim device, at 8.5mm. For reference, the LG G2 is 8.9mm in this aspect and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is 8.3mm thick. Still, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the thinnest Android device at 7.9mm, while the iPhone 5S breaks even that figure by going down to 7.5mm.

Even with the size though, it is not a problem to hold in the hand, small as it may be. Our reviewer, Shikhar, has extremely small hands, yet is able to handle the Z1 with ease.

Where the Z1’s extra size does cause problems is in its pocketability. The phone is thin enough to slide into your pockets, but whenever you raise your leg or sit down, the edges dig into your thighs if your pockets are not deep.

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On the front of the device, you only see the earpiece and front facing camera. The front facing camera is 2.1 MP camera, that can record 1080p Full HD video. The ambient light sensor is extremely small, and is located towards the left of the earpiece. Speaking of the earpiece, it holds a surprise itself.

The LED notification light is hidden inside it, and has four colours – red, green, blue, and white. Let’s move on to the sides of the handset. Sony is using a new two-stage process to anodize the aluminium and has painted the middle of the sides for a two-tone look, which works very well.

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Looking at the left side of the phone, near the top you get the micro-SD card slot and charging/micro-USB port, both of which are covered with flaps to ensure the dust and water resistance of the device. Going further down, you arrive at the magnetic charging port, where you can connect a magnetic charger without having to open or close any flaps.

This is encouraging from Sony, as they realize that it might be a hassle for some to open and close the charging flap everyday. Still, in our daily use of the device, we found no issues with this.

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On the right side of the phone, near the top is the micro-SIM card slot. To insert the SIM card, you must depress the spring loaded micro-SIM tray, which will then pop out, allowing you to insert the SIM card. Also under the micro-SIM card slot flap is a small and recessed hard-reset button, useful when the phone stops responding. One useful safety feature Sony has implemented in the phone is to shut down when experiencing severe shocks, to protect internal components. After this, restarting the phone will only happen after the reset button is pressed down. Below the micro-SIM card slot is the signature aluminium power button seen in all Xperia devices, as well as an accompanying volume rocker. The rocker is a little on the small side though, and it is easy to accidentally press the wrong side while not watching what your finger is doing. Further below is the hardware camera button, which is a joy to see in today’s smartphone market. Finally, slightly below the hardware camera button is a lanyard eyelet.

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At the top of the phone is an uncovered 3.5mm audio jack, but don’t worry. Even though it’s uncovered, Sony has used a clever gated design that ensures the internal components are only accessible when a headphone jack is inserted.

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All that can be seen at the bottom is the large speaker grille, as well as the lanyard eyelet inlet/outlet. As large as the speaker is however, sound quality left something to be desired.

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At the back of the phone you see the headline feature of the Sony Xperia Z1, the 20.7MP camera lens. It has a wide 27mm wide Sony G Lens with a fast F/2.0 aperture and a Sony Exmor RS backside illuminated (BSI) sensor, which as we’ve already mentioned, is 70% bigger than the majority of smartphone camera sensors. The design is amazing, let’s see if the display can step up as well.

DISPLAY

The Sony Xperia Z1 has a 5 inch Full HD Triluminos display on a TFT LCD screen. The screen offers the standard resolution for flagships of today – 1080p. The pixel density of this device thus stands at a 441 ppi, the same as the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Both these devices have a lower ppi than the HTC One, and a higher one than the LG G2, but frankly above 350 ppi nothing matters any more. After all, all printers are calibrated to print at 300 dpi by default, so you will have no issues reading anything above that value.

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As is with all screens, detail is sky high, and due to the fact that the Z1 utilizes an LCD display, the colour reproduction is better than what AMOLED screens produce, which Samsung uses. AMOLED screens tend to oversaturate colours, but on the other hand give extremely deep black levels of 0 cd/m2.

This is because AMOLED screens can turn off each LED to give a true black colour, while LCD screens need to artificially produce the colour. Nevertheless, the Xperia Z1 impresses with a black level of only 0.38  cd/m2.

The Xperia Z1, while handily beaten by the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S4 in the sunlight contrast test, still churns out a healthy 2.9 value. At the end of the day, you will barely see a difference between this and the S4’s 3.4 ratio, so rest assured, the Z1 will perform brilliantly, even on the sunniest of days.

A key area that has seen improvement with the latest Sony display tech is viewing angles. Those have been a long-standing issue of all of the company’s screens over the past few years, but now things are looking much better. You do get contrast compression when you look from a very wide angle, but everything still remains legible.

At this point, the difference between this and the best screens in business is more about the premium feel of icons appearing as if printed on the screen. In terms of usability though, the Xperia Z1 is as good as any.

Sony has also given their Mobile Bravia Engine a complete overhaul and have named it the X-Reality Engine. This can be turned on and off at will, and is generally a large battery hog. However, to improve your image and video quality even further, do turn this on.

Hence the display is brilliant, but only when looking at the screen at a 90 degree angle. Anything beyond 80 degrees will cause contrast compression and legibility will be hurt (albeit only a little). This might not be the best device to share movies on though, in this aspect.

BATTERY LIFE

The Sony Xperia Z1 comes packing with a non-removable 3000 mAh battery. While the non-removable battery might seem daunting at first, mainly to previous Samsung owners, the good news is that you will rarely feel the need to swap it out for another. Not only that, you still have the option of using a charging pack if even those 3000 mAh fail your needs.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon S800 brought with itself a host of power saving improvements, so the battery life should have been a large jump over the Xperia Z. Alas, while the battery life did improve, it wasn’t by how much we had expected it to. The standby performance has been upgraded hugely though, and coupling that with Sony’s STAMINA mode, the phone can easily go more than 16 hours without being plugged in if used heavily throughout the day.

In the Endurance Test (run by GSMArena), the Xperia Z1 took 53 hours to go from 100% to 0%. In this test, the phone was used for an hour of talking, web browsing and video playback each. Otherwise, the Z1’s talk-time is decidedly impressive, taking the number two spot ahead of all other smartphones (iPhone, Lumias, and Blackberrys included).

It’s 3G Talk Time test took 26 hours and 53 minutes to drain the full charge of the battery. The Lumia 625 though managed to score a far greater score of 30 hours. The Z1 had less than stellar performance in the Web Browsing test, only managing to stay alive for 6 hours flat. It’s Video Playback scores were also similar, scoring 6 hours and 12 minutes before giving up.

While this is certainly a poor performance, Sony has smartly included their STAMINA mode. What this does when activated is prevent wake-locks (which wake the phone up, connect to LTE/3G/WiFi, and thus drain battery) by blocking all LTE/3G/WiFi data transmission. A large culprit of wake-locks are Google’s location services, which try to get a location lock on you every now and then.

This triggers data usage, draining the phone’s battery. STAMINA mode disables all this but only when the screen is turned off. However, if you need to receive Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp updates all the time, you can add apps to the whitelist, which will allow these apps to resume normal functions. The whitelist is available for all apps, so if you need Google Now functionality all the time, you can add that to the whitelist too.

In our own daily usage test, we used the phone heavily. With the brightness set at minimum for most of the time, and STAMINA mode running, I went about my day. During the 1 hour commute to and from work, I used LTE and surfed the Web. At work, I connected to WiFi and surfed for a whole two hours more.

I also played some Train Conductor 2 afterwards. Following this I set the brightness to auto, switched on X-Reality and started watching Thor. By the end of the day, I had kept the screen on for about 6 and a half hours, and this was the result. Safe to say, with STAMINA mode, this phone is a seriously good performer in terms of battery life.

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While the Z1’s performance is good, it is not stellar. This is made more prominent by the fact that LG, with a 5.2 inch full HD screen in it’s G2, manages to destroy all previously set battery scores. What is more, is that the G2 has the same capacity battery as the Z1. Having to rely on STAMINA mode for excellent battery life is not what should be happening, especially with LG managing to do more without it.

USER INTERFACE

The Xperia Z1 comes out of the box with Android 4.2 Jellybean, but now the Z1 has received the new 4.4 UI.

As usual, you can protect your lockscreen by Face, Pattern, PIN or Password unlock, in ascending order of security.

You also get a maximum of 7 homescreen panes, and adding stuff on the homescreen is easy, as is the customization. You can set various live and static wallpapers, add widgets and shortcut, or change the UI theme.

The notification area loses the quick toggles, but fret not – they’ve been just moved on a separate tab like stock Android. You can gain quick access to the Quick Settings tab with a two-finger swipe from the top.

The toggles are customizable and you can choose between more than 20 different toggles and have up to 12 of them visible in their dedicated page.

The app drawer is laid out across multiple pages and you can sort the apps manually, alphabetically, by the most used or most recently installed.

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The Xperia Z1 uses the stock Android task manager that lets you switch between recently opened apps, as well as terminate them with a side-swipe.

The so-called “small apps” are also available in the Xperia Z1 and are accessible via the task manager. They are similar to Samsung’s Mini Apps, and pop up tiny widget-like applications on your homescreen, which you can move around and use without having to open the full-fledged app.

So far, there’s a default set of nine: Active Clip, Chrome Bookmarks, Browser, Calculator, Calendar, Gmail, Timer, Notes, and Touch Lock. You can launch only one instance of a Small App, but you can open multiple Small Apps simultaneously.

You can also download more Small Apps off the Play Store or use the option to turn your favourite widgets into Small Apps. Just hit the Plus key at the top of the list and choose a widget.

Naturally, you can access Google Now by swiping from the bottom of the UI, but there’s a new shortcut right next to the Google Now launch key called What’s New. This app will show you the hottest apps and multimedia today, but displays content from the Play store and Sony’s PlayStation store.

The best part is, there is absolutely no lag. This is thanks to the lean interface from Sony that occupies just 4 GB of the device storage. It also is the closest in functionality to stock, which we are huge fans of.

PERFORMANCE

Now, we finally arrive to look at the Xperia Z1’s impressive muscle power. Utilizing the latest System-on-Chip (SoC) from Qualcomm – the quad-core Snapdragon S800 @ 2.2 GHz and Adreno 330 – the Z1 packs serious firepower. Unlike the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the Z1 clocks the S800 at 2.2 GHz, while LG pegs it a 2.26 and Samsung at 2.3. While this might have a slight difference in synthetic benchmarks, there is absolutely no difference in real world performance. Like the G2, the Z1 also has 2 GB of RAM.

Let’s see how the Z1 stacks up in synthetic benchmarks. One word of advice is to take every benchmark with a pinch of salt. It is not always that real life performance mirrors benchmark performance.

In Benchmark Pi the Z1 placed second, only behind the LG G2. These are really impressive results, but the G2 takes it by a significant margin.

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In AnTuTu 4, perhaps the most comprehensive of all the smartphone bechmarks, where each and every part of the smartphone is gauged, the Z1 manages to take pole by a narrow margin.

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BrowserMark 2 is one place where the Z1 stumbles significantly though, ranking fifth, below the G2, Optimus G, the S4 and Sony’s own Z Ultra, however it should be noted that real world performance will hardly be affected.

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In the Epic Citadel test, which recently received an update enabling Ultra High setting, the Z1 was number one with the company Z Ultra, handily beating the G2 by 4.9 FPS.

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In the Geekbench 3 benchmark, the Z1 lost to the company Z Ultra by a whisker, with both devices again handily beating the LG G2.

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The story was similar in the GLBenchmark Egypt score, where the Z1 shared top spot with the Z Ultra, with both devices leaping ahead of the LG G2.

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Both the Z1 and Z Ultra were best performing in the GLBenchmark 2.7 T-Rex benchmark, but the LG G2 was hot on their heels.

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The Z1 lost out 1st and 2nd to the G2 and Z Ultra respectively here, but not by much.

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The Z1 took the crown in the Quadrant benchmark, with the G2 not far off behind.

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The Z1 was second here, losing out by little to the Z Ultra, however it still managed to get slightly ahead of the LG G2.

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Finally, in Vellamo, the Z1, Z Ultra and LG G2 had virtually identical results, with only 4 points separating the Z1 and G2. There really is no difference in between these three here.

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So that concludes the benchmarks. What you should take away is not the win/loss percentage of the Z1, but that the Z1 is a monster of a device and will take care any application you throw at it without effort for at least two or three years. It is extremely fast compared to the S600 processor, even managing to beat some phablets. If you do get this device, simply respect Sony for managing to do so much with their device. The best part about this device is that unlike its Korean counterparts, Sony has not loaded the Z1 chock-full of features. This means that future updates will not cause the device to lag up as much as the LG and Samsung devices will. Already, a few of my friends have laggy LG G2s and horribly laggy Samsung Galaxy S4s.

CAMERA INTERFACE

We now arrive at the camera, the crown jewel of the Xperia Z1. With a 20.7 MP 1/2.3 inch Exmor RS sensor, the Z1 has the largest non-Windows phone camera sensor. Other comparable flagships only have sensor with a 1/3 inch size.

This means that the camera can actually utilize the extra pixels, rather than having a meaningless upgrade in the MP department. Sony also is using its G-lens from its compact camera line. Finally, the Z1 uses the BIONZ image processing engine, which works wonders, especially at night.

However, first, let’s look at the camera interface.

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The interface is mostly standard, with the default launched Superior Auto mode giving you a 16:9 viewfinder. The navigation buttons disappear when using the camera, so there is no chance of you accidentally tapping the wrong button when taking a picture. On the right side, there is a large, circular button for taking still shots.

The usage of the on-screen shutter button will be minimized though, as the Z1 has a dedicated hardware shutter key at the bottom right of the body. Below the soft-shutter key is a smaller, circular button for taking videos. Further below that is the button for switching camera modes, which will bring up the overlay shown below.

Here you can switch to the various different camera modes, such as Manual, Augmented Reality, TimeShift Burst, and Infoeye. More will be elaborated about the different camera modes later.

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On the left side of the screen are the menus for settings, white balance, flash, metering etc. Unlike the Nokia Lumia 1020 however, the Z1 cannot set its shutter speed or exposure. That is a slight disappointment, but then again, Sony has still managed to shoehorn in a very capable camera in their slim and gorgeous device.

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In the settings menu you get a very convenient option that changes the quick-launch behaviour of the camera. By long-pressing the hardware shutter key when not in the camera, you can either choose to launch the camera, launch the camera while snapping a picture, launch the camera while beginning to take a video, or simply turn off the quick launch feature.

Now, let us have a look at the Superior Auto mode of the Xperia Z1. This mode guesses all the different settings needed for the picture or video, and generally does a good job of doing so, especially in daylight. This mode does utilise the full 21 MP resolution of the sensor, but downscales it to 8 MP. This reduces a lot of noise in most occasions. If you want maximum detail however, to get the best photos, it is recommended to switch to the Manual mode.

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White Balance menu in the 20.7 MP 4:3 viewfinder
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The 8 MP 16:9 viewfinder

The Manual mode is where you get to change a few more settings, but none as much as the Lumia 1020 allows you to. Here you can change the picture resolution (up to 20.7 MP), the aspect ratio, focus mode (Single auto focus, multi auto focus similar to DSLRs, Face Detection, Touch focus and Object Tracking), the ISO (from 50 to 3200), Metering, White Balance and Scene presets (Soft Skin, Soft Snap, Anti-Motion Blur, Landscape, Backlight Correction HDR, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held twilight, High sensitivity, Gourmet, Pet, Beach, Snow, Party, Sports, Document and Fireworks). You do not get to set shutter speed or exposure values unlike the Lumia 1020 though.

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Next is the Timeshift Burst mode, which is similar to the standard burst mode found on all devices, except this shoots 61 shots, and begins capturing the image one second before the shutter is pressed, and stops one second afterwards. This mode is extremely fast, and definitely the fastest compared to all other devices. Once you have decided upon the shot you want, you get to save it alongside the rest of the 61 shots. Be warned though, this will take up a lot of space, so be sure to have at least a 16 GB micro-SD card handy.

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Following that is the Picture Effect mode, where you get to apply various filters on top of your photo. However, unlike the iPhone 5S, you cannot change the effect or remove it after taking the picture. There is always the resident Photo Editor to apply effects onto your photo after it has been taken though.

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The fifth is the Sweep Panorama mode. This is just like all other modern devices, however Sony’s implementation is far from perfect. Firstly, the image resolution is a mere 2 MP, meaning that very little detail is captured. Comparatively, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 captures a whopping 61 MP image with huge detail. Not only that, the Z1 is very particular in the speed you pan your device – it cannot be too fast or too slow. Other devices pull panoramas off with less fuss than the Z1. This is certainly one area we find the Z1 lacking in.

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After that is the AR Effect mode. This is geared more towards the kids though, as adults and even teenagers will tire of this quickly. You can either choose the Fairytale, Celebration, Butterfly, Dive, Masquerade, Dinosaur or Funky Disco sub effect. What this does is try and analyse the image and thus generate various scenarios in the image.

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Next, you have the InfoEye mode, which is a boon to those struggling to choose the perfect meal on your first date, or for those travellers who wish to get instant information about landmarks. The following has been lifted straight from Sony’s website:

 It gives you information about the places and objects around you, just by pointing your Sony Xperia™ Z1‘s camera at them. It’ll work for landmarks as well as objects like books, wines, foods, QR codes, barcodes and business cards. You can also share the information Info-eye™ gives you with your friends with a handy photo. Depending on the object you’re using Info-eye for, you’ll get details such as address and contact details, reviews, general information, author, a Google search result, even restaurants that are near your landmark. Info-eye™ is for recognising things you can’t put into a search, or for a quick fact check. If you’re sightseeing somewhere and don’t know what a landmark is, it can be hard to find out. You don’t want to be walking around trying to find some information for half an hour. Just take a photo and the Xperia™ Z1 will tell you what it is, give you some history, and even tell you what else is nearby. Standing in a shop and need a review on something? Take a shot of the barcode and you’ll get all the information you need. That includes prices, reviews, and where else you can get it. Not sure if that book’s for you? Take a photo using Info-eye™ and read opinions and a brief synopsis. Imagine searching the internet for information using photos instead of words, that’s what Info-eye™ does.

Finally, you have the Social Live (by Bambuser) mode which allows you to live stream 720p video straight to Facebook. This is a really neat feature, and can be awesome for those watching special performances (providing video recording is permitted). You can also take pictures and this mode will directly upload them to Facebook.

CAMERA PERFORMANCE

We now finally arrive at the eyes of the Xperia Z1. The camera is certainly something that Sony deserves to be proud of, and we feel the same way about it too.

To start off the camera quality review, we look at the images captured in the Superior Auto mode first.

Daylight:

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Night (8 PM to 10 PM local time):

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Flash off
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Flash on

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As you can see in the test images, Sony has done really well with the Xperia Z1’s Superior Auto mode. Images are crisp, clear and provide optimum amounts of detail both in day and in night. In both scenarios, the camera performs equal to or beyond the capabilities of competitors’ 13 MP flagships even with the resolution downscaled till 8 MP. Colors look accurate and the white balance is good, though slightly cool.

Even at night, the lettering on nearby buildings and posters is clear enough even when zoomed in to 100%. The Superior Auto mode also performs superbly with flash off, and little ambient lightning in the surrounding, as seen in the first night photo. Even though in the night shots there is visible noise, it is at the same level as competitor flagships, even as more detail is provided by the Z1, so that’s a plus.

We now have a look at the Manual images taken with varying settings, but all at the full 20.7 MP resolution.

Daylight:

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Night:

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These test photos will blow anyone away. Looking at them, you fail to realise at first glance that the images have been captured by a smartphone camera. The level of detail is absolutely stunning, and you feel as if you can keep on zooming without having any compromise in the image quality. Daylight photos are brilliant, with the colour reproduction as real as it gets, perfect exposure and white balance. All the images look pleasing to the eye, with no problems in focusing either. The night shots are also exemplary. Colours are reproduced beautifully here, and with the 20.7 MP resolution, you get staggering amounts of detail. The BIONZ image processing engine also works hard here, but it works well, managing to limit the amount of noise surprisingly well, while keeping the detail present. To see more test shots, have a look at our comparison with the Lumia 1020, our low light samples review 1 and review 2.

The camera in whichever mode used produces amazing images, and can certainly be a replacement for your compact point-and-shoot camera.

CONCLUSION

What do I have to say about this device. It is an absolute monster. This device will be Sony’s rebirth into the mobile market, a market that Sony used to dominate years ago, but found slipping from its grasp upon the release of the iPhone. The Xperia Z was a great device, but this is truly jaw-droppingly amazing.

The OmniBalance design philosophy used by Sony has improved immensely since its implementation in the Xperia Z. By continuing to use an aluminium body with tempered glass at the front and rear, it makes the Z1 one of the best – if not the best – looking devices ever produced. While it is really beautiful, it is also bigger than comparable 5 inch and even 5.2 inch devices. This has to be pardoned however, looking as how Sony have put in a brilliant 20.7 MP, 1/2.3 inch Exmor RS Sensor, without having any distinct bulge in the rear of the device (à la Lumia 1020). The camera also has a 27 mm wideangle lens, and a fast F2.0 aperture.

Not only that, the device is also IP55/58 certified, meaning it is waterproof and dust resistant. This is an extremely useful feature – more than you realise – as Square Trade has recently revealed that 23% of all handsets that spoil are due to water damage. With the Z1 you can forget all such worries. The IP55/58 certification also must have given the Z1 some extra bulk, no doubt.

As large as it is though, it can still be comfortably be used one handed, and this is coming from someone with extremely small hands. All the buttons are easily within reach, and the grip is comfortable even under long durations. Having been using the phone for 3 weeks now, I can safely say that size is not an issue.

The Xperia Z had a poor display, especially by flagship standards. The Z1 has built upon this hugely. With it’s 5″ full HD Triluminos display and updated X-Reality Engine (formerly Bravia), this display is certainly the best that there ever has been in any Sony device. Still it does not manage to outperform all of its competitors in all aspects. Viewing angles are still a sore thumb for this device, and colours look washed out at any angle except for 90 degrees. The screen is also not as bright as the LG G2 or the Galaxy Note 3.

It is also in the performance where the Z1 comes out unquestionably top. The Qualcomm Snapdragon S800 chip – the latest from Qualcomm – leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Fulfilling all your daily needs, as well as slicing through the most demanding of games with effortlessness, there is absolutely no chance that one can call this device slow. Not only that, it manages to come out top in most of the synthetic benchmarks, and with the revelation that LG and Samsung boost their device scores, it actually beats them by larger margins than ever.

So my final words are these – Sony has finally begun to put real effort into their mobile department, and the fruits of their labours are plainly visible. The Xperia Z1 is the perfect device for those who want their phone to look good, love to play games, capture gorgeous photos, and for the adventurous who like to bring their phones underwater. Say what you will, in my eyes, this is the ultimate device.

5 thoughts on “Xperia Z1 Review – It came, it saw, it captured

  1. Woah, you guys need to do some proofreading before publishing your articles. The Z1 doesn’t beat ALL smartphones in 3G talktime; the Lumia 625 still delivers about 4 hours more 3G talk time (about 30+ hours) compared to the Xperia Z1.
    Also, the Lumia 1020 has never had an option to change aperture. It only lets you change shutter speed, exposure, focus mode, white balance and ISO. Hope you guys can have these inaccuracies corrected 🙂

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