Sony Xperia Z1 Review: Photographic Xpertise

The Sony Xperia Z1 is a powerful flagship handset which quickly follows up what was seen with the Xperia Z. Within the sleek black shell is an incredibly high-spec, 20.7 megapixel that betters almost anything else out there in terms of specs. So does Sony’s smartphone stand up with the rest of what it has to offer?

Sony Xperia Z1 Front

Key Features

2.2GHz quad-core processor

5-inch TFT display with Triluminous technology

16GB internal storage

20.7 megapixel camera

8.5mm thick

170g weight

Android 4.2.2

3000mAh

Design and Build

Featuring a sheer black glass finish, the Xperia Z1 is a stylish looking device that is an exercise in minimalism. Its form factor is edged with a metal rim that smoothes off the corners a little, ensuring that they don’t jab into the hand when your are holding the device and its 170g doesn’t feel heavy at all.

Sony Xperia Z1 Flaps

The water resistant design of recent Sony devices continues, with the handset’s ports being covered in plastic flaps. Its headphone socket is exposed but is still waterproof itself, and a physical camera button has been added to the frame. This gives the Z1 an advantage over the Xperia Z in that it allows photos to be captured underwater, where the touchscreen won’t work.

Screen Performance

Sony makes fantastic displays, as the firm is able to bring technology developed by the television arm of its business into use in smartphones. The 5-inch screen of Xperia Z1 is no exception, being bright and clear, with the firm’s Triluminous technology bringing real colour definition to images and video.

Mobile displays have stepped up a gear this year, and Sony’s flagship is well up to the standard of the best from Samsung and HTC, offering a brilliant platform for any task, be its simply sending a quick text or viewing high-quality footage.

Sony Xperia Z1 UI

Under the Hood

As displays have stepped up recently, so have processors, and the 2.2GHz quad-core chip in the Z1 is amongst the fastest we’ve ever seen. The results are there to see, with the handset’s performance being fluid and free of any hang ups at all.

While moving around the UI and opening apps is effortless, the real advantage of a processor of this size is that it takes almost no time at all to process the large image files that are created by the high-spec camera. Even with some photos weighing in at 11MB there is little delay when snapping shots.

Battery Performance

Sony has fitted a 3000mAh battery to its flagship, which ensures reasonable performance even with the bright display. Nevertheless, this is one area where the Xperia Z1 doesn’t break any new ground and as with many other high-end handsets you will struggle to get more than a day of moderate use out of one charge. If you’re capturing, editing and uploading a large amount of photos on the device, expect the battery life to drop massively.

Sony Xperia Z1 Edge

Operating System and User Interface

Android 4.2.2 is in place, with a user interface that doesn’t look hugely different to that seen on the Xperia Z1. Sony’s UI is certainly user friendly, featuring minimalist graphics that don’t distract from the apps and widgets that you choose to install.

Sony has filled its handset up with quite a lot of what could disparagingly be called bloatware, with this accomplishing little other than overcrowding the app menu. However, the five main homescreens are yours to play with and there is plenty of space to fill them up with icons and useful widgets.

Sony Xperia Z1 Camera App

Camera and Video

Sony’s big shout with the Xperia Z1 is its camera, that 20.7 megapixel monster that is one of the most powerful ever fitted to a smartphone. The firm has plenty to boast about and the images produced by the handset are outstanding, with the camera app being almost as impressive itself.

Along with the full 20.7 megapixel option, the camera app features an eight megapixel setting that can capture in 16:9 ratio. The reason for this is likely that the lower resolution photos have a wider, more natural shape whereas those on top quality take on an awkward, almost square aspect ratio.

There are a multitude of controls which allow you to alter things like ISO and whit balance, customising settings to suits the situation. However, all of these factors can be disregarded if you choose Sony’s Superior Auto mode, which reads the environment and optimises all the cameras functions. Strangely, the auto option will only capture at eight megapixels but the function does make an impressive job of guessing exactly what is needed in a particular situation.

Sony Xperia Z1 Back

In terms of visual power, Sony’s flagship can easily stand up against the likes the Nokia Lumia 1020 and other high-end handsets and while some noise does occur on photos taken under electric lighting they are generally of a very high quality indeed.

Performance and Verdict

Overall, the Xperia Z1 is an upgrade of the Xperia Z which follows a very similar theme to the earlier handset. However, Sony has made some small but important changes in the device’s form factor, such as the metal edging, which make a big difference in everyday use.

However, there is one big change in very high-spec camera that has been added, making the Z1 a powerful camera phone that can match the best that are currently available. In this regard, the Sony Xperia Z1 is one of the best handsets around, matching the most impressive devices from other smartphone manufacturers.

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