Sony Xperia Z1 Review
Sony introduced its Xperia Z flagship in the beginning of the year, and while the smartphone had a lot going for it, it was still somewhat rough around the edges. It had fancy front and back panels made of glass, but boring, rubbery sides; the screen was large and had a high resolution, but its gamma and viewing angles were lacking; the camera was 13 MP and featured the promising Exmor RS sensor, but the quality of the pictures was so-so.
With so much to fix, Sony hasn't even waited until next year to introduce its new top model. Instead, the company is already gearing up to release its new flagship – the Xperia Z1. As we can all see right away, the Xperia Z1 is like a heavily upgraded version of its predecessor. It feels quite familiar, yet substantially improved in pretty much every area. By the looks of it, Sony has done more than enough in order to bring those elements where the Z was lacking to the necessary premium level. However, whether this has been enough to actually leapfrog the competition is what we'll seek to answer right here and now!
In the box:
- USB cable
- Earphones with handsfree and a clip
- Cleaning cloth
- Screen protector
The Xperia Z1 is a beautiful phone and we commend Sony for coming up with this design. It beats Samsung's offerings (in the design department) and can go toe to toe with almost any other high-end smartphone in the industry.
As we said, in-hand feel is just the way it should be – awesome, but we do have a relatively big issue in this regard and it has to do with the size of the Z1. With substantial bezels around the display, the Xperia Z1 takes quite a bit of room (5.69 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches) in your palm. It's definitely bulkier than Samsung's Galaxy S4 (which measures 5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches), or HTC's One (5.41 x 2.69 x 0.37 inches), or even LG's G2 (5.45 x 2.79 x 0.35 inches), which packs a bigger, 5.2” display in its smaller body. Still, we do like the classy, rectangular shape of the Z1.
Sony's new device is also heavier than most other competitors. It weighs 6.00 oz (170 g), compared to the Samsung Galaxy S4's 4.59 oz (130 g), as well as the HTC One's and LG G2's 5.04 oz (143 g). Wow, the Xperia Z1 is truly one weighty smartphone, but it's OK with us.
You can find a bunch of things around the sides of the Xperia Z1. Of course, we get the new circular power button on the right hand side, which doesn't feel particularly bad, but isn't great either. The volume rocker that's positioned slightly below is a similar affair, as it works fine, but is kind of small to be considered really comfortable to use. Finally, we get the tiny camera shutter key near the lower end of the right hand side, and almost surprisingly, this one is actually great. The button is very easy to press, and its two steps (for autofocus and actual picture taking) are very well defined.
The Micro SIM card slot and microSD card slot, as well as the microUSB port are all hidden under protective flaps, which don't cause any trouble. What's more, they are designed in such a way so as to kind of blend in with the rest of the surface of the sides.
You'll also be delighted to know that the Sony Xperia Z1's glass and metal shell is IP 58-certified, meaning that it's water- and dust-resistant. Something that no other Android flagship can offer at the moment.
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144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5 mm
6.00 oz (170 g)
138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)
136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm
4.59 oz (130 g)
137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)
The Xperia Z1 is making full use of Sony's so-called Triluminos screen technology, and the improvement in image quality since the Xperia Z is obvious. Sony's Triluminos technology attempts to create a more 'intelligent' backlighting for the display through the use of the so-called 'quantum dots' - extremely small particles that emit light at preset wavelengths. The ultimate goal is to enable the reproduction of a wider array of natural colors.
With its decent characteristics, the 5" 1080x1920 display of the Z1 may not be a state-of-the-art LCD panel (it's TFT, not IPS), but it is still very good looking. As with any other 5" 1080p screen, the pixel density is incredibly high at 441 ppi, so everything looks extremely clean, without even the slightest form of pixelization.
Color balance of the Xperia Z1's display is also great, with only slightly dominant blue. As a whole, color reproduction is very accurate, with an average color error (Delta E) of about 4 (which is very good). Average color temperature is about 7000 K (kelvins), with the reference value considered to be 6500 K. In comparison, the Apple iPhone 5 has a color temperature of about 7300 K, so the Xperia Z1 is even slightly closer to what's considered the perfectly natural balance between red and blue. Sony is still having some touble with the gamma, as the Xperia Z1 averages around 2, with a reference value of 2.2. This is because the highlights tend to appear a bit too bright on this display, potentially causing some lost detail in whiter areas.
In terms of brightness, the Sony Xperia Z1 has a powerful enough output to guarantee fine outdoor viewing. It's just slightly worse than the iPhone 5, but it definitely qualifies as one of the better screens in this respect. It's much better than the Galaxy S4's screen, for example.
Sadly, viewing angles are still terrible. Even at smaller angles, brightness starts to drop noticeably, while the whole image almost immediately gets washed out unrecognizable. It's a pity, because it's a great display when you're facing it directly.
The Xperia Z1 supports the so-called X-Reality image enhancement technology, which attempts to boost the quality of photos and video viewed on the phone. Indeed, media that's displayed on the Z1's screen using the X-Reality engine looks very cool. For the most part, there's not rocket-science involved with X-Reality, as it tweaks things such as the contrast of the image, the sharpness, colors and other similar stuff, in order to come up with a more impressive picture.
Display measurements and quality
|Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better||Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better||Contrast Higher is better||Color temperature (Kelvins)||Gamma||Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better||Delta E grayscale Lower is better|
|Sony Xperia Z1||495
|Samsung Galaxy S4||288
The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.
|Maximum brightness Lower is better||Minimum brightness Lower is better||Contrast Lower is better||Color temperature Lower is better||Gamma Lower is better||Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better||Delta E grayscale Lower is better|
|Samsung Galaxy S4||0%
|Sony Xperia Z1||78.2%
The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy.
The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential (target) values.
1. Ninetysix (Posts: 927; Member since: 08 Oct 2012)
"Based on the data provided by Sony, the Xperia Z1 should be a champ in terms of battery life. The beefy 3000 mAh battery unit of the smartphone is said to provide about 15 hours of 3G talk-time, and the cool 35 days of 3G stand-by time. If you're using the handset in a 4G area, stand-by time should be just a bit lower at 31 days, which is still a great achievement."
Might want to reword that paragraph cuz it's far from being a champ.
3. lee480 (Posts: 141; Member since: 24 Sep 2012)
Different reviews have different ways of testing battery life. So PA now have to edit this review to suite GSMArena's way of benchmarking batteries?
4. dmn666 (Posts: 179; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)
Retarded post from gsmarena. Sony ditched stock android browser long time ago because chrome browser blows out the outdated android stock browser in all sorts of performance categories. So if you're comparing browsing times from chrome and stock browser, you're basically making fun of yourself. Faster browser will always drain the battery faster - Physics 101.
If you don't like it, there is root - install the outdated stock crap and enjoy longer battery life.
27. SetiroN (Posts: 8; Member since: 04 Apr 2012)
Hey look, someone being a smartass without the slightest basis on the internet! How novel!
But wait - physics!
75. SleepingOz (Posts: 2009; Member since: 22 Oct 2011)
"Faster browser will always drain the battery faster - Physics 101" LMAO!!!
5. rawbow (Posts: 362; Member since: 30 Mar 2012)
Yeah, I really want to know the battery performance. How's this a review if after having the phone you don't test the battery performance.
I remember there was an article by you guys which specifically stated your new procedure of testing batteries.
30. SetiroN (Posts: 8; Member since: 04 Apr 2012)
apparently they don't test batteries, at lest in every review I've seen they just quote manufacturer specifications and eventually confirm whether it lasts one day- LOL.
12. theZED (Posts: 25; Member since: 09 May 2012)
Xperia ZR has 62hrs endurance rating in GSMarena. So I think Sony can improve Z1's battery life through next firmware updates.
78. g_olano (Posts: 1; Member since: 20 Sep 2013)
GSMA had confirmed that their Z1 unit reviewed was a pre production release and that has a hardware issues...you might not want to rely on their review rather on those sites that uses a retail Z1 (production release).
2. lee480 (Posts: 141; Member since: 24 Sep 2012)
Sony is definitely going to sell more of this compared to HTC or Nokia!
6. Joshing4fun (Posts: 960; Member since: 13 Aug 2010)
If this had an AMOLED display I would actually go for it. That way it'd have beautiful viewing angles and those perfect blacks to blend in with the bezels just perfectly.
21. Joshing4fun (Posts: 960; Member since: 13 Aug 2010)
Btw, Does anyone know what type of glass this phone uses?
26. aditya.k (Posts: 298; Member since: 10 Mar 2013)
Probably a DragonTail glass, which they also used in the XZ! :) Not sure though!
87. ArtSim98 (Posts: 400; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)
Dragontrail on the front gorilla glass 3 on the back
54. Feanor (Posts: 184; Member since: 20 Jun 2012)
I'd like to see the screen live. I have seen the screen of the Z Ultra and the viewing angles are good. I cannot believe that the Z1 is any different. Anyway, 9.2 score is better than I was expecting.
65. thelukewarm (Posts: 18; Member since: 18 Dec 2012)
mannn......... there's one reason I don't like samsung smartphones, wait actually two: blue ass screens and ugly icons design, maybe TFT screens on sony has bad view angles, but, colors are less saturated and whites are more natural. Out of the subject: sense and timescape IUs are my favorites
101. Finest (Posts: 51; Member since: 16 Aug 2013)
Then Sammy would be great for you :] put it in a plastic bag then "poof" waterproof :]
7. anleoflippy (Posts: 165; Member since: 03 Jan 2013)
I don't get why is the viewing of the Z1 is bad when the Z Ultra uses the exact same tech on the screen.
Overall, good score PA and also a very satisfying review. I'm definitely going to trade in my ZL for this. I don't view my phone at an angle anyway and if I wanted to show it to my friends, I'll just give it to them or show it to them head on.
Kudos to SONY for making another great phone.
45. TMach (Posts: 268; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)
Not sure why you seem to assume the viewing angles are bad! I have owned this for a full day now and was watching Immortals on it and you can hold the phone flat and still see the images very clearly.
The viewing angles are certainly 100% improved but I am not bothered about that as I never view my content at an angle! If that is your way of viewing content, the viewing angles are fine for that weirdness. Whatever your fancy, the colours are brilliant and literally pop off the screen. Amazing! On the battery point, my phone has been on since 07.00 hrs and I still have 50% juice left after heavy use, it now 19.51hrs! Not crazy about the size but once I held it, it just feels top end/premium! The camera is also amazing.....! Never mind, haters will always hate 'cos their lives are empty but this is a significant improvement on the XZ which was an outstanding phone, by the way......!!
56. Immolate (Posts: 226; Member since: 17 Jun 2011)
If you hold the phone flat, you can see the side of the phone.
8. theZED (Posts: 25; Member since: 09 May 2012)
Great review. Should setup a battery testing chart.
9. PapaSmurf (Posts: 4162; Member since: 14 May 2012)
Excellent review on the Z1. Phone definitely deserve a 9.2 considering it's one of the best phones overall to ever be released. :)
11. hulkkii (Posts: 3; Member since: 19 Sep 2013)
Galaxy S4 needs to be measured again with CamSpeed: there was bug fix for it in latest CamSpeed
13. Reality_Check (Posts: 135; Member since: 15 Aug 2013)
Design and viewing angles are a matter of personal opinion. For eg. I like HTC One design the best and I prefer poor viewing angles so that my privacy is preserved. To each his own :)
46. heyhi (Posts: 106; Member since: 19 Feb 2013)
viewing angles are not about privacy...viewing angles give you a better quality viewing while you play a game that requires tilting your phone or for instance, when you're are in your bed watching some video or reading, you dont get to hold your phone in a specific way to get a good image.
Z1 has not the best screen, but still good, much better than the Z.
privacy would be a problem if you had a tablet or laptop..just an opinion.
14. theZED (Posts: 25; Member since: 09 May 2012)
In the display review part GSMarena said, "A word of warning is due as we've been getting a lot of user reports that not all Xperia Z1 units out there have the same quality screens. It seems some of them come with panels, which have the same properties as the one on the Xperia Z. These of course, may be pre-production samples or as conspiracy theiorists suggests, leftover panels from the Xperia Z production line. Whatever the case, have this one in mind when you are picking up yours."
And its contrast at 100% brightness is 1:1513.
38. cjtaxi (Posts: 5; Member since: 11 Sep 2013)
yeah and i am curious which market will get that "unlucky" display or maybe its just some samples
84. TMach (Posts: 268; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)
The same GSMArena review that claims the phones does not come with a headset when it does along with a clip? Hmmmm...........
114. amansingal14 (Posts: 260; Member since: 08 Sep 2012)
GSMarena reviewed a preproduction model, as they themselves claimed. Hardware issues are common in preproduction models...
39. emadshiny (Posts: 757; Member since: 05 Dec 2012)
I suggest you buy iPhone 5S, then you'll understand the real meaning of bezel.
125. arc4ne (Posts: 1; Member since: 30 Sep 2013)
And as an added bonus you will also learn the meaning of "mediocre software". :P
18. WHoyton1 (Posts: 1473; Member since: 21 Feb 2013)
lol im surprised your interested after all this is the phone which has slayed the mighty lumia 1020 of the top spot of best camera phone...
20. Joshing4fun (Posts: 960; Member since: 13 Aug 2010)
The Z1 has a great camera but does NOT top the 1020. If you actually read the review, you'd know it take poor low light shots.
22. PapaSmurf (Posts: 4162; Member since: 14 May 2012)
Said no one ever. 1020 ranks #1 in the camera department and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
25. papss (Posts: 2171; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)
Come on.. We k ow it didn't slay the 1020 in the camera department. Plus unlike many I'm actually open to using other OS and phones.
33. jellmoo (Posts: 200; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)
How on earth does it do that? Per the review, the camera takes great indoor and well lit shots, but struggles with low light photos and has average at best video recording.
I'm sure it's a good camera, but it certainly isn't in the same league as the 1020.
28. aditya.k (Posts: 298; Member since: 10 Mar 2013)
Indian price is 700$, so must be the same for you guys! :)
17. Rongocook (Posts: 70; Member since: 20 Sep 2013)
Yeah! Those BEZELS just killed a perfect picture.
55. reckless562 (Posts: 169; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)
its for the SHOCK and WATER PROOFING fool
58. maccess (Posts: 392; Member since: 16 Jan 2013)
yeah but why they can put slimmer bezel on the xperia z??? off course the xperia z is shock and water proof too fool..
92. reckless562 (Posts: 169; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)
its also SMALLER, hence smaller scale, equals smaller bezels on a SMALLER phone, come on dude, THINK
95. maccess (Posts: 392; Member since: 16 Jan 2013)
smaller what?? the xperia z has the same screen size 5 inch.. THINK..
93. pulkit.tyagi (banned) (Posts: 35; Member since: 15 Nov 2012)
its not shook proof..its only dust proof !!
94. reckless562 (Posts: 169; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)
again, what do u THINK the bezels help PROTECT???
comment again if u cant see that
96. maccess (Posts: 392; Member since: 16 Jan 2013)
wtf?? do you mean big bezel for shock proof?? your excuse was a joke dude..
99. reckless562 (Posts: 169; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)
OMG !!! really ppl??? like ur KINDERGARTEN teacher taught u, its whats INSIDE that counts......INSIDE!! you all must have massive concussions because ur brain is flush with your skulls. i rest my case (ironic, case.... lol back if u get that one)