Sony Xperia Z1 Preview
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.
The Sony Xperia Z1 has almost the same external design as its predecessor, except... it now features a nice metal frame around the sides, replacing the bland rubber material used by the Z. The phone's design looks much more complete now, and the feeling you get when you have the Xperia Z1 in your hands is that of working with a very high-quality piece of machinery. The front and rear panels are still made of flat, tempered glass, reminding us of the iPhone 4/4s design language.
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 left 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). 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), the HTC One's 5.04 oz (143 g), and LG G2's 5.04 oz (143 g). Wow, the Xperia Z1 is truly one weighty smartphone, but that's not necessarily such a big issue, as it makes it feel even more solid and high-end.
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 the its two steps (for autofocus and actual picture taking) are very well defined. Even though our unit doesn't have the retail software yet, we've been ensured that the hardware design is final, so our observations here should be valid for the retail units of the Xperia Z1.
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.
We won't comment on the quality of the screen right now, with regards to things such as color balance and even brightness, because the software of our unit isn't final and these aspects of the handset may change by the time it launches officially on the market.
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.