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Sony Xperia Z1 Review

Sony Xperia Z1 9.2

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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!

Sony Xperia Z1 Review
In the box:
  • USB cable
  • Wall-charger
  • Earphones with handsfree and a clip
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Screen protector


Sony Xperia Z1 Review
Sony Xperia Z1 Review
Sony Xperia Z1 Review
Sony Xperia Z1 Review
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, reminiscent 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 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.

Sony Xperia Z1
5.69 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches
144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5 mm
6.00 oz (170 g)

Sony Xperia Z1

5.45 x 2.79 x 0.35 inches
138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)


Samsung Galaxy S4
5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches
136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm
4.59 oz (130 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4

5.41 x 2.69 x 0.37 inches
137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)


To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.

Sony Xperia Z1 Review

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 289
HTC One 460
LG G2 438
View all

  • Options

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 10:46 11

1. Ninetysix (Posts: 2621; 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.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:05 11

3. lee480 (Posts: 197; 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?

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:05 3

4. dmn666 (Posts: 244; 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.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 12:02 3

27. SetiroN (Posts: 9; Member since: 04 Apr 2012)

Hey look, someone being a smartass without the slightest basis on the internet! How novel!

But wait - physics!

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 23:52 2

75. SleepingOz (unregistered)

"Faster browser will always drain the battery faster - Physics 101" LMAO!!!

posted on 22 Sep 2013, 00:46

100. Finest (Posts: 90; Member since: 16 Aug 2013)

R.I.P - Physics 101.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:08 1

5. rawbow (Posts: 428; 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.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 12:05 2

30. SetiroN (Posts: 9; 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.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:22

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.

posted on 21 Sep 2013, 00:05 2

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).


posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:03 13

2. lee480 (Posts: 197; Member since: 24 Sep 2012)

Great job!
Sony is definitely going to sell more of this compared to HTC or Nokia!

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:11 6

6. Joshing4fun (Posts: 1237; 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.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:52

21. Joshing4fun (Posts: 1237; Member since: 13 Aug 2010)

Btw, Does anyone know what type of glass this phone uses?

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 12:02

26. aditya.k (Posts: 496; Member since: 10 Mar 2013)

Probably a DragonTail glass, which they also used in the XZ! :) Not sure though!

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 12:23

36. papss (unregistered)

Gsmarena said its dragon tail

posted on 21 Sep 2013, 03:26

87. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3535; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)

Dragontrail on the front gorilla glass 3 on the back

posted on 13 Nov 2013, 21:47

132. TechCrazyedBoy (Posts: 129; Member since: 12 Nov 2013)

Yup u got that right..

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 15:30

54. Feanor (Posts: 845; 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.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 18:57 2

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

posted on 22 Sep 2013, 00:49

101. Finest (Posts: 90; Member since: 16 Aug 2013)

Then Sammy would be great for you :] put it in a plastic bag then "poof" waterproof :]

posted on 25 Aug 2014, 02:52

139. omii03 (Posts: 3; Member since: 25 Aug 2014)

yah u right

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:13 8

7. anleoflippy (Posts: 595; 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.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:19

10. anleoflippy (Posts: 595; Member since: 03 Jan 2013)

viewing angles I mean

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 13:50 2

45. TMach (Posts: 464; 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......!!

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 16:13 4

56. Immolate (Posts: 310; Member since: 17 Jun 2011)

If you hold the phone flat, you can see the side of the phone.

posted on 21 Sep 2013, 02:29

83. TMach (Posts: 464; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)

Not if the phone is lower than eye level!

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:17 1

8. theZED (Posts: 25; Member since: 09 May 2012)

Great review. Should setup a battery testing chart.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 11:18 11

9. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; 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. :)

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 13:06 4

42. HalaMadrid (Posts: 92; Member since: 04 Sep 2013)

I thought you are a sony hater.

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 13:11

43. anleoflippy (Posts: 595; Member since: 03 Jan 2013)

Nah, he's not.

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Sony Xperia Z1

Sony Xperia Z1

OS: Android 5.1 5.0 4.4.2 4.4 4.3 4.2.2
view full specs
Display5.0 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (441 ppi) TFT
Camera20.7 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2200 MHz, Krait 400 processor
Size5.69 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches
(144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5 mm)
6.00 oz  (170 g)
Battery3000 mAh, 13.83 hours talk time

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