Sony Xperia Z1 Review

Sony Xperia Z1

Posted: , posted by Ray S.




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:


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.

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


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.


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PhoneArena rating:
Display5.0 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (441 ppi) TFT
Camera20.7 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2200 MHz, Krait 400 processor
2 GB
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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