Sony Xperia Z1 Review
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The Sony Xperia Z1 comes with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, which is a bit disappointing having in mind that Android 4.3 is already available to users of Nexus devices. We aren't really optimistic when it comes to Sony's ability to bring timely software updates to its devices, but since this is the flagship smartphone we're talking about, we hope that the company will do well at supporting it.
On top of Android 4.2.2, we find Sony's custom user interface. Overall, the UI is not so in-your-face, but it is quite comprehensive. In our opinion, this is one of the more polished custom UIs for Android. It's certainly not the most feature-rich, but it's quite lively, making it feel fun to use.
The custom homescreen is very easy to get used to. Sony has done a good job at creating an intuitive experience that makes things like icon and widget placements (and resizing, too) easy as pie. Sony has found a good use for the pinch-in gesture. In the Xperia Z1, it initiates the homescreen editing screen, where you can easily add/discard homescreen pages, add wigets/apps, change the wallpaper, or the theme.
A new addition to the otherwise standard main menu is the leftmost panel, which lets you change the sorting or filtering of your app catalog, as well as initiate the Uninstall mode. This one's a bit irritating, as you can accidentally reveal it while browsing through the main menu, in case you do a swipe-right gesture from the left edge of the screen.
All of the essential apps like Phone, Contacts, Messaging and so on have been customized. They are quite simplistic and straightforward, which isn't a bad thing, and thanks to their redesign, their appearance is in line with the rest of the user interface. We'll get back to the core applications, after we go over the silicon!
Processor and Memory
Powered by the potent Snapdragon 800 SoC, the Sony Xperia Z1 is a true beast. Performance will never be an issue with this handset, at least considering the current generation of software available for Android. Overall system performance is also great, with no visible hiccups or slowdowns. The experience isn't so delay-free as on the iPhone 5 and up, but all in all, the Z1 is speedy enough. It's on par with the G2 and the other Android powerhouses out there. The GPU found in the Snapdragon 800 SoC — Adreno 330 — is equally powerful. You can easily run every game out there and you'll enjoy sky-high frame-rates at all times.
Sony has installed the healthy 2 gigs of RAM on the Xperia Z1, which guarantees smooth performance even when you have multiple heavy apps running in the background. The Sony Xperia Z1 comes with the humble 16 GB of internal storage, but thankfully, it also gives you the option to install a microSD card for additional storage space. You can't buy the Z1 with a larger amount of internal space, but that won't be such a big deal for most consumers.
The phonebook is mostly pleasant to use. It looks and works well, although we don't like how little space is left for your call log, as it shares a single screen with the dialer. Other than that, switching between dialer, all contacts and favorites is pretty seamless.
Meanwhile, it's great to see that Sony has kept the good old T9-style dialing, where you can start T9-typing the name of the contact you want to call using the numeric keypad, and the phone will automatically find that person for you. It's very comfortable to dial this way.
The busy man's best friend, the calendar, is well represented in the Sony Xperia Z1. The phone's calendar app features all the basic necessities like month, week and day views, as well as some 'bonus' features such as the ability to expand the appointments for the selected day in month view. The pinch-to-zoom function from the stock calendar has, thankfully, been preserved.
The handset also comes with a simple calculator, as well as a versatile notes app, which isn't the most convenient notes app ever, but makes up for it by offering a good array of options. Using Sony's Small Apps is very convenient. Once you press the multitasking button, you gain access to four shortcuts to handy mini apps, including a calculator, timer, notes and voice notes. In the end, we found it pretty easy to make quick notes or recordings using the Sony Xperia Z1. In some cases, it might be even faster to use a small app to accomplish a certain task, rather than the respective full-blown version.
Sony's QWERTY keyboard is very reminiscent of the iPhone keyboard as its main layout features only the most necessary keys, as well as as a similar color theme. All in all, typing with the keyboard is a joy, as the letter keys are big and easy to find. The landscape layout is also great as it takes advantage of the full screen width.
The messaging app of the Xperia Z1 is very well designed with a versatile and intuitive interface. You can easily do stuff like attach a photo, video, sound, note, location, etc. to your messages. The default email app is will do the job, though it lacks some more advanced settings like tweaking the preview text length, for example.
Internet and Connectivity
Chrome is the browser of choice for the Sony Xperia Z1, and it tends to perform lovely on this device. As always, loading is super-fast, while navigation around pages, including scrolling and zooming, is very fluid and trouble-free. The browser inflates text mostly correctly, so usually it's just the right paragraphs that need to be read comfortably that are the ones to get an increased font-size.
LTE is supported across numerous bands, so as long as your carrier of choice offers 4G, the Z1 should work flawlessly. If no LTE is available, the Xperia Z1 should default to HSPA+ (42.2 Mbit/s down and 5.76 Mbit/s up).
Further completing its full set of connectivity options, the Sony Xperia Z1 is also the proud owner of support for all the latest Wi-Fi protocols, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and DLNA. If you're the type of user who loves to explore the possibilities with these new technologies, the Xperia Z1 will certainly prove to be a fine playground.