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Sony Xperia Z1 Review

Sony Xperia Z1

Posted: , by Ray S.




Z1's camera has a sensor with a size of 1/2.3

Z1's camera has a sensor with a size of 1/2.3" (most smartphones feature 1/3.2'' sensors)

The beefy 20.7 MP camera of the Sony Xperia Z1 is one of its key features. With a new, larger sensor with a size of 1/2.3" (most smartphones feature 1/3.2" sensors), the Z1's camera will have pixels of decent size, despite their greater number. This should help keep noise at reasonable levels. Meanwhile, the aperture is also quite wide (f/2.0), which should help the camera achieve good results in low-light conditions, as it will allow more light to reach the sensor. Finally, the Z1 has a wide-angle lens of 27mm that will allow you to capture more of the scene in front of you.

Thankfully, the user interface is very easy to use, especially when you're sticking with Sony's Superior Auto mode, which attempts to automatically pick the best settings for you, depending on the scene you're trying to photograph. Still, Sony has also included a Manual mode, which allows you to tweak a variety of different settings on your own.

There are also some other interesting camera modes in the Xperia Z1. For example, there's Info Shot, which will attempt to give you useful information about the object that you're photographing. Or, there's also Social Live (powered by Bambuser), which lets you livestream up to 10 minutes of video directly to your Facebook feed – very cool feature indeed! There is, of course, a number of picture effects, as well as the more interesting AR (augmented reality) effects, which kind of blend the real scene in front of you with a 3D scene of your choice. Looking past the limited number of 3D scenes, you can get some interesting results with these settings.

Obviously, the expectations towards this camera will be quite high, and we're happy to say that it doesn't disappoint. Quite the contrary! Images tend to have very realistic, vivid and lively colors. At the same time, the handset doesn't oversaturate or overwarm them to artificially make them look prettier. Exposure is also great most of the time – the dynamic range is good enough to let you take immersive photographs that feature both darker and lighter areas, and it will all look natural and appealing. The only drawback we can find is that some very bright areas sometimes come out overexposed, but this doesn't happen very often.

Details are superb with the Z1's photos – even when compared to some of the best phone cameras out there, such as the G2. If you view the 20.7 MP photos in actual size, you might dislike the mostly pixelized look, but if you scale these gigantic images down to something like 13 MP and compare them to awesome 13 MP photos such as those from the G2, you'll be surprised to find that the Xperia Z1 actually captures detail quite well. Even when viewed in actual size (100%), the Xperia Z1's photos are finer than those of its biggest rivals.

Unfortunately, such superlatives cannot be said about the Z1's night photos. The handset often messes up the exposure, while colors are also somewhat off. The only thing we can do right now is to hope that Sony will improve this aspect of the camera with a future software update.

On the other hand, we simply love the images that the Xperia Z1 takes indoors. Photos have a great sense of depth and detail, with very realistic and pleasing colors. Thankfully, the LED flash also does a very good job, allowing you to illuminate a small scene.

When it comes to video recording, though, this surely isn't the best camera we've seen. Mostly smooth in nature, the 1080p video lacks fine details and fails to impress us. Its quality is OK, but it's nothing earth-shattering. Sadly, a 60 fps option is missing to let us record even smoother video, such as the one on the LG G2.

Image size:
Use our samples comparison tool to see photos from more phones

Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 3.2
No data
Samsung Galaxy S4 3.4
HTC One 3.4
No data
LG G2 4
View all


The Sony Xperia Z1 is a great phone to watch video on. The display looks good and is big enough so you can even watch full-length movies on it, if need be. It supports all the popular formats, and even if you manage to find a video that is not playable with the stock player, you should be able to fix this by downloading a capable third-party player from the Play Store.

The Walkman music player is quite cool and simplistic. It sports some interesting features like ClearAudio+, which aims to give some more clarity to the sound, though it's basically a specific EQ preset. There are also some other sound enhancing tools like xLOUD, as well as a regular equalizer with many presents, including a custom option, allowing you to set your own equalizer.

The picture and video galleries are very good. The apps have a fresh and consumer-centric design. The Sony touch has worked well here.

The loudspeaker of the Z1 isn't very powerful, and on top of that, its quality is really low. It's totally lacking any low frequencies, resulting in a high-pitched, harsh and unpleasant sounding.

The supplied earphones, which are the MH-750 model, are capable of reproducing a great sound. They aren't the most comfortable earphones you can find on the market, but if you can live with that, you'll be enjoying some sweet tunes coming out of them. The clip accessory that you can use to attach them to your shirt and use them as handsfree is also a cool touch by Sony.

Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 0.29
Samsung Galaxy S4 0.38
HTC One 0.68
LG G2 0.29
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 68
Samsung Galaxy S4 77
HTC One 78
LG G2 66
View all

  • Options

posted on 20 Sep 2013, 10:46 11

1. Ninetysix (Posts: 2689; 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: 849; 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: 466; 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: 466; 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.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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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
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
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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