Xperia Z1 Review Verdict: Good, bad

Sony’s flagship device Xperia Z1 improves on original Z and makes it a lot better than before. Sony has done some marvellous job while making this waterproof phone sturdy and attractive on paper. But is it right for you? Read on to find out.

xperia-z1-screen

xperia-z1-front

Pros: What’s Good

1. Amazing Build Quality:
Attention to detail and materials used on Z1 and extremely marvellous. Its on par with HTC One and iPhones. Its designed to stun every user. Once you hold this device, you know its like no other. It feels sturdy and rock solid in hand. With solid aluminium tapering the device and glass on front and rear, this is the most premium feel phone money can buy.

xperia-z1-speaker-grill

Checkout High quality Z1 close-up photos.

2. Specs to impress:
Z1 sports top of the line Snapdragon 800 2.24Ghz processor, Adreno 330, 5″ 1080p display, 2GB RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, 4G LTE, etc.

3. Battery life:
Sony offers a sealed 3000mAh. This battery gives you 3hours of screen time plus 1.5 days of standby. Even a heavy user like my very own would not run out of juice in under 24 hours. Light users can juice out 2 days of usage. (All this battery life and sony charges the phone only upto 90-95% for extended life, which means you will not deteriorate battery in 3 years or so.)

Sony offers good options for battery saving. Enabling them significantly reduces battery usage by restricting background apps to consume data/processing when screen is off. You can choose what apps can still connect to the internet. Among other tweaks, you can optionally switch off mobile data, gps, etc when required parameters are met.

Z1 battery life

4. External SD Card: 
Upto 128gb external + 16gb internal. Good transfer speeds.

5. Accurate, clear Display:
Despite marketing misnomers like Trilumnios technology and X-Reality, Xperia Z1 has one of the most accurate display on market. Its produces the right colors, and makes them look closest to the natural colors on any smartphone. Samsung’s AMOLEDs are known to be over saturated, it may be appealing to the most, but its never accurate. Xperia Z1’s display is crisp and easier to read in bright lights vs. AMOLEDs.

z1-front

z1-back-rear

6. Camera:
Camera is pretty good on paper with 20.7MP, F2.0 Aperture and 1/2.3″ sensor size. That’s the best we’ve seen in Android phones at least on paper. In reality it does a pretty good job too. For day shots, its slightly below Note 3, Optimus G2, but in low-light night shots, its miles ahead. It is not as good as Lumia 1020 but better than Lumia 920, HTC One in low light, otherwise. All-in-all Camera is 2nd best to Lumia 1020, making it best Android camera smartphone.

Two-state Camera hardware button is a great add.

z1-camera-macro

7. Waterproof (up to 1 meter), dust proof – A great add for adventurous folks.

8. Shatter-proof screen guard – The front and rear have a stock Shatter-proof screen guard which will hold the gorilla glass intact in case of any impact.

9. Super fast and Zero lag:
Z1 with its Snapdragon 800, Adreno 330 and blot-free Sony minimal customizations, is among the fastest smartphones. In our speed test Z1 on 4.2.2 is second fastest among android phones falling right behind Nexus 5  on 4.4.1.

10. Clean, Bloat-free OS with usable apps:
Being a Samsung user for long, I’ve always complained about low-quality apps and bloatware in TouchWhiz. For instance, Note 3 idle RAM usage is 1.6GB with 60+ processes running when on idle. Sony has done it right, not only it has few bloat apps, most of the apps are really well designed.

Walkman app is beautiful and featureful. It can play all music formats from MP3, Aac, to lossless audio like FLAC. Sony has OS wide support for DLNA and miracast streaming standards that makes music and video streaming from network a breeze. e.g. You can view, play and control music playback on your XBMC (or any DLNA enabled TV, mediabox, PC) from the walkman app. For music, photos and videos, it acts as DLNA renderer, DLNA server, DLNA client. i.e. you can control music on other devices, stream from other to local, and stream to other devices on the network. This is the cleanest and most seamless implementation of DLNA ever seen on Android phones, just like AirPlay on iOS.

Gallery app, Camera app, etc all have an easy and usable interface.

Cons: Whats Bad

1. Bad viewing angles:
This could be blessing for few and nightmare for others. Screen is perfectly colorful, rich in contrast when looked head-on. Flip the screen more than 20 degrees and colors, luminosity,  contrasts start to fade drastically. But how many times do you view your phone like that? For others, it provides additional privacy not offered by other displays. The reason behind poor viewing angles is Sony has used TN display technology rather than IPS.

2. Camera processing:
The camera hardware is pretty capable but Sony has software issues. The software suffers from focus-hunting, back focus (rare), over-sharpened images and high noise (with detail preserved). In general Xperia Z1 vs. Note 3, one can see sharper pictures from Z1, but they are noisier. Sony has history of screwing up software initially, and then improving it over time. The trend has been seen in Xperia smartphones, and alpha camera lineup. It would get better with time.

The camera app also tends to overexpose images by 1-2 stops. Work-around right now is to use manual mode and use -0.7 exposure compensation for taking shots.

It is said that coz Sony had software issues with camera, they removed 4K video support prior to release. If they manage to fix noise issues, 4K should be coming soon.

If Sony is listening, I would like to see more manual controls on camera: Manual focus, manual shutter speed, ISO and aperture.

3. Heavy:
Phone is significantly heavier than any other phones in market. At 170g, its heavier than HTC One, Note 3 and any other android phone. Yet, phone is comfortable.

4. Prone to scratches:
The stock shatter-proof screen guard has its demerits: Its prone to scratches. You’ll have to put screen guard on front and rear in order to avoid ruining the anti-shatter guard. Removing it also removes the Sony logo from front, and your warranty. Make sure you get a good oleophobic, anti-scratch protector.

5. Not a modder’s paradise (yet):
Sony has screwed up bootloader on Xperia Z1. Developers still cant get access to Camera hardware on custom ROMs. As a result, there are not many custom ROMs on Z1. But its a matter of time. Sony would fix the issue with upcoming Android 4.4 update early next year, if not any sooner.
with android 4.3 rollout to Xperia Z1, problem is solved.

6. Underwhelming loudspeaker:
From a Sony phone one expects brilliant loudspeaker (like on good old walkman series), but sadly enough water proofing muffles up the speaker, and quality from the loudspeaker is slightly worse than Samsung Galaxy phones, but its quiet loud for most users. This shouldn’t bother many users. However, 3.5mm audio output is on par with other Snapdragon 800 phones.

Checkout High quality Z1 close-up photos

VERDICT

Xperia Z1 is a phenomenal Sony smartphone. But it may not be right for everyone. After using Note 3, Nexus 5, Optimus G2, I settled with Xperia Z1.

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Xperia Z1 Review Verdict: Good, bad, 8.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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  • daks

    with the galaxy s5 i think that the xperia Z1 is among the best phones of the year

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