The wait for the sequels to leading flagship handsets is over. With HTC releasing the One Max and Samsung releasing the Note 3, how could Sony stay behind? It has put its own player in the ring – the Sony Xperia Z1, which picks up the mantle from the Xperia Z. Read on our Sony Xperia Z1 review and find out how it fares.
The Xperia Z had some awesome features in tow, besides being waterproof and shockproof, which has become the mark of the Xperia Z series. It beat the pants out of stalwarts such as the HTC One, with its 1080p screen, powerful processor and a 13-megapixel camera.
The Sony Xperia Z1 is expected to do even better – the highlight of this device is a 20.7-megapixel camera on-board. But that’s hardly the whole story. (It never is)
The Xperia Z1 is a premium handset – at a price of 40K it cannot be much else. Or can it? Lets dig in.
As soon as you get your hands on the Xperia Z1, it will remind you of the Xperia Z handset. It has basically the same form factor, which is a travesty, if you look at its bigger sibling the Xperia Z Ultra – it is not too thick, but since it supersedes that device, we were expecting something more from the form factor.
The front is flanked by 5-inch screen, with not too thin a bezel. The screen is 1080p, and generally has a good feel but nothing extraordinary. At the bottom there are three Android capacitive buttons for home, back and recent apps.
The glass finish around the phone lets you feel great whether it be the front or the back, but also makes it a little glossy, very reflective, scratchy and smudgy too, but that wouldn’t let you keep your hands off it – the handset is smooth as silk.
The edges meanwhile are made to be a little thick for shock absorption purposes. This is the one part that will hold together the phone and protect the glass from scratching.
But, to its credit, the handset fits nicely in your palm. Like the rest of the Xperia Z range, it has a power button and volume rocker on the right, alongside a dedicated camera button.
The top of the handset comprises of the 3.5mm audio jack, while the bottom boasts of a speaker.
The handset has covered slots to maintain the water resistance – these include the SIM slot with a pull-out SIM tray on the right and the MicroSD and USB slots on the left. There is also an infrared blaster that comes in handy when you want to use the phone as a remote.
The back of the handset has just one highlight the 20.7-megapixel camera with a g-sensor. Its actually the best part of the handset and you can keep running your fingers over it for the premium feel.
Overall, the 5-inch Sony Xperia Z1 is designed for comfortable one hands usage. Something, that we would want in this device is scratch-resistance, since, the fragility kind of kills the buzz of the handset.
The Sony Xperia Z1 comes with a 1080p screen with a 441ppi pixel density. While th handset could beat the pants out of most displays out there, we kind of think that the GPU lets it down a little bit. The screen is a little too glossy and gets a little too smudgy most of the time.
Android and UI
While the handset comes out of the box with Android 4.2.1, we received an Android 4.2.2 upgrade and were quick to jump on it.
Sony has put in almost all the stuff it has in the other devices from the range such as the Xperia Z tablet and Xperia Z Ultra. Sometimes, and just sometimes, you will feel the dearth of simplicity though since Sony has put in a lot of stuff. Every little detail is taken care of and every feature, every menu and every shortcut is well animated and accessible adding to the premium feel of the handset.
Sony has put in custom skins which add to the feel of the handset. There are quite a lot features to talk about here.
The security features
The handset is endowed with top notch security features designed to protect your information. You can encrypt the phone, lock your SIM card and also set up a remote lock using the My Xperia feature.
You get to choose between managing the Sony API or the Android device manager.
You can easily back and delete stuff from the device or your SDcard.
The device supports a variety of gestures from voice passwords to its talkback feature, which is designed for blind and low-vision users.
You can easily test the device in case you face any troubles, each and every part will go through a test and ask you if you were satisfied by the result.
With the software upgrade, Sony provides you with Xperia Lounge, a specialized contest service for Sony Xperia Z series device owners that has great stuff on offer provided you win.
The Sony Xperia Z1 is pretty versatile when it comes to connectivity. You can easily connect it to a PSP, a TV or pretty much anything else.
Homescreen and Lockscreen
The homescreen is pretty amazing. When unlocked it has the general Android functions, but a hidden jewel is the recent apps shortcut. It has a menu that offers you easy shortcuts for keeping notes on screen, setting a timer or using the calculator.
Sony Select offers a range of recommended apps from Sony.
TrackID is Sony’s take on Shazam and lets you know what you are listening to.
Smartconnect is a feature designed for professionals. It lets you host presentations right from your phone.
Sony JIV and Sony LIV
Both these services offer a consortium of Sony services – JIV in the audio domain and LIV in the video domain.
Third party apps
Third party apps on board include Flipkart books, Gameloft Live!, Box, Magisto Movie maker, Sketch, Pixlr express camera editor, FX file commander and Big Flix.
Over all, the interface and UI are designed to win your heart, even though it might feel overcrowded sometimes.
The Sony Xperia Z1 shines away in terms of OS and UI.
- Battery usage
The battery usage app is also an amazing one which explains how much juice you have left. A special word here for modes such as the Stamina mode and low battery mode. These modes will shut down all the rifraff, as soon as the phone is off and let you get by – we spent as many as 3 hours on just a 5 percent charge.
The handset is endowed with the quintessential Sony charm when it comes to multimedia. Whether it be playing music, movies or running images, the handset does so efficiently.
The high-end camera on the handset is a premium one since, the only camera that ranks above it currently is the Nokia Lumia 1020. It works quite well, most of the time.
The camera app though, has a lot on offer, and it is truly a unique creation from Sony. For the simplistic-minded , the Sony Superior Auto mode is recommended and easy to use.
If you want to set your own stuff, the manual mode is recommended. The Burst mode is definitely an amazing feature and the phone doesn’t give up even at 500 clicks, which is great.
There are also many fun effects and filters on board which let you tweak your photos as you want.
A special word here for the AR effect that will create amazing scenes with computer animation, right on your phone.
The Social Live Mode is another thing which lets you strut your stuff online, easily.
The picture effects and sweep panorama are just run of the mill though.
The Sony Xperia Z1 is endowed with a variety of modes.
The Soft skin and soft Snap modes are aimed towards providing softness to photos of people.
Soft Skin Mode
Soft Snap Mode
The Anti-Motion Blur, meanwhile captures objects in motion.
Night Portrait mode
Night Scene Mode
The Landscape, Night Portrait and night scene speak for themselves.
Hand-held Twilight Mode
The Hand held twilight mode is another mode for taking shots at night.
A high-sensitivity mode will make the camera more color sensitive.
While the Gourmet, Pet, Beach, Party, sports and document modes work well, we used the fireworks mode around Diwali but had disappointing results.
See the man? He is the same man from the first photo zoomed in.
While the outdoor shots perform pretty well, the low-light shots kind of kill the buzz and ruin the joy of an otherwise amazing 20.7-megapixel camera.
Sony has loaded in Pixlr express and sketch, but in totality, you will feel at the end of the day that there is something holding back this camera from being professsional grade, which is what it should be ideally.
The Xperia Z1 builds on the success of the Xperia Z handset. It is endowed with a great display, superb graphics, an amazing battery and a great camera.
But, the biggest competitor for the Sony Xperia Z1 is its own sibling – the Xperia Z, which has most of the same features except the camera, but comes at a much cheaper price. Since both these handsets were launched in the same year, both of them will compete with each other rather than aiming at different categories. The Sony Xperia Z1 is at the end of the day, a little too pricy at around 39-40K. If one is about to venture that high, a little more would get you attractive handsets such as the Nokia Lumia 1020, iPhone 5S and Note 3, which are also coming in clubbed with great deals.
While the premium part is fulfilled when it comes to this handset, it is the pricing part that ultimately bogs it down.
Sony has made a gamble on the camera, but since it simply isn’t that appealing that we would empty our pockets to get our hands on this handset, it did not pay off.
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