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Sony Xperia Z1 Review

Just after 8 months, Sony has made its Z better with the Z1

By Asif Iqbal on Tuesday 22nd of Oct 2013

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Sony gave the world its answer with the Innovative Xperia Z. Although with a few shortcomings, the device bought a fresh life to the portfolio of SONY. Now just after 8 months down the line. Sony made its Z better with the Z1. The Sony Xperia Z1 is one of the most exciting smartphones of 2013. To stand out in the crowd of the Top notch flagships  iPhone 5S, LG G2 and the Galaxy Note 3. Sony had to push its boundaries of innovation further for this device to truly stand out. The Z1 like the Z has a strikingly attractive and distinguishable design is water-resistant, dust proof and shatter resistant. The changes might be subtle on the exterior but the Z1 is a giant leap in terms of features, functionality and specifications.We dug into the phone for 2 weeks, and here is our experience with the Beast from Sony.

Design & Build Quality

Starting off with the design, the Sony Xperia Z1 looks almost similar to the Xperia Z from a distance. But you can notice the design improvements when you use it. The aluminium frame and rounded off edges makes this better to hold compared to the original Xperia Z.The device is a comparatively thicker. But the difference is due to the power punching camera Sensor incorporated in this device. The Aluminium frame, in addition to the glass panels at the front and the back give this phone a premium look. The device is a bit heavy at 170 grams. The Xperia Z1 is IP57 and IP58 standards compliant, which means that it can withstand being submerged in water for up to 1.5 meters up to 30 minutes. All the ports except the headphone jack are sealed with removable air-tight plastic flaps. With this Sony managed to remove one of  the achilles heel of  gadgets. Sony managed to keep the 3.5 mm jack open this time, making it a great accessibility add-on without being insecure.The only complain one can make is, the bezels around the screen being a tad larger than the competitors. The buttons are nicely tactile.There is  a dedicated 2-stage camera shutter button which is good to have as not a lot of brands use them in spite of camera being one of the most talked about features of high-end smartphones.The power button rests in the middle and this differentiating design language is now being used in almost all its phones. Although we like the way it looks on the phone. It might take a bit to get used to, and locking the phone with a single hand proves to be tough task indeed.

 

Camera & Display

Sony has gone a few notches up with the Camera,borrowing from its highly successful cameras department. It comes with a 20.7 MP camera with a largish 1/2.3 inch EXMOR RS sensor. Sony, for the first time in a smartphone, has used the homegrown 5-Element F/2.0 Sony G lens and BIONZ image processor. We are let down that the Z1 does not come with a Xenon flash or the Highly helpful OIS. Inspite of this shortcomings, The Xperia Z1 really shines in terms of image quality. It is second only to the Lumia 1020 which produces a bit warmer images with a bit better details, thanks to a 1/1.5 inch mammoth camera sensor. The colours output in the images shot with Xperia Z1 is great and the auto-exposure sometimes defie even the Lumia 1020, especially in the close-up shots. The disappointment though is, the amount of artifactual noise created due to over post-processing of images.

The camera comes second only to the Lumia 1020

There are a lot of modes to choose from. Some of the notable ones among  them are Superior Auto and Time Shift Burst modes. The superior auto mode automatically selects the optimum values for settings such as ISO, exposure and scene. It also follows what Nokia does with the 5 MP mode in the Lumia 1020. A process called “pixel-binning” is performed where a 20.7 MP image is captured and then resized to 8 MP which should theoretically results in to sharper and noise free images. The camera is very quick and there is almost no shot-to-shot lag. In fact, it can shoot 61 images in just 2 seconds (when the time-shift burst mode is activated). The Xperia Z1 can shoot great videos in full HD 108p at 30 FPS. There are no missed frames and thanks to high scan rate, the live video feed which is seen through the camera interface is very smooth and lively. The videos are not as smooth when the user is in motion, due to lack of OIS and it is the reason why Xperia Z1 can’t match the LG G2, HTC One and Lumia 1020 in terms of low-light performance. Sony’s over post-processing results in to artefacts and noise which is evident when you view them at 1:1 ratio. But it is what only a discerning eye can find out. This points to Sony’s in-expertise in creating a balanced image post-processing algorithms. The good thing is, such issues can be solved with software updates and we hope Sony pushes out the  needed improvements soon. If you are the one who only uses images and videos to upload on social networks, such small issues won’t affect the experience. Overall, the camera performance is second only to the Nokia Lumia 1020. While the Lumia 1020 has the best camera sensor in any smartphone right now but has the downside of a still catching up OS. Sony Xperia Z1, on the other hand, has the best camera sensor that fits in a sleek, usable body and comes with the most widely used OS in the world.

Sony is still lagging in the display department.

The screen is tack sharp, thanks to a full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution and 441 PPI display. The contrast is very good when looked straight from the top but when the screen is tilted either ways, the contrast starts dropping. The screen brightness and sunlight visibility are really mind blowing. Sony tells us that Z1 uses the same display panel which the Z Ultra was equipped with. The viewing angles, are still only 80-90% as good as the ones from competitors like HTC One and iPhone 5.

Sound Quality & Multimedia

The loudspeakers are good. They are louder than Xperia Z and Xperia Z Ultra . The sound quality in headphones is exceptional but the volume levels are not the best that we have seen. The in-built music and video players are one of the best. The “Walkman” music player has a lot of audio effects and visualisation options. The video player supports almost everything. We like the big controls making it easier to handle while watching videos. Wi-Fi Direct, MHL port, DLNA and Miracast lets the user beam the images, videos, audio and even the whole UI to compatible devices like LCD televisions. The whole experience is smooth and there is minimal lag.

Software & UI

The Xperia Z1 comes with Android OS v 4.2.2 (Jelly bean). Nothing much has changed from the Xperia Z. One notable feature is the accurate haptic feedback. Although many will like this stripped down, minimal skin approach giving the user maximum of the vanilla Android. Some might find it lagging in Functionality with the successful skins of LG and Samsung. Mini apps, an inspiration from Samsung devices, lets users use useful apps like calculator, web browser, timer, calendar and notes whose small windows floats on the top of any screen. They can be started from the multitasking menu.

Sony offers many free bundles from the company’s entertainment division. A free 60-day subscription to Music Unlimited, 10 free PlayStation Mobile games, and six free movies will be bundled with every Xperia Z1 purchase — intended to give it an edge over other competitors and make more users engage in the Sony ecosystem. This would be a far better differentiator if Sony’s services were more competitive, but we find little reason to lock  into a single Android phone vendor’s ecosystem when Google and others provide better alternatives.

Performance & Gaming

This thing absolutely flies

This thing absolutely flies. That’s the perfect statement that can be attributed to Xperia Z1′s performance.   The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 does wonders in terms of performance, be it web browsing, gaming or general operations. It comes with 4 Krait 400 CPU cores and Adreno 330 GPU. Right now, the Adreno 330 GPU is the best mobile GPU in the world. Any game thrown at it gets the smoothest possible treatment at a consistent frame rate of 60 FPS. The phone never shows a hint of lag anywhere.

Call Quality & Battery Life

Thanks to dual microphones and a noise cancellation algorithm, both the persons on the call can hear each other clearly and the call quality is very good. The earpiece cranks out smooth and loud voice. There is an option which lets you set equaliser for voice on calls. Yet another unique option also lets you slow down the speed of a person you are conversing with.

The Stamina mode is unlike anything we have seen

Xperia Z1 has a beefier body when compared to Xperia Z and a large 3000 mAh Li-Ion battery is the reason for it. It lasts more than 24 hours on 3G calls which is an exceptional achievement for a smartphone. We feel that Sony has shipped an unfinished firmware in the Xperia Z1 to rush the phone to the stores before the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. The battery life can be much better than what it is currently, especially in the web browsing and video playback (6 hours right now). Rumour says that Sony is working on a software update that improves the battery life and camera performance by quite a good margin.

Pricing

The Sony Xperia Z1 price in India is at INR 44,990 in the Sony Store. You can get it for around 40 k At stores. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is selling for around INR 37,000 in spite of being 8-9 months old. The Nokia Lumia 1020′s price in India is INR 49,990 and was released just this week in the market. We can say that the Xperia Z1 is competitively priced. On top of that, Sony is also bundling an additional 5000 mAh battery charger worth INR 3,000, a premium leather case worth INR 2,990, 6 months of accidental damage cover and 5 free movies with it.

Sony C6902/L39h Xperia Z1 Quick Specs

OS Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Processor Quad-core 2.2 GHz Krait 400
Touchscreen Capacitive touchscreen Display Resolution 1080 x 1920 pixels
Display 5" TFT Primary Camera 20.7 MP
Dimensions 144 mm x 74 mm x 8.5 mm Weight 170 g

Online Stores

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Bottomline

Sony Xperia Z1 is the best Android smartphone to buy right now.
85
Gadgetronica
score

Sony, in a short time came with a note worthy upgrade. The same premium design is carried forward in this device.

With water resistance Sony has now solved the Achilles heel of electronic gadgets. The 20 MP Shooter is a class apart, and produces one of the best images in its class. One thing where this falls behind is the OIS which helps deliver amazing low light Photography in the 1020 and G2. The Raw power of this device is amazing and the phone is literally lag free, and took all tasks and games we threw at it with ease. Call quality and batttery are decent enough. Display and Software are the two drawbacks this phone has. Poor viewing angles and lack of features as present in competitors is where Sony is lagging behind.

With all the pros and cons, Sony brings more to the table in its price range. It brings good design which many phones in the android market now lack. It has an extraordinary camera and mind blowing lag free performance. For this Diwali the Xperia Z1 might just be the perfect buy for yourself.

Sony C6902/L39h Xperia Z1
Pros
  • Excellent camera
  • Water and dust resistant
  • Lag free performance
  • Decent battery
Cons
  • Display is lagging behind
  • Software Skin can be more functional
Sony C6902/L39h Xperia Z1 Review Scores

Storage And Media

Software

Display

Camera

Battery

Design

Ecosystem

Call & Connectivity

Performance

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