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Monday, April 13, 2015
Sony Xperia Z1 Review And Spces
The Sony Xperia Z was the company's flagship handset from earlier this year, and while its Full HD screen and 13-megapixel camera ticked the necessary high-end Android boxes, we weren't so keen on its hard plastic edges and slab-like design. Surprisingly, considering that the Z has only been on sale for around six months, Sony has now launched a successor - the Sony Xperia Z1.
It looks similar, with its square edges and GLASS front and rear, but the frame is now metal instead of glass fibre. This is cool to the touch, and makes the phone significantly more comfortable to hold than the Z, as well as better-looking; we particularly like the version with the white rear. Like the Xperia Z and Tablet Z, the Z1 is also waterproof; it will cope with 30 minutes immersed in fresh water at a depth of up to 1.5m.
All this power certainly translates into real-world performance. Real Racing 3 was beautifully smooth, so demanding 3D games aren't a problem, and we can't imagine Android being much slicker. Apps open and close quickly, and home screen transitions are beautifully smooth. Complicated web pages render quickly, and there's barely a hiccup when flicking around past large images; there was none of the hesitation we see on many Android phones, even powerful models such as the LG G2.
he Sony Xperia Z1 has a 5in, 1,920x1,080 display, which is currently de rigeur for a top-end smartphone. At first we felt the Z1's screen looked a little cold when compared side by side with aSamsung Galaxy S4's panel, but on closer inspection the Z1's IPS display has more accurate colours; the S4's AMOLED screen has a very slight yellow cast.
As expected, blacks aren't as deep as on the S4 or the G2's screen, but we feel the Z1'spure whites make up for this, and the screen is easily bright enough to read on a sunny day. There have been some comments about the Z1's screen having narrow viewing angles, but seeing as we always use phones facing the screen straight-on, it didn't bother us. The only problem we had with the Z1's display was that something about its surface coating attracts pocket dust.
The Sony Xperia Z1 has finally being upgraded to Android 4.4 KitKat, bringing this great phone bang up to date. The release of the new software started on 10 April 2014 and Sony has also updated its stock email and camera apps. Android 4.4 KitKat has great features like Google Now, so you can control your phone and search the web using your voice. Multitasking and managing apps is also a lot easier, while the operating system has been optimised to be quicker and improve battery life.
Despite the Sony Xperia Z2 being just weeks away, the Xperia Z1 shouldn't be forgotten. You can pick one up for £426, which is £120 less than its launch price. By comparison the shiny new Xperia Z2 will set you back £535.
The Z1's version of Android is fairly heavily customised, but as with all Sony's current handsets, it's classily done, with some tasteful custom icons and a preference for sombre colours over the brash primaries of Samsung and LG's handsets. There's a fair amount of Sony software installed, which mainly serves to sell you Sony content, but it's easy enough to remove if you're not interested in buying music and videos from Sony's services. Out of the box the X1 has around 12GB free for apps and files, and you can add more space with the microSD card slot.
We like the home screen management. A long press on a vacant bit of screen will show you a carousel of your homescreens and let you move widgets and icons around, while the bottom-third of the screen contains the apps and widgets to drag and drop on to spare Desktop space. It’s a neater system than the stock Android app tray, split into apps and widgets.
Conclusion and camera
The Xperia Z1 has a camera with a headline-grabbing 20.7-megapixel sensor. The only phone we've seen capable of capturing more pixels is the amazingNokia Lumia 1020, but Nokia's handset has a bulge on the back to hold the camera assembly. Also, while the 1020's sensor is a big 1/1.5in model, the Z1's is a compact camera-style 1/2.3in. This is still bigger than the sensors in most smartphones, including the iPhone 5S.
The Z1 doesn't take 20-megapixel photos by default. During our testing, we found that if we left the phone in Superior Auto mode, it would always produce 8-megapixel images. This is because, like the Lumia 1020, the Z1 uses oversampling. This is the process where the phone uses the large amount of information from the sensor to pick what it feels are the most accurate pixels, discarding those it deems inaccurate to form a smaller 8-megapixel image.
Unfortunately, we weren't particularly impressed with the camera. Even with oversampling turned on, our low-light photo test was noisy with blurred details; images were significantly worse quality than the LG G2's photos, and a world away from those we saw from the Nokia Lumia 1020.
In low light the Xperia Z1's photos (above) show blurry details and excessive noise, and compare poorly to the LG G2's images (bottom) - click to enlarge
In daylight, we weren't blown away by either the full-size or oversampled images. Full-size images resisted pixilation for longer as we zoomed in, but as the image descended into a blurry, noisy mess, this was hardly an advantage. Images showed accurate colours and resisted the overexposure so common to smartphone cameras, but blurry edges and fuzzy details are not something we'd expect to see from a high-end smartphone.
Things aren't much better in daylight. The Z1's photos (top) look flat and indistinct compared to the competition, and when you zoom in, they descend into a mass of noise - click to enlarge
The Sony Xperia Z1 is a definite improvement over the Sony Xperia Z, but smartphones are still improving rapidly and it's actually lost ground to the competition. It has a great screen and a fast processer, while the arrival of Android 4.4 KitKat has improved things markedly. The camera on the Z1 is hugely dissapointing and lets the phone down badly, especially compared to the amazing cameras on the HTC One (m8) and Samsung Galaxy S5.
Sony was still a step behind its rivals with the Z1, something that was only partially addressed by its successor the Xperia Z2. The likes of Samsung, HTC and now even LG all make better Android phones and despite some great plus points both the Z1 and Z2 fail to tick all the boxes. This is now a very old phone and deals are hard to come by. It was a decent handset at the time but is no longer worth considering.