Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Sony Xperia Z1 Review

Sony might be a household name when it comes televisions and audio products but in the smartphone segment, they are only just getting their foot in the door. They did have their fair share of success in their first solo outing (after ditching Ericsson) in the form of the Xperia S, Go, Sola and the Ion. 2013 didn’t really start off too well for Sony however as despite being the first to announce and launch this year’s flagship droids, the response from the market was strictly lukewarm at best. The Xperia Z was a striking phone no doubt, but many niggling issues held it back from reaching the success and fame Samsung’s Galaxy phones do.

Rather than just sitting tight and waiting for next year’s refresh, Sony went back to the drawing board with all the feedback and six months later, we have a refreshed flagship with the Xperia Z1. With a solid spec sheet and familiar design principles, is this enough to keep Sony fans happy without requiring another ‘flagship’ for the holidays? Let’s find out.

Design and Build
The Xperia Z1 may look like the Z from pictures but in reality, is brand new. The main chassis is built using a unibody aluminium frame which makes it feel a lot more rigid than the old model. It’s also gotten a bit of heft but it’s something we can live with. At 170g, the Z1 feels solid to hold and the slight increase in depth (now 8.5mm) gives a much better grip. The notification light is not built into the earpiece and is flanked by the 2MP camera and array of sensors. All the ports are covered by flaps which comply with the IP58 certification. We have a microSD, microUSB and microSIM slots along with the volume rocker, power button and a new addition in the form of a dedicated shutter button. The Z1 is a serious camera phone so adding a manual shutter button was a logical choice.
A good looker 

The speaker and mouthpiece are placed in a wide grille at the bottom and a lanyard is thrown in as well for good measure. Around the back, we have the 20.7MP sensor and Sony’s G lens array for better optics. Sony has taken a beating when it comes to their smartphone optics, especially the high-end droids so we’re hoping the infusion of their Cybershot tech would save the day. The front and back are both protected by a screen guard which holds the glass in place in case it shatters. More than scratches, it’s the fingerprints you need to worry about as it goes from mirror finish to greasy in seconds.

Aluminium frame is a lot sturdier compared to Sony's previous offerings
 We’re happy with what Sony has achieved with the Z1 in terms of design. There’s no overdose of chrome accents nor have they fallen prey to make the world’s slimmest phone. You’re left with a very comfortable smartphone with premium looks to back up the high price tag. 

We’re happy to report that the dull, lifeless screen of the Z has been ditched for the Triluminos display we first saw on the Z Ultra. The brightness and colour contrast gets a huge boost and doesn’t seem washed out or faded in any way. The 5-inch Full HD display gives you ample screen real estate for browsing and watching videos. Sunlight legibility is awful, however, as it’s almost impossible to see anything on the display on a clear day and the sun beating down. In terms of software, we have Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and Sony’s tweaked Xperia skin which made its debut in the Z Ultra. The skin looks the same but there are added elements like toggle switches in the notification bar, a new options menu in the app drawer and few changes to the settings and loading screens. All of this works very smoothly without any lag. There are a couple of ‘small apps’ which can be accessed via the third onscreen button. You can add more from the Play store as well.
The Z1 is powered by Qalcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 800 SoC. This consists of four cores capable of running up to 2.2GHz. Add to this 2GB of RAM and we’re looking at some very smooth UI and app performance. Looking at some benchmarks, we got a pretty impressive 16151 points in 3DMark Ice Store Unlimited benchmark and 28435 in AnTuTu
While you should really take these number with a pinch of salt, it’s safe to say that the Z1 packs in one of the most powerful chipsets out there and is ready for even the most demanding games. However, with great power comes heating issues and the Z1 is no stranger to this. Fire up Google Maps or the camera and you’ll feel the Z1 quickly heat up around the back. 

The Walkman music player is very similar to the ones we’ve seen in the past and so is the video player. There are some new animations but apart from this, nothing’s really changed much. Audio quality is good through headphones and mercifully, the speaker volume is a lot louder compared to the Z and the Z Ultra. It’s not something you’d use to watch a movie but will suffice for alerts. The ClearAudio+ enhancement adds a nice punch to your music. You could also fine tune your audio through a 5-band graphic equaliser along with features such as Clear Stereo, Clear phase, xLOUD and Dynamic normaliser.
The video player won’t read WMV, FLV and some AVI files, but everything else, including MKV files, works just fine. There’s 16GB of onboard memory, which is expandable to 64GB via microSD card. Out of this, you get about 11.7GB for your media. 

A familiar look
As powerful as it gets

Good media capabilities

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