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Sony Xperia Z1 review

Michael Sawh



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Sony Xperia Z1
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Our Score:



  • Dedicated camera button for underwater shooting
  • Curvy. more comfortable design
  • Speedy, overall performance


  • Disappointing low-light camera performance
  • Average viewing angles
  • Flimsy latches protecting ports and connections

Key Features

  • Quad-core Snapdragon 800 2.2GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 20.7 MP camera
  • Full-HD 5-inch screen
  • 3000mhA battery
  • 16GB on board storage
  • microSD slot
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: to be confirmed

Are you looking for the: Sony Xperia Z2?

First reviewed: 20/09/2013

What is the Sony Xperia Z1?

Previously going by the codename Honami, the Sony Xperia Z1 is the follow up to the waterproof Sony Xperia Z smartphone launched last year and is the big brother of the more recently released Xperia Z1 Compact.

Hoping to provide some stiff competition for the iPhone 5S, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, Sony is ramping up the camera credentials of the Xperia Z1 by adding a 20.7-megapixel camera sensor. Sony also announced the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth supported QX10 and QX100 lens accessories to turn give the Z1 even greater snapping prowess.

Watch the Sony Xperia Z1 video

The Xperia Z1 also makes some welcome design changes and adds a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor making it one of the most powerful phones around.

It improves on an already great smartphone and has the new features to keep it fighting for the title of best Android phone.

Sony Xperia Z1 - Design & Features

Put the Sony Xperia Z1 side-by-side with the Xperia Z, and there are some minor, yet crucial, differences between the two Sony smartphones. The Z1 features the same glass front and back but now uses a two tone aluminium frame to join the two together.

The Z1 weighs 169g making it considerably heavier than the Galaxy S4 (130g) and the HTC One (143g). At 8.5mm thick, it is slimmer than the One (9.3mm) but not quite as slender as the S4 (7.9mm). It’s actually taller than the Xperia Z (139mm) jumping up to 144.4mm and is thicker than the Z jumping from 7.9mm to 8.5mm.

Some changes have been made to the positioning of ports and connections protected by those flimsy plastic latches. The headphone jack up top is no longer covered by one of those little latches. The wireless charging port, microSD, micro USB ports remain on the left side of the body.

Over on the right, the microSIM slot, smaller on/off button and volume rocker are now joined by a dedicated camera button. There’s a speaker grill on the bottom of the phone, while one of the corners has a hole drilled through it for the addition of a wrist strap.

The good news is that with the flaps all closed the Xperia Z1 is dust-proof is water resistant with a IP58 certification. This means it can survive being fully submerged in more than 1m of water for more than 30 minutes. The addition of the camera button means you can now take photos and shoot video under water.

Despite the overall jump in dimensions, the Sony Xperia Z1 feels much nicer to hold than the Z. The corners are curvier and slightly more pronounced. It seems like a small change, but it makes a world of difference. This is a still a big phone, but there’s no doubting the Z1 is a more elegant 5-inch smartphone than the Galaxy S4.

Sony Xperia Z1 - Screen

Sony has kept faith with the full HD 1080 resolution 5-inch capacitive screen. Tapping into the technology from its Bravia TV range the Xperia Z1 now benefits from Triluminos and X-Reality support. You can switch off the X-Reality for mobile feature which should help conserve battery life.

The aim of packing the Sony TV tech in to the Z1 is to produce sharper images and more accurate colour reproduction. Like the Z, the Z1 also features a scratch-proof screen protector covering the entire front of the phone.

With 441ppi and 16 million colour contrast ratio images are well-detailed, the Xperia Z1 makes the most of the 1920 x 1080p high resolution display. It does lack the colour depth and top level brightness you get on the S4 but it is still a great place to watch full HD content and play games on.

The screen protector has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it will help defend the display against keys and loose change, although it does scuff quite easily. The down side is that it does have an impact on viewing angles, particularly from acute viewing points. Video can look washed out and dull. It doesn’t drastically ruin the viewing experience, but the most eagle eyed will notice it.

The Z1 screen supports 10-finger multi-touch and for getting around the homescreens, pinching and zooming images, browsing the web and typing on the keyboard, it’s offers a good response all round.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


September 4, 2013, 2:58 pm

So I like the sound of this device...apart from one thing. 5" screen in an even bigger chassis? Yikes.

I've got an HTC one which I love...but which it was a slightly smaller screen (4.2-4.5" I guess) - even with long fingers like mine, this is a bit of stretch. Obviously the trade off is if you use it as a pmp then it's better for that than a smaller screen but really, you want something like a Nexus 7 for that (which is what I have).

It erks me that the small phones get lower specs - I know it's cover more of the market but if there was something the size of the HTC One Mini that had the HTC One's specs, I'd be happy. I don't mind the phone being a little chunkier than it is now to accommodate this.

Am I the only one?


September 4, 2013, 6:41 pm

Nope. I think they are missing a trick. I have an Xperia S and found the screen a good size, and was annoyed the Xperia ZR wasn't released in the UK. However I'm a big unit with big mits, and will probably get the Z1 once my S gives up.
I agree that core specs should not be downgraded with size.


September 5, 2013, 11:11 am

I think there's not much Sony could do about the thickness because of the camera. However a full specced Z1 with a 4.3 or 4.5-inch screen would be great. I wonder whether research suggests that consumers go for bigger screen when faced with similar priced models. I will ask.


September 5, 2013, 12:31 pm

If you already have "BOX" 50gb storage from a previous Xperia phone offer then an upgrade without a "cloud" deal on this does not matter. Of course you do get sonys memories cloud storage and can easily add google drive & MS skydrive cant you?
I have pre ordered mine and get a free smartwatch2 which I guess might replace the "euro100" media bundle?

Jack P.

September 5, 2013, 1:02 pm

So, is this the way it's heading? Bigger and bigger smartphones? By the end of 2014 we'll watch movies from the 90's and not laugh when presented to phones from that decade because that size of a brick will be perfectly normal...Geez! The HTC One Mini has a perfect sized screen. The HTC One however is too big. The Z1 is gigantic. If I'm out for a drink or in a club I wouldn't know where to place my Z1! Too big for my 5-pocket jeans and I don't wear jackets inside a club/bar. Women can just slide it into their clutches. Guys normally don't walk around with those. I don't like to admit it but Steve Jobs was right. 3.5-4" screens are enough for smartphones. You want to go bigger, you buy an iPad (Mini)/tablet. A 5" screen? Seriously?!


September 5, 2013, 4:35 pm

Personally the thickness doesn't bother me if it dealt with ergonomically (which it seems this is?) - it's the sheer size. As beardybuck has said, even users with big hands will struggle with a 5" device to use it one handed.

And then there's the thing of looking like a tool when you make a call on a Galaxy Note 2...

If the HTC One Mini had the specs of the HTC One in it's footprint (save the thickness, something's gotta give and a few more mm there would be okay - I reckon you'd be able to accommodate 3mm extra depth on the minis chassis - it would be awesome!


September 5, 2013, 7:33 pm

My Xperia Z is water damaged. Can't believe it. Its about as waterproof as a piece of paper. All the waterproof propaganda from Sony is total bull****

Jonathan Morris

September 5, 2013, 8:36 pm

The Z1 fitted fine in my pocket when I tried it today, and I've got a Z in my pocket right now. I can even squeeze a Nexus 7 in my back (jeans) pocket!

The Z1 actually feels thinner than the Z. It isn't, but the design and more rounded edges gives the feeling... but bear in mind that if you're not after a phone that big, Sony has a 'mini' version in the works - and unlike the HTC One mini or the Galaxy S4 mini, it should still retain both the 20.7MP camera and Snapdragon 800. It will probably have a 720p screen though (but still a very high PPI).

It's a shame the Xperia ZR was never released widely, as that sounds like the phone for you. Smaller, but still with the same camera and CPU/GPU. Maybe hold out for the Z1 mini, or whatever it will be called?

Jonathan Morris

September 5, 2013, 8:38 pm

There's a mini version on the way. Not sure if that could be the big release at CES 2014. If it isn't, and they have something even better, that could make the Z1 a very short lived flagship!

Totally agree about the ZR though. I was half tempted to buy one when I was in Sweden but it was too expensive (looking on high-street though!). Operators obviously thought the SP and Z was enough.

They're probably right. I do hope that Sony moves towards releasing handsets like this on an annual basis, not every 6 months. The Z1 has many improvements, no doubt, but it still looks and feels mostly the same - it's the iPhone 4S/5S of the Xperia range.

Jack P

September 6, 2013, 11:25 am

Thanks for the tips Joanathan. I never knew about a Z1 "Mini" in the works. I hope it's true and that SONY will release it worldwide. My only gripe with the HTC One Mini is that the specifications are modified. No optical image stabilization is also a disadvantage. It also feels a little cheap at a premium price (build quality and spec wise). The Optimus G is a prime example of how to make an affordable smartphone without compromising the specifications. The software that LG provide isn't almost the most exciting or most up-to-date but it works.

Jonathan Morris

September 6, 2013, 1:00 pm

The ZR only compromised the screen and that was fine because you don't need 1080p on a smaller display. I hope the Z1 mini will be exactly the same.

But, operators have to be selective and can't range every single phone. I think another factor (speaking as someone who has worked on the trade side) is that operators are probably asking manufacturers to drop the specs and build to a price. It seems they were all happy with the S4 Mini and HTC One mini, and most of them opted to take the SP. It means it's quite probable they might not take the Z1 mini either.

Still, you can of course buy from any other EU country pretty easily and enjoy the same warranty. I had a brief play with the ZR and it was great, especially with a big choice of colours.

Jack P.

September 8, 2013, 11:35 am

How did it happen? As far as I know you have to make sure that all rubber "flaps" are in place before exposing it to water.

Personally, I would never expose my smartphone to running water. Waterproof or not. I would use it in the rain though without being nervous about it. But running water? No. You should also be aware that moist can enter the phone without exposing it directly to water. Drastic changes in temperature can cause moist inside the phone. It can even occur in water resistant/proof watches.

Dany Gombert

September 9, 2013, 1:04 pm

How did you use it?

I did test mine to take underwater pictures with it without problem.


September 10, 2013, 9:14 pm

it was inside my pocket and i was enjoying rain when i checked phone its stopped working all of sudden nothing is displaying when i connects charger red light comes . when visit sony service center they replied that water damage doesn't comes under warranty if i pay 80% of the total cost of phone they will replace it to the new one . dany i personally suggest you don't be 100% rely on this gadget that it is totally waterproof if any damage gone u will be screwed because sony reply us this phone cannot be repair and open and in case of water damages phone cannot be replace as per their policy . i never ever gonna use sony gadgets again


September 12, 2013, 7:16 pm

Interesting l use my phone for GPS and Strava as l commute daily by bike its been rained on so many times dunked it in water dropped it so many times. works perfectly. l am usually very careful still making sure all the ports are covered.


September 13, 2013, 8:28 am

man where do you stay if in pune india i could most definately help u


September 13, 2013, 1:57 pm

Where did you preorder to get a free smartwatch 2? That sounds too good to be true! :)


September 15, 2013, 4:46 pm

re the screen protector....is this something that you can remove? Also, does this mean buying a front screen protector is pointless if it is removable? Am expecting mine to arrive on friday but I could do with getting case/protector ordered and here for then.

Simão Lúcio

September 20, 2013, 3:08 pm

yes you can remove it


September 20, 2013, 5:44 pm

What about the sound quality of z1 in earphones and it's speaker? I am having z and it's sound quality is very much disappointing. Interested in buying z1 if the sound quality has been improved.

James Earley

September 20, 2013, 9:20 pm

All Xperia Z1 owners get 5 free Sony Pictures films plus one more unannounced film and a 60 day trial to Sony Music Unlimited.


September 21, 2013, 10:06 pm

Obviously no electronic device in completely waterproof. I would ask sony under what conditions this is true. Perhaps you didnt have the ports covered? I wanted to ask them a question myself.

Jim Tapia

September 22, 2013, 7:19 pm

You must wear girly skinny jeans!!! I am by no means a big guy but my note 2 slides into my calvin kleins with no problem. Maybe your to fat in which case a pink iphone 5s is for u.


September 22, 2013, 8:43 pm

i stay in shalimar bagh delhi my friend


September 22, 2013, 8:44 pm

about 80% of the mobile users experiencing same problem i guess u come in rest of 20% lucky one

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