Sony Xperia XZ1 Review
Sony unveiled their latest premium smartphone for the second half of the year, the Sony Xperia XZ1, at the IFA 2017 in Berlin a couple of months ago. It’s a solid Android phone with a premium build, powerful internals and cameras, and the latest Android 8.0 Oreo. But can it keep up with the other premium-tier devices in the market? Let’s find out.
Design and Construction
Sony can be somewhat conservative when it comes to their design, considering that most of its competitors are starting to eliminate bezels on their flagship devices, but the XZ1 looks are not to be frowned upon.
The XZ1 features a loop surface with a seamless metal body that surrounds the exterior, as well as diamond cut edges. Add to that the Corning Gorilla Glass 5, and IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. It’s cool in the hands and the rounded sides make it comfortable to hold.
On the front, we have the 5.2-inch Full HD display. Found above it is the 13MP camera, earpiece/speaker, Notifications LED, and sensors. While down below is the main loudspeaker.
Looking to the left, we can see two antenna bands and the removable flap for the SIM/microSD card trays. We’re a bit concerned that Sony still uses this type of cover as the seal on the flap can deteriorate over time.
To the right, we have the volume rocker, the Home/Lock button which also doubles as a fingerprint scanner, and the 2-stage dedicated shutter button for the camera.
Up top is the 3.5mm audio port, and a secondary microphone, while down below are the USB-C port and main microphone.
Flip it on its back and you will see the 19MP Motion Eye camera, sensors, LED flash, and NFC.
Overall, the Xperia XZ1 may have an outdated design compared to its competitors, but it still looks good and feels premium all the way.
Display and Multimedia
The Xperia XZ1 has a standard display size of 5.2 inches. Although competitors are going for QHD screens, Sony equipped it with Full HD which equates to 401ppi which is still good for day-to-day use. It supports HDR and features Dynamic Contrast Enhancement.
Quality-wise, it has rich colors with plenty of details. You can even adjust the display’s color gamut, contrast, and white balance, as well as activate video image enhancement inside the Settings.
When it comes to audio, the Xperia XZ1 has two front-facing speakers for a stereo effect, although we noticed that the bottom speaker is louder than the one at the top. It’s loud and crisp, lacking in bass, but good enough for gaming, watching videos, or listening to music.
OS, UI, and Apps
The Sony Xperia XZ1 is ahead of the pack when it comes to software as it runs Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box. It’s skinned with Sony’s own UI which is evident in the layout, wallpaper, and some icons, but overall it’s still close to stock.
Pre-installed apps are kept to a minimum like Facebook, Amazon Shipping, Spotify, and AVG Protection for Xperia (Trial). The rest are from Google and Sony.
Storage-wise, the XZ1 has 64GB of onboard storage with 50.97GB of usable space which is still sizeable. You can further expand it via a microSD card but at the expense of the SIM 2 slot.
While Sony produces image sensors for many of the smartphones in the market, the company equipped the Xperia XZ1 with one of their latest and most powerful, the 19MP 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS Motion Eye with a memory-stacked image sensor. Selfies, on the other hand, are powered by a 13MP 1/3.06-inch Exmor RS wide-angle camera. The rear camera is packed with features like Predictive Capture which automatically starts buffering images seconds before you press the shutter button; Autofocus burst, which tracks and captures sequences of moving objects for less out-of-focus shots, and 960fps slow-motion.
Other features include a manual mode, AR effect, Creative effect, Sound Photo, and Panorama. There’s also a 3D Creator which takes advantage of the device’s camera and sensors to produce a 3D render of a subject. It’s a cool feature but takes a bit of practice.
Images produced are of great quality with plenty of details, good dynamic range, and rich colors, especially when shooting outdoors. It’s not perfect though as it tends to oversaturate reds sometimes and is prone to glare when shooting subjects against the light. In low-light cases, sharpness and detail deteriorates a bit but still good enough for social media upload. Autofocus is fast and accurate and even it has object tracking. It’s also stabilized so you will still be able to take photos with less blur in slower shutter speeds.
Video recording, on the other hand, can shoot up to 4K resolution at 30fps in H.264 and H.265 formats. You also have the option to record in Full HD 30fps or Full HD 60fps. Quality is good, stabilized, and has good dynamic range. As for slow-motion 960fps, it can produce amazing results as you will see in the sample below. On the downside, it maxes out at HD resolution and the focus is fixed. In addition, it can’t record slow-motion continuously, meaning you will have to press the slow-motion button at the right moment which can be a hit or miss.
Performance and Benchmarks
Powering the Xperia XZ1 is Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 CPU, Adreno 540 GPU, and 4GB RAM. These are specs worthy of a flagship device and handled everything we threw at it. Multitasking is a breeze and we had no problems running games like FIFA, Vainglory, and Mobile Legends. We ran our usual benchmark tools and here are the results:
* AnTuTu – 167,886
* Geekbench – 1,819 (Single-Core), 6,430 (Multi-Core), 7,919 (RenderScript)
* PC Mark – 7,784 (Work 1.0), 4,984 (Storage)
* 3D Mark – 3,594 (Sling Shot Extreme)
* Vellamo – 4,016 (Multicore), 3,450 (Metal), 2,984 (Chrome)
* AndroBench – 666.58 MB/s (Read), 204.73 MB/s (Write)
Connectivity and Call Quality
The Xperia XZ1 packs the basic connectivity features like Cat 16 LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, A-GNSS (GPS + GLONASS), Google Cast, NFC, and USB 3.1 Gen 15 / USB Type-C. Gyroscope, accelerometer, and pressure sensor are also on board.
Call quality is good thanks to noise canceling, while mobile data is fast and stable as long as the area has good signal coverage.
Sony equipped the Xperia XZ1 with a 2,700mAh which is smaller compared to the older Xperia XZ Premium with 3,230mAh capacity. Light to moderate usage, consisting of heavy social media browsing on WiFi and moderate photo taking, gets us about 8 hours of life. Going heavy on the camera and mobile data gets us about 6 to 7 hours.
Our video loop test yielded 12 hours and 37 minutes of playback which is not bad, while PC Mark rated it at 11 hours and 52 minutes. You can further prolong the battery life by activating Stamina mode or Ultra Stamina mode inside settings. Charging the battery from 0% to 100% using a Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 charger takes a little over 2 hours.
Sony is playing it safe with the release of the Xperia XZ1. It sports the same old design and feels like a toned-down version of the Xperia XZ Premium. However, it was able to deliver the essentials that most people are looking for in a flagship smartphone – premium build, water and dust-resistant body, good display, amazing cameras, great performance, and cool imaging features. It’s a bit pricey though at Php39,990, and at that asking price, some might be compelled to go for other models with a better design, higher display resolution, larger screen, or bigger batteries. But if the pros mentioned above is what you’re looking for, the Xperia XZ1 won’t disappoint.
Sony Xperia XZ1 specs:
5.2-inch FHD HDR TRILUMINOS Display, 401ppi
X-Reality for mobile picture engine
Dynamic Contrast Enhancement
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 CPU
Adreno 540 GPU
Up to 256GB via microSD
19MP 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS memory stacked image sensor (rear)
Super slow motion 960fps video capture
Predictive Capture (MOTION/SMILE)
Triple image sensing technology
Predictive Hybrid Autofocus
SteadyShot with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stabilization)
4K video recording
13MP 1/3.06-inch Exmor RS for mobile image sensor (front)
22mm wide-angle lens, ISO 6400, F2.0
Dual-SIM (nano, hybrid)
LTE (4G) Cat16
A-GNSS (GPS + GLONASS)
USB 3.1 Gen 15 / USB Type-C
High-Resolution Audio (LPCM, FLAC, ALAC, DSD)
Digital Noise Cancelling
Stereo Speaker S-Force Surround Sound
Qualcomm aptX HD audio
Android 8.0 Oreo
2,700mAh battery w/ QC 3.0
148 x 73 x 7.4mm
Moonlit Blue, Venus Pink, Warm Silver, Black
What we liked:
* Premium build
* Good display
* Great cameras
* Good performance
* Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box
What we didn’t:
* Old design