Review: Sony Xperia XZ1

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Sony are continuing with their 6 month release window, and this time around we’re getting the Xperia XZ series refresh with the latest Xperia XZ1. The latest device includes a great deal of the latest tech avaialble and is also one of the first to be running Android Oreo out of the gate.

It has to be noted that most of the Xperia XZ1’s review will be compared to the recently released Xperia XZ Premium, which includes the same exact chipset, 19MP camera Sensor (IMX 400) similar overall design and secondary attributes. The main advantage of the Xperia XZ Premium is the larger 4K display and larger battery. So it can be argued that the Xperia XZ1 is the smaller brother of the true Sony flagship.

Let’s drive right in a take a closer look at the specification for the Sony Xperia XZ1

  • Android OS, v8 (Oreo)
  • Display: 5.2″ Triluminos display, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, HDR Support
  • Design: Aluminum unibody (slightly curved), Gorilla Glass 5 on the front, IP65/68 waterproofing
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 835 with Kyro 280 CPU(4 x 2.46GHz +4 x 1.9GHz), Adreno 540 GPU, 4GB RAM
  • Memory: 64GB Memory, expandable with microSD card
  • Rear Camera: 19MP 1/2.3″ Sony IMX400 sensor, f/2.0 lens, hybrid laser/phase detection/contrast AF, IR sensor for white balance, LED flash, 4K Video, 1080p@60fps, 720p 960fps (Limited).
  • Front Camera: 13MP camera with 1080p@30fps video and autofocus.
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, hotspot, DLNA, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS/GLONASS/Beidou/Galileo, 3.5 mm audio jack,
  • Modem: LTE Cat.16 (1Gbps/150 Mbps)
  • Other: Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic, 24-bit/192kHz Hi-Res audio, Fingerprint Sensor, S-Force Front Stereo Speakers, Quick Charge 3.0, USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
  • Dimensions:  148 x 73.4 x 7.4mm, Weight: 155 g,
  • Battery: 2,700mAh

The Snapdragon 835 chipset is the go to setup for a beast of a device nowadays. Thankfully Sony are continuing to include a headphone hack, and we also still have Stereo speakers. We’re also still treated with IP65/68 protection. So Sony’s traditional design features are a go.

Now it’s time to take a closer look at the Xperia XZ1 from Sony.

Sony haven’t jumped on the 18.5:9 ratio design just yet; their still rocking the more widely known 16:9 ratio on their device. The design itself is very clearly Sony, and that includes the sturdy frame and big bezels. The metal back and smaller design are prety much the only differences between this and the Xperia XZ Premium

Power button/finger print sensor and camera shutter button on the right side of the device and the volume keys on the left.

Sony again are using USB Type-C on their latest device, which we’re glad to see all of the top smartphone makers making the move too for a faster transition to the superior connection.

Thankfully Sony are also including a 3.5mm headphone back, and not following some other companies launching new devices. Your trusty headphones won’t require an adaptor just yet.

Lastly we have the 19MP camera sensor on the back of the device, along with its flash and focusing sensors. Sadly the camera does not include OIS, which is a shame on sn otherwise stellar spec’d camera.

While we wouldn’t call it a negative, we do feel Sony should take a little more risk with their designs and move away from the subtle changes every couple of months and bring us something fresh and different.

UI

Sony have their own customer launcher with some adjusted and custom UI elements, but most of Android is kept vanilla. It runs smooth and since we’re running Android Oreo, we have some of the new UI features included with the Sony Xperia XZ1

   

   

We’re glad to see Sony continuing their approach and leaving most of Android alone and letting it do its own thing. Everything on the device was smooth and easy to navigate, exactly as it should be.

Camera UI

The Camera app hasn’t changed much within the new device, but thankfully 4K has now become a resolution within the video settings, rather than a separate mode.

 

Swiping up and down is how you can quickly change modes. Automatic is the main mode that most will use, but manual gives you a lot more control over specific settings.

 

As we mentioned previously, thankfully Sony have added the 4K resolution option to the main settings and is no longer a separate mode.

Slow motion can be done in 3 modes. Single shot: which records 960fps for 2-3 seconds, Standard Slow-Mo: 30fps as standard with 960fps trigger when you want to get things super slow, and finally 720p@120fps continuous shooting.

Overall the camera app hasn’t changed much over the years, and if your coming from a previous Sony device you feel right at home, but otherwise you won’t take too long to get use to how things are done. Some settings can be cumbersome to find or change when your in a hurry, but other than that, it gets the job done.

Photos and Video

As we mention above, the camera app doesn’t give many options unless you go full manual mode. So for that we have taken all of our usual images with different modes. First up we have the straight up Auto mode, then we have Manual Mode without HDR, and then again with HDR.

Our breakdown on the photos will be apart of our conclusion at the end of the review.

Auto Mode

Manual Mode (HDR Off)

Manual Mode (HDR On)

Full size images

The above images are resized for viewing on the website. If you wish to check out the full size images, you can do so with the link below.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Full Size Photos

Videos

Now let’s take a look at some videos taken with the Xperia XZ1. The phone supports 1080p/1080p@60fps, 4K@30fps. It also has a 720p@960fps, but this time around we opted not to show it, because of the 2 second limit, it requires great timing to be useless, and we would mostly show you the same demo we did for the Xperia XZ Premium review.

We have taken videos with all of the above resolutions and again including the different modes that are support. This includes the different stability options available.

1080p

1080P@60fps

4K

Overall 4K shows off just how much detail the camera can see, and really makes for some great quality video. Since we don’t have OIS, the device relies on software based stabilisation, which doesn’t always do a great job. So keep that in mind.

Benchmarks

Now it’s time to check out some performance on the Snapdragon 835 that powers the lovely Xperia XZ1. As always we have downloaded and installed all of the top benchmarks to give an idea of how well the device performs. These can be compared to any smartphone review we have done in the past.

3D Mark Ice Storm Extreme 14537
3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited 38933
3D Mark Sling Shot 4932
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme 3717
3D Mark API Overhead OpenGL Es 3.0 155719
3D Mark API Overhead Vulkan 924241
Antutu 169192
Geekbench 3 Single-Core 1823
Geekbench 3 Multi-Core 6473
PC Mark Work 2.0 6456
PC Mark Computer Vision 3507
PC Mark Storage 5925
PC Mark Work 7763

The Xperia XZ1 performance is identical to that of the Xperia XZ Premium, which makes complete sense since we’re talking about nearly identical phones with the same chipset. This can mostly be said about most phones that use the Snapdragon 835, which is most of the top Android devices on the market currently.

Battery Life

Our test is aimed at medium to heavy usage within a 12 hour period and we see how much percentage we have left. It’s not an exact test, but meant to represent how long you would get with typical usage in mind.

Phone Calls20-30 Minutes
Text message/Chat/EmailsThroughout the day(checking) and 20-30 sent
Photos10-20
Video recording20-30 Minutes
Internet browsingThroughout the day(around 30-40 minutes total)
Gaming30 Minutes
YouTube/Netflix30-40 Minutes
ConnectivityWiFi and 4G; mostly 4G
Screen Brightness50-percent

Since we’re dealing with a slightly smaller device compared to the Xperia XZ Premium, we also have a slightly smaller battery at just 2,700mAh instead of the 3,230mAh in the larger device. The 1080p display should also ease on the battery life a little.

Thankfully the Xperia XZ1 didn’t fail to deliver and still manged to offer a decent running time and left us with over 40-percent battery at the end of our 12 hour period. We’re always happy to make it through a full days usage with a decent amount of juice left. It also means that the Xperia XZ1 does slightly batter compared to the Premium due to the 4x less pixels it ever has to push considering we got similar results with a much smaller battery.

Conclusion

It’s conclusion time, and we have had a few weeks with the Sony Xperia Xz1 and it’s now time to share our complete conclusion on the device. As always, we break it down into Design, Display, Camera, Performance, and then finally overall.

Design

Sony have gotten pretty comfortable with their uni-body design, and since we only reviewed the Xperia XZ Premium a few months ago, it’s hard not to draw parallels between the devices. Simply put, the Xperia XZ1 is a smaller brother of the Premium. However, we do prefer the metal back over the glass, as it’s not going to crack from a drop and of course doesn’t show fingerprints as much.

Ultimately our previous sentiment within the review is the underlining thought. Sony’s device looks and feels good, but ultimately have become somewhat stale. Their screens are large, but so are the body size, and with most manufactures using tight bezels and new ratios to provide larger displays in more comfortable bodies; there’s nothing new regarding the Xperia Xz1 design.

The front facing stereo speakers are always a pleasure to see on smartphone, and of course we still have water resistant design, which Sony are the first to include a modern smartphone design with the original Xperia Z.

Perhaps Sony want to be the one offering the normal style of smartphone we have been used too over the last few years. It can’t be argued that Sony have only been making subtle changes to their designs for years, most probably to make it easier to continue their manufacturing lines without increased cost, but we do hope to see them take more risks in the future.

Display

The Xperia XZ1 sits between the bigger brother (Premium) and smaller brother (XZ1 Compact), so with it we have a 5.2-inch 1080p IPS display. It provides great colours, viewing angles, and brightness. It’s a great display that includes HDR10 support, which will provide some amazing colour reproduction when watching Netflix, YouTube, or Amazon HDR content.

The 1080p IPS display may not stand up against some of the other devices on the market. That includes the S8/Note 8 series, and even the upcoming Razer phone has something new to offer on the display side of things. To be clear, the Xperia XZ1 doesn’t have a bad display or anything negative: just nothing too impressive compared to other devices on the market, and that includes some of their previous devices.

Camera

The exact camera inside the Sony Xperia Xz1 is the same we have seen on the Xperia XZ Premium. So this being the second time checking out the performance, we’re mostly dealing with the same conclusion, and by that we mean, Sony are great at making camera sensors.

Sony are one of the leading manufactures for camera sensors, and it’s one of the reasons why we see amazing camera capabilities in their smartphones. Their quality is solid and offers great detailed photos and videos. Their software isn’t always the best and we can definitely see some lacking post processing effects being a culprit for some less than stellar photos compared to their competitors.

Photos and videos will always look great on the device. 4K brings in a lot of detail and sharpness, and we get a decent level of colour throughout. We can’t imagine anyone being displeased with their camera quality on the Sony Xperia XZ1, however, since Sony are so good at making the sensors, we would have hoped to see them better other devices on the market from the likes of Samsung, Google, and even OnePlus.

Performance

We have the top of the line Snapdragon 835 chipset with 4GB’s of RAM. Basically that means the device will handle anything thrown at it. 4K recording was a breeze and didn’t show any issues. High-end gaming was also not a challenge for their smartphone.

It’s easy to sum up the performance of the Xperia XZ1. It’s top notch and won’t have any issues bringing you a complete smooth performance for a long time.

Battery life was decent enough, but could have been slightly better. We have seen devices with similar physical footprints and offer larger internal batteries. Sony battery saving is one of the best on the market, and goes a long way for extending your longevity if it needs too, but obviously that wouldn’t be necessary if the battery was larger. Don’t be mistaken, the Xperia XZ1 will handle a full day of heavy usage, which isn’t at all a bad result and it did a better job against its larger brother (Xperia XZ Premium)

Overall

And that’s pretty much it for our review on the Xperia XZ1 from Sony. This isn’t the best that Sony currently have to offer, but more of a alternative to their flagship Xperia XZ Premium with larger 4K display and larger battery. That being said the 1080p display and more metal design work better for the Xperia XZ1 and bring a slightly better battery life.

Ultimately the Xperia XZ1 is a solid offer from Sony, which aims to bring a decent display, top of the line chipset, great camera, and solid software experience with almost vanilla version of Android 8: Oreo. Their aren’t any real negatives with the Xperia Xz1, but on the flip side their aren’t any truly unique features or write home specs. It’s a great device, but only for those looking for the specific style of smartphone. None the less, anything less that Gold would be inadequte, simply because it does what it offers almost perfectly.

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