Sony Xperia XZ1 Review: A Handy Powerhouse

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The Middle Child of Sony’s Flagship Family

Earlier this year, Sony announced two new Xperia flagship devices that would join the award-winning XZ Premium, the Sony Xperia XZ1 and the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact. While the smallest of the flagship family might not even be paying a visit to our shores, we’ve booked a bit of time with the middle child of the family — the XZ1. Is the 5.2-inch device worth spending your Christmas bonus on? Before we get to that bit, let’s have a recap of its specs first.

Sony Xperia XZ1 specs

  • 2.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • Adreno 540 GPU
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.2-inch Full HD Triluminous Display; 1920×1080 resolution
  • 64 GB of expandable storage
  • 4G, LTE
  • Dual SIM
  • 19-megapixel f/2.0 rear camera with EIS, PDAF, Laser AF, LED flash
  • 13-megapixel f/2.0 wide-angle front camera with EIS
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC
  • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • USB Type-C
  • 2700mAh Battery
  • Android 8.0 Oreo

A Familiar Design with Great Build Quality

Sony has pretty much had the same design language since 2013 when they released the Xperia Z1 smartphone that first had the company’s Omni-balance design. The rectangular shape has been the company’s trademark, but we’ve seen subtle shifts to make the phone feel better in the hand. The Xperia XZ1 retains those sharp corners when looking at it dead on, but the sides are curved to let you clasp the device more comfortably. Some may say that using the same design has made the device look a little dated in a sea of nearly bezel-less devices, but the consistency of the Japanese brand also brings an important aspect throughout their devices — great build quality.

Sporting a unibody metal build, the Xperia XZ1 feels absolutely premium and sturdy. The top and bottom are made out plastic to help the antennas with connectivity, but the frame also has antenna bands to break up all that metal on the sides. No glass on the back for this device, but the display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Aside from that, the phone is also IP68 certified and can survive a dunk in a pool that 1.5 meters deep for 30 minutes. Just make sure you seal the phones SIM trays properly before trying it out.

The Xperia XZ1 has a different take on hybrid SIM trays.

We also can’t remember the last time we’ve handled a flagship with a 5.2-inch display and we definitely appreciated the pocketability of the device despite those large top and bottom bezels. If you don’t have gorilla-like hands like we do and happen to be looking for the flagship device, the XZ1 may be a good choice since the smaller XZ1 Compact isn’t making its way to our shores.

Speaking of the display, you’ve got another staple on Xperia flagships — a Triluminous Display. The IPS panel has a resolution of 1080×1920, which means Sony hasn’t adopted the new display trend of having an aspect ratio of 18:9; not really a necessity for flagship devices, of course. The display is nice and vibrant but you can turn up the saturation by tweaking it in the settings. The display is comfortable enough for long periods of use with great pixel density thanks to the smaller display size at 424 pixels per inch. It’s not best we’ve seen on a flagship device but it’s definitely not the worst either.

Complementing the display are front-firing speakers. They have a nice balanced sound and provide a good stereo experience, but the volume is a little lacking. Thankfully, the Xperia XZ1 retains the headphone jack so you can plug in your cans if you’re in a noisy environment.

It’s Definitely Got the Hardware for a Flagship Device

It’s not unexpected that the Sony Xperia XZ1 packs enough heat for heavy users. It is, after all, sporting the latest flagship SoC in the market today — a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor — paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. During our week with the device, the only time we felt the phone bog down was when we had to conserve power by putting the device in Stamina mode. Day-to-day tasks ran smoothly and we rarely had to clear out tasks running in the background for multitasking.

Benchmark scores aren’t everything, but the Sony Xperia XZ1 definitely scored well on AnTuTu, Geekbench, and on 3D Mark’s Sling Shot.

We had a little trouble with GameBench on the XZ1, but playing NBA 2K17 on the highest settings frame rates played around 30 to 40 fps (at least by our estimation). You’re going to want to bump down details for the sidelines and whatnot to ensure that you get smoother gameplay but its totally playable if you’re a stickler for using the highest settings possible.

Frequent Updates Are Awesome

Sony has put the latest version of Android on the Xperia XZ1 and while you’re not getting it stock, it’s pretty close with only a tiny bit of pre-installed apps. What we like about the device’s software experience is that we got a couple of updates to make sure things were running smoothly. Always a good sign, when it comes to the software side of things and we hope they continue to push updates.

Camera Tracks Like a Beast and Predictive Capture is the Bomb

The Sony Xperia XZ1 has a 19-megapixel rear camera with PDAF and Laser AF with f/2.0 aperture. One of the things we love about the cameras on Xperia flagships is the tracking on the autofocus, which has been even made better by its predictive capture that takes 4 photos before and after you’ve hit the shutter button in case you have fidgety subjects. This is a good feature to have if you happen to have kids who have a tough time sitting still for photographs.

The wife helping me test out the XZ1’s Predictive Shutter

The camera performs rather well with great sharpness and a great pop of color that lean towards the warmer side. In low-light conditions, you’re still getting a good amount of detail despite the visible noise from having to bump up the ISO. One thing we would have loved to see on the XZ1’s camera is better dynamic range though.

Let’s have a look at other sample photos.

If Carlo has Dusty, we have Nymeria the Pitbull.
This flower was swaying in the breeze, but the predictive capture helped get a sharp image.
Visible noise using indoor lighting, but details still appear quite sharp.
Dynamic range on the Xperia XZ1 wasn’t great.
Color accuracy is great though they’re a tad warm.

For selfies, the Xperia XZ1 has a 13-megapixel front camera that does a great job. It has a skin smoothening effect on by default and it can get quite aggressive, so turn it off if you’re not into it. It also has a wide-angle lens, so getting your friends into your photos should be a little easier as well.

Awesome sharpness of the front camera. Mind the pawis. Peace. Mainit.
Skin smoothening ON. A little too aggressive for my taste. It also mutes the colors.

Sony makes some of the best camera sensors in the world, which is why we’ve been pretty disappointed with how the cameras on their flagship devices. We’re not saying that their phone’s cameras perform poorly but, again, we’ve seen better-looking photos with the current flagship devices in the market.

If you’re into shooting video on your phones, then you’ll be happy to know that the Xperia XZ1 can shoot in 4K. The phone has EIS on both cameras so expect it shoot video smoothly albeit a little cropped to stabilize your footage. You can also shoot super slow-motion videos on the device, but it requires some practice to get the timing down right and requires you to have a stellar lighting.

Surprising Battery Life for 2700mAh

We pretty much rolled our eyes when we saw that the Sony Xperia XZ1 was only packing a 2700mAh battery, but don’t count it out. The phone surprised us with its lasting power. We’re not saying that it’s going to last you more than a day, but it’s definitely enough to get you through work hours with a bit of a top up if you plan to head out after. PC Mark’s battery benchmark had it clock in a time of 8 hours and 22 minutes, which is a tad longer than other phones sporting larger battery capacities.

Verdict: Wishing for More Aggressive Pricing

The Sony Xperia XZ1 may look like a little dated compared to other flagship devices in the market, but its performance is definitely on par. It’s got enough oomph for heavier users and, while it doesn’t rock an edge-to-edge display, it offers a great multimedia experience. The build quality is awesome and you can worry a little less about your screen shattering if you happen to accidentally drop the device. If there’s one thing holding us back from giving this device a stellar recommendation, it’s definitely its price tag. At Php 39,990, the XZ1 is up against some serious competition against other flagships.

If you’re a Sony loyalist though, this is one of the best devices they’ve ever put out and the smaller size may be perfect for people looking for a more pocketable device.

Check out our other articles for Sony products.

The Sony Cyber-Shot RX0 and Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV Arrive in the Philippines

Sony’s OmniBalance Era is coming to an End

Sony Explains the Process behind every Android Update Rollout

The Best Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM2, Arrives in Manila

 



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