Sony Xperia XZ1 Review: A Polished Experience, But Still Too Cliche

Sony’s latest premium smartphone the Xperia XZ1 takes cues from the company’s earlier 2017 flagship, the Xperia XZ Premium. It has got a solid build quality, latest Snapdragon processor, long battery life, and capable cameras. It’s also evident that Sony hasn’t yet reached that goal to perfect its flagship device. We try to scrutinise the Xperia XZ1 on many fronts to give a clear picture. Here’s our detailed review.

Sony Xperia XZ1 specifications: 5.2-inch LCD, 1920x1080p Full HD display with Gorilla Glass 5| Snapdragon 835 processor| 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM (expandable)| 19MP rear camera + 13MP front shooter| 2700mAh battery| Android 8.0 Oreo

Sony Xperia XZ1 price in India: Rs 46,990

Sony Xperia XZ1 Design, Display review

The Xperia XZ1 has Sony’s distinctive rectangular design. It is different from other phones available in the market that feature more rounded corners. Let’s be clear on at least one thing: the design may look old fashioned to some which I have to admit but the phone is not uncomfortable to hold. I’m fond of compact phones, and the Xperia XZ1 is just right for a user like me. It weighs a paltry 156 grams and measures 7.4 mm in terms of thickness. Having an all-metal design and gentle matte finish, Sony Xperia XZ1 feels solid in the hand. The colour of our review unit was ‘black’, and it does look like what you’d expect to see on a premium phone.

On the right-hand side of the phone is the power button, volume rocker, and a dedicated camera shutter button. I have always liked a camera shutter button because it’s easy to launch the camera by pressing the button and capture the moment. Like some earlier Xperia phones, the fingerprint scanner on the Xperia XZ1 is placed underneath the power button, instead of the back or on the front as with every other high-end phones from the competition. It’s a clever positioning to unlock the phone – and during my testing I found to it be fast and responsive. A USB Type-C port can be seen at the bottom. The single camera lens sits on the top left corner, and the subtle Xperia logo is in the middle

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The left edge of the device is the SIM and MicroSD card slot. What’s unusual though about the placement is that every time you open to door the phone automatically reboots. This problem has been flagged off to Sony many a times in the past, but the company hasn’t found a solution it seems. Like every other Xperia phone, this device also has IP68 dust and water resistance. Sony promises the audio experience on the Xperia XZ1 will be better than the competition, thanks to its front-facing speakers which sound loud and clear in my testing. The 3.5mm headphone has also been included, which is a huge plus point.

On the front, the Xperia XZ1 features a 5.2-inch, Full HD (1920 x 1080) display. Corning Gorilla 5 protects the screen. This isn’t an 18:9 screen like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the iPhone X. Nevertheless, the screen is very good for watching movies and videos. It offers good colour gamut, contrast and viewing angles. The display panel works fine in outdoors as well. However, don’t expect something at par with what you get on the Samsung Galaxy S8. The Xperia XZ1 also supports HDR video, though I doubt it is a must-have feature at the moment.

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Yes, I’m a believer in Sony’s minimalistic design approach but unfortunately the time has come when the company should really accept the reality. In the age of the “bezel-less” design trend, the phones have minimal bezels and edge-to-edge displays, such as the iPhone X, Galaxy Note 8 and Mi Mix 2. But the Xperia XZ1 sticks to a flat top and bottom – resulting in a dated design. But we’re sure the next high-end smartphone from Sony won’t look like the Xperia XZ1. The company has confirmed that it’s next phone will have a new design, so wait for the next year.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Hardware, Battery review

Powered by Qualcomm’s latest octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor, Adreno 540 GPU and 4GB RAM, the Xperia XZ1 is fairly capable device. In fact, Sony Xperia XZ1 has pretty much the same specifications as the Galaxy S8 ( the Indian version uses an Exynos 8895 SoC) and HTC U11. The Xperia XZ1 offers a total of 64GB onboard storage, expandable up to 256GB via a microSD slot.

Performance-wise, it handled everything I threw at it with ease. It feels snappy and apps load much faster. I was able to play graphics-intensive games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne and Real Racing 3 without any issues. I was surprised to note that the phone didn’t get hot after playing a long gripping session of Asphalt 8. That’s itself shows that the Xperia XZ1 is a high-performance device.

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As for battery life, even though the 2700mAh cell is small, it gets through a day of use. Using the Xperia XZ1 as my primary device for a week, listening to two hours of music via Bluetooth earphones, snapping out photos at various intervals, browsing the web, watching videos while commuting and with hundred of emails, it would last a day. The supplied AC adapter will provide fast charging, since there’s a support for Quick Charging 3.0.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Software, Camera review

Sony Xperia XZ1 is one of the first non-Google phones running Android 8.0 Oreo. The latest mobile OS brings a ton of new features and additions, including notification dots, picture-in-picture video, and more. True to Sony, the company has tweaked the user interface heavily. You’ll find a lot of pre-loaded apps including PlayStation, Xperia Lounge, and SonyLIV. Even though the phone is running the latest version of Android, the default skin looks jaded. If you want an interface closer to stock, the Galaxy S8 or the HTC U11 might be the better options.

One of the marquee features of the Xperia XZ1 is its 3D Creator app that essentially allows you to 3D scans of individuals, food, faces, and so on. You can get them printed in case you own a 3D printer. The idea is itself intriguing, and its long-term prospects are fascinating. Although the end results came out really well, it isn’t simple to understand for a user. At least, I struggled a lot during my testing.

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Camera sees a big improvement on the Sony Xperia XZ1, though it still uses a single camera lens. The back camera features a 19MP sensor with a f/2.0 aperture, electronic image stabilisation, laser autofocus and predictive phase detection. The camera is capable of taking good shots in daylight, especially outdoors. It captured rich details in good light, though I found that it sometimes oversaturated the photos. In low light, it performed above average, producing good if not quite spectacular images. The “predictive phase detection autofocus” which Sony has been adding to its top end phones over the past year or so brings value to the camera. The phone doesn’t come with a portrait mode, which means even through a software trick you simply cannot blur the background in the photos.

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The killer feature of the Xperia XZ1 camera is to shoot slow motion video at 960 fps at 720p. This feature works best when there’s sufficient natural light. The phone also shoot videos in 4K. The selfie camera in the front also did a solid job, producing detail rich images.

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Sony Xperia XZ1 Verdict

Sony tried really hard to make the Xperia XZ1 standout from the crowd and its performance is generally good. It’s a well-made phone that feels good in the hand and has a good camera, if not the best, with long battery. As we mentioned in the beginning, the Xperia XZ1 is a solid option but it’s hard to recommend the phone even at this price range. If it had launched last year, we would have recommended the phone. With the coming of bezel-less and dual camera smartphones, our perspective of seeing a high-end device has completely changed. I would rather recommend you to get the LG G6 for Rs 33,990. It’s a great phone for the price.

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