As a long-time user of Sony Xperia I took the opportunity to take a look at the new Sony Xperia XZ1 which has just hit the market in New Zealand. The Xperia XZ1 is the first Xperia phone to ship with Android 8.0 Oreo, and the first Android phone outside those shipped by Google to ship with Oreo.
The XZ1 is deemed to be Sony’s flagship phone, however in the current Xperia range it sits side by side with the Xperia XZ Premium which launched in June 2017. While both feature the same Snapdragon 835 processor, Adreno 540 GPU, 4GB RAM and the same 19MP rear and 13MP front cameras, the XZ1 features a 5.2” 1080x1920 Full HD HDR screen vs the larger 5.46” 2160 x 3840 4K HDR screen of the XZ Premium.
The XZ1 measures 148 x 73 x 7.4mm and weighs 156g with an all-aluminium body and Gorilla Glass 5 protecting the screen. Unlike other manufacturers who have chosen to move towards a bezel less design this year, Sony have chosen to merely make incremental changes to their existing styling. The phone is both IP65 and IP68 rated meaning it is waterproofed against showers and temporary submersion in water.
The phone features a volume rocker control and camera button on the right hand side of the phone, along with the power button that doubles as the fingerprint reader. The side mounted fingerprint reader can take some getting used to, but I find it far more natural to use than front or rear mounted fingerprint readers. It is worth noting for anybody reading this in the USA that due to legal issues the fingerprint reader is disabled in all Xperia handsets in the US market.
The phone features top and bottom speakers along with a 3.5mm audio connector on the top and USB-C connector on the bottom. The phone also supports Qualcomm’s QC3.0 charging technology to deliver super-fast faster charging times with a QC3.0 capable charger.
The phone features 64GB of on-board storage and a Micro SD card slot within the SIM tray enclosure on the left hand side of the phone. Like previous Xperia designs opening the SIM tray can be a little bit cumbersome but it’s not something most people do regularly.
Unlike some other manufacturers who opt for significant customisation of Android, Sony have stuck to a philosophy of minimal customisation for a number of years now. They’ve also been a great company when it comes to updates, with phones typically being supported for two years from launch, and most monthly Android security updates being available fairly quickly.
The phone features Sony’s latest Motion Eye 19MP 1/ 2.3” Exmor RS CCD sensor on the rear, and Motion Eye 13MP 1/3.06” Exmor RS sensor on the front featuring a 22mm wide angle lens.
While Sony have sensors in their phones that are capable of taking some amazing photos, they’re also capable of taking some very average photos as well. While I believe the quality is a step up from their older sensor, under low light conditions there are still better phones out there if you’re after serious about photography.
The introduction of this new sensor in the XZ Premium saw many users complain about visible distortion in some photos. A firmware update for this issue was released for the XZ Premium last month, and at the time of writing this has just been released for the XZ1.
The phone features a few innovative camera modes including prediction motion and smile modes. It can automatically capture photos when people smile – and when you do press the capture button it will capture shots before and after meaning you won’t necessarily miss the perfect shot if you have already framed the image. In manual mode you have full control over white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter speed and auto focus.
The camera shots brilliant 4K video and is capable of paying back HDR content but not recording it. The phone has the ability to record 960 fps slow-motion clips – but to record in this mode you have to push the on screen button meaning it’s only suitable for staged clips.
Also included is a 3D capture mode that allows you to capture a face or an object in full 3D. Such captures can be used for such things as online avatars or even for printing direct to a 3D printer.
Sony have chosen to install a 2700 mAh battery in the phone. I saw similar battery life to my Xperia XZ which has a larger 2900 mAh battery fitted, and as a heavy mobile user I still got a full day’s use out of the phone. Xperia phones feature Sony STAMINA power saving modes that can be enabled to improve battery life by disabling some functionality.
If you’re somebody who puts your phone on charge every night it also includes a battery care feature that detects the time you take your phone off charge the following morning. This ensures that the battery will be fully charged for the morning at an optimum rate rather than simply fast charging it which can impact the life of the battery.
Overall I really like the XZ1 as a good all round phone. It’s a great device with good battery life, good camera and a good set of features. While the faster CPU does make the phone noticeably snappier and the camera does take better phones, it’s not an evolutionary upgrade for existing Xperia XZ users such as myself who will see the Android 8.0 Oreo update released before Christmas for their phones.
As a long time Xperia user I would happily recommend the phone to people – but will also openly admit that it doesn’t have the “wow” factor to stand out against some other manufacturers in what is currently a very crowded mobile market.
The Xperia XZ1 is currently available from 2degrees retailers with a RRP of $999. While only being sold by 2degrees, the phone is not locked to their network.