The Xperia XZ1 is Sony’s mid-tier smartphone from August 2017. It still carries Sony’s smartphone design that I saw back in 2014 but has support for HDR and all the latest and greatest.
The design Sony’s smartphones haven’t had a facelift in a long time, and the Xperia XZ1 is no exception. The design is quite dated compared to other modern smartphones but still feels quite nice to use. It would be nice to see Sony start to push forwards and compete with designs from Samsung and other manufacturers and it looks like they’re starting to do that with the XZ2, which is yet to be released.
The phone has a premium design and look, with a glass and metal construction. The design is very nice, giving the phone an understated look as there are very few edges at all. The phone is thin and light yet still functional, as it has a headphone jack on the top. There is also a USB C port on the bottom.
The front of the device has the display and front-facing camera and sensors. There is also dual front-facing speakers on the front of the Xperia XZ1 too but, to be honest, they don’t sound that fantastic. The speakers lack any sense of bass and are quite top heavy in frequencies.
The left-hand side is where your SIM card and microSD card go, this is hidden under a cover since the device is IP68 certified (dust/waterproof up to 1.5m for 30 mins). On the right-hand side is where all your buttons are. There is a dedicated camera button which you can hold down and the camera will open, even if the screen is off. The volume rockers are also on the right-hand side, but they are quite small and it appears as a singular button, so it can sometimes be difficult to tell what button to press if you’re in a hurry.
There is also the power button, which has the fingerprint sensor in the button. So as soon as you press the power button, your phone is going to be unlocked because your finger is already on the sensor. I think this is the best place for the sensor now that we’re seeing a lack of home buttons and I found it a lot more convenient having it there than on the back of the device.
The display on the Xperia XZ1 is a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080p resolution. The display looks great, it gets very bright and the colours look great on it too. It’s a shame that it isn’t an OLED display to get those deeper and richer blacks but it still looks great. I also think that for the size of the display the resolution is good and pixels are not noticeable.
The display also fully supports HDR10, so if you’re going to be watching the latest blockbusters on the phone – they will look great. Viewing angles on the display are fantastic, maybe even perfect. I could not see any discolouration at all when looking at the phone from an angle.
When I first set up the Xperia XZ1 I was pleasantly surprised, as the phone carries an almost stock Android experience. There are subtle differences here and there, such as the app launcher having a blurred background but there was nothing that stood out to me and made me think “This is nothing like stock Android”. Whilst I’m on the topic of Android, the device comes with Android 8.0 Oreo.
AVG Antivirus was pre-installed on the device, but it can be disabled if you don’t want to use it – unfortunately, you don’t have the option to fully uninstall it. There are a few other apps such as Xperia lounge and PlayStation, but I shall excuse them since they are Sony apps on a Sony phone.
One interesting app on the phone is a 3D scanner, that lets you scan objects and create a 3D models of them. I found it a bit of a novel thing to have but it was nice to mess around with. Your success may be better than mine.
The Xperia XZ1 delivers decent performance, apps load quickly and thanks to the almost stock interface everything is smooth and nice to use. I have experienced a few minor stutters in a few 3D games that I tested such as Asphalt and PUBG but they were barely noticeable – so if you do plan on playing some intense games bear that in mind. But browsing through social media and more simple games was a breeze.
The camera on the XZ1 is a 19-megapixel sensor that also shoots 4K video. I have used default settings for these camera samples so the images here will be 17-megapixels. Overall the images look decent but I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag from what I have shot. Some of the images were underexposed as the camera struggled to capture against the bright sky but some of the images looked perfectly fine. I also noticed how on some images the detail can look washed out if zoomed in all the way.
I was pleasantly surprised with capturing video on the Xperia XZ1, the footage was sharp and had plenty of detail. The footage was also very smooth and well-stabilized thanks to the gyro electronic image stabilisation.
There is also a 13-megapixel front facing camera which is decent but sometimes the images from it can appear slightly soft but do look a little better once you’ve turned off the soft skin effect.
The camera app has a variety of different modes and functions, to help select the best settings to shoot with – but it also has a manual that allows you to have full control of your settings. The app also has focus tracking so you can tap on an object and move the phone around but the object will stay in focus. But the app itself can only be rotated one way as the phone likes the camera button to be on the top, which can be annoying if you’re in a rush.
I was very impressed with the battery life on the Xperia XZ1. The battery in the device isn’t as large as other devices, coming in at 2700mAh, but it managed to easily get me through a day of use checking social media and emails. Unfortunately, this device does lack wireless charging as the device has a metal construction but it does support Quick Charge so if you need to quickly top up your battery with some charge.
So overall, I do have mixed thoughts on the Xperia XZ1, it’s a great phone but is stuck in the past with some features. The design is a little dated compared to the smartphones being released now and the display is an LCD based display – but it provides a great software experience and good performance. I just wish my experience with the camera was a little better.
This review has been possible thanks to Vodafone. You can get the Sony Xperia XZ1 on their Vodafone Pay as you go 1 tariff, where you can never spend more than £1 of credit a day no matter how much you use your phone.