The Sony Xperia Z1 boasts impressive build quality, but it has poor ergonomics and a display with mediocre viewing angles.
Design & display
The Sony Xperia Z1 follows a similar design to its predecessor, the Xperia Z. It retains a long, rectangular shape with flat sides, square corners and a sheet of tempered glass on both the front and the back.
The sheet of tempered glass on the back combined with a single piece of aluminium wrapped around the edge gives it a real premium feel.
However, the Z1 weighs a hefty 170g, the glass back easily picks up scratches, and the shape of the handset makes for poor ergonomics.
The edges of the phone are a particular annoyance — they're a little sharp and often dig into your fingers.
The Xperia Z1 is waterproof, not just water resistant. The phone will handle fresh water at up to 1.5 metres for 30 minutes, and is also dust resistant, provided the flaps covering the microSD card slot, micro-USB port, and SIM card slot are all sealed.
The Z1 won't guard against salt water, liquid chemicals, sand, or mud. A nice touch is the headphone jack, which unlike the Xperia Z, doesn't have an annoying flap you have to keep closed.
The Xperia Z1 lacks a removable battery but a left-sided microSD port allows you to expand the 16GB of internal memory.
The speaker on the bottom produces reasonable volume and quality for a smartphone.
The Sony Xperia Z1 has a 5in screen with a full HD resolution of 1920x1080. The screen is relatively bright and clear and displays very crisp text when looking directly front on, but its viewing angles are mediocre compared to many rival models.
Software & performance
Sony has made minimal changes to the stock version of Android but most of the changes it has made actually add to the overall user experience.
There's four toggles in the notifications drop down that are by default set to sound, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and brightness, along with a shortcut to the settings menu.
Swiping to the right in the app drawer brings up a menu that enables apps to be sorted into multiple parameters, and you can also uninstall apps from this menu.
The Sony Xperia Z1 is a very smooth and fast smartphone. The 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM keeps things ticking over nicely.
The phone doesn't exhibit any notable lag or slowdown during basic tasks. It also handles graphically intense games with notable ease.
Camera & battery life
The camera on the Xperia Z1 boasts a 1/2.3in sensor, a G lens with 27mm wide angle and a range of software features.
The highlight of the camera is its performance in low light. The LED flash doesn't wash out images like most other smartphone cameras do, and even without the flash, the Xperia Z1 takes decent images in low lit environments.
The Xperia Z1 has a 20-megapixel sensor, but the camera app is by default set to capture 8-megapixel photos. Capturing full 20-megapixel images is only available by switching to "manual mode".
Other camera features include a "Timeshift burst" mode that takes 61 images in just two seconds — a second before and after pressing the shutter.
There's also an "Info-Eye" feature that uses augmented reality to provide a visual search function on any captured landmarks or particular items, a sweep panorama mode, and an effect mode that let's you shoot with up to nine live filters.
The Sony Xperia Z has a 3000mAh battery that performs reasonably well. It pushed us through a full day of use on most occasions and we experienced up to 16 hours of battery life on multiple days during our test period.
The Sony Xperia Z1 is available now in black, white, and purple colour variants through major Australian carriers Telstra, Optus and Virgin Mobile.
It is also available outright for AU$779 through Sony Centres, Harvey Norman and Dick Smith Electronics retail stores.