Sony Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact Review

by Reads (4,672)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 7
      • Features
      • 8
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Durability
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 8.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Contemporary and powerful chipset with the latest Android OS 8.0
    • Exceptionally long-lasting battery
    • Innovative and interesting 3D Creator
    • Fast and technologically advanced camera
    • Water resistant (IP65/IP68 certificate)
  • Cons

    • Aging design with large display bezels
    • Photo quality not as impressive as the sensor technology

Sony now offers two new top-range Xperia smartphones of different sizes for the fall/winter season, called the Xperia XZ1 and Xperia Z1 Compact. The first has a 5.2-inch display and is of common size for a flagship, while the other is Sony’s counter strike to the market trend of offering an even bigger flagship than a flagship. It includes identical features; however, on a smaller, 4.6-inch screen.

While these new devices have modest improvements in terms of their technology and design compared to previous Xperia models, there is just enough novelty here to make them something really special. The 3D Creator for example – an application which combines with the rear-facing camera to serve as a 3D scanner – is of particular interest, but let us first get to know these two devices more closely …

The Sony Xperia Z1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact’s features are more or less the same. Both phones were founded on currently the most powerful Qualcomm chipset, Snapdragon 835 with an octa-core Kyro 280 processor, Adreno 540 graphics and 4 GB of RAM. The larger model has 64 GB of memory storage, while the smaller features 32 GB. Both come with a 19-mega pixel sensor from Sony, sized 1/2,3″ and f/2 of aperture with the option of recording 4K videos and am 8-mega pixel wide-angle selfie camera. Interestingly enough, both phones come with the latest Android OS 8.0 Oreo with the Xperia launcher out of the box.

Build & Design

Sony Xperia XZ1

Apart from their size, the devices differ slightly in their finish: the bigger Sony Xperia XZ1 comes with a 7.4 mm thick aluminum unibody, weighs 155 grams and its front surface is entirely covered in Gorilla Glass 5.

Of course, when the whole body is crafted out of metal, the antenna signal must penetrate the phone’s inside thanks to some trick, therefore three discrete plastic slits were made on the phones’ sides – two on the left and one on the right side.

The smaller Xperia XZ1 Compact comes with a plastic unibody combined with a protective glass layer and also Gorilla Glass 5 in the front, but is significantly thicker at 9.9 mm, despite weighing less: just 140 grams. The use of such materials is not an issue thanks to the slits in the body.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact

Both phones have an ‘anti twist and anti bend’ construction, as well as ‘full body join structure’, which has helped them earn the IP65/IP68 certificate, offering something that is expected from this phone range: the fact they are waterproof, robust and reliable. The design is typical for Xperias and has been recognizable since 2012, upon its first launch, but still seems very modern and aesthetically pleasing five years later, making Sony models stand among the most beautiful ones in the world. As they are not particularly large, they feel natural when held in hand and are easy to use with just one hand.

The arrangement of the buttons and other design elements is completely identical on both phones. Speaker perforations are located on the front surface, on the rather thick rims above and below the screen. Of course, the front-facing camera is located above the display, along with various sensors and the LED indicator.

It is a shame that Sony did not follow market trends which dictate that the side bezels should be decreased; both models seem to be wasting too much space. This impression is also highlighted by the fact that the control keys (Home, Back and Tasks) make up a standard part of the user interface within the screen, while there is more than enough room for them under the screen.

The rear surface includes the back camera lens with a protective metal ring which slightly sticks out above the surface, which is praise-worthy because it makes it practically impossible for the lens to be scratched. We also have a LED flash. The lower side comes with the primary microphone and a USB Type-C connector, while the upper side holds the 3.5-mm audio jack which Sony is not willing to forsake, logically, just like the secondary microphone. The left side holds the nano-SIM and microSD card slot drawer, protected with a water resistant cover, while the right side includes the Power key, which is ‘surrounded’ by the volume rocker and dedicated camera key.

Display

The display on the bigger device is Sony’s Triluminos with 1920 x 1080p resolution, which, given the fact that Sony offers 4K displays on its phones – may seem disappointing, but with a 5.2-inch diagonal provides perfectly immaculate imaging sharpness and above average contrast sustainability, realistic color saturation and an exceptionally wide viewing angle. The same thing goes for the smaller model’s screen, which has a 720p resolution and performs appropriately on a 4.6-inch diagonal. Whoever purchases one of these two phones will have no objections to the above average experience.

Through various iterations of top-range Xperia models, taking small, yet safe steps, Sony has improved the imaging quality in all segments, step by step, taking its time, but always offering an improvement. Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact can boast with displays whose color saturation, viewing angle, dynamic range and contrast sustainability match those of the most  attractive flagships offered by the competition. What is more, when exposed to direct sunlight, these phones provide most pleasant imaging there is, without the need to increase display brightness and this makes them extremely practical.

Performance & Battery life

Sony’s two top-range models come with the current Qualcomm flagship chipset, Snapdragon 835, based on an octa-core processor with four Kyro cores running a 2.35 GHz clock and four more cores, intended for less demanding tasks, running a 1.9 GHz clock. The graphic system is Adreno 540 and both devices come with 4 GB of RAM.

Of course, this positions them at the very top of synthetic benchmark measurements. While devices with weaker hardware might feel fine for the first few months of use, better hardware like what Sony uses here will guarantee that these two Xperias will continue running smoothly even after a year or more of updates to the OS and applications. Once again, the compact model comes with 32 GB of memory storage, while the bigger one comes with 64 GB.

Interestingly enough, both phones have batteries with the same capacity – 2700 mAh, which is not surprising since the bigger model is slimmer. Still, the smaller screen resolution on Xperia XZ1 Compact suggests the possibility of longer battery life. To be precise, battery life is actually one of the biggest drivers of new phone purchases, and battery life is something Sony has been perfecting through various iterations of these models. Thus, with average use, the bigger model will have to be recharged every other night, while the compact Xperia phone can last a bit longer and can be used more intensely throughout the day if it is to be recharged every other night.

It should be pointed out that both phones come with QuichCharge 3.0 support and Qnovo adaptive charging, which extends battery life through multiple charging cycles, which is, apart from the mentioned chipset, yet another detail that promises a longer life span of these devices compared to the competition.

Camera

The quality of photographs taken with the Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact is above average, even though the increment is much smaller in this department compared to the previous models. Sony produces some of the best camera sensors in the world – they are often used by other premium mobile phone brands as well – but Sony doesn’t always go the extra mile to take advantage of the latest sensor technology in its devices. Thus, photo quality is on par with upper-range Xperias, as they turn out  very sharp, abundant with details, but with slightly overly saturated colors and appear almost “too touched up” when taken in poorer lighting conditions.


The camera that Sony uses on both models actually has an excellent 19-mega pixel IMX400 ExmorRS sensor, familiar since the so-called Motion Eye camera featured on the Xperia XZ Premium model, revealed at this year’s MWC. During these six months, Sony has added a few software gimmicks to the camera, avoiding the market trend of using two sensors on top models, at the same time omitting optical stabilization on the sensors, which is a shame. The mentioned Motion Eye enables slow motion video recording with 960 fps, while the sensor speed enables rapid eye shooting in full resolution (19 megapixels). Technically, the rear-facing camera is exceptionally advanced on these two models There is still room for touching up the end results.

3D Creator

The feature that makes the cameras on both Xperias exceptionally interesting is their 3D scanning option. It is called the 3D Creator and is used with a preinstalled application of the same name. The two new phones can perform a 3D scan of any static object in approximately 20 seconds, including a human head if the person is sitting still, by encircling the object from every direction until its entire visible surface is covered.

The end result, the 3D model, can be displayed from all sides on the device’s screen and be used for replication via a 3D printer.

The Sony Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact have modest, evolutionary improvements compared to their predecessors, but with the 3D Creator, Sony offers something that will turn heads. This feature will influence how users perceive the Sony brand, especially if those users are fans of augmented reality or 3D printing.

Conclusion

Sony’s fast pace of revealing new top-range models seems to make Xperias resemble their predecessors too much. That being said, the two latest models – the Xperia XZ1 and the Xperia XZ1 Compact – are actually the best examples that devices from this manufacturer can rival flagship phones from the competition. Despite the fact that Sony ignores some of the typical trends in the mobile market, the new long-lasting Sony phones offer innovations that put these new smartphones on par with the most up-to-date technology in the mobile industry.

Pros:

  • Contemporary and powerful chipset with the latest Android OS 8.0
  • Exceptionally long-lasting battery
  • Innovative and interesting 3D Creator
  • Fast and technologically advanced camera
  • Water resistant (IP65/IP68 certificate)

Cons:

  • Aging design with large display bezels
  • Photo quality not as impressive as the sensor technology



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