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sony xperia z1 review 1

Sony’s latest high-end smartphone arrives just a few months after its Xperia Z grabbed the headlines for its winning design, amazing camera and gorgeous screen.

So, is the Xperia Z1 worth the upgrade from its older sibling? Or should you plump for this over Samsung’s Galaxy S4 or even the iPhone 5s?

Read our review and we’ll give you the inside line on the Big S’s new blower.

First impressions

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Sony’s design team is renowned for making impressive kit across the board, so it’s no surprise that the Xperia Z1 both looks and feels amazing.

The hard edges of the Xperia Z are gone, replaced by a slightly more curved finish, meaning it sits much easier in the hand.

Despite its size, it doesn’t feel bulky, while the covered ports ensure a uniform look that’s bound to keep design fanatics happy.

The breeziness of Sony’s mildly tweaked version of Google Android means you’ll face no issues in getting the Z1 up and running in a matter of minutes.

Design

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As mentioned, the attention to design detail here is truly stunning.

Sony has created a device that sits on a par with the beautifully crafted HTC One and only lags just behind the handiwork of Jony Ive and his iPhone 5s.

The Z1 retains the squared-off feel of March’s Xperia Z, but those curved edges and the aluminium finish around the sides make it a much more alluring proposition.

Hidden ports are a rarity these days, but are in evidence here. Their covers don’t feel plastic or flimsy, all the while making the Z1 look extremely classy.

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With no ports other than a headphone jack up top, there are no keys that can be nudged by mistake either.

The power button sits low on the right hand side, perfectly positioned for your middle finger when being held in your left hand.

It requires a decent push, too, so there’s no chance of you turning the device off while reading web pages or sift through email.

Features

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Unquestionably the biggest draw here is the 20-megapixel camera.

A massive jump on the 13-megapixel effort found on the Xperia Z, this peeper is a real rival for the Nokia Lumia 1020 and uses Sony’s camera-phone heritage to great effect.

The result is pictures that look absolutely stunning and detailed, matching your average compact camera and using Sony-only features to ensure an improved experience on the standard Android camera software.

Sony camera owners will recognise the layout of the camera’s options, with the chance to set up a self-timer and use a series of amazing photo effects. The latter are superb.

As well as the default superior auto mode, there’s a manual mode for tweaking white balance and getting snaps just as you want, plus a number of art filters for getting that Instagram-like look on your pics.

It’s all so devilishly simple to use. In fact, we can’t think of a camera phone we’ve had as much phone shooting with.

Images look sensational almost every time. It handles low light well, far better than your average smartphone camera and serves its purpose as a compact camera-replacing product.

Chuck in its smart ‘Social Live’ video function, which lets you share live clips in HD to Facebook, and you’re looking at a superbly realised snapper.

Software

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Sony has loaded up the Z1 with Android 4.2, rather than the current edition, 4.3.

That’s no dealbreaker, especially as rumours suggest it’ll be the first non-Nexus device to get Android KitKat, possibly as soon as November.

While Sony’s own flourishes are in evidence, with direct access to its PlayStation and Video Unlimited services front and centre, this is very much an Android experience.

Sony has done a great job of not making its customisations take over the brilliant basics of Google’s OS, so while some animations and icons may look different, the principle is the same.

Ease of use

Getting to grips with the Z1 couldn’t be easier. Anyone who has used Android before will know the ropes, while PS3 owners will understand the iconography.

Even if you’re neither of those things, the process of whacking in your Gmail address and password and getting going is about as strenuous as it gets.

There’s nothing to trouble even first-time smartphone owners. The Z1 is an amazing piece of kit, unquestionably the best phone Sony has ever produced.

Specifications

  • 5-inch Full HD, 1920x1080 display
  • 2.2GHz Qualcomm quad-core processor
  • Google Android 4.2.2
  • Waterproof and dust resistant
  • 20.7 megapixel camera with Sony Exmor RS for mobile
  • 144.4x73.9x8.5mm
  • 169g
  • Talk time: 14 hours
  • Standby: up to 880 hours

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