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Sony Xperia Z1 review

Sony Xperia Z1 hands on

The Xperia Z1 is Sony's best smartphone yet. Its scratch-prone body and custom Android skin let it down, but its 20.7MP camera and smooth performance make it a decent contender against other high-end smartphones.


Stylish sturdy design, very powerful, vibrant HD screen, brilliant camera, waterproof



Pricey, prone to scratches

Overall Rating:

4 Star Rating: Recommended

Price: £550 SIM-free

Manufacturer: Sony

The Sony Xperia Z1 is arguably Sony's most impressively specified smartphone to date, featuring a 5in full HD 1080p touchscreen, a quad-core 2.2GHz processor and Google's Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean mobile operating system.

Like its predecessor the Xperia Z – which was launched not too long ago at CES in January – Sony's latest smartphone is also water resistant, meaning it can be dunked in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes.

Sony Xperia Z1 review front

The Xperia Z1's standout feature is perhaps its 20.7MP rear-facing camera, although unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and despite rumours saying otherwise, it is not capable of shooting Ultra HD 4K video. However, Sony has got one up on its rivals with the unveiling of two snap-on lenses, the QX10 and the QX100, transforming the handset – and other smartphones – into a full-on camera device.

The Xperia Z1 looks similar to its predecessor, the Xperia Z, echoing the design of Sony's high-end TV sets. Like the Xperia Z, we'd have to say that the Xperia Z1 is one of the most stylish-looking smartphones on the market today. Its glossy glass-coated casing, although prone to picking up fingerprint smudges and especially scratches, looks and feels to be of premium quality, thanks to its casing that's constructed from a single piece of aluminium with a gunmetal finish. The resulting design looks smooth, elegant and robust.

Sony Xperia Z1 review top view

Working our way around the Xperia Z1 clockwise from the top-right corner, there's a micro SIM slot, a power button, a camera shutter button, a speaker, a MicroSD card slot, a microUSB charge port and a headphone jack.

Although it will be available in black, white and purple when it launches, our Xperia Z1 review model, although it was standard black, still revealed a unique design. This was especially noticeable when compared with the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S4, which probably would fail to turn heads in the street – unlike the Xperia Z1. Have a look at our hands-on video to see the Xperia Z1 close up.

Sony Xperia Z1 review side view

Although it looks good, the Sony Xperia Z1 isn't particularly comfortable to hold. Boasting measurements of 144x74x8.5mm, it's not a huge device, but we found that its angular casing made it hard to grip and also made it hard to reach certain icons on the screen when selecting options from the bottom to the top. This is due to the Xperia Z1's width, which means your thumb has to extend further to select on-screen prompts at the top or bottom of the display.

The Xperia Z1 is also IP58 certified. Unlike many of its rivals in the market, the Xperia Z1 is resistant against dust and water. Sony claims that this certification also means that the Xperia Z1 is scratch-proof. However, we can't say that this is the case. From just being in our pockets for a short while, and taking it in and out, the device had acquired a few surface scratches. For those who buy the Xperia Z1, we'd suggest applying the protective screen covers, which are included, as soon as possible.

Next: Build, display and performance

Processor: 2.2GHz quad-core Krait Qualcomm MSM8974
Display: 5in 1080x1920, 441ppi Display
Storage: 16GB internal storage
Camera: 20.7MP pixels rear camera, 2.2MP front camera
Connectivity: 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 - C6602, C6603, 3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 2100 - C6603, HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 - C6602, 4G Network LTE 800 / 850 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600 - C6603
Operating system: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
Dimensions: 144x74x8.5mm
Weight: 169g
Price £550 SIM-free

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Lee Bell

Lee joined as a reporter on The INQUIRER in April 2012.

Prior to working at The INQUIRER, Lee was sponsored by the NCTJ to do a multimedia journalism course in London. After completing placements at local magazines and newspapers in both print and online he wrote for an online gaming news website, and it was here where his love for technology grew.

Lee's main coverage areas include processors, internet security, PCs, laptops and tablet news and reviews.

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