Sony Xperia XZ1 review: the stopgap


As the powerful and compact Xperia XZ1 Compact makes its return, Sony Mobile is also throwing the 5.2-inch Xperia XZ1 into the mix. Read this hands-on review of the Japanese manufacturer’s latest smartphone to discover why Sony has introduced this smartphone together with the XZ1 Compact and what sets all the existing 2017 Xperia XZ smartphones apart from each other.

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Sony Xperia XZ1 release date and price

Sony Mobile presented the XZ Premium at the Mobile World Congress at the beginning of 2017. Since the XZ Premium’s dimensions make it a colossal smartphone and since carriers in Japan and Sony’s consumers also expect a six-month cycle for new products, the Xperia XZs was also introduced at the MWC 2017. But the XZs and the XZ Premium somehow do not go together. Although both smartphones shared the Motion Eye camera, the XZs’ technical features seemed like re-used leftover parts that could not justify the premium price hike.

The introduction of the Xperia XZ1 will see the departure of the confusing XZs from Sony Mobile’s lineup, since the newly introduced smartphone does a much better job filling the gap between the 5.5-inch XZ Premium and the small Xperia XZ1 Compact. The Sony Xperia XZ1 will retail for 699 EUR in Europe, which is about $ 830, while the XZ Premium goes for $ 799 and the XZ1 Compact will go for 599 EUR (about $ 712). Though, the US price hasn’t been announced officially yet.

Sony Xperia XZ1 design and build quality

A Sony smartphone is still recognizable as a Sony smartphone in the latter half of 2017. Sony smartphones buck the trend of a borderless and full-format display on the front. You either like Sony’s design language or you simply don’t.

AndroidPIT Sony XZ1 7561 It’s not a trick, it’s still a Sony. Apart from a few details, the design remains typical Sony. / © AndroidPIT

The Xperia XZ1’s feel meets high premium standards, since the housing is machined from a block of aluminum, unlike its sister models. As a result, Sony Mobile has also been able to give the entire smartphone a very thin design. Nevertheless, to ensure some degree of family affiliation, the upper and bottom ends of the housing have been recessed. Interestingly, they also serve as a type of spacer so that the display glass does not come into contact with the tabletop.

AndroidPIT Sony XZ1 7563 Here’s something different: The antenna stripes are designed in a U-shape inside the housing only. / © AndroidPIT

Sony must have thought about the numerous antennas by using aluminum as the housing material. As a result, there are two U-shaped recesses on the left and right sides of the housing. Thanks to this design, the rear remains virtually spared from the otherwise common antenna lines. Only a tiny recess remains above the Motion Eye camera’s flash; it contains the NFC antenna.

AndroidPIT Sony XZ1 7508 From the XZ family comes the XZ1, currently the only smartphone in the series with an aluminum housing. / © AndroidPIT

All buttons—and even the fingerprint sensor—are located on the right side of the housing in typical Sony fashion and, of course, we once again have a dedicated camera button on the XZ1. The left side provides access to the SIM card slot and the MicroSD card slot. This flap should be kept closed so that the XZ1 can maintain its IP65/68 water and dust ingress protection rating in day-to-day use. 

Sony Xperia XZ1 display

While the XZ Premium is equipped with a 5.5-inch display with 4K and HDR, and the XZ1 Compact sports a 4.6-inch HD display, the XZ1 fills the gap on the display end with a 5.2-inch full HD display that also supports HDR. Gorilla Glass 5 provides protection from scratches.

AndroidPIT Sony XZ1 7509 The XZ1’s 5.2-inch display is in full HD resolution and also supports HDR. / © AndroidPIT

At first glance during our hands-on, the 700-nits display was bright and had a stable viewing angle. HDR supports requires the appropriate content, but the XZ Premium has already carried out the groundwork for it, allowing you to watch films and series on the XZ1 in high dynamic range on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. Whether you can tell the difference between HDR or no HDR on a 5.2-inch display remains to be seen in our final review report on the Xperia XZ1.

Sony Xperia XZ1 software

As soon as the Xperia XZ1 goes on sale, it will also be sporting Android 8.0. The review device that Sony Mobile provided us during our hands-on was virtually the final version. Since the XZ1 and XZ1 Compact have practically identical software, we ask that you please check out the hands-on for the compact Xperia XZ1 model.

AndroidPIT Sony XZ1 7540 Sony’s new models come with Android 8.0 Oreo! / © AndroidPIT

Sony Xperia XZ1 performance

While the Xperia XZs had to make do with the older Snapdragon 820 and 3 GB RAM, the new XZ1 takes advantage of the Snapdragon 835, 4 GB RAM and quick UFS storage, the same technical foundation as the XZ Premium and even the XZ1 Compact. From a performance standpoint, all three Xperia XZ models are practically equal and also close the gap with comparably equipped smartphones such as a Samsung Galaxy S8, HTC U11 or Nokia 8. For the final review, we will definitely compare the Sony Xperia XZ1 to these premium smartphones and more.

Sony Xperia XZ1 camera

The Motion Eye camera with a 19 MP resolution is also used for the camera, and it once again offers SuperSlow motion at up to 960 FPS. Since we have already taken a look at the camera in the hands-on for the Xperia XZ1 Compact, we ask that you please check out the hands-on for the compact sister model. All the new functions such as Predictive Shot, Predictive Hybrid Autofocus and the new 3D Scanner app are also included in the XZ1. In conversations with Sony Mobile, they told us that the Motion Eye camera is exclusively reserved for the company’s own smartphones for at least 12 months. 

AndroidPIT Sony XZ1 7528 Thanks to software tweaks, the Motion Eye camera can do more than even the XZ Premium. / © AndroidPIT

The XZ1 has inherited the XZ Premium’s 13 MP front camera. However, the software trick involving two different focal lengths for selfies is not available on the XZ1. On the other hand, the display can now be used as a flash for selfies in bad lighting.

Sony Xperia XZ1 battery

Sony Mobile has equipped the Xperia XZ1 with a 2,700-mAh battery, which is virtually the same capacity as the Xperia XZ1 Compact. In our final review, we will find out the effects that the larger display and higher resolution have on battery life.

Early Verdict

The Sony Xperia XZ1 is for all Sony fans who find the XZ Premium too big and the XZ1 Compact too small. Since Sony provides all three with nearly identical hardware and software, it’s only a matter of smartphone size. At 699 EUR (which is about $ 830), the XZ1 is definitely not a bargain. It’s a bold price when you consider the fact that the XZ Premium and its competitors like the HTC U11 and Galaxy S8 can be had for less. At least Sony can advertise Android 8.0 Oreo at launch, while competitors would take weeks, if not months, to push out an update. We will get back to you afterwards on how the Sony Xperia XZ1 does in day-to-day use here at the editorial office.

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