Sony Xperia XZ1 review

Sony's tried and tested formula strikes again, but leaves us wanting more.

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Our Verdict

The Xperia XZ1 offers some great software bumps in the form of the latest version of Android and its interesting 3D Creator app, and is a good alternative to its bigger cousin the Xperia XZ Premium.

For

  • Great camera
  • Strong battery life
  • Android 8.0 is super slick

Against

  • Aging design
  • Fiddly SIM tray
  • Only FHD display

When the Sony Xperia XZ Premium landed in our offices, we was certainly intrigued by it. Here was Sony’s latest flagship phone with some great camera features, a beefy processor, and one heck of a flashy screen. But then at IFA 2017 this year, Sony unveiled the Xperia XZ1, which seemed to be exactly like the Xperia XZ Premium, just in a smaller design. So is it fair to make comparisons between the two? In some regards yes, but the XZ1 does do its best to stand out on its own.

Sony Xperia XZ1 price and release date

  • AED 2,199 with complimentary XB20 Speaker
  • Pricing just shy of the Xperia XZ Premium

In the UAE the Xperia XZ1 has been on pre-order from September 7th 2017 and will be priced AED 2,199 with complimentary Sony XB20 Bluetooth Speaker. That’s an acceptable amount of money to be asking for the phone, considering the Xperia XZ Premium sits in at AED 2,499 with its 4K display.

You’re essentially getting the internals of the Xperia XZ Premium, but in a much more comfortable form factor if larger smartphones aren’t your thing.

Design

  • Comfortable to hold
  • Standard Sony design template

Sony has always relied on a specific kind of design for its smartphones, and it doesn’t deviate from this for the XZ1. The phone’s bezels now look somewhat outdated by current market standards, so let’s hope that Sony looks to refreshing this for future models.

The Xperia XZ1 has a familiar design to it

The XZ1 looks almost identical to my previous XZ smartphone, but the rounded design from the XZ Premium makes its appearance here, which gives the phone a more comfortable grip. The phone is less of a fingerprint magnet as well, thanks to a sleek matte finish on the back. Our review unit came in a no-fuss black color, but there’s also Moonlit Blue, Warm Silver, and Venus Pink on offer.

Over towards the left side of the phone is your standard SIM card slot, alongside a tray that lets you insert either a second SIM or a microSD card. With 64GB of onboard storage I’ve long stopped using microSD cards, but it’s good to know the option for additional storage is there. The SIM tray itself is a bit difficult to pull out – you have to jab a fingernail deep in there to grab the tiny tray and then slowly pull it out.

Over on the right side you’ve got the dedicated camera button, which launches the camera app and takes a photo in 0.6 seconds, according to Sony. There’s the power button with integrated fingerprint reader, as well as the volume rocker. We’re used to having the volume buttons below the power button like on the original XZ, but this was a minor adjustment to make when using the XZ1. It’s also nice to see that Sony’s still holding on to the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is located at the top.

At the back you’ve got the rear-facing 19MP camera, which is raised slightly from the phone’s body. It’s the same shooter we’ve seen on the XZ Premium, but with a few new cool software features which we’ll come to later.

Display

While the XZ Premium touts a 4K HDR screen, the smaller display size of the XZ1 means that you only get a Full HD screen that still supports HDR. Coupled with Sony’s proprietary BRAVIA TV tech and TRILUMINOS display, you get a surprisingly enjoyable viewing experience, even on a smaller screen.

Apps such as Amazon Video and Netflix offer HDR content without any problems, and the content does look stunning on it. Our favorite Netflix show, Chef’s Table, was a joy to watch, with each frame bursting with color. There were no signs of grainy video or loss of contrast, so if you’re someone who enjoys consuming high-fidelity content on the go, then you’ll really appreciate the XZ1.

The phone does surprisingly well in sunlight, though of course you wouldn’t be watching content or playing games under the blazing sun – the screen loses some of its vividness, and the phone’s body will get nice and toasty in direct sunlight, so it’s best to keep things in the shade.

If you’re one of those people who insists on bringing their smartphone to the beach or poolside, you’ll be relieved to know that as with Sony’s previous phones, the XZ1 is water and dust resistant. So if you end up spilling something on it, you can simply wipe it off – it’s just important to remember that the side SIM tray is firmly closed so that nothing gets into it.

Specifications

Weighing in at 156g, the Xperia XZ1 is a great phone to carry around. Under the hood you’ve got a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. To top it all off, it’s the first phone I’ve got my hands on that is running the latest version of Google’s Android, 8.0 Oreo. There are a ton of background tweaks that have been made to the OS which I’ll come to shortly, but it’s great that Sony has been able to launch its newest smartphone with the latest OS. Manufacturers often fall short of quickly rolling out updates with every Android release, so this is a refreshing change to say the least.