Sony Xperia Z1 review

The next level of Sony's Android ambitions or a needless mid-cycle vanity upgrade?

Sony Xperia Z1 review
The best of Sony in a smartphone? We'll leave it to you to decide

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Sony's heaped the tech spec bullet points on the Xperia Z1, suggesting the screen features a thing it calls a Triluminous Display. In reality, this means the screen's bright, extremely sharp, and although viewing angles aren't amazing, when sitting there viewing HD content right in front of your face, the picture quality really is impressive.

There's also a useful auto brightness option in here that enhances the controls of stock Android models. Sony lets you manually select a brightness level, with the Z1 then also able to manually adjust it for lighting conditions when it thinks it's necessary. On stock Android, it's either full auto or full manual.

It also seems to adjust brightness very gradually. We're yet to actually notice the screen brightening or dimming in front of our eyes, it just always seems to be at the right level. That's definitely a feature Sony's added that enhances usability quite a bit over standard Andriod models.


Full HD video playback is markedly good

In terms of video playback, the 1080p display is good. Blacks are pretty black, frame rates of downloaded media and clips recorded yourself with the camera app are rock solid, and there's none of the tearing or artifacting generated by other cameras when attempting to capture 1080p clips.

Video app

Sony sports a pretty stylish video app

Your own video clips are recorded at either 1080p, 720p or lowly SMS resolution, and the power of the Snapdragon 800 chipset ensure the results at max resolution are fantastic.

Frame rates are high and consistent, colours appear natural, the focus options are useful and quick to react, while even tricky organic stuff like leaves, grass and water are captured with virtually zero blockiness or motion artifacting. The Z1 is a 1080p phone that delivers clips that look like they're 1080p, not the usual upscaled mush other phones try to pass off as HD material. It's extremely impressive.

The video app itself is stylish too. Sony's one of the few Android hardware makers that makes a big deal out of its video player and presents an obvious link to it, and it immediately impresses by looping a short clip of your most recently recorded clip in its header. That's how much spare power this phone has kicking around.

Of course, the reason for this front-and-centre video app is because Sony's Video Unlimited tool comes pre-loaded on the Z1 and, thanks to the Xperia Privilege app, you're given five free film downloads to test the download service. A two-hour film comes out to around 1.5GB in size, and once the Z1 has cached the first few minutes of the film you're able to begin watching while the rest loads.