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The Sony Xperia XZ1 is just as solid, and just as frustrating, as the phones that came before it. Sony made another flagship smartphone that gets the core elements right – display, camera, battery, power – but none really excel.
Sure, the camera has impressive slow-mo capture and 4K video recording, while the screen boasts HDR support – but it’s not enough to draw you away from some of the more eye-catching phones on the market.
Sony’s insistence on sticking with the same basic make-up for its phones is starting to look tired and outdated. In a world where fringe brands such as Huawei, Honor and OnePlus are churning out affordable yet attractive flagships, its range is in need of a shake-up.
The 3D Creator app is cool, but it’s more gimmick than reason to buy, while the refreshed design will likely please a wider demographic, and Hi-Res audio, and HDR support on screen, are both great additions.
At its heart though, the Xperia XZ1 is just another incarnation of a Sony formula which needs to be reworked if it’s to challenge the leading lights again.
Sony Xperia XZ1: who’s it for?
Sony originally sold the Xperia XZ1 on its HDR display, upgraded camera and Hi-Res audio support, and while none of these are bad, at the price Sony is asking they’re not exactly home runs.
If you watch a lot of video and/or do a lot of gaming on your smartphone then the Xperia XZ1 will suit you nicely, with loads of power, a bright, crisp display and front-facing speakers; even the bezels are a positive here, as they give you somewhere to rest your thumbs.
However, if you’re looking for an all-round flagship smartphone, there are rivals that do most of what the Xperia XZ1 does, but better – and for a similar cost.
Should I buy it?
If Hi-Res audio or slow-motion video capture are key features for your next smartphone, the Sony Xperia XZ1 still stands up. However, if you’re looking for a full-on flagship and aren’t worried about the cost, there are better handsets for your money.
Contemporaries like the Samsung Galaxy S8, the LG G6 and the iPhone 7 Plus put the Xperia XZ1 in the shade, and of course phones have only continued to get faster and better-looking since.
The Sony Xperia XZ1 has a good camera, display, power and software, with a battery that’s comparable to the competition, but apart from the odd flash here and there it doesn’t do anything to really stand out in an increasingly tough crowd.
One positive is that you can now get this phone relatively cheaply, which means it's a more wallet-friendly option than the top flagships of today.
Not sold on the Xperia XZ1, or fancy a more rounded flagship smartphone? Then consider the options below.
Sony Xperia XZ3
The most recent Sony Xperia phone features an improved design and better performance than the Xperia XZ1 does, and is a more sensible choice if you want something that's going to last. It has a top-end Snapdragon 845 chipset and the first OLED screen Sony has put on a phone.
Of course that also means it's a pricier proposition than the Xperia XZ1, so it really depends on how much money you want to spend. We reckon the Sony Xperia XZ3 is definitely worth at least considering as an option.
Samsung Galaxy S9
The Galaxy S9 is apparently about to be replaced by the Galaxy S10, which means you might be able to get it for a very attractive price. And it's a very attractive phone, too – no display notch and a great 5.8-inch Infinity Display from Samsung.
It's undoubtedly one of the best handsets of 2018, even if it has been recently overshadowed by the Pixel 3 phones and the iPhone XS updates. Put this on your list of potentials if you can find it for a good price.
No one does affordable flagships quite like OnePlus, and if you're looking for a top-end Android alternative to the Sony Xperia XZ1, then this 6.41-inch gem might just be it. Like the Samsung Galaxy S9, it's powered by the Snapdragon 845.
Again, price is going to be key in your considerations, but even though the OnePlus 6T is relatively new, it shouldn't cost you all that much more than the older Xperia phone. It's certainly a lot less than the Pixel 3 phones Google just unveiled.
John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.