Overview, Design and Features
Sony’s IFA 2017 press conference saw the Japanese corporation introduce two new Xperia additions to its fold: the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact. With the Xperia XZ1, the phone sports the most up-to-date hardware on the current market, and yet, it still has the familiar feeling of the first Xperia XZ.
Slim and elegant, the difference between the XZ1 and the preceding XZ are actually stark. Having used the XZ Premium as my daily driver, the questions that had to be answered were increasingly obvious as well: "How would it feel shifting down to a smaller phone (Okay, it’s not technically that much smaller), and more importantly, how would it perform as my new daily driver?"
Design and feature
|Sony Xperia XZ1|
The answer to the first question is relatively straightforward: The leap back down to a smaller form factor device wasn’t as dramatic as we made it sound, but it goes without saying that the difference could still be felt.
Even with a difference of 0.5mm in its thickness, you can actually feel just how slim the Xperia XZ1 really is. Interestingly, despite not entirely made out of glass like the XZ Premium and the competition (we’re looking at you, Samsung), we actually had some genuine difficulty gripping onto the phone, but after a couple of fear-inducing near drops, we finally found a grip that would give us a maximum reach around with the phone.
We’re glad that Sony didn’t choose an all-glass unibody design for the XZ1, and instead went with the use of an all-metal, anodized aluminum unibody that is quite visibly and physically more appealing (and also cut out from a single block of the aforementioned element).
Obviously, there are some aesthetic changes that make the XZ1 stand out from its predecessor. First, the antennas: With the XZ, the phone’s entire antenna was relegated to the bottom of the phone.
With the XZ1, Sony had installed a total of four antennas, and each antenna has been strategically placed around the body. These antenna are identifiable via the white notches that you’ll find just above the phone and around its side. Not to repeat ourselves, but doing this gives the XZ1 a far more uniform and cleaner look, thus lending to the philosophy that is Sony’s Loop Design.
For its display, the XZ1 is surprising in that it uses a 5.2-inch Full HD display with HDR support. This is perhaps one of the more appealing features of the phone, as it allows you to watch HDR-ready video content on services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (as well as other HDR-enabled video sources).
On the downside, we’re a little disappointed Sony didn't at least try to increase the screen-to-body ratio on the phone, if not on the sides, then at least at the top and bottom of the phone.
To be fair, we did notice that our unit’s white balance had a slightly warmer tinge whenever we reduced the brightness level to the halfway marker. It’s not noticeable if you don’t pay attention to it, but we’re really hoping that this was an isolated case, and not something discoverable across the board.
Both the top and bottom, as well as the corners of the phone, have been further rounded out: A small touch that lends an additional air of refinement to the phone. Another little change is the placement of the NFC sensor: It’s still located at the back (where it should always be), but due to the XZ1’s slim form factor, it’s now embedded right between the camera’s LED flash and rangefinder.
For the Malaysian market, the model that we get is the one with the dual SIM and microSD card hybrid, meaning that you’ll have to choose between keeping two lines, or having a microSD card provide additional storage (up to 256GB).
Like its predecessors, the XZ1 utilizes a dual stereo front-facing speaker setup. They’re loud too. In fact, when played side by side with the XZ Premium, we found out that the XZ1 drowned out the bigger, premium Xperia.
Due to the phone’s thinness, the battery within the XZ1 is also considerably smaller than the XZ and XZ Premium at 2,700mAh. Now, given the battery performance of the original XZ, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the battery in the XZ1 wouldn’t quite sustain the device, but that clearly isn't the case, as you’ll see in the benchmark section of this review.
Of course, we cannot forget about the hardware. Just as the company did with the XZ Premium, almost every component is the same.
It houses the a Snapdragon 835 SoC, 4GB of RAM, the same internal storage capacity of 64GB, and as with all premium Xperia phones, the XZ1 comes with support for Hi-Res Audio, along with Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) HX software that lifts up the music in (only) your headphones with just the tap of a finger.
The XZ1 also comes with Digital Noise Canceling (DNC) technology which, as you know, cancels out any exterior and ambient noise in order for you to listen to your music unperturbed. Sadly, we have to point out that you’ll have to use a pair of earphones that support DNC if you want to take advantage of the feature.
More importantly, the XZ1 and its baby brother, the XZ1 Compact, are among the first phones to ship with Android 8.0 Oreo pre-installed.
There is one new app from Sony, and it’s called 3D Creator. As the name suggests, the app enables you to capture a 3D image of either your face or an object of your choosing. The resulting image can either be made physical as a 3D printed image, or used as an avatar within the 3D Creator app.
And then there’s the 19MP Motion Eye camera technology that the XZ1 uses as its main camera array. Frankly, there’s really not much else we can elaborate on the camera, beyond the fact that it’s the same as the one found on the XZ Premium and XZs. As you’ll see in the camera performance section, it’s still an impressive camera that takes excellent daytime outdoor photos.
The front-facing camera is also the same 13MP array found on the XZ Premium, which meant that it's capable of taking great selfies (or wefies). To make the process a little easier, the XZ1’s front-facing camera also comes with a ‘hand-shutter’ auto-capturing function. So, all you need to do is flash the palm of your hand at the camera for a second, and in two seconds, the camera snaps a selfie without you having to press the shutter button.