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Sony Xperia Z1 Review, the best camera on waterproof phone

This year we’ve seen a slew of Sony Xperia flagships being brought in the market. We have the Xperia Z which was released last January, the huge Xperia Z Ultra released last June and we already have a successor to the Xperia Z which is the Xperia Z1 released this September. Seems that Sony means business and their flagships are really gaining attention.

We had a chance to get hold of the Xperia Z1 which boasts of a huge 20.7MP camera and a more sturdy construction. Will the Z1’s imaging prowess and sleek looks impress you enough to buy it? Let’s find out.


The Xperia Z1 takes its design cues from the Xperia Z to which they seem almost alike. However, the Z1 is thicker at 0.33 in rather than the Z’s 0.31 in. The difference is somewhat minimal but it’s in the phone’s construction that makes it count. The Z1’s chassis is made from an aluminum alloy material that is really durable and light at the same time. And yes, it’s also waterproof. I really like how Sony managed to make a durable phone without sacrificing aesthetics and still screams premium! This is by far the most high-end looking phone I’ve ever handled and it’s such a joy to be using.

Sony Xperia Z1 09 Sony Xperia Z1 08

First thing you’ll notice when you see the Z1 upfront is its large bezels around the 5″ screen. This makes the Z1 larger than other 5″ phones and it may be too big for some to handle. The large bezels compensate for the handling part when holding the Z1 on landscape mode as it gives you room for your thumb to rest. It doesn’t have capacitive touch keys so you won’t be accidentally pressing them.

Sony Xperia Z1 10

The Z1 isn’t trying to be the thinnest out there but it’s completely flat on both front and back. What’s more impressive is that  the Z1 has a 20.7MP camera inside but it doesn’t even bulge!

Sony Xperia Z1 03 Sony Xperia Z1 01

At the left side, you’ll find the slot for the micro SD as well as the micro-USB port. These are protected with rubber flaps to ensure no water will come in. Also you’ll find the dock connector which you can use on the optional Dock DK31.

Sony Xperia Z1 05 Sony Xperia Z1 02

At the right you’ll find the micro-sim slot which is also protected with the rubber flap, a nice looking power button, the volume rocker as well as the shutter button. Not all Android phones come with a shutter button so this one is a definite plus to have especially when the Z1 is aimed at serious phone photographers.


The Z1 is quite a looker here but is the hardware fast enough for today’s standards? This phone packs a 2.2 GHz quad core processor with a Snapdragon 800 chipset and 2GB of RAM. Seems pretty impressive but let’s have a look at the Antutu and Quadrant benchmarks below.

xperia z1 quadrant antutu

The Xperia Z1 tops off the Galaxy S4 although, it didn’t go head to head with the Galaxy Note 3. But this doesn’t mean the Z1 will suck at performance! The Galaxy S4 was already fast enough to tackle the most demanding apps in the market so you can bet the Z1 will perform flawlessly. Also, the hardware isn’t the only factor for performance but you’ll also need to consider the OS that is calling the shots. Fortunately, the Z1 comes with Android Jelly Bean (4.2) which has greatly improved memory management. Also, I like the fact that Sony has been keeping up with the Android updates and that the Z1 will also be getting the latest Android KitKat (4.4) flavor on a sooner date.


The 5-inch display on this phone comes outfitted with Sony’s latest display technology that competes with the likes of Samsung’s Super AMOLED or Apple’s Retina. It sports the Triluminos display that is being used on Sony’s Bravia TVs, which promises accurate color contrasts across viewing angles. The Z1 also has the X-Reality engine that enhances the screen’s display on its sharpness, contrast, saturation and noise quality. Although, with all that display hardware I still find the colors to be a tad bit washed out but is still able to bring in exceptional sharpness and ample brightness. I still prefer the Z Ultra’s display quality though than the Z1, noting that they both have the same display tech.

Sony Xperia Z1 07

For the sound quality, I find it loud enough to fill a room and impress a number of audiophiles. Even at high volumes, the phone was still able to deliver clear and crisp sounds so this is also a definite plus for the Z1. Thanks to the phone’s Bluetooth and NFC capabilities, you can pair up the Z1 to a number of Sony’s cool accessories such as the SRS-BTV5 wireless speaker (sold separately) so you can enjoy enhanced music on the go.


The camera is what the Xperia Z1 is really proud of. It boasts of a 20.7 MP resolution, an F/2.0 aperture, 27mm wide angle lens and a dual LED flash that is ought to impress phone photographers out there. But does it? Let’s have a look at the sample shots I took below.

I must say that for a 20.7MP camera, the image quality is just good. It can compete with the likes of iPhone 5, Galaxy S4, or the Note 3 but for a 20.7MP camera, it should be performing above the competition. Take the powerhouse Nokia Lumia 1020, it has a massive 41MP camera and is also able to deliver exceptional image quality relative to its resolution. So I expected the Z1 to be better among lower mega pixel contenders. Aside from that, it was able to do the job in terms of sharpness, color contrast and exposure.

One downside though, but not so much, is that when you use the Superior Auto mode, you can only take 8PM photos! I reckon it could be to reduce processing time but I feel sad for the wasted 12.7MP. Either way, it won’t matter as most photos end up getting significantly downsized in Instagram or degraded in Facebook.


Sony Xperia Z1 06

I’ve always preferred Chrome as my mobile browser and it’s good to know that Sony makes use of it as its default browser. You’ll have no problems browsing through your favorite sites with this one so it’s a good thumbs up for the browsing experience. Loading, pinch to zoom in and out, things are handled quite capably by the Xperia Z1.


The non-removable battery has a capacity of 3000 mAh which is able to power up the Z1 for a full day with constant use of wifi, mobile internet, occasional gaming, calls and texts. No problem here.


The Sony Xperia Z1 is such a premium phone that’s been engineered exceptionally for the sophisticated user. It combines style, performance and ruggedness all in one complete package to go with an exceptional camera and LTE support. Yes, the large bezels may put off some people coming from those who’ve previously handled a 5-incher but you can’t go wrong with the feats of this one. If you are the type that demands performance with a rugged feature in a stylish chassis then this is definitely for you! But if the level of comfort doesn’t suit you then there other options out there. Lastly, the Xperia Z1 retails for Php34,990 which is already available in your favorite mobile shop.

Samsung and Apple may need to look out for Sony as it comes to place a firm standing in the competition and it’s really evident with what Sony did for the Z1. Knowing that the Xperia line up seems to be going strong, I’m eager to know what Sony has in store for their next flagships.

Sony Xperia Z1 Specs:
5-inch Full HD 1080 x 1920 resolution (441 ppi)
TRILUMINOS display with X-Reality for mobile and OptiContrast
Shatter proof and scratch-resistant glass
Dust-resistant, waterproof up to 1.5 meter (IP55/IP58-certified)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 MSM8974 2.2 GHz quad-core processor
Adreno 330 GPU
2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage (11.72GB usable), microSD up to 64GB
20.7-megapixel rear camera with 1/2.3″ Sony Exmor RS sensor
F/2.0 aperture 27mm wide angle Sony G Lens
2-megapixel front camera
Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
HDPA, 42 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps; LTE
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA
Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, MHL
Non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery
144 x 74 x 8.5 mm
170 g
Colors: Black, White, Purple
SRP: Php34,990 (cash SRP)
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  • NiuginiNexus

    Been using this phone for almost two months now and I agree that this is a premium phone with impressive specs; HOWEVER, I’m disappointed with its screen. Negative comments online about the poor viewing angles are true. Hopefully the next Sony flagship will have a much better LCD screen.

    • Initially, the screen was good enough for me although when I got hold of the Z Ultra, it instantly made a difference. The Z1 may be brighter than the Z Ultra but in terms of color and contrast, the Z Ultra is the winner. I agree in hoping that they make a better screen on the next flagship.

    • udkbp

      it doesnt have dual led flash. only one tiny led flash which is quite useless

      images captured are full of detail but lot of artifacts and grainy

      but overall a very premium phone

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