Sony’s current flagship smartphone, the Xperia Z1, is a combination of power and good looks. It manages to impress with its premium design, brilliant screen, and stupendous speed. Did I mention battery life?


The Xperia Z1 has a premium feel about it, just like the Xperia Z, and the Tablet Z (reviewed here). Its seamless design is a single piece of aluminium frame with balance and symmetry in all directions. To the left are ports for a microSD card and charger, with a provision to be docked; to the right a minimalistic power button, volume key, dedicated camera button and SIM slot; and a 3.5mm audio jack on top. It’s completely waterproof (not just water resistant), and dust resistant. If you are, for example taking pictures underwater, just remember that the SIM and memory card slot need to be closed. The 3.5mm audio jack can remain as is.

The Z1 has a 5-inch full HD 1080p display with Sony’s X-Reality engine that makes everything on screen appear razor sharp and defined. This is most noticeable when you fire up the camera to take pics – everything looks better on the phone’s display, than in real life. The screen wasn’t that great when I zoomed in with the camera (8x digital zoom). It plays full HD content, and it’s fairly simple to load your TV series and movies onto the handset. No need to worry about converting into any format as it plays AVI, M4V, MP4, MKV and XVID. I eventually got used to the 5-inch screen because of the slim design and weight of 169g.


The Xperia Z1 is powered by a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor; 2GB of RAM; and 16GB flash storage (expandable by up to 64GB microSD), of which just under 12GB is available to you. It features a 20.7-megapixel camera; a front-facing 2-megapixel 1080p camera; HD video recording; and connectivity options include LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and WiFi.

The Xperia Z1 runs on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, and I find the UI quite elegant. I love the notifications menu, and how precise it is, down to how many ‘likes’ received on Instagram. The specific Gmail account I use on Android is backed up, so upon initial set-up, all my most-used and favourite apps downloaded fairly quickly. As for speed on the Z1, I ran multiple apps simultaneously and didn’t have to quit anything. I noticed this a day after, that almost every app I opened wasn’t killed off, which didn’t affect its performance. For the ultimate test, I launched the Vine app at the exact same time on both the Xperia Z1 and iPhone 5, and the Z1 started playing Vines immediately, while I had to wait a bit for the iPhone to start playing. With web browsing, I had at least 8 tabs open and everything worked smoothly, with no delay in pages loading. The same goes for Instagram; I loved having everything resource-intensive pull so quickly. Due to the screen size, I loaded a few magazines via Zinio and the MySubs app.


The camera on the Z1 is 20.7-megapixels with Sony’s Exmor sensor, found on compact digital cameras. The very same components are now crammed into an 8.5mm thin phone, without any bulges. It features Sony’s award winning G Lens, for better focus and more importantly, the ability for the lens to capture more light in low-light conditions. Picture quality is quite good, and as expected, impressive at night. The camera has a 8x digital zoom function, and while zoomed pictures come out decent, it’s best to take full res shots and crop it after. There are various modes that you can play around with – manual, panorama, timeshift burst, AR effects, and Info-eye. It records video in full 1080p HD on both the front and rear cameras; and gives you 2-megapixel selfies.


If you click on the above picture, it will take you to my Flickr page, where you can view the same image in different sizes. Link also here.


Picture taken at the V&A Waterfront, view from the Allan Gray offices. No effects added.

Battery life on the Xperia Z1 is the best I’ve seen on any handset. It has a capacity of  3,000mAh and to give you a better idea, that’s more than double the capacity of the iPhone 5 of 1,440mAh. I relied on the handset while being out the whole day, and by 5pm, the battery was sitting at 50%, which is very impressive. The phone goes into “stamina” mode when it detects that the screen is not in use, and cuts down on notifications (you can decide what to push).

The Sony Xperia Z1 is the only Android handset that put an equal amount of effort into its design, as well as what’s on the inside. For the price you pay, you can feel it’s a premium handset. Even though 5-inches is quite large for a smartphone, the Z1 manages to disguise that with its slim design and weight. Battery life doesn’t compare to anything else on the market.

Rating: 9.5/10
Price: R9,000