Sony Xperia XZ1 hands-on review

BERLIN: SONY HAS UNVEILED its latest top-end handset, the Xperia XZ1, which the firm is touting as a smartphone with a camera like no other. 

Unveiled at the IFA conference in Berlin, the Sony Xperia XZ1 boasts a Motion Eye smart camera and 3D scanning capabilities – linked with social functions – alongside some of the best bits from its predecessors, such as an IP65/IP68 dust-tight, waterproof design. 

In true Sony style, this flagship handset has been launched alongside a smaller, less powerful version, called the Xperia XZ1 Compact, for those looking for a mid-range option.

We got some hands-on time with the Xperia XZ1 ahead of its release at IFA, and while we don’t know all of its specs just yet, here’s what we’ve found so far.


Sony has kept true to the rugged design of earlier Xperia models. Thanks to its dust-resistant and waterproof IP65 and IP68 certification – the highest possible waterproof rating – Sony claims that the Xperia XZ1 can be safely dunked in water for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1.5m.

The Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the display should mean it’s tough enough to take on all the knocks and drops. (While we didn’t have the guts to throw the phone around during our hands-on review, perhaps we’ll be more daring when we get it in for a test drive.)

For a personalised touch, the Xperia XZ1 has an integrated fingerprint sensor, which Sony has managed to retain on top of the small power button, so you can unlock the device when you pick it up without having to move your hand to a separate button. We can confirm this works really well.

The phone looks slick, thanks to its satin finish. Size wise the XZ1 is very similar to the Xperia XZ before it, feeling slim in the hand. As for weight, it’s neither noticeably heavy nor light for a phone of its size.

Touting a 5.2in Full HD 1080p display with HDR, the Sony Xperia XZ1 boasts a super-vibrant screen that uses the firm’s Bravia TV technology for better contrast and colour vibrancy. While not quite in the league of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium’s 5.5in 4K IPS display, the XZ1 still offers crystal-clear images and is stunning to look at. Text and images look sharp and touch operations are smooth on pages and apps, which is probably down to the firm’s TRILUMINOS and X-Reality mobile display technologies, which are designed to offer brighter, more detailed images onscreen.

The display is also embedded in a “loop surface” design which Sony says offers a “perfect hand fit” due to its curved edges. It also gives it a seamless, premium-feel metal body.

Performance and software

The Sony Xperia XZ1 comes with Qualcomm’s 835 Mobile Platform with X16 LTE, which is designed to provide Gigabit LTE download speeds of up to 1Gbps.

In our short hands-on, we found no lag even when playing and recording 4K video. It does still run a little hot when doing this, but bear in mind this is the most demanding function you will ever ask of it.

The Sony Xperia XZ1 runs Google’s Android 8.0 Oreo mobile operating system right out of the box. However, Sony has again skinned the OS with its own custom user interface. We’ve never been huge fans of Sony’s custom UI, finding it overbearing compared with the vanilla Android experience, but some of the added apps are a bonus.

The Xperia XZ1 arrives with Sony’s Walkman and PlayStation companion apps as usual, as well as many new augmented reality camera features and built-in noise cancellation technologies. However, a major new software feature in this release is Sony’s 3D Creator; an in-house algorithm for fast and easy scanning of 3D objects.

Claiming to be a first for the smartphone world, this app lets users capture high-quality 3D scans of objects in just one minute using four scan modes; head scan, face scan, food scan, and freeform scan. Each mode has its own custom guides for ease of use, and after finishing your scan you can share it with your friends via messenger apps using 3D stickers. We can’t imagine what uses people might invent for this (ahem).


The Xperia XZ1 uses Sony’s next-generation camera sensor, the memory-stacked Exmor RS. Sony says this upgraded sensor introduces a host of improvements for snap-happy users.

One of these is the arrival of Sony’s Motion Eye camera tech, built using know-how from Sony’s Cyber-shot cameras, to give life-like images that Sony claims are like no other taken by a smartphone.

In our tests, still images taken with the Xperia XZ1’s rear-facing camera were far more impressive than on the Xperia XZ, appearing crisp, clear, and full of natural colour, and were taken super-fast. Autofocus is swift, and the camera was able to focus on the background and foreground aspects of an image instantly.

First impressions
Overall, we were very impressed with our first hands-on with the Sony Xperia XZ1, but the handset’s success will depend partly on its price, which Sony has yet to reveal.

The Sony Xperia XZ1 will be available globally in blue, pink, silver, and black options from September, but will be on pre-order from 31 August at Carphone Warehouse. Its smaller sibling, the Xperia XZ1 Compact, is on the same release schedule.

Sony says that pre-orders of the XZ1 come with a free pair of h.ear on 2 Wireless NC over-ear headphones, worth £250. Check back with the INQUIRER soon for our full review. µ

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