Sony Xperia XZ1 Android Smartphone Review: Don’t Judge It By Its Cover

October 9, 2017 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Cutting-edge features, killer camera and unbeatable audio

Fall 2017’s Sony Xperia XZ1 fits the Xperia without a doubt, looking very similar to what we’ve seen from the company in the last few refresh cycles, but featuring Fall 2017 specs as you would hope to expect. In fact it sports the same top-of-the-line camera as the recently reviewed Xperia XZ Premium, this time around with a new 3D scanning feature too. All this with feature-rich software and the first phone to launch with Android 8.0 Oreo, as well as launching in two different sizes with the same specs, and Sony is looking to have a real winner on its hands. But with some outdated looking design, is this one really worth your cash? Let’s take a look.

Video Review

Specs

Sony is launching the Xperia XZ1 unlocked worldwide for $699/€699/£599, while the Xperia XZ1 Compact sells for a little less at $599/€599/£499. Color options include Moonlit Blue, Venus Pink, Warm Silver and Black. The Xperia XZ1 features a 5.2-inch 1080p HDR Triluminos IPS LCD display, while the Xperia XZ1 Compact features a 4.6-inch 720p HDR Triluminos IPS LCD display, both with Gorilla Glass 5 protection. Both phones feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset and Adreno 540 GPU, as well as 4GB of RAM and 64GB of UFS 2.1-grade internal storage. MicroSD card’s are supported up to 256GB, and the phone also features dual nano-SIM card slots.

On the front sits a big-time 13-megapixel camera with 1/3.06” Exmor RS sensor with f/2.0 lens and 22mm wide angle view. Around back is the show-stopping 19-megapixel Sony Exmor IMX400 MotionEye 1/2.3” sensor with 1.22-micron sized pixels and the ability to record up to 960FPS super slow motion, 4K with stabilization, predictive hybrid autofocus, 11fps autofocus burst and 5-axis stabilization on 1080p video, sporting an f/2.0 lens. A 2,700mAh battery is packed inside both sized phones, and features Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 fast charging, as well as Sony’s Qnovo Adaptive Charging to keep the battery healthy for years. The frame is of course IP68 water and dust resistant as all Sony flagship phones have been for years, and the metal chassis of the larger XZ1 measures in at 148mm high, 73mm wide and 7.4mm thin, weighing a rather light 156g.

Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band Wifi up to 802.11ac speeds, NFC and even 4G LTE Cat16 (1Gbps speeds) cover the gamut of the wireless spectrum for the phone. Sony has the widest audio capabilities on the market, and not only features a 3.5mm audio jack with high-res 24-bit audio support, but also supports aptX HD and LDAC via that Bluetooth 5.0 connection. You’ll also find audio enhancements like DSEE HX, Clear Audio+, and even S-Force virtual surround sound for those front-facing speakers. The USB Type-C port on the bottom features USB 3.1 speeds as well, rounding this off as one of the absolute most capable phones on the market. It’s also the first phone to launch with Android 8.0 Oreo, and the first phone to feature Oreo outside of Google’s own in-house Nexus and Pixel devices.

In The Box

Contents of the box are rather small, with Sony packing the usual expected accessories alongside the smartphone. A USB Type-A to Type-C cable is included, alongside a Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 capable power brick for fast charging out of the box. There’s also of course the usual set of manuals with it, and since Sony’s SIM tray doesn’t require a tool to remove it, there’s no SIM eject tool included.

Display

Sony’s Triluminos IPS LCD panels have long been lauded for a few very positive factors, like color accuracy and brightness. The display panel on the Xperia XZ1 is no different here, and features the widest color gamut yet available on a Sony flagship phone. While the Xperia XZ Premium’s display will give you a better pixel-per-inch density, the rest of the qualities of that display are all here too, for better or worse. Starting off with the positives, you’ll find the same HDR capabilities on both the XZ1 and the XZ1 Compact’s displays as you’ll find on the XZ Premium’s; a big deal for folks looking for a smaller sized screen without losing the premium capabilities.

This allows for viewing of HDR content from Amazon and Netflix, although YouTube support doesn’t seem to be enabled yet as of this review. These are the only smaller Android phones with this capability, and that’s certainly noteworthy. These displays get insanely bright, and even at half brightness appear brighter than many other mobile displays on the market. Outdoors you’ll find the display lowers the contrast ratio and sharpens the image, creating an image that would look horrible indoors, but makes it considerably easier to see in direct sunlight. Sony also supports “glove mode,” which as it sounds allows the use of the touch screen even with regular gloves on.

White balance is excellent, with the display trending ever so slightly on the warm side when looking straight on, but it’s this last part where the qualities of the display start to fade. IPS panels always dim from an angle; it’s just part of the technology and something that’s not easily fixable. The display does have some tonal shifting at any angle though, and gets warmer the further you hold it at an angle. Pixel persistence is quite low too, with very obvious trailing/ghosting on any kind of movement on screen, especially when it’s in higher contrast situations. Pixel density isn’t ultra high, but it really is fine for most scenarios.

Retina-level pixel density means the only time you’ll notice the lower pixel density is when you’ve got the screen right up to your eyes, or when viewing VR content. Black levels are rather good for an IPS display, although they are still quite gray when compared to an OLED panel, especially the higher you turn the brightness up. Still it’s impressive to see these deep black levels on something that requires a backlight to display an image. If you don’t care much for the fairly washed out looking colors out of the box, you can crank up the saturation rate in display settings, helping colors pop a little more, but ultimately look slightly unrealistic.

The above picture shows a 50% grey image at maximum brightness to help illustrate any deficiencies in panel uniformity or light bleed. You’ll notice most of the panel is very uniformly lit, however there is noticeable light bleed from the bottom right in particular, and slightly less toward the bottom left side. The shutter speed on the camera was adjusted to help illustrate visible light bleed under specific situations.

The above two pictures illustrate the effect of the backlight at maximum brightness with a 100% black image, showing that while black levels on this LCD panel are good, they are not truly black by any stretch of the imagination. There is no noticeable light bleed when viewing the panel from an angle, and no real discernible difference in black levels or color accuracy from an angle either. The shutter speed on the camera was adjusted to replicate how the panel looks to the human eye, this attempting to replicate real-world results.

Hardware and Build

Sony’s design hasn’t changed drastically in a very long time, but what we’re seeing on the XZ1 is a slow evolution to more uniform lines around the phone. While last year’s phone featured antennas in a plastic place located in the lower back section of the phone, this year’s design features a completely solid piece of aluminum on the back, rolled all the way around the sides to the front. Antenna lines are rather unique and are located solely in the left and right sides of the phone, with two groups on the left and one on the right, helping to keep the signal strong no matter how you hold or angle the phone. What we’re left with is a phone that feels like one piece, rather than a few pieces assembled together. Despite initial appearances, the top and bottom are not completely flat; rather they have a very slight curvature about them and feel easier on the fingers because of it. The round sides make the phone ultra comfortable to hold, and the light weight only furthers this feeling.

Of course the real crux of Sony phones for some time have been the large bezels around the screen. While Sony utilizes front-facing stereo speakers for a better audio experience, the large bezels look even more out of place this late in 2017 than they did just a few months ago on the XZ Premium. What you’re left with is a phone that looks like it’s years old coming out of the box, as even budget-minded brands have moved to the bezel-less style that 2017 has quickly become famous for. Along the right side you’ll find the recessed power button and fingerprint scanner, which are combined into one piece for the International market, but fingerprint scanning is still disabled for the US market. Above this is a small volume rocker, while the dedicated camera shutter button is located toward the bottom right edge of the phone (as it would be on a dedicated camera).

There are no buttons on the left side, only the dual-SIM/microSD card tray that’s easily removable by hand. Having no buttons on the left is advantageous since you can rest the phone on said side without having to worry about volume being adjusted or the screen turning off. On the bottom is a single, centered USB Type-C port, with a microphone hole just to its left. Up top is a centered microphone hole for active digital noise cancellation, and a 3.5mm audio jack to the left side. On the back you’ll find a medium-sized circular camera lens, which protrudes a few millimeters out from the back of the body. While I didn’t end up breaking it during the review, this camera hump will undoubtedly be a point of weakness of the phone is dropped straight on its back. Centered near the top of the back is a wide module that contains the NFC radio, flash module and other sensors, as well as an Xperia logo centered on the back.

Performance and Memory

Sony’s Android skin has long been one of the fastest, lightest skins available, and nothing changes in that regard with the Xperia XZ1. Animations are sped up to help illustrate just how fast this phone is; things happen absolutely instantly, and it’s a combination of light software and fast hardware that do the trick. Double tapping the multi-tasking Overview button, for example, instantaneously switches between two apps, with only enough animation happening during the switching process to clue you into what went on. Multi-tasking itself has received an upgrade thanks to Android 8.0 Oreo, which now features floating, resizable windows as part of the new multi-tasking framework.

The problem with this type of implementation is that the app has to support it, unlike Samsung’s version where any app can be brought down into a resizable window. One example of great implementation is YouTube; play any video, and while watching simply press the home button. The video will shrink to a window about 1/8th the size of your screen and move down into the bottom right corner automatically, letting you multitask without even having to think. It’s an incredibly brilliant implementation that’s soured by the fact that the app has to be made to use it.

Benchmarks

As should be expected, the Sony Xperia XZ1 sits right among the top performers in the smartphone category. Sporting the same Snapdragon 835 chipset that almost every 2017 flagship phone has, as well as lightning fast UFS storage, you’ll find nothing out of line with Sony’s performance here. We ran our normal suite of benchmarking utilities, the results of which you’ll find below; 3DMark Slingshot, PCMark internal storage speed test, GeekBench 4 and AnTuTu V6.

Wireless Connectivity

Sony is committed to delivering a phone that works worldwide, and as expected the Xperia XZ1 basically works anywhere you’ll try it. While Sony’s biggest base remains in Europe, the XZ1 supports worldwide 2G, 3G and 4G LTE bands, including 4CA carrier aggregation and LTE speeds rated at up to 1Gbps download. The usual dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi connections are supported, with speeds up to 802.11ac connection level. Bluetooth 5.0 is also included, providing existing devices with a Bluetooth connection up to four times further, as well as providing double the bandwidth for new devices that support the tech. Sony goes all out with its Bluetooth audio support too, which we go over in the sound section below. NFC is of course included as well, with the ability to use Android Pay for mobile payments, or other preferred method too. You’ll also find WiFi Calling for supported carriers out of the box without any further configuration needed.

Battery Life

Despite what a small sounding 2,700mAh battery may make you think, the Xperia XZ1 has absolutely stellar battery life no matter how you use it, with plenty of screen on time usage, as well as killer standby time. Utilizing the latest efficiencies built into Android 8.0 Oreo, the Xperia XZ1 exhibits better battery life than most flagships, and it does it without needing to pack in an inordinately large battery. Part of these efficiencies comes from the fact that the display is only 1080p, as well as physically smaller too, making less for both the processor to constantly render and less of a physical backlight (since this is an LCD display). The smaller Xperia XZ1 is even more of a beast, as it features the same size battery, but both a physically smaller display by half an inch, and a lower resolution panel at the same time.

You’d better believe you’ll easily get a days’ worth of usage out of either of these phones, and Sony’s STAMINA modes will only make that last longer if you need to. The Xperia XZ1 supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0, meaning you’ll see around 60% battery charge in as little as 30 minutes. Sony’s Qnovo adaptive charging keeps the battery’s health in check too, as it learns from your normal charging patterns and attempts to keep the battery at 90% for most of the charging cycle, only bumping the capacity up to 100% in the last hour of being plugged in. This keeps the battery from staying at capacity for a long time, and as studies have shown, keeps it lasting for months longer than the average battery would before needing replaced.

Sound

There are few phones on the market that can compete with Sony’s devices purely on an audio level. Sony has been the pioneer of high-res audio for some time, and with that comes a slew of technologies that take advantage of higher quality audio streaming sources and equipment. The 3.5mm audio jack is still included, which enables native 24-bit high-res audio output on supported devices. Sony also includes DSEE HX technology, which upscales audio to make it sound better on supported hardware, even going to far as to attempt to fill in the gaps that are missing in lower quality audio sources. Those that prefer Bluetooth audio won’t be let down either. Not only does Bluetooth 5.0 offer quadruple the rated distance for Bluetooth signal, but it also offers enhanced bandwidth and other factors for supported devices. Part of this support comes in higher quality audio too, and with aptX HD you’ll likely not even notice the difference between Bluetooth wireless and traditional wired audio unless you’ve got some seriously high quality equipment (and know what to listen for).

AptX HD also offers additional automatic quality adjustment settings via Sony’s accessory settings section, helping to adapt the music both to the environment you’re around (active noise cancelling built right into the phone), as well as audio feedback adjustments based on what type of headphones it senses. There’s tons of headphone options including virtual surround sound, and other audio sources offer options like an equalizer, dynamic normalizer and automatic optimization via what Sony calls ClearAudio+. Even the front-facing stereo speakers are worlds better than most flagship phones, offering true stereo audio without the need for headphones, as well as virtual surround sound right from the front of your phone. While it’s got some insanely good quality, it’s lacking a bit in the volume department. I found the speakers seem to put out around 80% of the volume level of many flagship phones with a single speaker, but at the same time offers higher quality audio that’s free from distortion when compared to those single speakers.

Software

Sony is the first out of the gate with Android 8.0 Oreo, beating even Google to the punch when it comes to new devices packing the software update. Oreo is a pretty big update, and while it’s not the single largest Android update by any means, it packs in a lot of features that are very important. Many features and menus have been redesigned to pack in more information, and to organize it in a better way. Little things like long-pressing on icons to bring up context-sensitive actions, breaking down notifications for apps in more granular ways, and even offering better battery life and control over rogue apps are just a sampling of what’s to expect from Oreo.

Sony includes plenty of apps to customize the experience too, and it all starts with their robust and well supported theme engine. Hundreds, or maybe even thousands of themes fill the Google Play Store, and they’re all easy to find thanks to Sony’s built-in theme browser, which sorts all available themes by categories and price. Tons of exclusive themes are included, like Spiderman: Homecoming for instance, as well as plenty of user created themes as well. These themes actually change the entire user interface too, not just supported apps or the home screen launcher. Everything from system icons to the navigation bar at the bottom can be themed, and they’re all applied in seconds too. It’s a great way to differentiate your device and keep it fresh feeling, as new themes are released all the time. One of the other big exclusive features from Sony includes the ability to use your phone as a remote play destination for your PlayStation 4. This gives the ability to actually play your PS4 games remotely via the Xperia XZ1’s screen, opening up a massive array of titles to play. The response time of Sony’s service is impressive too, with little to no perceivable lag when a good wireless connection is available.

3D Scanning is a brand new feature from Sony, and one that’s more of a promise than a delivery. It’s not that the 3D Scanning is bad or produces bad results, per say, it’s more that it’s very difficult to use. The 3D Scanning app walks you through the four different modes via simple tutorials; Face Scan, Head Scan, Food Scan and Object Scan. Face scan is the easiest, as it just takes a 180-degree view of the face, scanning from right to left, followed by a “sculpting” method at the end. This sculpting method is present in all of the scanning modes, and consists of a moving the phone in an S-shape to scan more detail onto the generated 3D model. The three other modes are difficult to use not because the software isn’t designed well or isn’t clear, but because it’s difficult to accurately hold the phone in the exact positions it wants you to, and if you make a simple mistake it wants you to start all over again, making the entire process more frustrating than it should be.

This feature feels like more of a reactionary move by Sony rather than delivering of a fully finished product, as it almost feels like having Google Tango functionality was the initial idea, however without the complex array of sensors that a Tango-enabled phone ships with, complex augmented-reality functionality like this is difficult to deliver. Right now the 3D models generated by this app can be 3D printed or shared in avatar form, and integration with games like NBA 2K and Grand Theft Auto V is coming soon, with the assumption that Sony is working on integrating this functionality in more games in the future as well.

Camera Software

The Xperia XZ1’s camera UI features a similar overall look and operation to the past few Sony flagships, however a few important distinctions can be made this time around. Sony has taken complaints to heart and made some small but very important changes, particularly when it comes to video recording. 4K recording can now be selected from the standard video recording settings, allowing users to record 4K videos without having to navigate to a completely separate video recording app. This was easily one of the weakest points about Sony’s software, and it is completely fixed here. Image stabilization is also available on 4K recording, however you’re still only able to get the best stabilization in 1080p 30FPS mode. Also notably gone are the overheating issues that plagued last year’s X and XZ devices, and in its place is one of the most feature rich camera apps available.

Instead of switching sub-modes to take different types of shots though, Sony’s software automatically identifies the scene and attempts to enhance it accordingly. You’ll see how that fares in the results below, but for the most part it’s incredibly accurate and does an amazing job at helping keep the experience simple, while offering a more robust feature set for end users. Additional camera modes and modules can still be added via the top or right-most section, depending on what orientation you’re holding the phone in, and provides an easy way for Sony to continually expand the feature set of the camera software, as well as provide quick and easy updates through the Google Play Store. The only mode switching is in-between Manual, Photo and Video modes, which are done via swipes on the main interface. The downside to this is of course waiting that extra second or so to switch between picture and video modes, something that could cost you a good shot.

Sony’s predictive functionality from the XZ Premium is here and just as good as ever. The camera will take a number of photos within a 2 second interval of pressing the shutter, and show you the best four it captured, along with what it has selected as the single best one. It won’t do this every time you press the shutter button, only when it deems necessary, but I’ve found that when it activates, can be a serious life saver for nailing the ideal shot. This mode is usually activated any time it detects any kind of movement in a scene; generally something that happens when taking pictures of children or pets, and having the phone automatically attempt to nail the best shot for you really can make a huge difference in the end. The new burst mode works to help nail the right shot too, taking 11 shots per second and refocusing in-between each one of those shots. Lightning fast doesn’t even come to describe what Sony’s got going on here, and it’s easily one of the most amazing experiences on any camera out there.

The rest of the interface is nearly identical looking as the previous Sony phone releases, with the default photo mode launching with the software every time. Quick launch is supported either via double-tapping the power button to launch, or holding the dedicated shutter button. You can customize what this action does too, as you can have it immediately start recording a video or take a picture when this action is performed, or just disable it entirely. Up top near the mode carousel you’ll find quick buttons for switching between front and back cameras (which can also be achieved by swiping down from the top of the screen), and a flash toggle too.

Manual mode offers some good functionality, although it’s not quite the most feature rich we’ve seen from some other smartphones out there. There are four White Balance settings, and exposure value ranges from +2 to -2. Manual ISO ranges from 50-3200, although auto mode will go as high as 6400 ISO. Manual shutter speed ranges from as slow as 1 second to as fast as 1/4000th of a second, and manual focus is available too, but there’s no focus peaking or zooming to help with correcting the focus. Sony offers great functionality with Android Wear-powered smartwatches, with a remote shutter app that pops up on the watch automatically when the camera is launched on the phone.

Camera Performance and Results

Camera performance is mostly excellent, with some notable exceptions. Launch speed is nearly instantaneous, and it probably takes longer to double press the power button or hold the camera button down than it actually takes the software to start up. The startup time is essentially not noticeable, and is by far the fastest startup time we’ve ever seen on any phone, bar none. What’s not so fast is the autofocusing, which is surprising given the capabilities of the sensor. Sony touts an 11FPS autofocus during burst mode, meaning the camera shoots 11 frames each second when the shutter is held down, autofocusing in-between each of those frames. While this miraculous feat absolutely obliterates any other phone on the market, the regular autofocus time during a single shot is slower than any phone we’ve seen in a long time. Pressing the shutter button refocuses the shot, which takes half a second or more. It also failed a simple focus test where I quickly place my hand in front of the lens, and then pull it away after my hand is in focus. Sometimes it would take several seconds for the phone to realize I placed my hand in front of the lens or took it away, which is likely a software assumption based on the fact that the camera always focuses before taking a shot anyway. Still it creates an illusion of being slow to the user, especially when considering how fast cameras from OEMs like Samsung and HTC can focus.

Sony’s camera quality has increased pretty dramatically this time around though, and most of that has to do with having more consistency between shots. We noted on the Xperia XZ Premium review that the camera would occasionally take a shot that was mind blowing, and looked nothing like you might expect from a phone, however those ultra high quality shots were difficult to achieve. This time around Sony seems to have tweaked the software even further, giving the camera better dynamic range and less shots that look overly processed. In fact the dynamic range in some of the shots is downright incredible, with accurate colors, beautiful shadow detail, and little to no blown out highlights. This happened more often than not in our review period, and it highlights the improvements Sony is consistently making in its software.

The weakest point for the camera is in lower light, where the phone doesn’t pick up quite as much light as cameras from Sony, HTC or Google. While there’s certainly a physical gap here in that the pixels themselves are smaller and cannot accept as much light as some other phones, much of the issues lie on the software front. Sony wisely chooses ISO over shutter speed in darker situations, which oftentimes results in darker shots, but reduces the chances of hand jitter entering the picture. While OEMs like Samsung try to keep the shutter open as long as possible and never push the ISO up, causing photos that look blurry when zooming in, we almost never saw this happen on the Xperia XZ1. It’s really only in the darkest of environments where Sony’s low-light weaknesses show, and it’s usually because there wasn’t enough light taken in to illuminate the scene, not because there was little detail, or that it was processed away in most cases.

And it’s here where Sony’s problem really appears most; over-processing of noise out of the shot, which ends up creating the classical watercolor look to photos when zoomed in. While this is most prominent in darker shots, it found its way into well lit scenarios sometimes too, although not nearly as often as we’ve seen from Samsung or LG, for instance. While it’s a mixed bag, we found that shots turned out to be sharper and more detailed than shots from the Galaxy S8 or Note 8, and in general just looked better more often than not. Even indoor shots in moderate light turned out better, with less hand jitter or blur when viewing it any larger than a phone’s screen. Color accuracy was spot on the vast majority of the time too, even in lower light situations where many sensors tend to have a difficult time keeping the scene from looking overly green or yellow.

Not a fan of the camera sensor placement, which is too close to where you hold the phone in landscape orientation

Sony’s selfie game is better than ever this time around, with a nice high-resolution 13-megapixel that features autofocus as well as the intelligent scene detection from the rear camera. This time around Sony has added a new automatic mode called Soft Flash, that flashes the screen a varying hue and brightness to act as a way to better illuminate the scene without the harsh effects of a traditional flash. This works incredibly well to say the least, and not only keeps photos from being dark or harshly processed due to dark conditions, but also keeps them from the usual over-bright nastiness that is associated with traditional LED flashes. The varying hue and brightness is also a great way to help adjust the scene’s color and light balance for the perfect shot every time. This is easily one of the best selfie cameras out there, and everything is effortless too since both a timed delay and the automatic soft flash detection are enabled by default.

For quite some time, recording in 4K on a Sony phone required you to open up a completely separate 4K recording app, and frankly took far too much time and effort to even make it worthwhile. Sony has listened to complaints and merged this app with the native camera app, allowing users to finally record 4K video right from the normal camera interface. Sony’s image stabilization algorithms are locked to hardware-only when in 4K mode, but the superior Intelligent Active recording mode can be activated when using 1080p 30FPS mode. While stabilized 4K video looks good and is definitely less bumpy than unstabilized video, the real deal comes when using Intelligent Active mode in 1080p footage. Sure you won’t be getting the highest resolution video when using this, but it provides such significantly stabilized video that you may just find it worth dropping the resolution to achieve. Sony’s algorithm does introduce some weird jitter during times of heavy movement, but it may only be noticeable to some folks. In general dynamic range of video is excellent, and all the other qualities like color accuracy look fantastic too.

Super Slow Motion from this summer’s Xperia XZ Premium is here in all its glory, allowing for 1080p quality video at 960 frames-per-second. This is exponentially slower slow-motion than any smartphone offers by quite a bit, with many phones giving the ability to record 1080p at 120FPS or 240FPS in the best circumstances, and many pushing lower resolution than that. Sony’s exclusive triple-layer sensor technology puts memory directly on the sensor itself, allowing it to store around 5 seconds of 960FPS data at a time. This burst of ultra slow motion is controlled via a simple button on the recording interface, which when pressed immediately creates this burst. This button can be pressed as many times as you’d like throughout the recording process, meaning you can slow motion just about every second of your video if you continuously press the button. The footage captured with this is remarkable to say the least, and allows for some very unexpected things. This is a real winner in the camera department, but don’t just take our word for it, check out the gallery below.

The Good

Top-tier performance

Comfortable design

IP68 water and dust resistant

Front-facing stereo speakers

Excellent audio output quality

3.5mm audio jack

Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD and LDAC support

HDR video playback support in popular apps

The first to launch with Android 8.0 Oreo

Lots of software features without feeling bloated

Excellent battery life

QuickCharge 3.0 with Qnovo battery health enhancements

Intelligent camera software

Ultra fast camera speed

Super Slow Motion video

Fantastic overall camera image quality

PS4 Remote Play

The Bad

Old-looking design language

Display has lots of motion trailing

Low light camera performance could be better

Autofocus is buggy at times in the viewfinder

No fingerprint scanning in the US

Conclusion

While it’s not a knock-down drag-out of a win, Sony has assembled an absolutely phenomenal phone that competes with the best of them in almost every way. While the design certainly won’t turn heads, and the screen could be a bit better, every other aspect of the Xperia XZ1 is sure to impress; from the excellent battery life and software features, to the incredible audio output quality and well above average camera. Sony has improved almost every aspect of last year’s phone, and even improved upon the recently released Xperia XZ Premium too, with a faster, more consistent camera experience, and more features that make sense. 3D scanning is gimmicky for sure, and while it’s really only a cool marketing bullet-point for the phone, Sony could incorporate this technology into its PS4 games, sealing the deal for PS4 players that want the full Sony ecosystem in their pocket.

It may not be the greatest display in the world, but it’s still nice to have smaller phones with HDR capable screens that deliver excellent video viewing on supported platforms; support that extends to the most important players on the field too. US buyers will likely not be happy with the lack of fingerprint scanning once again though, and while the price is certainly reasonable for what you get at this point in 2017, it’s extremely difficult to recommend this to anyone in the US simply because of that massive security oversight. Buyers in Europe and elsewhere worldwide should seriously consider the phone as a viable alternative to the rest of the 2017 flagship pack though, as it’s one of the most solid experiences one can buy.

Buy the Sony Xperia XZ1 Unlocked on Amazon Buy the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact Unlocked on Amazon