A solid smartphone: Sony Xperia Z1 reviewed

The Z1 doesn't appear to have problems with water.

Sony hasn’t exactly broken the mould when it comes to the design of this, continuing with a layout that makes the phone an evolution of the Xperia Z it launched earlier in the year, reflected not just in the design, but also in the name of this model, the Z1.

There is also a camera button at the bottom right edge too, and this can help too if you decide you want to take a picture without touching the screen.

Like in the past model, you need to press this pretty firmly for it to register a press, but given this phone is certified for use in water, it’s at least good to know that there’s a button for taking photos when the touchscreen refused to function underwater, which will definitely happen here, like with other capacitive touchscreens.

Using the handset, you’ll see that this is the latest of Sony’s Xperia overlay for Android, and continues the look that many owners of Sony products are familiar with.

It’s clean, relatively easy to get the hand of, and makes it feel like you’re using another piece of Sony’s technology.

We’ve seen it for a while now, and over on Android 4.2, it’s just as nice as it ever was, making the Google Android interface easy for people to learn to use, with a dock that can be modified, multiple menu views, several homescreens, and a few nice widgets developed by Sony.

Multitasking is easily possible on the Z1, and we found that just like on the LG G2 and Galaxy Note 3, you can push this handset to the limits with 10-20 apps at once before it starts to get frustrated.

Just like on those devices, you’ll find some micro apps in the multitask screen, which Sony has called “small apps.”

These are literally that: smaller versions of apps you might already use that can run on top of the main home screen, and include a browser, calculator, mirror-mode that turns on the camera, voice recorder, calendar, and you can always download more from the Google Play Store.

One neat addition to this is that you can easily turn widgets into small apps, which is a feature we’ve not yet seen, and could be great for people who rely on widgets and want to move them around the screen with ease.

Sony has also provided a lovely screen to look at that is excellent dead on, though does succumb to a slight amount of wash out when viewed at the severe angles.

We’re told its one of Sony’s Triluminous displays, just like what’s appearing on the new Sony Bravia TVs and VAIO laptops, and that makes for some excellent colour and contrast. Paired with the Full HD resolution, the screen is lovely to look at, with sharp text across the board.

The power control part of the drop down can be modified to suit your needs.

There’s also a reasonable amount of flexibility as to how you customise the Z1, too, with multiple ways to change the drop-down power controller, and it’s here you also find an option to turn on and off LTE.

That’s an interesting option, and if you have any problems jumping onto a 4G network, include this temporarily so you can at least switch it on. We needed to do this with our review unit, and while it’s a minor inconvenience, we weren’t the only reviewers this happened to, so it’s worth acknowledging.

The customisation is also bolstered by the upgradeability, and even though the back isn’t removable on this handset, you can rest easy knowing there’s a microSD slot to load up with extra storage if you need it, something we wish LG and HTC would make available on its flagship handsets.

We’re also happy with something else we’re surprised about: the sound, and in the Z1, Sony has provided a solid audio device for keen listeners of music.

There are quite a few audio settings for people eager to make their headphones have a different soundscape, with the inclusion of a few settings, such as an equaliser, but also different spaces for like “club” or “studio,” cross-talk reduction, and a normaliser which aims to minimise volume differences across things you’re listening to.