A solid smartphone: Sony Xperia Z1 reviewed

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

Weather-proofing is still a strong feature in this handset, and just like on the Galaxy S4 Active, we were able to take this handset into water without fear that it would die, which is a constant concern when you’re dealing with water and electronics.

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

Unlike the aforementioned Samsung handset, this phone doesn’t have the extra physical proofing on its body or physical buttons, and yet still retains its resistance to the elements, which is impressive.

To do this, Sony has had to put flappy covers over ports, which we can see annoying some, though the reasoning is sound as to why it’s been done this way.

Over in the system performance, the Sony Z1 is a phone that should last you at least a year, and likely beyond.

We’re talking about a set of specs that rivals the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and LG G2, and it shows, with practically no slow downs, solid benchmarks, and not much reason to worry about how many apps you should or shouldn’t be running at any one time.

Mobile download speeds are also equally impressive, a fact which doesn’t surprise us thanks to the inclusion of Cat4 LTE. For those unfamiliar, Cat4 is the very latest in 4G technology and effectively allows for speeds as high as 150Mbps, higher than the Cat3 that most 4G phones released in Australia support.

At the time of publishing, Vodafone was the only provider to support these speeds in Australia, but even with our Telstra SIM operating on Cat3 4G, we were able to get speeds as high as 77Mbps, which isn’t bad either, and runs circles around or home broadband connection.

While the mobile broadband performance appears solid, the battery life is less impressive, managing a mere day from its 3000mAh battery.

That’s a comfortable day, though you will want to charge it daily, and we found that as we pushed into the second day, the 20-30 percent we had remaining overnight didn’t leave us terribly comfortable that the Z1 would last well into the next day.

In fact, this was the first time we’d ever seen our battery tester report measurements that the cell was overheating, losing life as it did so.

It can also get a touch toasty as you use it, which makes sense when you see that the battery meter is overheating, though it doesn’t take it long for the rear glass to warm up and start feeling hot against your fingers.

Image sample from the Sony Xperia Z1 camera.

The camera is also a mixed bag affair.

To its credit, Sony’s choice of a 20 megapixel sensor actually makes this an impressive little beast, but only on paper, since the Xperia Z1 will almost always default to using the 8 megapixel shooter.

More annoyingly, the scene modes which Sony classifies as “manual mode” (which aren’t and align more with the basic modes of a point and shoot camera) will also cease to exist if you decide to use the 20 megapixel camera, literally offering you touch focus and a shutter only.

It’s not exactly a full-featured 20 megapixel camera, that much we can confirm.

When the camera is set to 20 megapixels, your options aren't as numerous for shooting with.

Most of the images on the Z1 appear to take that 20 megapixel sensor and produce an 8 megapixel image out of what’s available, which result in a high quality 8 megapixels, but its hardly the 20 that you’re supposedly getting.

As such, we’re not sure if we’d say it’s fair that Sony advertises that this is a 20.7 megapixel camera in a smartphone, especially since you’re practically only able to use eight.