IFA 2013: Sony Xperia Z1 hands-on preview Sony is back in its own inimitable style with the gorgeous Xperia Z1 smartphone, its powerful new flagship mobile that improves on an already-solid Xperia Z. We've had a play in a packed-out Sony hall, and already we can't wait to get our hands on again for a full review.
Sony fans will notice that the Xperia Z1 doesn't sport a radically different design to the Xperia Z, which we awarded four stars to at the start of the year. It's still a sleek rectangular slab of gorgeous tech, packing a five-inch screen. That one-piece metal frame is actually a little chunkier than the original Xperia Z, thanks to a bigger battery, but we'd happily make that sacrifice if it means better battery life compared to the Xperia Z. Besides, the difference is barely noticeable, and the Xperia Z1 is still light enough to comfortably clutch and we had no trouble fitting it into our (slightly tight) jeans.
The original Xperia Z had a trench around the outside, which proved an irritating haven for dust and fluff, but the Xperia Z1 has done away with this annoying feature so should stay pristine for longer. The glossy glass rear is still a fingerprint magnet of course, so keep your buffing cloth on standby. It's also still more comfortable to operate with two hands unless your thumbs are abnormally huge. However, there's no denying that the metal and carbon fiber casing is gorgeous, making this one of the sexiest smartphones around.
An ultra-tough layer of glass should prove resistant to shock damage, which is a huge relief - the last thing you want after investing in a slick smartphone like this is having to sticky tape bits of it together again. Clumsy types will also be relieved to hear that the Xperia Z1 is completely waterproof. The microSD and micro USB ports are covered with flaps, as is the SIM card slot on the right edge.
Booting the Xperia Z1 up, you can't help but be wowed by the Triluminos five-inch display. It's not the brightest we've seen, even on maximum levels, and the spotlights beaming down from the top of the stand were definitely winning. However, it's beautifully crisp, with HD images looking truly stunning. Colours spring out at you, vibrant enough to bring every scene to life. And as you'd expect, viewing angles are perfect.
It's also a perfectly responsive touchscreen, whether you're zipping through Android's menus or browsing a website such as Mobile Choice.
Photography fans, or anyone who's obsessed with snapping shots of their dog eating various household appliances, will love the Xperia Z1's 20-megapixel camera. We had a brief play in the uber-bright Sony demo stands and our shots of fellow journalists all came out perfectly lit, not overexposed.
Sony's usual Superior Auto mode is present as usual, along with panorama etc, but Sony has also added a number of new modes to the mix. Some, such as the AR Effect mode, are throwaway bits of fun - that one adds random cartoon images, such as dinosaurs and elves, to whatever scene you're shooting. It's the kind of cute thing your kid will love for five minutes.
Much more impressive is Timeshot Burst mode, which takes 16 shots over two seconds and presents them all, allowing you to select which ones you wish to keep. It's a great way to capture an action shot, such as your kid chasing your cat, and make sure your end shots aren't a blurry mess.
You also get the nifty Info mode, which attempts to give you info on anything you snap. We took a photo of a paperback book, and in around ten seconds the Xperia Z1 presented us with a full description, GoodReads reviews and similar titles. Very impressive stuff. We can't wait to try it out on everything in sight, from our cat to our wife, to see what info pops up...
Android 4.2.2 has been overlaid by Sony's Xperia interface, and it looks and feels as slick as usual. In fact, it doesn't look too much different, with the same electro-swirls as normal in place. Sony's tinkering has mostly been behind-the-scenes, adding to the likes of One Touch to ensure that pairing with other Sony devices is as seamless as possible.
Sony's Xperia Z1 so far seems to be a masterpiece. With its gorgeous display, feature-packed camera and powerful quad-core processor, this bad boy has the smarts as well as the looks. We'll hopefully be bringing you a full review very soon, and the phone hits UK providers on September 24.