It feels good to get back into the swing of things with a tech review. It's been almost 6 years since PRN did any tech coverage, and we're really kicking things off with the Sony Xperia XZ1. To be fair, Mobile World Congress is happening right now, and the XZ2 has already been announced, but there's still great value in this device despite it's successor coming soon.
The XZ1 is an octa-core smartphone, with a quad 2.35Ghz and quad 1.9Ghz processors working together to power this 5.2" HDR FHD display. You also get 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and an easy way to expand memory with a Micro SDXC card reader along the side. Specs-wise this phone certainly has power, though some were disappointed Sony dropped the resolution down from 4K on the previous model, but 1080p still looks very good on a display of this size.
The design of the phone is also very good. I've been using larger devices for many years now, so the XZ1 felt like it might have been a downgrade in terms of overall dimensions, but that wasn't the case. While it is a bit smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus, it still had a good form factor and functional screen size for what I wanted to do. The latest design trend in smartphone styling is to move the power button elsewhere on the device. Most manufacturers are opting for a fingerprint sensor on the back, but Sony has placed it in the centre of the side.
Your finger naturally falls to the position of the power button and makes it easy to unlock the phone during normal operation. It is somewhat possible to unlock the phone if it's placed on a table, more so than if it were on the back of the device, but the ideal position to unlock is by naturally holding it. The volume buttons were also in a good position, and a dedicated camera button near the bottom made freezing-temperature photography much more bearable. In fact that camera button came in handy quite often when wearing gloves, since a quick press will open the camera and allow you to take photos.
We did find the 19MP camera to be decent, although when the screen's vivid colour mode was enabled we started to notice the photos looked too dark while capturing. We did some outdoor testing with the Xperia XZ1 and our benchmark iPhone 8 Plus to see how the photo quality differs. We have 3 different images we took with each phone in the gallery below to compare how each phone processed a similar scenery.
Overall the Xperia did produce similar images to the iPhone, although we feel the colour wasn't as accurate as it was with the 8 Plus. The other downside to the camera system on the Sony was it's single lens, whereas many phones are now offering a dual camera setup with some sort of optical zoom.
Battery life on the XZ1 wasn't bad for the device's size. We don't consider ourselves power users anymore, so we normally can get two fully days of use out of our benchmark iPhone without having the battery die during the day. The XZ1 was similar, ending off any given day with about 60% battery life left. The fast charging helps if you're often on the go, but the OS is smart enough to learn when you normally charge your device for long periods of time.
For example I go to bed around 10pm, roughly. It's usually the only time the device gets plugged in unless we're using Android Auto. The phone would know I would be leaving it plugged in until 7am the next day, so it would use a slower charge in order to get the phone up to 100%, theoretically extending the overall life of the battery. We definitely like this feature and think it should be an option on other devices as well.
One of the other main benefits of the XZ1 is coming preloaded with Android Oreo 8.0, the only device we've used so far running a current version of the OS. There are some performance and battery optimizations that come with Oreo, but overall most users aren't going to see a huge impact with the software. Unlike older versions of Android where serious UI and feature changes came with revisions, Nougat is still relatively modern for those using devices that haven't been updated. If you're like me though, you'll appreciate having an updated operating system, and Sony seems keen to continue providing updates for their devices.
Overall we were very impressed with this device, much more than we had originally anticipated. It has serious power and a great design that works for most users. The Sony Xperia XZ1 might not be the phone on everyone's list, but if you're looking for a solid Android device that comes with great specs, the easiest way to add more storage, and an updated OS, the XZ1 is definitely the way to go. You can watch our episode of PRN_tech on the Sony Xperia XZ1 below: