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Sony Xperia XZ1 Hands-on Review: A masterful flagship mobile

Sony just launched its fresh, feature-packed flagship phone, the Xperia XZ1, at IFA 2017 and we’ve had the chance to go hands-on for this first-look review. Boasting strong media specs including HDR video support, as well as PS4 game streaming and a revamped Motion Eye camera, this could be a brilliant blower for more demanding users.

Sony Mobile revealed its flagship Xperia XZ Premium handset earlier in 2017, the first phone ever released to boast a 4K resolution HDR-ready display. This was an absolute beast of a smartphone, packing top-end specs and serious media chops. Of course, it was also quite a chunky and heavy device, which may have put off a lot of people otherwise tempted by a slice of Sony smartphone action.

If you found yourself in that bracket, the good news is that Sony has just launched two additional flagship phones. The Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact boast most of the great features and brilliant specs of the Premium, in a more comfortable form.

At 5.2-inches, the Xperia XZ1 is the piggy in the middle of this flagship trio, at least where size is concerned. You get an improved version of the Motion Eye camera packed onto the rear, as well as a new unibody design that looks the business. Sadly the 4K resolution support has been axed, although you’ll still enjoy HDR-ready movies and shows on the likes of Netflix.

Here’s our full hands-on Sony Xperia XZ1 review from IFA 2017. Check out our comparisons with these Sony phones:

Sony Xperia XZ1 vs XZ1 Compact comparison

Sony Xperia XZ1 vs XZ Premium vs XZ

Hands-on Sony Xperia XZ1 Review: Design

Sony phones have rocked the same distinctive design for some time now and the Xperia XZ1 certainly doesn’t mess with that mould, although we quite like the little refinements.

Unlike last year’s Xperia XZ, you now have a single-piece metal unibody that stretches around the edges and covers the back. It’s pleasingly seamless, while retaining the funky loop design from before. In other words, the new flagship is symmetrical when viewed from above or below, with an even curvature for a comfortable grip.

At 5.2-inches, the Xperia XZ1 is certainly easier to handle with one mitt than the Premium model. In our hands-on testing, that metal seemed to be just as tough as the XZ Premium’s glossy surfacing too, repelling scratches from sharp items. Here’s hoping Sony’s new handset can keep its smart good looks over time, unlike the easily-scuffed Xperia XZ.

Around the front, this smartphone is just as tough with a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 protecting the display from home. You once again get an IP68 water and dust-resistant finish too.

Keeping a strong reception should hopefully be quite simple, as Sony has distributed three antenna around the edges of the XZ1. No matter how you hold the phone, at least one of these should remain uncovered. You’ll also find a fingerprint scanner mounted on the right edge as usual, for quickly and securely unlocking your Xperia.

At launch, you’ll be able to pick up the Sony Xperia XZ1 in black, blue, silver and pink here in the UK.

Hands-on Sony Xperia XZ1 Review: Screen and media

Although the Premium is still the ultimate Xperia media machine with its Ultra HD visuals, the Xperia XZ1 is certainly a treat for your eyeballs (not to mention your ears).

That 5.2-inch IPS screen is Full HD resolution, which as normal offers crisp and colourful image reproduction. You get image enhancement for video playback, which helps to fill in detail and keep things moving smoothly, while Sony’s Vivid display mode can boost colour vibrancy if you prefer more striking visuals.

Like the Premium handset, the Xperia XZ1 supports HDR video playback. This delivers strong contrast levels and an impressively wide colour gamut, which equals some really gorgeous and realistic images. The feature will be well supported as well as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix will be offering Full HD HDR content streaming on the XZ1 from launch. Lovely stuff.

Audio is a major focus again too. The Sony Xperia XZ1 supports Hi-Res Audio, as well as Digital Sound Enhancement Engine support (DSEE HX) for boosting the quality of lower-resolution compressed tracks. Music fans are certainly well catered for.

Even if you don’t rock one of Sony’s new h.ear headphones (which just happen to complement the different colour choices of Xperia XZ1), you shouldn’t worry. The phone’s new ‘S Force’ front-facing stereo speakers can produce 50 percent more sound pressure via the improved speaker amp, when compared with the Xperia XZ. On top volume, the XZ1’s blasters are certainly powerful enough to hear a video clearly over loud background noise.

The 64GB of storage can be boosted with a microSD memory card of up to 256GB in size, so you’ll have stacks of space for your media collection and everything else.

Hands-on Sony Xperia XZ1 Review: Performance and battery life

When it comes to performance, the XZ1 is just as capable as Sony’s Premium model and the other rival flagships out there.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset is packed inside, backed by 4GB of RAM. That’ll make short work of Android Oreo, which ships with the XZ1 (although our review model came with Android Nougat pre-installed), while you can also enjoy LTE Cat 16 connectivity (with peak speeds of up to 1Gbps supported).

You should be able to play the latest games without issue, while the flagship naturally supports Sony’s Remote Play feature. This allows you to stream your PS4 gaming session direct to the phone’s small screen, to play when you’re snuggled in bed, sat on the throne or whatever else.

We’re yet to fully test the Xperia XZ1’s 2700mAh battery, although here’s hoping the efficiency of Android and the 835 chipset will give at least a day of life between charges. Qnovo’s Adaptive Charging tech is supported too, so you shouldn’t see any dip in battery performance over time. This helps to prevent the battery from overcharging, which can cause damage and reduced longevity.

Hands-on Sony Xperia XZ1 Review: Camera tech

The Xperia XZ1 rocks a 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera on the rear, as well as a 13-megapixel selfie snapper up front. You get the ability to shoot 4K resolution video, as well as Super Slow Motion footage just like on the XZ Premium. And Sony has also introduced some fresh new features, including an Autofocus Burst Mode, smart smile capture and even the ability to scan 3D objects.

Check out our hands-on Xperia XZ1 camera review for our full impressions of this marvellous and feature-dense smartphone snapper.

Sony Xperia XZ1 UK price and release date

So far we only know that the Xperia XZ1 will be released in the UK in September 2017, shipping with Android 8.0 Oreo on-board. The XZ1 will be available to pre-order from August 31 at Carphone Warehouse and any pre-orders will bag you a free pair of h.ear on 2 Wireless headphones worth £250.

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