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Sony Xperia Z1: Is this the device to beat in 2013?


Sony announced the Xperia Z1 at the IFA earlier this month to a lot of fanfare. The device, codenamed Honami, had been rumored for over three months, and was leaked numerous times before Sony officially unveiled it. The device was said to feature a camera that is far better than anything else available today, which turned out to be true as the Xperia Z1 does come with a revolutionary 20.7 MP camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor that includes Sony’s BIONZ image processing unit. However, unlike Nokia, Sony did not just attach a better camera to the back of a device already out in the market. It has made significant changes to every facet of the device, which makes the Xperia Z1 one of the best devices ever manufactured.

Design strengths and hardware prowess


The Xperia Z1 follows the same OmniBalance design as other Xperia mobiles launched earlier this year. The Xperia Z1 features a scratch-resistant glass back and front, along with aluminium sides. The 5-inch full-HD screen features Triluminos technology that claims to offer the widest colour spectrum on a mobile, and the pixel density count is also very high at 441ppi. The X-Reality mobile engine uses three different noise reduction algorithms to make sure that graininess and noise are significantly reduced. Sony was criticized for the screen on some of its earlier devices like the Xperia Z, which included an additional layer of film on the touchscreen to account for its water resistance.


It is a great sign to see that the Xperia Z1 does not suffer from any such limitations, and it retains the water, dust and shatter resistance features seen on other Sony devices launched this year. The device comes with 2 GB RAM, 16 GB RAM and a 3,000 mAh battery, along with LTE connectivity and NFC. The screen is a delight, and the same can be said of the internal hardware, thanks to the inclusion of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 (MSM8974), which comes with a 2.2 GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330 for the visuals. It is clear that Qualcomm has a stronghold on the mobile SoC market, as evidenced by the fact that all high-end mobiles launched over the last three months featured the Snapdragon 800.


This might change soon, though, if Intel has anything to say about it. In the latest round of benchmark scores, Intel’s Bay Trail processors have outdone anything that Qualcomm has to offer. But the caveat here is that Bay Trail hardware is still five to six months away, by which time Qualcomm is sure to unveil its next generation Snapdragon chips.

Already, rumours of a Snapdragon 1000 (APQ8084) have begun, which is said to feature Adreno 420 GPU. This is said to include DirectX11 and WebGL2.0, along with built-in decoding abilities for the H.265 video codec. So whatever Intel manages to achieve with Bay Trail, it looks like Qualcomm is ready to match it with its next-generation processors.

Sony wasn’t kidding about the imaging quality

xperia-z1-G lensThe Xperia Z1 is a beast when it comes to the imaging section. The mobile features a 1/2.3-inch 20.7 MP Exmor RS image sensor, combined with Sony’s BIONZ image processing unit. The larger sensor size allows in taking great images in low-light conditions, and is a similar technique used by HTC in the One, which featured a 1/3-inch sensor. Also included on the Z1 is Sony’s G Lens, which comes essentially is a 27 mm wide angle lens that also assists you in taking images in low-light conditions.


The inclusion of the BIONZ image processing unit on the Xperia Z1 is a breakthrough. The processor converts images taken using the Exmor sensor to a digital format, while minimizing any loss in image quality. This allows you to take a lot of images without any lag, and has led Sony to create the Time Shift burst mode, through which you can take a total of 61 images in 2 seconds. The processor is also used for fast auto-focus and motion detection.

Another new addition is SteadyShot image stabilization. Until now, the technology has only been used in CyberShot digital cameras, and with the Z1, Sony has decided to include it in a mobile. SteadyShot enables you to take distortion-free videos, as it works in conjunction with the BIONZ processing unit to detect motion and stabilize the lens automatically. In addition, the mobile emulates the functionality of a 3x optical zoom lens, which means that you can zoom 3x without any loss in image quality.


Furthermore, Sony has included a bevy of new software utilities on the Sony Xperia Z1, like the AR Effect, which allows you to add elements to your images and videos. Features like Social Live allow you to broadcast your images live to Facebook, and you can also view real-time comments and interact with your friends while broadcasting. Info-eye is an augmented reality tool that shows you additional information on an object or location when you take its image.

Overall, Sony has done a magnificent job with the Xperia Z1. It worked out the flaws that were inherent on the Xperia Z, and managed to include a stellar camera on a mobile that comes with great hardware. This isn’t the first time this year we’re seeing a great camera on a mobile. The Lumia 1020 showed us what can be achieved, but was ultimately let down by the fact that other than the camera, there wasn’t anything noteworthy on the device.

That is not the case with the Xperia Z1. It comes with a great design, and has the best hardware that is currently available in the market. In addition, Sony has gone out of its way to bundle freebies with the device, which include a 5,000 mAh external battery and a leather carrying cover. However, for all its innovations, there are a few minor issues with the device. The screen’s viewing angles are not that brilliant, and it loses out when seen against devices like the HTC One with its LCD3 screen. And while the device comes with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on Sony’s own skin, it does feature a lot of heavy animations which could be done without.

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