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Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact review: A safe bet for flagship chasers

By Liu Hongzuo - 11 Feb 2018

Benchmark, Imaging, Battery Life, Conclusion

Benchmark Performance

Both the Sony Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. That’s the current flagship SoC by Qualcomm, and it’s featured in most signature-tier devices for major phone brands: HTC U11, OnePlus 5, Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, etc. (The Samsung Galaxy Note8 uses a proprietary equivalent chipset instead – Exynos 8895.) Sony’s premium flagship offering - the Xperia XZ Premium – also uses the Snapdragon 835.

  Sony Xperia XZ1 Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact HTC U11 OnePlus 5 (8GB RAM/128GB) Samsung Galaxy Note8 Xiaomi Mi MIX 2
  Sony Xperia XZ1 Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact HTC U11 OnePlus 5 (8GB RAM/128GB) Samsung Galaxy Note8 Xiaomi Mi MIX 2
Launch SRP
  • From S$898
  • From S$668
  • From S$998
  • From S$799
  • From S$1398
  • From S$699
Operating system
  • Android 8.0 (Oreo)
  • Android 8.0 (Oreo)
  • Android 7.0 Nougat with HTC Sense
  • Android 7.0.1 (Nougat) with Oxygen OS 4.5
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat with Dream UX
  • Android 7.1.1 (Nougat) with MIUI 8
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 64-bit
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 64-bit
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Octa-core (4 x 2.45GHz Kryo & 4 x 1.9GHz Kryo)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • Samsung Exynos 8895 octa-core (4x2.3 GHz & 4x1.7 GHz), 10nm process
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Built-in Memory
  • 4GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 6GB
  • 8GB RAM
  • 6GB RAM
  • 6GB RAM
Display
  • 5.2-inch / Full HD HDR (1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution) / TRILUMINOS for Mobile / X-Reality / Dynamic Contrast Enhancer
  • 4.6-inch / HD (1,280 x 720 pixels resolution) / TRILUMINOS for Mobile / X-Reality / Dynamic Contrast Enhancer
  • 5.5-inch Main / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (~550 ppi) / Super LCD 5
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401 ppi) / AMOLED
  • 6.3-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (522 ppi) / Super AMOLED Infinity Display
  • Always-On Display
  • 5.99-inch / 2,160 x 1,080 pixels (402 ppi) / IPS
Camera
  • Rear: 19-megapixel 1/2.3-inch f/2.0, Memory-stacked Exmor RS, Triple Image Sensing, SteadyShot with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stabilization), 25mm G Lens
  • Front: 13MP 1/3.06-inch f/2.0 Exmor RS, Quick Launch and Capture, SteadyShot with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stabilization)
  • Rear: 19-megapixel 1/2.3-inch f/2.0, Memory-stacked Exmor RS, Triple Image Sensing, SteadyShot with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stabilization), 25mm G Lens
  • Front: 8-megapixel 1/4.0-inch f/2.0 Exmor R, 18mm super-wide angle, SteadyShot with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stabilization)
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, f/1.7, phase detection autofocus, OIS, dual-LED flash
  • Front: 16-megapixel, f/2.0
  • Primary Rear: 16-megapixel, f/1.7, contrast detection autofocus, EIS, LED flash, 1.12 µm pixel size
  • Secondary Rear: 20-megapixel, f/2.6, phase detection autofocus, LED flash, 1.00 µm pixel size
  • Front: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, 1.0 µm pixel size
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel telephoto f/2.4 and 12-megapixel wide-angle f/1.7, OIS, 2x optical zoom
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/1.7
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, f/2.0, PDAF, two-tone flash, 4-axis OIS, 1.25µm pixel size
  • Front: 5-megapixel
Connectivity
  • USB Type-C Gen 3.1
  • A-GNSS (GPS + GLONASS)
  • WiFi Miracast
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • NFC
  • DNLA
  • Google Cast
  • USB Type-C Gen 2.0
  • A-GNSS (GPS + GLONASS)
  • WiFi Miracast
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • NFC
  • DNLA
  • Google Cast
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, DLNA, USB Type-C, USB 3.1 Gen 1
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, DLNA, USB Type-C, USB 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 16 (up to 1Gbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Display, USB Type-C 2.0
Storage Type
  • 64GB internal storage (expandable via microSD up to 256GB)
  • 32GB internal storage (expandable via microSD up to 256GB)
  • 128GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 256GB
  • 128GB internal storage
  • 64GB internal storage (UFS 2.0)
  • 256GB (MicroSD)
  • 256GB internal storage
Battery
  • 2,700mAh, non-removable
  • Qnovo Adaptive Charging
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
  • 2,700mAh, non-removable
  • Qnovo Adaptive Charging
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
  • 3,000mAh
  • Quick Charge 3.0
  • 3,300mAh
  • Dash Charge
  • 3,300mAh
  • Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
  • Wireless charging
  • 3,400mAh
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
Dimensions
  • 148 x 73 x 7.4 mm
  • 129 x 65 x 9.3 mm
  • 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm
  • 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm
  • 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm
  • 150.5 x 74.6 x 7.7 mm
Weight
  • 156g
  • 143g
  • 169g
  • 153g
  • 195g
  • 187g

Sunspider Javascript

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. As you can see here, the two Sony phones have a middling performance, more like the Mi MIX 2 than the HTC U11 or Galaxy Note8.

 

Quadrant

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes dramatic volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. We're running this benchmark in Unlimited mode, which ignores screen resolutions.

As far as Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 performance goes, both Sony phones aren't out of place. The phones are relatively swift in day-to-day use, although we can’t shake the feeling that the chipset feels overpowered on the smaller XZ1 Compact.

 

3DMark Sling Shot

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes dramatic volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. We're running this benchmark in Unlimited mode, which ignores screen resolutions.

Good news for folks who are holding out on the XZ Premium while they wait for the XZ1 – despite having the same chipset, the XZ1 outstrips the XZ Premium in this benchmark. However, it’s still a little short from the other Snapdragon 835 devices, with Mi MIX 2 leading at the top of the pack. In real-world use, the Xperia XZ1 is still as zippy as its competitors.

 

Imaging

The Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact come with a single 19-megapixel rear camera that’s supported by a 1/2.3-inch memory-stacked sensor with a 1.22µm pixel pitch, and a 25mm G Lens at f/2.0. Judging from the hardware specs, it’s safe to assume that they use a rear camera system that’s identical to the XZ Premium. Even the software features like Predictive Capture and Motion Eye are included in all three handsets. That’s great because you don’t necessarily have to pay more for the XZ Premium to enjoy these features.

Here’s what Motion Eye is about in a nutshell.

It’s worth noting that Predictive Capture now comes with Smile Detection, which makes its smart-snapping abilities more sensible since it now seeks out the best smile out of your four shots.

The XZ1 uses a 13-megapixel front-facing camera, while the smaller XZ1 Compact has an 8-megapixel front shooter instead. Both devices retain the iconic button that Sony dedicates to photo-taking.

Sony Xperia XZ1, click for full-resolution.

100% crop of above image.

In the XZ1 test image, the partial detail loss was caused by noise. That said, the XZ1’s camera has passable color handling (good in most areas, except at the color chart). It’s also able to capture other intricate details like the block-lines in within the polar bear figurine. Given Sony’s strong history in imaging, it’s natural to expect more from their mobile imaging techniques. However, the phone’s price tag makes this acceptable.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact, click for full-resolution.

100% crop of above image.

In the XZ1 Compact, the camera performance seems mostly similar (as it should – it’s the same make as the XZ1’s after all).

 

Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

Both Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact pack a 2,700mAh battery. Yes, these volumes are smaller than the typical 3,000mAh in flagship devices, but Sony employs several battery-saving techniques that can be enabled by the user. Smart Stamina provides a rough estimate for the phone’s remaining uptime, and there’s stuff like Stamina Mode and Ultra Stamina Mode if you need to stretch the battery a little further.

Sony phones tend not to fare very well in our demanding battery benchmarks since the focus is on screen uptime via a non-stop video at full volume - having two speakers on each phone certainly contributed to these scores. Depending on your usage, your mileage may vary, especially when you factor in the battery-saving options.

The new Xperia devices also come with Qnovo Adaptive Charging for battery longevity, and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 for fast-charging support. ‘Power users’ may already know this, but Sony’s default in-the-box adapter is rated at 5V/1.5A, while the default UCB20 charging cable can handle up to 12.0V/3.0A. If you want to take advantage of the fast-charging fully, you’ll need to grab a Quick Charge 3.0 adapter or wall plug for the device.

 

Conclusion

We feel that “Why fix things that aren’t broken?” was probably Sony’s line of thought when they brought the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact to the market. On their own, they’re excellent workhorses with great display quality, handling that’s familiar and easy to use, with key features like Motion Eye and Predictive Capture that are practical enough for daily use. It uses a current-gen flagship processor, and they have acceptable imaging capabilities.

Coupled with an up-to-date Android operating system and a UI that’s straightforward, the sum of the two phones make them viable contenders in a fiercely competitive smartphone space. For folks who care, the 3.5mm port and the microSD card support are still available on these devices, too. Also, they are IP65/68-certified (for dust and water-resistance), which is not common for phones below S$1,000.

Of course, no phone is perfect. The AR-powered 3D Creator feels advanced, and it’s cute enough for parents and handy enough for pranksters, but it doesn’t have the same level of practicality offered in Predictive Capture and Motion Eye (unless you intend to order a self-made 3D figurine every single week until the next Xperia release). Sony’s battery uptime has always been a pain point in our reviews, and it’s no different this time around. Other titanic phone makers like Samsung, LG, Apple, Xiaomi, and Google have already moved on to developing 18:9, edge-to-edge devices as well; this makes the current Sony phones less attractive for new users, and they are further hampered by their constant recycling of their outward appearance.

Also, it’s hard for these two phones to one-up the XZ Premium, since it has an equal processor, but a higher quality display with the same Motion Eye and Predictive Capture features months before these two came along. What the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact lack in novelty, however, is made up with their competitive price tag.

With an official retail price of S$898 for the Xperia XZ1 and S$668 (!) for the Xperia XZ1 Compact, we'll say that Sony has got the pricing right. By including all the basics along with practical camera features, these two phones leave little room for other phones in the sub-S$1,000 price range.

At this level, the Xperia XZ1 is up against the OnePlus 5 and HTC U11, while the XZ1 Compact is up against the Xiaomi Mi 6, the Nokia 8, Mate10, and perhaps the Mi MIX 2. While the Xperia duo doesn't offer excitement or longer battery uptimes, the slew of core functionalities like 3.5mm support, microSD support, and water resistance help to sweeten the deal.

Of course, if a 4.6-inch display is too small to your liking, then the XZ1 Compact doesn't stand a chance. If you’re not a size queen, the XZ1 Compact is easily Sony’s most ambitious attempt thus far – after all, it’s not about the size, but how you use it. If you like small flagship phones with modern specs and features, it’s your best bet.

The flagship Sony Xperia XZ1 (64GB) will be available at S$898 in four colors – Moonlit Blue, Venus Pink, Warm Silver, and Classic Black. This phone is available at official Sony stores, Sony Centre, and telcos M1, Singtel, and StarHub, along with other authorized resellers.

The compact-flagship Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact (32GB) will be available at S$668 in two colors – White Silver, and Black. This phone is only available through official Sony stores and Sony Centre.

Final Ratings

Sony Xperia XZ1


Click for detailed results break-down

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact

Click for detailed results break-down

 

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