Sony launched the Xperia Z earlier this year, bringing a sleek design trend to its range and packing in a powerful camera to match. Not to rest on its laurels, the firm has since launched another high-end smartphone, the Xperia Z1, going even further with its imaging power and adding a 20.7 megapixel camera.
However, with two similar devices emerging in relatively quick succession, some people may be confused about which one to go for when choosing between the two. Here we take a look at the pair of them side by side, comparing their features and capabilities.
That design trend first seen on the Xperia Z is something Sony now has running throughout its smartphone range, having made an appearance on the Z Ultra phablet and being adapted for the Z1. Consisting of a large, minimalist frame with sharp corners, both handsets here look very stylish indeed.
However the Z1’s form factor has taken on a new appearance with the addition of a metal strip around the edge of the device. The newer handset also features corners which are just a tiny little bit more rounded, making them ever so slightly more comfortable when the device is being held in your hand.
Another addition that the Z1 can boast is a physical camera button, allowing pictures to be taken underwater where the touchscreen won’t work. Yes, both of these handsets are waterproof, with their external ports being covered with plastic flaps, except for an open and water resistant headphone socket on the Z1.
Sony makes outstanding displays, with the firm making use of technology that has been developed for its TV range and converting it for the small screen. Both the Xperia Z and Z1 have 5-inch TFT screens, with very little to mark a difference in performance between the two.
However, the newer handset has Sony’s Triluminos technology, which boosts colour saturation and has an effect on images that are shown on the device. Strangely, even with this new technology in place, the difference isn’t always that noticeable, but blues do show up stronger on outdoor photos with plenty of sky in them.
In terms of video, the Z1 has an edge over the Xperia Z, but this is more to do with the way that high-res footage takes on an almost 3D appearance. Even so, there is little in it and these really are two of the best smartphone displays available.
Sony hasn’t done a great deal to alter its already ergonomic interface between the launch of each of these devices, instead sticking with a formula which has been around for some time and making just a few minor changes.
The translucent panels that surround the homescreen app tray take on a darker tone that makes the UI look a little more dramatic overall, and the button that opens the app menu has changed to a slightly more modern design.
Some of the UI themes have also had a redesign, with them now offering blanket colours that work better as backgrounds and don’t distract so much from the app icons and widgets. On the Xperia Z, many themes are a little too vibrant and detailed, getting in the way of the UI itself, so the simplified colours of those on the Z1 are a welcome change.
Changes to the settings menu on the Z1 see a white background taking the place of the Xperia Z’s black one, and there are more options for personalising the handset. For instance, you can select which controls appear at the top of the notifications bar, adding and removing buttons for screen brightness, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and so on.
These handsets can boast two of the most powerful smartphone cameras around, with one of the few handsets surpassing the Xperia Z in power being the Z1. At 13 megapixels, the Xperia Z has nothing to be ashamed off and captures very high-quality images that rival those of some of the best handsets available.
However, Sony has gone a step further with the Z1, including a 20.7 megapixel camera that is only bettered in power by Nokia’s 41 megapixel innovations. In testing the two devices side by side though, we have found some niggling annoyances with the Z1’s camera app.
Both handsets feature Superior Auto, a camera mode which optimises the device’s settings for whichever situation it is in. Like an advanced version of the auto mode on many smartphone cameras, Superior Auto adapts to lighting and the type of scene that is being photographed to make sure the user gets the best results possible.
Except that selecting Superior Auto on the Z1 means you can only capture images in eight megapixel quality, considerably and noticeable lower than the full 20 megapixel resolution that is available if you take manual control of the settings. On the earlier Xperia Z, this restriction isn’t to be seen, with a variety of resolutions available when Superior Auto is selected.
This means that when using the mode it is possible to take higher-quality photos with the Xperia Z than it is with the Z1, which seems a little backward and we’re not sure why Sony has done this. Nevertheless, the Z1’s camera app is the better overall, with options laid out in a grid-like menu and several controls for white balance and picture effects.
Overall, the Z1 is an evolution of what was seen on the Xperia Z, bettering much of its specs. However, it’s only slightly better, and the earlier device really does stand up well in comparison, putting in an excellent performance across the board.
We do find the Z1’s camera app quirks to be a little unusual and it’s disappointing that Superior Auto doesn’t allow you to capture on full resolution, but the 20.7 megapixel camera is generally the better of the two.
These are two outstanding devices with Sony’s great displays, brilliant cameras and sleek form factors really coming to the fore. The Xperia range delivers a great deal, and promises more for the future.