The Xperia Z1 is big. Its screen isn't nearly as large as the monster displays adorning 5.2-inch and 5.7-inch phablets, but the Z1's wide bezel gives the phone a thick, in-your-face appearance. It's also heavy, weighing in at a full 6 ounces, more than any other comparable smartphone you can buy. If you've owned a larger phone in the past, the change won't be too startling, but transitioning from a device with a 4.7-inch or smaller screen may take some getting used to.
In exchange for the size and weight, the Z1 offers a pair of features most of the best smartphones on the market can't boast: true water and dust resistance. You can fully submerge Sony's phone 5 feet underwater, for up to 30 minutes, and it'll come out unaffected. Browse the web in the pouring rain, snap underwater pictures in the pool, or spill your drink all over the device – the Xperia will keep on blazing. Granted, the resistance won't work in salt water, but feel free to pick it up with wet hands or keep it near you in the kitchen without worry.
The Xperia Z1's screen features 1080p resolution – the same number of pixels your HDTV has, packed into a 5-inch display at a staggering 441 pixels per inch. The technology driving it is TFT LCD, which means you get great visibility in sunlight. Viewing angles, however, are reduced, so you'll need to be looking directly at the screen to get a complete experience.
Likewise, battery life on the Z1 is impressive, but has its own caveats. You can enjoy a huge 27 hours of talk time and almost a month of standby time on the Z1, but if you browse the web or play video, you'll deplete the battery within about six hours. This is because talking and standby don't use the Z1's screen, which consumes huge amounts of power when it's on. Of course, the chances you'll use your phone to watch video for six hours straight are slim; you should easily get through an entire day of solid phone use without having to worry about power consumption.
One of Sony's major selling points for the Z1 is its camera, which takes surprisingly large 20.7-megapixel photos. Compared to the 8-megapixel standard you'll find in many of the top smartphones we reviewed, 20.7 megapixels is massive and detailed. And, thanks to the camera's wide ƒ/2.0 aperture lens, more light can strike the sensor when you take a shot, which means you'll get brighter, more vibrant photos. The Z1 even gives you control over settings like ISO and shutter speed, so when you're underwater or in a dark room, you'll be able to capture beautiful images.
Sony's Xperia Z1 is big and clunky. Its thick bezel and unimaginative design don't make it the most attractive or comfortable phone to hold, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more versatile device. With its 5-foot water resistance, you can take your phone almost anywhere, shooting great pictures with a highly configurable camera. If you can put aside its heft and schizophrenic battery life, you'll find owning the Z1 a delight.
Water resistance, dust resistance, a speedy processor and a crystal-clear display make the Xperia Z1 a powerful entry in the smartphone market.
The device is huge for its screen size. At an even six ounces, it's the heaviest phone we've reviewed, even heavier and almost as big as those with 5.7-inch screens.
It may not be as pocketable as other 5-inch smartphones, but the Xperia Z1 makes up for that bulk with a great feature set.