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Sony Xperia Z1: Hands-on preview

People were queuing outside over an hour before it started. The scrum to get into the venue was fraught and intense. Our entrance was greeted with whooping, cheering and clapping from company reps. And the phone looked decent too.

Sony's Xperia Z1 launch at IFA 2013 today (opens in new tab) had the feel of a 'proper' event, and whatever you think of the overblown fanfare and self-congratulating hyperbole that comes with such an occasion, it helps put a launch on par with those of the real industry giants, Apple and Samsung.

Sony may have one of the most established brands in tech, but its smartphones have never achieved the headline status of the iPhone and Galaxy S lines, so a concerted effort to elevate the status of its new flagship from the outset seems sensible.

Crucuially, however, the phone seems up to the task in its own right. The Xperia Z1's spec sheet is exactly where it needs to be at the premium end of the smartphone scale, replete with a stunning 5in Full HD screen, a powerful 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor from Qualcomm, and a 20.7-megapixel camera which leverages Sony's famed digital imaging technology.

As any tech journo will tell you, a brief hands-on session with a smartphone is never enough for formulating a decisive verdict on a device, but first impressions of the Xperia Z1 were very good.

At 170g it's noticeably light without feeling too flimsy, and the 'Triluminous' display certainly catches the eye when you flick through photos and videos. The design doesn't set the pulse racing - the shiny black casing is no chic aluminium a la HTC One - but nicely tapered edges keep things smart.

Sony's UI modifications to Android 4.2.2 didn't seem too overbearing and navigation around the phone was, unsurprisingly, silky smooth. A hiccup did abound when the camera couldn't load up because the device was 'overheated', however. The sympathetic will say the phone was under unusually rigorous scrutiny with journos relentlessly hammering away one after the other, but it was nevertheless concernng just how hot the device got in my hand.

Anyway, check out the snaps below and see what you make of it. CEO Kazuo Hirai said on stage today that the "Xperia Z1 is a watershed moment in Sony's history." If the device can start shifting units and receiving plaudits in the same way as phones from Apple and Samsung have, this may not actually be too far from the truth. Let's wait for those reviews and end-of-year sales figures.

Will Dalton
Will Dalton

Will began working life as a technology journalist at ITProPortal as Senior Staff Writer. He's worked as a Copywriter, then Creative Lead across video, social, email, web and print. He is currently a Senior Content Strategist at Zone.