Sony Xperia Z1: First Impressions Round Up

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Since Sony bought Ericsson’s stake in Sony Ericsson in 2011, the company’s Android handsets have improved significantly, with the new Xperia Z1 the most accomplished to date.

Unveiled at this week’s IFA tech show in Berlin, Sony’s new flagship Android handset has a lot going for it: it’s fully waterproof, comes with a gargantuan 20.7 megapixel camera, featuring Sony’s award winning ‘G Lens’, and has a stunning 1080p full HD screen utilising Sony’s Triliminos display technology.

As far as high-end phone specs go it’s very much on the money, the main headline takeaway is, of course, the 20.7 megapixel camera, which uses Sony’s ‘G Lens’ which has been designed to take clear and colourful photographs. Whilst the camera might be overkill for a phone it does includes a F2.0 Sony G Lens with a 27mm wide angle and a 3x zoom, which Sony’s boss Ken Hirai stated offers “zero loss of quality.”

The camera also comes with a host of new applications and social features including the ability to share videos in real-time with Facebook.

Looks-wise the Xperia Z1 takes a lot of design cues from its cousin, the Xperia Z, this time, however, it is made up from a one-piece aluminum frame that is finished in black, white, or purple. The front and rear of the handset is finished with glass giving it a sturdy, premium feel – something lacking with a lot of other Android handsets. Overall the handset is slightly thicker, longer and heavier than a Samsung S4, but for the extra horsepower and features you’re getting it’s certainly not a deal breaker.

Measuring 5-inches the new Xperia Z1 features a super-snappy quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, running at an impressive 2.2 GHz alongside 2 GB of RAM. There’s 16 GB of onboard storage and the ability to upgrade via SD to 64GB, are you listening HTC? The handset is also 4G LTE compatible meaning it’s perfect for anyone who is planning to join one of the new super-fast 4G networks.

Elsewhere Sony has bestowed the handset with a capacious 3000 mAh battery, and has also added BatterySTAMINA Mode that automatically turns off certain functions to save juice when you’re not using them and restarts them when you do.

At 170gram it’s light enough without ever feeling too flimsy, and the stunning 1080p ‘Triluminous’ display certainly makes any pictures or videos taken on the camera stand out with deep blacks and eye-piercing colours.

One of the major bugbears with many Android handsets is the manufacturers need to fill their handsets with unnecessary bloatware and changed to the user interface. Thankfully, Sony’s changes to Android 4.2.2 don’t seem too overbearing from first impressions and to the untrained eye you’d be hard pressed to notice them.

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In a similar vein to the Xperia Z, the Z1 is fully waterproof so you can dunk the handset in 1.5 metres of water for an impressive 30 minutes. This time, however, Sony has made Z1’s headphone jack waterproof itself, meaning you don’t need to undo the flap every time you want to listen to music – which is a clever revision to this year’s version.

Overall Sony’s Xperia Z1 is an accomplished handset with some significant features that other handsets just don’t offer. If you’re the type of person that spends a lot of time outdoors and requires a sturdy waterproof handset with a killer specs list, and best in-class camera, then the Xperia Z1 is a no-brainer.

The guys over at IT Portal pointed out that 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.”

Meanwhile in their hands-on, the Independent said:

“At first glance, it’s very similar to the Xperia Z, though a touch bigger in every direction – which is worrying as the Z was quite big enough, thank you. The same design language is evident here: glass front and back, matte frame and engraved power button gleaming on the side.”

In relation to its waterproof nature, the team at Cnet wrote:

“If you’ve destroyed a phone by dropping it in the toilet — or by making calls in the rain — the Z1 might be the phone for you. It keeps water out by sealing its ports with smaller flaps. While the Xperia Z placed a flap over the headphone jack, the Z1 has simply made the jack itself waterproof, meaning you don’t need to undo it every time you want to plug your headphones in.”

Price and availability of the Xperia Z1 has yet to be announced.

Overboard: Water water everywhere, so keep your gadgets dry

We’ve got not one, not two but three camping trips planned over the summer holidays – and while I keep frantically checking up on the weather, muttering about how wet it’s been recently so surely it’s going to be fine when we’re away, and making sacrifices to the great sun god at the bottom of the garden, the sensible thing would be to be prepared for the heavens to open on us.

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And whether you’re planning a camping trip, because you like camping, want a cut-price holiday, or are heading off to a festival this summer, if you’re taking any gizmos or gadgets with you, you really should plan to keep them dry.

Waterproof gear – whether it’s clothes, bags or gadget packs – is not the cheapest, but when you add up how much it would cost you to replace your gadgetry, it’s probably worth spending a bit to keep it safe – a kind of insurance policy if you will

So bearing that in mind, the good-looking backpacks from Overboard don’t seem quite so pricey. The company claims its Pro-Sports Waterproof Backpack is 100 per cent waterproof thanks to (and I quote) “its high frequency electronic construction”. It also has padded shoulder straps lumbar support and a waist strap if you want it – expect to pay £47.50 for the blue or yellow packs and £57.49 for the black or red. They all carry 20l.

Dry Tube Bags from the same company are also waterproof, being made from tarpaulin, and as well as providing waterproof storage, they can be used as an ice bucket, drinks cooler or even as a pillow – a great bit of multitatasking. Prices start at £10.99 for a 5l bag.

Overboard has also come up with a number of custom-designed waterproof packs that allow you to keep your gadgets dry, and still use them at the same time – look out for the iPhone case and waterproof Camera Case at £15.99. a zoom lens camera case at £19.99 and SLR camera bag (£22.49).

Find out more at www.over-board.co.uk

Ocean Leisure press day: Underwater and sailing gadgets

Ocean Leisure is one of the UK’s premier marine and water sports superstore and they recently held a press day to show off their latest and greatest pieces of equipment. Promising the Latest Gadgets team wet and wonderful gadgets, the likes of which I had never seen before I headed down to their 8000 sq ft store in the heart of London. Ocean Leisure has over thirty specialist staff, including diving instructors, dinghy sailors and ocean yachtsmen, who all seemed happy to deal with a series of “… oooh what does this do” style questions from me.

Ocean-Leisure

The first thing to elicit an oooh from me was the Bladefish, a lightweight James Bond style driver propulsion vehicle with a built in propeller that pulls you along under water. It has a nice safety feature to prevent you fingers from getting chopped off – you have to depress tabs on both sides to engage the engine. There are a variety of models that have differing battery capacities and engine strengths with the Bladefish 7000 coming top of the charts with 2 hours of battery life and the ability to happily withstand depths of up to 40 metres, making it ideal for a diving enthusiast.

Other useful innovations included the solargorilla – huge slabs of solar panels to charge your phones, tablets of laptops whilst you were out on the open sea. They also had cool little water bouy devices to help you find your keys or other equipment if they happened to go overboard (something similar was on the most recent series of It’s Always Sunny in Philiadelphia). And if you go overboard, Personal Location Beacons from Fast Find should help to find you, beaming your exact GPS co-ordinates to rescue services.  They also had hand held anemometers – the SKYWATCH Xplorer 4 Anemometer (JDC X4), which is a pocket sized meteorological instrument that measures Windspeed, Temperature, Windchill factor, Digital compass, Altitude, Barometric air pressure. Useful if you ever need to know any of those things obviously and great for windsurfers and their ilk. And h20 audio had an amazing enclosure beloved by divers waiting to decompress that enabled you to use an iPhone or iPod touch underwater (pictured).

Want to know more? Head to http://www.oceanleisure.co.uk/

Aquapac underwater camera cases

Ever had a baby, a swimming pool and an urge to recreate the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 classic album Nevermind? It can’t be just me. Aquapac have released a new range of underwater (5 m) cases that gives you a few more options your shots – whether you want to capture some up close fish pics, some waterfall shots or just want to keep you camera safe from splashes in hazardous environments.

AquaPac

The five-strong range comprises a mini, small and large sized case, plus a mini case with a hard lens, as well as one specifically designed for SLR cameras. So pretty much any recording device you have will be safe from splashes.

The cases will protect your camera from water damage upto depths of 5m. Simply secure your camera in the case using Aquapac’s unique Aquaclip® and start taking pictures in, around and under the water, worry-free. It’s pretty much idiot proof.

You can fully operate your camera through the case, using all the buttons and switches and an acrylic lens material on the mini case with hard lens and the SLR camera case enables you to take great pictures through it even when underwater. And self indulgent, mediocre pictures as well. Pretty much all styles are catered for. Each case is supplied with a lanyard, or for the SLR case an adjustable shoulder strap and handy desiccant sachets are supplied to absorb any condensation in humid climates.

I have a Canon 7D, which is pretty fantastic for recording HD video footage and I’ve used it for a number of external shorts. I panic the moment grey clouds start to form and having an Aquapac on standby for accidental rain sounds pretty hand. Also for those iconic moody protagonist walking through a downpour shots that pretty much every indie romcom needs.

Professional photographer Pete Webb has some top tips for taking photographs underwater

  • Take photos in shallow water so that daylight will help you out rather than in deep water.
  • If you are shooting friends underwater, put milk in their eyes to stop them getting sore.
  • Always rinse your camera case in fresh water after using.

Toshiba makes a splash with the waterproof Camileo BW10 camcorder

It’s not only snorkelers and action fans who will benefit from Toshiba’s latest baby – a waterproof camcorder.

If you’ve ever ruined a gadget by dropping it in the water getting off a boat on holiday, or even if your rugrat has managed to drop it in the bath or a paddling pool, the Camileo BW10 could be the answer to your prayers.

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Following on from Sony Ericsson’s announcement of a waterproof phone in the shiny pink shape of the S003 Cyber-shot, it makes sense that a camcorder used to capture action, makes the leap into the great watery deep – well at least to 2m anyway. One suspects that real underwater fans will be hoping that this will lead the way for more cameras to withstand deeper water in the near future.

Whether you’re off on an adventurous holiday, or just want a camcorder that is robust enough for family life, take a look at this. As well as its water, snow, rain and dust-repelling abilities, the Toshiba Camileo BW10 offers 1080p Full HD video and has a rubber exterior cover to help it withstand a bit of rough use.

The 10x digital zoom should get you close to your subject, and quick, two-button operation means the user can switch easily between video and 5mp still photos. (Five mp does seem a bit meager when even mobiles boast upwards of 8mp cameras now, but as we’ve established before, unless you’re enlarging images to massive proportions, there’s no real benefit to having an 8mp pixel camera for most users).

The BW10 is also designed to work in ‘challenging’ ambient light conditions, with a maximum ISO speed of 1600. As is becoming common now, there is dedicated YouTube functionality, allowing you to easily upload your videos to the web.

And with a price tag of just £129.99 for a waterproof rugged camera, it certainly looks like a bargain buy. And if that isn’t enough to persuade you, perhaps the news that it comes in stylish yellow, turquoise or silver and is small enough to fit into a pocket or small bag might be the final temptation for the image-conscious among you.