Sony has continued its quest of producing a flagship smartphone that appeals to the masses and one that challenges the iPhones and Samsung Galaxies of the world, and while it still has quite the uphill battle, the new Xperia Z1S is no doubt Sony’s best phone to date.
Equipped with a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, 32GB of storage, a 20-megapixel camera and an appealing glass chassis, the Z1S is certainly quite the looker with plenty of cool features under the hood. Much like some of its previous incarnations of the Xperia brand, the Z1S has a similar look which remains unique in comparison to phones from HTC, Apple, Samsung and LG, though for users who like to keep their phones as clean as possible, the glossy surface will attract finger prints quite easily, which also result in a slippery phone. The Z1S is also fully waterproof (the Z1 was only water resistant) and dust resistant, so if you need to give the phone a cleaning, you can actually rinse it under a stream of water. Likewise, it can withstand submersion in water and isn’t affected by being out in the rain.
The phone’s 5-inch display boasts a 1920 x 1080 full HD display and images look sharp and bright, though it doesn’t pop as much as other displays that use OLED screens, since the Z1S uses a standard LCD screen. I also noticed that when holding the phone at a slight angle, the clarity dropped, as the viewing angles aren’t great and colors seem to get washed out.
As someone who enjoys taking photos with his camera, I quickly went for the Z1S’s camera to test it out around San Francisco. Taking shots in clear daylight, as well as during the early mornings when the day looked gloomy and foggy, I found the camera to be able to produce some high quality images, with natural colors and detail, regardless of lighting, though I would’ve liked to see the camera be able to focus on objects a little quicker as it was noticeably slow. For the photo-taking enthusiast, you’ll find some cool features such as burst mode, face detection, HDR mode and a funny feature called AR mode, which lets you add objects in photos, such as dinosaurs or pilot goggles.
There is also a feature called Background Defocus, which I found pretty useful, as it allows users to blur out the background while keeping subjects in focus. So if you take a photo of someone, they can remain clear, while everything else behind them gets blurred out.
Running on Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), the Z1S ran pretty smoothly for the most part, and I’d say it was certainly the speediest Sony smartphone I’ve used, and one of the quicker ones for any current phone, including my own HTC One and Galaxy S4. Testing the phone’s data capabilities, I managed to connect to T-Mobile’s 4G LTE and clocked the average download speed at 17.1 Mbps. Web surfing was a breeze and streaming music and videos worked very well.
As far as battery life goes, the 3,000mAh battery gave me anywhere from 14-16 hours of talk time on average, and almost 7 hours of video playback, though you can squeeze more out of it if you adjust the power settings, which gave me almost 3 more hours of playback, when limiting brightness, and turning off certain features like Bluetooth and others, to conserve battery.
The Bottom Line: Despite a less than stellar screen, the Xperia Z1S is still a pretty solid phone and fans of Sony’s line of smartphones will be quite happy with what it has to offer, both in design and overall speed.