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Xperia Z1S deep-dive review: A stylish phone with power and panache

JR Raphael | Jan. 15, 2014
Sony's new Android phone, the Xperia Z1S, combines a distinctive design and premium build with stellar stamina and an underwater-capable camera.

Sony Xperia Z1SWhen you think of high-end smartphones in the U.S., Sony isn't the first name that comes to mind. However, its new Xperia Z1S — available exclusively at T-Mobile starting January 22 — could be the company's strongest effort yet to earn your attention.

Sony Xperia Z1S
On paper, the Z1S looks plenty impressive: The device has a distinctive design, a premium build and all the elements you'd expect in a high-end smartphone today. It also has some unusual standout qualities, like waterproof construction and a 21-megapixel camera that can shoot underwater.

The Xperia Z1S is being sold for a two-year T-Mobile payment plan of $22 per month, bringing its grand unsubsidized total to $528. The phone is available for preorder now.

So how does it all come together — and what kind of real-world experience does it provide? I've been living with the Xperia Z1S for the past week to find out.

Body and display
One thing's for sure: You won't mistake the Xperia Z1S for any other device in T-Mobile's lineup. Sony's new phone stands out from the pack — in a good way — with its flat, squared-off shape and reflective black design. The phone has glass on its front and back and a silver-accented frame around its perimeter.

The frame on the Z1S is made of smooth plastic rather than the aluminum used on other Sony Xperia devices — a move Sony tells me was made at T-Mobile's request — but it doesn't look at all cheap. The phone is striking and stylish, and gives off a very premium vibe.

Of course, looks aren't everything — and while the Z1S is a sight to be seen, it isn't exactly comfortable to hold. Thanks to its large horizontal bezels, the device is 5.7 x 2.9 x 0.34 in. and 5.71 ounces, which is on the upper end of the spectrum for a standard-sized smartphone. With the combination of size, shape and the nature of its materials, the Z1S feels a little awkward and unnatural in the hand. It's a stark contrast to the warm and ergonomic (but also less eye-catching) build of a phone like the Moto X.

The Z1S's materials also make it a magnet for fingerprint smudges and assorted lint — far more so than any other device I've used. The device looks downright filthy every time I take it out of my pocket. That's not necessarily a deal-breaker, by any means, but it's something to keep in mind, especially with a phone whose appearance is otherwise so noteworthy.

 

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