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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.

The Xperia Z1S has a 5-in. 1080p LCD display. Generally speaking, the screen looks quite good: It's crystal clear with vivid detail and admirable brightness. Compared to other high-end phone displays, however, the Z1S's colors are noticeably less brilliant, and I can't help but thinking it looks just a tad bit washed out. Its viewing angles are also somewhat limited compared to other devices.

You can take the Z1S out in the rain or even into the tub (if you must) and not worry about it getting damaged

Aside from the 3.5mm headphone jack on its top edge, all of the Xperia Z1S's ports are protected by plastic covers — part of the phone's waterproof construction. The benefit is that you can take the Z1S out in the rain or even into the tub (if you must) and not worry about it getting damaged; I bathed the phone in a pot of water to test it and, true to Sony's claim, it emerged unscathed. The screen won't respond to your fingers while it's underwater, but you can operate the phone's camera by way of a dedicated hardware button (more on that later in the review).

The downside to the waterproofing is that charging the phone is a minor pain, as you have to remove a protective flap every time you want to plug it in. The Z1S doesn't support wireless charging, but it does have a connector for a proprietary Sony charging dock — so that's at least an option.

The Z1S has a single large speaker grille on its bottom edge. The phone's audio is reasonably loud, though fairly tinny and hollow-sounding. An optimization feature in the phone's settings called ClearAudio+ helps a little but can only do so much.

The Z1S doesn't have a dedicated HDMI-out port, but you can use its micro-USB port along with an MHL adapter to connect the phone to your TV. The device also allows for wireless screen mirroring with TVs that support the Miracast standard.

Under the hood
Sony's Xperia Z1S is an absolute champ when it comes to performance: With a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM, the phone has flown through every task I've thrown its way. It's been smooth as butter the entire time I've used it; I've yet to notice a single stutter or slowdown.

The only oddity I've experienced is with the device's touchscreen: On my review unit, the screen is strangely finicky and sometimes registers taps when I'm actually moving my finger, like when I'm scrolling through a Web page or a thread of social media comments. It happens just enough to be annoying but not debilitating.


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