Sony Xperia Z1S

28th Feb 2014 | 18:23

Sony Xperia Z1S

A powerhouse Android smartphone that isn't afraid of a little water

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

A solid, waterproof smartphone with great specs and battery life

Like:

Excellent design; Great battery life; Waterproof; microSD support up to 64GB

Dislike:

Mildly adequate camera; Very weak speakerphone;

Introduction and design

Sony Xperia Z1S Review
Sony Xperia Z1S Review
Sony Xperia Z1S Review
Sony Xperia Z1S Review
Sony Xperia Z1S Review

Update: check out our video review of the Sony Xperia Z1S, complete with underwater photography demo.

When the Sony Xperia Z1S landed on my desk, I started hoping that Sony would finally have a hit on its hands. At least, a hit in the sense that it would be a serious consideration for Android buyers who are considering a Moto X, Nexus 5 or Galaxy S4.

Unfortunately, Sony's Xperia line has failed to grab customer attention in a big way, unlike what Samsung and HTC have been doing with their phones. A big part of that, of course, is greater availability from those companies and their accompanying marketing budgets.

Now that we're talking about the new Xperia Z1S, let's take a birds-eye look at what the device is before diving in.

First, there is Sony's design, which is almost unmistakably Sony. I mean that in the sense that it's usually easy to distinguish some Android handsets from others based purely on physical design. The Xperia Z1S seems classically Sony, which is great.

From the shape to the trim and accents, the Z1S doesn't look like a cookie-cutter Android handset clad all in black or dark gray plastic.

Once you get past that initial design, you'll find yourself in Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Sony's custom UI over it. While the UI is very much part of the Xperia Z1S's experience, it's not bloated or slow like Samsung's TouchWiz UI.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

In fact, I didn't mind Sony's UI at all, and found it more pleasant to use compared to what Samsung and LG offer on their devices.

After considering the design and software as a single package, there are other details that make me really like this phone, too. The 20MP camera is a nice touch, and so is the fact that it's waterproof down to 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes. That is actually a big deal since so many phones are rendered useless every year due to water damage.

Moreover, the Xperia Z1S packs a 3,000 mAh battery for all-day use. What more could we ask for?

Design

The Sony Xperia Z1S measures 5.74 x 2.91 x 0.34 inches, though it has a 5-inch 1920 x 1080 HD display. This leaves a lot of room above and below the display, unlike other Android handsets that have near edge-to-edge displays.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

However, we're willing to forgive that extra bit of space for now because of the large, 3,000 mAh battery.

We do like the glass front and back with the metal accents along the edges, giving it a very classy design reminiscent of Sony's other products.

The front of the device has a 2MP camera capable of recording 1080p video at 30 FPS. The rear camera is a 20MP unit with what Sony claims is the biggest sensor on any smartphone right now, including the Nokia Lumia 1020, which has a 41MP sensor.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

The base of the phone has a large speaker grille for the speaker, and it's also where the microphone is housed. Beside that, to the lower-right corner, is a hole that goes through the device for attaching lanyards.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Considering the size of the speaker grill, I was surprised to find that it wasn't very loud at all. During calls, it was hard to hear the person on the other end of the line, and music wasn't much better, either. Perhaps it's because of the waterproof sealing. If that's the case, it's a tradeoff I'm willing to take.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

The right edge of the phone has the power, volume and camera buttons. The power button is quite small, and can sometimes be hard to press by feel, but after several days it becomes easier to get used to. You'll also find the SIM card slot on the same edge, where the device takes micro-SIM cards.

To the left edge there is a slot door covering the micro-USB port, and another door covering a microSD card. The Xperia Z1S will support up to 64GB microSD cards, which is excellent. The same edge also has a connector for docking.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

While I've never been a fan of putting doors over slots and ports, it does help clean up the design a bit, and I suspect it also helps making the phone waterproof.

The top edge of the phone is clean except the 3.5mm headset jack, which does not have a door or cover to it.

Over to the back of the device is a 20MP camera with LED flash, another microphone perhaps for recording and for noise cancellation, an NFC logo, Xperia logo and T-Mobile logo. It sounds like a lot of clutter, but Sony and T-Mobile managed to make it all very subtle.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

The last thing I want to mention about the design for now is that the device is waterproof. I can't stress enough how great this is because of how many devices succumb to water damage every year.

The Xperia Z1S, in our testing, was able to remain completely submerged in a bowl of water with the display on. It wasn't responsive to touch inputs, but was working just fine when removed from the water and toweled off.

If the incredible specs and nice design weren't enough to sway you in considering this phone, the fact that it's waterproof just might.

Interface

The Sony Xperia Z1S runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Sony's custom UI. If you're familiar with Android, you'll feel right at home with this device. Otherwise, if you're new to the platform, you may want to read our Android 4.4 KitKat review as there will be many similarities to 4.3 Jelly Bean.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Upon powering on the phone, after getting through the setup menu, you'll find a lock screen with a few options. You can quickly access the camera by swiping to the right, or swipe to the left to add lock screen shortcuts and widgets.

The home screen starts in the middle, meaning you can swipe either left or right from the main default screen. At the bottom of the display is a customizable dock that stays with you regardless of which home screen you're on.

At the base of the display, below the dock, there is a back, home and app switcher buttons. These will take you back to your previous screen, home or allow you to quickly switch and swipe away or kill apps.

If you've used Android before, you'll find some of the existing widgets, like the Google search bar or music player widget, to be similar to what you'd find on other Android smartphones.

Of course, these are all customizable, too, and all you have to do is press and hold widgets, icons or the display itself to make your device closer to your liking.

By default, a swipe to the left shows you a number of T-Mobile apps and a T-Mobile "MobileLife" widget, which you can customize with news and social network data. One more swipe to the far left and you'll see Sony Select, with custom buttons that take you straight to apps, web pages and more based on what Sony considers to be currently popular.

To the right of the main home screen, you'll find the music player, a widget that lets you flip through your most recent photos and a quick camera widget that can take you straight into select camera modes, such as image stabilization or the augmented reality effect.

The last home screen to the right is empty, and gives you the prompt to add new apps or widgets by pressing and holding down anywhere on that home screen.

Again, the Android experience is meant to be highly customizable, and you can add or remove apps or widgets as you please from the home screen.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Pull down the top bar on the display and you'll see your notification pane, where incoming messages and other alerts, such as app updates, will appear.

In addition to the time and date, there are quick toggle buttons in the notification pane that allows you to turn certain features on and off, like Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi. There is also a shortcut that allows you to go to Settings.

Settings is where you want to be if you're looking to get into more features of the phone, such as power management, storage and Xperia Connectivity.

I could sit here and write an instruction manual on the software and interface, but whether you're a novice smartphone user or an Android veteran, it's best to tinker around and discover your way through the interface yourself.

One reason I recommend doing this is because you're not really going to break anything, and there is no one correct way of handling your Android device. That's the great thing about its customizability, too. There is usually more than one way to get things done on your device, and you eventually find the best way for you and it becomes easy.

Messaging

There is no shortage of messaging apps and features on the Xperia Z1S, and more so in Google's Play Store.

To start, when we talk about messaging, there is SMS or text messaging. On the Xperia Z1S, as it is with most Android 4.3 devices, your contacts would be connected to your Google account. When using any Android device, it's imperative to have a Google account connected to the device so you can download apps and use most of the phone's services.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

The default messaging app is painfully simple to use, and is like any other smartphone out there. Messages are threaded and divided by names or groups, and to start and delete new threads is easy. You simply hit the write button, or press and hold a thread to delete.

Another choice you'll have - and one I recommend - is the option to merge SMS messaging with the Google Hangouts app. If you choose to do so, Hangouts will become your default messaging app when it comes to SMS or actual Google Hangouts.

It takes some time to get used to having Hangouts as your default SMS app, but once you get the hang of it, it makes everything feel a little more streamlined. Some might prefer to keep the two separate, but it's worth noting that, like the Nexus 5, you have the option to do that here with the Z1S.

Gmail

It wouldn't be an Android device if the default e-mail client wasn't Gmail, and it works quite well here. You'll get push notifications for all your e-mail if you want, and you'll have the same organizational options that you would on the desktop client.

If you want to star, archive, delete or move messages and threads, you can do so in the Gmail app and it's all very intuitive. Power Gmail users might wish for more, but it's great and more than does the job. Besides, I tend to think of e-mail on a phone as a tool for quick interaction, and not a place for writing love novellas to your distant lover.

There are more messaging apps in the Play Store, like Messenger for Facebook, or WhatsApp, Line and Kik if you want to send more than just messages. The last three apps will allow you to send text, voice and picture messages to anyone using the same apps anywhere in the world.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

As long as you have a data connection, as a WhatsApp users, for example, you'll be able to send other WhatsApp users messages anywhere in the world at no additional cost. Shop around and see which app is best for you. Best of all, they're free or very inexpensive to download.

While we're on the subject of messaging, let's talk about the default keyboard for the Sony Xperia Z1S. In short, it is great. It's so much better than the stock Android keyboard, and more than holds its own against third-party keyboards like SwiftKey and Swype.

The closest keyboard I can compare it to is Swype, but I think I may prefer the Xperia keyboard just a little more.

It's worth taking the time to learn how to swipe around to enter text than it is to peck away at a screen. It will improve your messaging time dramatically, and it makes sending messages and writing notes a pleasure, rather than a chore.

No harm in going for what you're used to, though, but I highly recommend giving the default a try for a few days before you go splurging a few bucks on Swiftkey or downloading and installing Swype.

Browser

Most Android devices these days use Chrome as the default browser, and the Sony Xperia Z1S is no exception.

The great thing about Chrome is that it's fast and reliable, and navigation and use is quite intuitive. If you're already using the desktop version, it's easy to pick up the mobile version and start browsing like a pro, if there is such a thing.

It's even better for Google users who don't mind being logged into Chrome because you can sync content between the desktop and mobile versions. Whether you want to sync open tabs, bookmarks and browsing history or all of the above, it makes your life's Internet browsing experience totally seamless.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Once you've entered a web page and it's done loading, the app will take up the entire screen to give you a more immersive browsing experience. Whenever you scroll up or down, the URL bar will drop down, giving you the option to go somewhere else, open or switch tabs and to use the menu to navigate and even find text within a page.

By pressing and holding onto text within a web page, you can have the option to copy and paste the selected text elsewhere. You'll also be able to search the meaning of the word by tapping the magnifying glass icon on the upper-right corner after highlighting the word you're unsure about.

The downside in searching for word definitions is that it takes you away from the page you're currently browsing. Safari on the iPhone or iPad, alternatively, brings up a pop-up page that gives you the info you need, and then slides away when you're done, which means you never leave the web page you're on.

It's a minor gripe, but one worth mentioning as far as the browser experience goes.

Otherwise, Chrome works pretty well with most pages regardless of the content - whether it's text, an animated gif or videos.

YouTube videos embedded within the web page will open up in the video player, along with any other video supported by the browser (that's about 99% of videos you'll find online these days).

Sony Xperia Z1S review

When you're done watching a video on the web, it will shrink down to its embedded size and you can continue browsing as you were. Otherwise, you can always click the back button at the bottom of your display and get right back to where you were.

If Chrome just isn't the right browser for you, or you'd like to try others, you can also download them from the Play Store. There are plenty to choose from, like Firefox or Dolphin, but we can't recommend one over the other because we do think that Chrome is good enough. I think Chrome is more than good enough.

You'll occasionally run the risk of instability with other browsers. While most phones don't ever encounter this problem, I've had several high-end Android devices in my possession in the past that would be fickle with third-party browsers.

It's not like you're running a huge security or stability risk, but if the occasional crash or lag is bothersome to you, I'd stick with Chrome. It's stable, fast and gets updated frequently enough so that any bugs that may arise will get squished promptly.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Finally, you'll learn to appreciate the fact that Chrome is the default browser for most other apps. If you click on a link in Twitter or Facebook, for example, you'll be taken to the Chrome app. If you click the back button from that link, you'll end up back in the app that brought you to Chrome and that tab will be closed.

However, if you hit the home button, the tab will remain open and saved within Chrome, which is a good option if you decide to go back to that content later while browsing elsewhere. Many apps on the iPhone will open URLs in a built-in browser - as it does for Facebook or Tweetbot - and you have to take an extra step to open it in Safari. That's not the case with Android, and it comes down to a matter of preference in terms of your opinion on the matter.

Media

When it comes to music and videos on the Sony Xperia Z1S, you'll have a number of choices. The big or main apps on the phone, like other Android phones, is Google Play Music and Play Movies & TV YouTube for videos.

The great thing about Play Music is that it allows you to upload up to 20,000 of your own songs. Of course, it's not free if you take advantage of all the available features, but at $9.99 a month it might be worth it to you.

For the most part, the UI and functions of the app and service are intuitive since the design is similar to the Play Store. Your library, playlists and more are available via a menu on the left.

Like many other music streaming apps and services, you'll also have a level of control over music quality, how music is downloaded and your method of choice for streaming, too.

For example, you can choose to download songs via Wi-Fi only so you don't incur additional data charges from your carrier, and you can also select song quality when streaming over your carrier's network.

If Play Music isn't your thing, you can also upload songs straight to the device via software like Android File Transfer. If you have music on your computer or on a hard drive somewhere and want to load it onto your device, you can do so via a USB connection to your computer.

Your own music would play through the Play Music app, but the nice thing about that is your music is easier to access, or at least streamlined with the overall Google Play experience.

One app unique to the Xperia Z1S, along with other Sony devices that you wouldn't find on just any Android device, is the Walkman app. If you decide to use Sony's music streaming service, you'll be able to listen to songs via the Walkman app and have control over music playback with the Walkman widget.

With so many music apps and services to choose from, it can get a little tricky. You really can't go wrong with Play Music, or even Spotify or Rdio, and we don't have enough experience with Sony's Walkman app and service to say how it will perform in the long run.

Videos

For watching videos, movies and TV, there is Play Movies & TV. It works much like Play Music does in the sense that you can buy and rent content from Google.

There is a wide selection of TV shows and movies to choose from, again made easy by the UI that you'll become accustomed to as you familiarize yourself with Google Play.

If you purchase any movies or TV shows, they're yours forever, barring any future laws or rules that work against that. That means any content you purchased before will be available for viewing on the Z1S, and likewise anything you purchase on the Z1S will be available on future Android devices - smartphones or tablets.

Outside of Play Movies & TV, there is the YouTube app. I'm going to assume you're already familiar with YouTube here, so you know the drill. You can log in via your Google account and on the Xperia Z1S and get access to your own videos, your subscriptions and anything else you might have tailored to you on the desktop browser version.

You can consume all the content you want from the YouTube app, and you'll have the ability to upload videos from your device, too.

If you're looking for more video content, you may want to try services like Netflix, who also have apps available on Android for streaming. There are plenty of choices out there, but we listed a few to get you started.

Camera

Hearing about the Sony Xperia Z1S's camera features, it's easy to start drooling. It's a 20MP sensor, with the sensor itself being larger than any you'd find on all other smartphones today at 1/2.3".

Sony Xperia Z1S review

This immediately tells us a few things. First, the incredible resolution means that photos should have better fine detail, and the larger sensor means it could have better low-light performance than other smartphones on the market.

Sony boasts that its "award winning" G Lens, coupled with its BIONZ imaging processor makes for outstanding images.

Our real-world results, however, have been a mixed bag.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Photos in decent light look good light, where the camera uses a low sensitivity like ISO 50, but in lower light images, where the camera uses higher sensitivities like ISO 800 and ISO 1250, photos begin to look grainy and oversharpened.

With all the specs on paper for this camera, the photos it produces still look very much like smartphone camera photos.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Image sharpening is on the high end, photos look grainy in less than ideal lighting conditions and in darker scenes color reproduction isn't good. In low-light situations, there can often be a purple tint scene throughout the photo.

What's interesting is Sony's advanced G Lens, which it claims is similar to the ideas behind the lens technology you'd find on its higher-end imaging devices, produces a lot of distortion. Objects at the edges of your frame are going to look severely distorted, which limits how much you can push your photo composition.

When it comes to pure image quality, there was a lot to get excited about given the camera's specs. But as we've learned over time, specs don't tell the whole story, and we prefer the photos from the iPhone 5S or Nokia Lumia 1020 over the Xperia Z1S.

That's not to say the photos are bad, but they could be better. Take a look for yourself.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Sony Xperia Z1S review

The image above is the really silly AR Effect feature, where you can choose from different scenes to add into your image. The scene is animated, but you can snap still photos if you'd like.

By default, the camera, which has a dedicated shutter button alongside the phone, shoots in an 8MP, 16:9 format. That's in the default "Intelligent Auto" mode, which chooses exposure settings for you based on the scene the camera sees.

You can select from many camera modes, such as Manual, which allows you to go into the full 20MP, 4:3 ratio, AR effect (add characters and more to your photos), Panorama and more. Each mode has a guide, so you'll know how to use it, and some of them are nifty to have if you want to try new things with the Z1S's camera.

Just as a note, in Manual mode, you can select image resolution, adjust exposure compensation, white balance, focus mode, metering, image stabilization and more. Having all of these tools is great and all, but it can be overwhelming when you're trying to sort it all out while trying to capture a scene.

Video recording

The Xperia Z1S can record in 1920 x 1080 HD, 1280 x 720 HD, or an MMS mode, which I'm assuming is video small enough to send to your friends via messaging apps.

Video quality is decent, but you won't be recording any Oscar-winning films with this any time soon. We still prefer the video quality on the iPhone 5S and LG G2, which has optical image stabilization, but the Xperia Z1S is just fine and does well in a pinch.

One thing to note is that Sony claims to support HDR video recording and photo stills on the Z1S. However, we were unable to find this particular scene mode, so it's either enabled by default, or there is a mistake. We have reached out to Sony on this and will update when we hear back.

Call quality and network performance

For the most part, call quality is largely controlled by your network and signal strength, more so than the phone. However, there are instances when the hardware itself plays a role in call quality, like actual volume.

The Sony Xperia Z1S is currently available only at T-Mobile, so that ought to be a strong consideration for prospective buyers. When T-Mobile's coverage is great, it's great, but where it's spotty, the calls will be, too.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

When the Sony Xperia Z1S was in areas with good coverage, call quality was great over the earpiece, and our callers said we sounded good, too. Our only gripe was, as we mentioned before, with speaker quality.

Speakerphone calls sounded muffled, but again we're attributing that to the fact that the phone is waterproof and probably can't have fully exposed speakers like other phones.

T-Mobile doesn't quite have the same coverage and penetration as AT&T and Verizon, but it's working pretty hard on expanding its network and making sure it keeps up with the bigger carriers. Whether that has any bearing on your decision to buy this phone if you aren't already with T-Mobile is up to you, but if you have demonstrably bad reception at home, you can convince T-Mobile into sending you a Femtocell or signal booster.

Data speed

Let's start with the slow here. When on HSPA+, or fake 4G as I like to call it, I saw speeds anywhere between 4-12Mbps download, and 2-5Mbps upload. That's pretty damn good if you're just messaging or using apps like Facebook and Twitter.

When it's on, it's really on. T-Mobile LTE can get up to 30Mbps down and 15Mbps up, sometimes even faster, when you're in an area of good coverage.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

At that point, it's far more than you'll ever need for your mobile usage, but it's nice to know that that speed is there for any website, app or service that can take advantage of it. You ought to know that just because you have those speeds, it doesn't mean the services you use to download and upload data will allow you to do so at full speed.

Otherwise, the Z1S just flies on T-Mobile's network. As it should.

If this all sounds enticing, be sure to check your area, whether it's at home or work, to see what your coverage and service is going to be like. We'd hate to see you buy this phone and hop over to T-Mobile for subpar service.

So, the bottom line is you're going to have good call quality and data speeds in areas where you have good T-Mobile coverage. That goes with any phone. Most high-end smartphones these days don't have any hardware limitations that would cause bad call quality or data speed.

Perhaps some don't have radios as powerful as others, but that's rarely ever an issue. The real question is if the earpiece volume is going to be loud enough. It's rare, but on occasion some high-end Android devices have earpieces that just won't do in a moderately loud room.

The same goes for data speed performance. You may occasionally take a speed test and see numbers that will set your hair on fire, yet it could take an eternity to upload a photo to Google+. In those instances, it's the services that is slow, not your network or device.

These are just some things to consider when you're thinking about a phone's network performance. Luckily for us consumers, the big four networks in the U.S. are constantly trying to improve coverage and performance, partly to remain competitive against other carriers and retain and gain new business. In that case, we almost always win.

Now let's just hope this growth in coverage for T-Mobile rivals the big boys before the end of 2014.

Performance and battery life

The Sony Xperia Z1S has a quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 and 2GB RAM. Coupled with an Adreno 330 GPU and powered by a 3,000 mAh battery, you can expect solid performance without suffering battery life on this thing.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

It's been some time since we've seriously considered benchmarks to measure smartphone performance, but since the controversy of manufacturers gaming the benchmarks to show favorable results, we've decided to abandon them for now.

Instead, we'll take a look at real-world performance as measured by two weeks of solid use.

First, graphically and system intensive games like Asphalt 8 and Dead Trigger 2 were played with reckless abandon, which is more than we'd like to admit. In the numerous hours spent playing these games, we never experienced a crash or hiccup in game play and performance.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Perhaps that says a lot about the games themselves, but it also says a lot about the device. These games were punishing on other handsets, like the Motorola Droids from Verizon.

Outside of games, there's the camera performance and photo editing apps. These can often kill the battery, or cause the device to warm up. That wasn't the case with the Xperia Z1S.

In fact, it was rare to experience the "Unfortunately (application) has stopped working" message that drives some Android lovers crazy. In the last two weeks, it happened maybe once, and it probably had to do more with the app misbehaving than the device's hardware.

Swiping between screens, multitasking and general touch performance have always been smooth and glitch free. There is no lag and no hiccups, and while that is typical of most devices in the beginning, before memory is bogged down with apps and services, I really tried to push and punish this device the past two weeks.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

The Xperia Z1S took it like a champ, and it almost made me consider getting one of these on my own as a primary device.

Before I get too bullish on the Z1S, I'd like to reiterate that this experience could change in a few more weeks, or months, which is what ultimately matters. While I don't see that happening, I'll be sure to update this review after one or two months in. This way you'll know whether it's right for you (especially if you're not in a position to upgrade phones right now), or if you can compare your experiences with mine if you already own or are preparing to buy the device.

Battery life

Put simply, you'll rarely ever worry about having to charge your battery, or if it will last the day before you can get home to a charger.

A good practice is to charge opportunistically, or whenever you have access to a charger. It's a good idea to have a charger at home and at the office, but with the Xperia Z1S you'll be fine if you only have your charger at home.

Every morning, the Z1S would come off the charger around 8 a.m. With regular usage throughout the day, which includes a lot of social networking, gaming and shooting photos, we're down to about 30-40% by 8 p.m.

Depending on your expectations, and your previous experience with other smartphones, that may be impressive or just damn amazing. In fact, in the middle of our testing we went two days without a charge and it held up just fine.

Quoted numbers rarely ever matter as much as real-world performance, as everyone's usage varies, but take it from a power user who was with this phone for two weeks - when it comes to battery life on the Z1S, you have little to nothing to worry about.

Verdict

Sony has a really solid package here with the Xperia Z1S. It has a large, rich HD display, specs that rival any other high-end Android device, a whopper of a camera and battery life that makes power an afterthought, which is a good thing.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Moreover, it all comes in a smartphone that is waterproof to nearly six feet for up to 30 minutes, and a memory expansion slot that supports microSD cards up to 64GB.

Oh, and before we forget, it's also available on a network that we're growing to love: T-Mobile. In many places, as we've mentioned before, T-Mobile's LTE network is much faster than AT&T's or Verizon's.

Moreover, T-Mobile has more affordable plans and doesn't veil its perks and plans in completely misleading advertising or schemes. Moving on…

We liked

The big gorgeous display, excellent battery life and solid performance is what I loved about the Xperia Z1S. Of course, those things are pretty standard these days when it comes to high-end smartphones, but the Z1S also has style and a design that isn't just run-of-the-mill.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

Sony's UI isn't entirely subdued and offers apps, services and widgets that you may come to learn to like. And if not, they're easy to just push out of the way, unlike other manufacturer devices (*cough* Samsung).

And of course, I absolutely the fact that the device is entirely waterproof. There are few concessions, of course, like the doors around every port - a design I've never been a fan of - and the muffled speaker. The trade-off, though, is worth it.

We disliked

If there is any minor disappointment with the Xperia Z1S, perhaps it's with the camera. It's not a bad camera by any means, but our expectations were set a little higher because of its specs.

In my opinion, the cameras on the iPhone 5S, Nokia Lumia 1020 and LG G2 produce better results. With that said, the camera on the Z1S is not inadequate, and is better than average. For the specs, it's just not the best.

Another thing that I'm not a huge fan of is the doors and flaps that cover ports and slots. It's a matter of personal preference, and definitely necessary for the phone to be waterproof, but still rubs me the wrong way in terms of design.

Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z1S gives any other Android device a run for its money, and we like the fact that it's quite different from what Samsung, HTC and Motorola have to offer.

Sony Xperia Z1S review

We're finally reaching a point where most Android smartphones don't look like cookie-cutter devices being churned out by manufacturers in a race to God knows what. Design elements are diverging, and each manufacturer is putting its personal stamp on the Android space.

If you own any other Sony products, the Z1S's style will fit right in.

But it's not all looks with this smartphone. Its innards make it relatively future proof, it's got a decent and beefy camera all packaged with a battery that will help you rest easy throughout the day without a charger nearby.

The bottom line is it's powerful, has a great screen, a decent camera, memory card support up to 64GB and it's waterproof. Unless you're extremely picky, it doesn't really get much better than that.

Sony Xperia Z1S Xperia Z1S Xperia Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
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