Xperia Z1s review roundup

by XB on 31st January 2014

in Featured Content, Reviews, Videos, Xperia Z1

Xperia Z1sThe Xperia Z1s for T-Mobile US is almost the same phone as the global Xperia Z1 model, apart from the fact that it comes with 32GB of internal storage versus 16GB in the global model. The phone has been available to T-Mobile users for a couple of weeks of now, but if you’re one of those on the fence, then you may want to check out our review roundup of the Xperia Z1s below.

Most sites praise the Xperia Z1s for its build quality and design, water resistance, snappy performance, feature-packed camera and battery life. On the downside, one of the main themes that came across most of the reviews was the Xperia Z1’s display and in particular the viewing angles. Obviously, this is not new news and was one of the key criticisms the company faced through much of 2013. Other criticisms include an inconsistent camera and a boxy design which makes the handset awkward to hold. For the full roundup, see below.

Xperia Z1s review roundup

Android Authority: “Sony has put what appears to be the same display found in the original Xperia Z1 in the Z1S, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You get rich colors, great response times, and a wide color spectrum. If we were to have a complaint, it would be simply not the display itself, but the bezel around it, which adds to the overall girth of the Xperia Z1S. This is only an issue because we’ve been spoiled by other devices that feature very thin bezels, and Sony has added a lot of real estate all around, especially on the top and the bottom, that could have been shaved off to make for a smaller phone overall.”

Android Central: “Call me an Xperia convert. As a longtime fan of HTC, I’ve used the One as my personal device for months now, and though I’ve used the S4, Note 3, Moto X, G2 and various BlackBerry and iPhones extensively, I’ve never been tempted to jump ship. Until now. Sony has done something very exciting with its Xperia line by making smartphones that are exciting while still remaining familiar. The Z1s doesn’t look or feel like any of its competitors, and that’s a good thing. It’s a breath of fresh air among an increasingly stale smartphone market.”

BGR: “There is absolutely no question that the Sony Xperia Z1S is a solid smartphone and a good choice for anyone looking for a flagship phone from America’s most important wireless carrier. Back to my initial question regarding whether or not this might be the Uncarrier’s “Unphone,” the answer is no, I’m afraid. Like T-Mobile, Sony finds itself lagging behind enormous rivals in the U.S market. Also like T-Mobile, Sony has focused on a pain point — water damage — and solved it. Sony’s Xperia Z1S has a lot going for it, but the device really doesn’t do enough to appeal to smartphone buyers in ways that leading phones do not.”

Cnet: “Hirai trumpeted the Xperia Z1S as a product only Sony could make, one that draws on the firm’s many areas of deep engineering expertise, and said it “truly is the best of Sony.” I certainly agree that the Z1S, like the nearly identical global Z1 model before it, is a powerful mobile machine and a device that flaunts a sleek style that’s distinctly Sony. Sadly though, not even the smartest design nor fastest components can make up for a poor screen. It’s a critical handset oversight: a phone’s screen is as crucial as its software and battery life.”

Computer World: “Too many Android phones slap together high-end components but fail to deliver anything new or memorable. Sony’s Xperia Z1S is not one of those devices.The Z1S has a striking premium design that’s both distinctive and alluring. Its waterproof construction is a rare and interesting trait. Factor in the phone’s excellent battery life and exceptional camera — with its underwater photo-capturing potential — and you’ve got an unusually compelling device with loads of attractive qualities. The Z1S isn’t going to be for everyone, though. Its display, while generally quite good, is less impressive than other HD screens on the market. Its design — dazzling as it may be — makes for a cold and boxy form that’s awkward to hold.”

Digital Trends: “We’re happy to see Sony’s Z1 make it to a U.S. carrier in the form of the Z1S, especially since Sony saw fit to double the internal memory (16GB is pretty cramped for a modern high-end smartphone). We also think the Xperia line’s boxy design looks good, and is far more comfortable to hold in a device this size than with the similarly styled, though much larger Z Ultra. It’s the Z1S’ camera that really sells the device, though. Sure, it can take photos underwater. But who cares about that? It takes surprisingly useable photos in the dark, which has always been a problem for camera phones. And photos generally look very good in brighter lighting conditions as well.”

Engadget: “There’s only one blemish on what would otherwise be a pristine experience, and that’s the 1080p display. I’ve whinged on about this in previous Xperia reviews, but it bears repeating here: Sony desperately needs to adopt IPS panels for its smartphones. It’s no good trying to watch a show on Netflix at the gym and having to constantly adjust the angle you view the screen so as to avoid washout. This is the crux of Sony’s Xperia phone line and I want it to stop. I don’t even mind that the Triluminos display doesn’t have the exaggerated pop of saturation that AMOLED does. It’s refreshing in a way to not be assaulted with color; it’s easier on the eyes. But I want to see the same image quality from any angle I hold or view the phone.”

GigaOM: “So given the phone is guaranteed to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it, it’s a pity that its screen isn’t very good. And this really surprised me. The biggest problems are the viewing angles. You get about 15 degrees of freedom in any direction. Tilt the phone more than that, however, and it takes on a somewhat shimmery effect that makes it difficult to see, especially when there’s a white background on the screen. Another issue is that the screen doesn’t get nearly as bright as I’d like it to. I looked at it next to an iPhone 5s, a Moto X and a Nokia Lumia 1520, and the Xperia’s screen was by far the least vibrant. I also feel that colors look a little washed out compared to those other screens. Don’t get me wrong – games and video will look perfectly fine on the Z1s – just not as good as the competition.”

Gizmodo: “You can’t help but feel the potential here, especially with the camera. It just feels like the camera software division wasn’t able to get the good stuff out of the camera hardware. If you’re down for plenty of tweaking in manual mode, you can make it work, but most of the time you just want to whip your phone out and have a take a good shot fast. The Xperia Z1S does that sometimes, but it feel unreliable. Again, this feels like an Android phone where the manufacturer spent too much time on bells and whistles consumers don’t want or need, and not enough time on getting the important stuff right.”

IGN: “The Xperia Z1S, with its powerful processor and long-lasting battery, is a capable device, and it’s easy to see why it’s Sony’s flagship smartphone. Unfortunately, it also has poor viewing angles, especially when compared to other high-end phones, and its camera’s inconsistent performance leaves much to be desired.”

Laptop Mag: “The Xperia Z1s is a smartphone that can take a dip without calling it quits. We also like the fast performance and excellent battery life, as well as the fun camera apps and PlayStation app. Unfortunately, the Z1s’ narrow viewing angles and lackluster camera are disappointing for a flagship smartphone. If you want a handset with Snapdragon 800 power, you’re better off picking up the LG G2, which has a better screen and even longer endurance. Overall, the Xperia Z1s is a viable option for those who want a fully waterproof design — and we appreciate that Sony has brought a lot of its own technology to bear — but we’re still waiting for the company to produce a device that can go head-to-head with the best on the market.”

Mobile Burn: “The Sony Xperia Z1S is a fine phone with a display that has terrible viewing angles, but it also has strong internal specs and exterior design. If you’re someone who doesn’t care about being on the cutting edge and can put up with Sony treating the US market as a second-tier priority, the Xperia Z1S is a solid purchase. The Sony Xperia Z1S shows how Sony excels at hardware design; if the company can move quicker on the software front, there will be few reasons to complain.”

PC Mag: “Close examination of our ISO test scene on a calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W display shows that Sony is applying some aggressive noise reduction to images at ISO 400 and 800. There’s a noticeable falloff in detail which is going to make you want to utilize the camera’s flash in dim conditions, but when shooting under the sun or in brightly lit rooms the camera should manage ISO 200 or below with ease thanks to its f/2 lens, which is where you want to keep it for optimal quality. Comparing real world shots to those from high-resolution phone cameras, including the the Xperia Z, and they haven’t quite measured up to their ratings in image quality. Sadly, that’s still in play here. The Xperia Z1s takes fine pictures, that border on very good outdoors. But in both the real world and in the lab, we preferred the output from the Lumia 1020 and the iPhone 5s.”


Phone Scoop: “The Xperia Z1S isn’t perfect, but it is perhaps as close as Sony has come to smartphone nirvana. The hardware works on almost every level: it looks good, is well-built, and functions well. The basics are well in hand: the screen is decent, the battery life excellent, and call quality very good”

Phone Arena: “Yes, this is one of the few flagship phones we can take into the shower with us. In addition, it’s a premium feeling and made smartphone that puts those other plastic ones to shame. However, knowing that we’re getting into that fun part of the year when NEWER flagship announcements are right around the corner, it begs the question whether or not the Sony Xperia Z1S will be future proof. For right now, though, it’s an offering that T-Mobile customers should put into contention.”

Slashgear: “What we’re seeing here, again, is Sony taking a great device in the Xperia Z and making it even better. If you’re looking at T-Mobile’s selection of smartphones the moment this article is posted, the Sony Xperia Z1S is the most powerful of the bunch – so to speak – with the Snapdragon 800 paired with a 5-inch 1080p display, and Sony has more than proven itself as a contender in this space over the past year and a half for us to recommend this device over the vast majority of its competitors. You won’t be disappointed.”

  • the_matchless

    Well not much could be expected as its only a variant of the Z1

  • Yasir Fawad
  • watcher64

    Locked bootloader sucks

  • Alessandro Romano

    engadget you are fucking hater

  • Luis

    Are there differences between Xperia Z1 Compact and Xperia Z1S?

  • Mirrorpurple

    Ikr… Fuck them haters

  • Kaostheory

    $10 to unlock online and super easy.

  • Kaostheory

    I have the Z1, lots of comments and videos of removing the front screen protector but what about the rear one? Does the logo come of with it and what’s the glass surface like? Not ready to remove mine yet.

  • Alexandru Florin

    unlikely..the z2 will have dual speakers..the one in the picture doesen’t

  • watcher64

    NOT the bootloader .. Yes you can sim unlock it ..

    but the bootloader is not unlockable …

  • Kaostheory

    Sorry Z1 owner in Canada, mine is unlockable. Forgot some are not.

  • watcher64

    This is the Z1s T-mobile version, now I know the ones you get from TMO are locked, I am not sure if you could buy it right from Sony if it would still be locked … Might have to check on that ..

  • Kamil1308

    You shouldnt even be watching videos in the gym you should go there to work out. Engadet seems to watch videos on their phones at 89 degree angle.

  • Kamil1308

    Not so great viewing angles can aslo be a bonus at least you are the only one looking at your screen. You wont have 3 people to your right or left seeing your screen perfectly as you type or watch somethin.

  • sony

    I dont have viewing angel problem with my’s not bad at all.but sony will improve display in near future

  • hansip

    Well i am ok with viewing angle thing. I love the privacy reason and all, but one cannot deny that Z1 Compact screen is Sony’s best to date, plus they make sure that the Z2 will follow the same path. So i hope we can defend ourselves when those anti Sony fanboy calling us hypocrite or some sort ;) you know just in case..

  • redwan

    i want sony xperia z2

  • Colby Leong

    They do have a point, but just for a second, imagine a better, more improved Z1C’s screen on other flagships. I love my Z1, but I hate how Sony made the Z Ultra and the Z1C’s screen so much better.

  • Colby Leong

    If it’s the privacy thing, or the viewing angles a better screen overall seems like a win-win to me…

  • Dum Dum

    Hey I’m a bit confused, aren’t the sides of the Z1S plastic not aluminium?

  • Name

    Yes, the Z1S is not 4.3 inches, it’s 5 like the Z1. It’s also a little larger than the Z1 and is for T-Mobile in the USA only.

  • Paul M

    I can’t see how the screen can be IPS and yet there are complaints about viewing angles. IPS displays are generally the choice when you want accurate colours and great viewing angles but at the expense of response speed.
    I think the screen must either be VA (or MVA, PVA and variants) or PLS which is Samsungs way of avoiding paying IPS patents?

  • Dennis Lainfiesta

    You are right on the z1s it’s plastic for better reception and with tmobiles 20+20 network lighting up soon its going to be much appreciated. But alot of these reviewers are coping and pasting what they wrote for the international z1. So your going to find errors like that because they’re to lazy to actually review this version because they think it’s the same…

  • Dennis Lainfiesta

    Exactly how the hell are you watching a video when your on your back pumping Iron. Oh wait these pansies are on the hamster wheel.

  • Mint

    Who the hell goes to the gym to watch Netflix?

  • Ashad Mamood

    Those bezels are huge and out of touch with all the other top phones like LG G2,S4,Note 3 etc. Also the Z1 is slightly too heavy and awkward to hold because of both glass front and back. Sony need to use a lighter and better material on the back of the phone. Use IPS panels for display too

  • Mohammed Khired

    they are right u know..

  • Folk Hellfang

    I have had the Z1s since launch, and I love it. It makes me smile when I see it, and all the other craziness that goes had in hand when your hopes and dreams are exceeded in every possible way. The phone stuns people when they see it. I haven’t seen people act like this about a phone since the original iPhone.
    The whole viewing angle is a joke. Personally, I think the viewing angle works very well for keeping other people from peeking at my phone. I fully understand that there are better options, but actually using it everyday makes it clear that this is a pointless gripe.

  • Folk Hellfang

    The flaps are plastic, the frame is still aluminum.

  • Just a thought

    Actually by far the Z Ultra’s screen is the best Sony has ever put on a smartphone. The Z1 Compact colour calibration is pretty bad and the blacks aren’t as deep as in the Z Ultra

  • bossman

    Sony must ditch TFT and large bezels

  • Divya Bharathi

    Very interesting thing I just come across at – I could choose any number of items (from the list) at very heavy discount rates (up to 75% off online) – more we buy more discount – I never seen this before.

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