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printed December 21, 2014
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Review: Sony Xperia Z1S for T-Mobile

Form Performance Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  

Screen

Sony often goes overboard with the fancy names it applies to its technology and devices. The Z1S is no different. Sure, it boasts Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine 2 and Triluminos brightness techs, but the display is still just a 5-inch 1080p HD LCD. The screen is exceptionally sharp and blindingly bright (when set up all the way.) I had no trouble reading the screen indoors or out. I thought colors came across as somewhat muted, meaning they weren't as vibrant as they could or should be. Further, the screen looks great when viewed head-on, but there's a significant brightness drop-off and color shift (turns yellow) when the screen is tilted side-to-side. In other words, the viewing angles aren't all that good. But as long as you're looking directly at it, the Z1S's screen is fantastic.

Signal

The Z1S performed under par when compared to other devices on T-Mobile's network in the greater New York City region. Not only did the Z1S struggle to connect to LTE when it was available, it often waffled between EDGE and HSPA+. I can't remember the last time I saw EDGE data show up on a T-Mobile device, especially in an area that I know offers both HSPA+ and LTE. What does this mean for real-world users? The Z1S was much slower at downloading apps, syncing email, and browsing the web than it should have been. As far as connecting calls, though, it pushed them all through on the first attempt, no matter how bad the signal conditions. I find the inconsistency a bit troubling.

Sound

I was generally pleased with the quality of phone calls patched through the Z1S. The earpiece produced clear, loud voices. I didn't have any issues holding conversations in noisy spaces, such as coffee shops or diners during lunchtime (when set up all the way). The majority of calls had a warm, pleasant sound. Those with whom I spoke through the Z1S said the same of my voice. As for the speakerphone, it offered clear calls that had a sharp quality to them. The volume produced by the speakerphone is decent for quieter spaces, such as an office with a closed door, but it could be drowned out in a car or noisy household. Ringers and alerts were loud enough to get my attention nearly all the time, though I missed a few calls because the vibrate alert wasn't very strong.

Battery

I have no complaints about the performance of the Z1S's battery. Over the course of a week, it consistently lasted from morning to night with no trouble - even in areas covered by LTE. I did find that heavy use of the camera takes a noticeable toll on the battery, but most other apps run without killing the power source. The Z1S offers plenty of tools to help manage battery life, too. For example, it includes Sony's Stamina Mode, which turns off the data radio whenever the screen is off. There's also a Low Battery mode that automatically turns off a customizable set of features (such as brightness, vibrate, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, sync, mobile data) when the battery drops below 30%. The controls help offset the lack of a removeable battery just a smidge.

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