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New devices impress, but leave something to be desired in each case

On Tuesday press event at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) highlighted its work on 4K video (including collaborations with Google Inc.'s (GOOG) YouTube and Netflix, Inc. (NFLX)).  Sony Electronics President Mike Fasulo showed a lot of things including Alpha-series mirrorless, lightweight d-SLR designs, waterproof electronics, and a second generation 4K videocam.  Most of this was a recap of what we've seen in recent weeks/months.

But Sony Electronics did have a little suprise up its sleeve.

I. The Z1 Compact --Beautiful, Yet Flawed

It expanded its Xperia smartphone lineup to include two new U.S. geared models.  The first, the Xperia Z1 compact is a downsized and degraded version of the Z1.  Sony Mobile president Kunimasa Suzuki comments:

We've taken the power of the Xperia Z1 and we have made it smaller without compromising on features. The Xperia Z1 Compact houses all of the power of the flagship Z1.

Well, not exactly.  Here's the spec of the mini phone:
  • Form Factor
    • Size:   127 x 64.9 x 9.5 mm (5.00 x 2.55 x 0.374 in.)
    • Weight: 137 g (4.83 oz)
  • OS
    • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (upgradeable to 4.4 "Kit Kat" at a later date)
  • Launch Window
    • EU: Mid-February
    • U.S.: ??
  • Launch Price (unlocked)
    • UK: £400-450 [source] ($660-740 USD)
    • EU: €550 [source] ($750 USD)
    • U.S.: ??
  • Colors
    • Black
    • White
    • Luscious Pink
    • Lime Green
    • Yellow
    • Red
  • Hardware
    • Screen
      • 20.7 MP (fixed-focus)
      • Carl Zeiss optics f/2.0
      • 1/2.3-inch sensor
      • 1080p video @ 30 fps
      • LED flash
  • SoC
    • Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) Snapdragon 800
      • MSM8974
      • 2.2 GHz
      • 4 cores
      • Krait 400 core design
      • Adreno 330 GPU
  • RAM
    • 2 GB
  • Battery
    • 2,300mAh lithium-ion
  • Storage
    • Internal:16 GB
    • External: MicroSDHC, up to 64 GB
  • Camera(s)
    • Rear
      • 20.7 MP (fixed-focus)
      • Carl Zeiss optics f2.0
      • LED flash
      • 1080p video @ 30 fps
    • Front-facing
      • 2 MP
  • Wireless/Cellular
    • 4G LTE
    • NFC
    • A-GPS+GLONASS
    • FM Radio
    • Bluetooth: v4.0 LE
    • WiFi/WLAN: 2.4/5Ghz a/b/g/n
  • Sensors
    • accelerometer
    • multi-touch input
    • proximity sensor
    • Other
    •  IP55/58 water and dust resistance
So first the good: the colored metal alloy-frame and colorful backplates of the Xperia Z1 Compact are beautiful.  Assuming the user can find a color they like, it's one of the most compelling designs out there, rivalling HTC Corp.'s (TPE:2498) One, Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone 5S, and Nokia Oyj.'s (HEX:NOK1V) Lumia 1020 (now a Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) product).

Z1 Compact

Aside from the frame, the hardware is overall quite solid -- with a couple of critical exceptions.

The bad parts of the screen pretty much all revolve around the screen.  First, from a design perspective the front glass is a fingerprint magnet.  The iPhone 5 and 5S, for example, have oleophobic coats that help them resist fingerprints even a year or two after purchase.

Z1 Compact backface

Moving on to technical criticisms, there's a noticeable degradation in the switch to 720p.  losing a third of your pixels is kind of a big deal.  Had the Z1 Compact been 1080p, it would have truly been something to write home about.  As is, at 341 ppi (pixels per inch) it's not even among the leaders in the smartphone space in terms of pixel density.

Z1S

Further the touch on the device felt slightly labored.  Responses were slow.  I'm sure it's not the processor (which is blazing fast).  I can only conclude that some combination of the hardware/firmware and perhaps the Android skin Sony uses were to blame.  But at the end of the day the device feels weak touch-wise, a critical flaw in a beautiful device.

Xperia Z1S v. Z1 Compact

So the Xperia Z1 Compact joins the likes of the Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) Galaxy S4 Mini and the HTC One Mini, as an attractive, if a bit flawed small Android handset.

II. The Xperia Z1S -- Not as Beautiful, but Packing a Better Screen

They always say looks aren't everything.  In the case of the Z1S -- which will be an exclusive in the U.S. to carrier T-Mobile USA (a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG (ETR:DTE)), this holds particularly true.

The Xperia Z1S looks okay, but it comes nowhere near matching the striking, appealing design of its diminuitive new counterpart.  But its ho-hum looks come with a surprisingly solid screen, removing the key Achilles heel of the Z1 Compact, hardware wise.

Here's a rundown on the spec of that device:
  • Form Factor
    • Size:   144 x 74 x 8.5 mm (5.67 x 2.91 x 0.335 in.)
    • Weight: 170 g (6.00 oz)
  • OS
    • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (upgradeable to 4.4 "Kit Kat" at a later date)
  • Launch Window
    • EU: ??
    • U.S.: Jan. 22 (preorder on Jan. 13)
  • Launch Price (unlocked)
    • $528 USD
  • Colors
    • Black (for now the only hue)
  • Hardware
    • Screen
      • 5 inches TFT LCD
      • 1920 x 1080 pixel (720p)
      • 441 ppi
      • "Triluminous" pixel technology
  • SoC
    • Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) Snapdragon 800
      • MSM8974
      • 2.2 GHz
      • 4 cores
      • Krait 400 core design
      • Adreno 330 GPU
  • RAM
    • 2 GB
  • Battery
    • 3,000 mAh lithium-ion
  • Storage
    • Internal: 32 GB
    • External: MicroSDHC, up to 64 GB
  • Camera(s)
    • BIONZ image processor chip
    • Rear
      • Exmor RS sensor
        • 20.7 MP
        • 1/2.3-inch sensor
      • Carl Zeiss "G Lens" optics
        • f/2.0
      • 1080p video @ 30 fps
      • LED flash
    • Front-facing
      • 2 MP
  • Wireless/Cellular
    • 4G LTE
    • NFC
    • A-GPS+GLONASS
    • FM Radio
    • Bluetooth: v4.0 LE
    • WiFi/WLAN: 2.4/5Ghz a/b/g/n/ac
  • Sensors
    • accelerometer
    • multi-touch input
    • proximity sensor
    • Other
    •  IP55/58 waterproofing (up to 4.5 ft for 30 minutes) and dust resistance
The biggest difference in terms of performance versus the Z1 Compact is clearly the 1080p screen, which is retained from its predecessor the Xperia Z1.  Oh, and the screen seemed more responsive and more oleophobic (fingerprint-resistant) than the Z1 Compact as well.  In other words, in caveman speak: Z1S screen good, Z1 Compact screen bad.

Z1S wide

Versus its predecessor the storage has doubled and Sony has bumped the battery life by 33 percent, which could take the Z1 from the back of the pack to a contender battery-wise.  The headphone jack has also shifted to the center-top of the device, and is no longer covered.  As a result it is usable undewater when you're swimming laps.

Xperia Z1S

Otherwise the Z1 design is left the same.  The Z1 itself was similarly a slight bump (in terms of processing power and camera) from the Xperia Z, which was announced at last CES.

Thus you're left with a flagship phone which is a bit unfufilling design which is a very nicely rounded option in terms of hardware.  Given its availability on T-Mobile USA -- America's fastest growing carrier, I have no doubt it will do well.

Xperia Z1S

But with HTC and Samsung expected to unveil new flagship devices in the February-April window (assuming HTC can survive financially) there's an opportunity for the competitors to raise the bar in hardware.  If that happens the Z1S may go from proficient and solid hardware-wise, to second best.

Source: Sony [blog]



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Why
By GulWestfale on 1/7/2014 10:19:16 PM , Rating: 2
does anyone actually proofread these pieces? i'm pretty sure a phone is "downgraded", not "degraded", and there a whole bunch of sentences that don't make any sense in this article as well. the spec list has empty bullet pints (screen: 20MP). do you guys just dictate into dragon naturally speaking and then never check anything before publishing?


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