Sony Xperia XZ review
|Review: September 2016
Last updated December 2016
In a nutshell: The Sony Xperia XZ is Sony's flagship phone for 2016. Slim and sleek, the XZ is a premium-build device running Android M and featuring a fast Snapdragon 820 processor with plenty of memory. Photography is a key strength too, thanks to its 23 megapixel camera with laser autofocus.
Design & looks
Sony switched from their highly-rated Z-series phones to the new X-series earlier this year, but apart from the letter-change, there's not a lot of wild innovation going on. In fact, the flagship XZ has almost the same capabilities as the Z3+ from 2015.
Stylistically, the XZ is almost identical to the understated Xperia X from early 2016, except that it's a fraction larger and heavier. We like the narrow, superslim form factor, which makes it easy to handle. The matte aluminium and glass finish feels rock solid too, and the phone excudes quality in just the way that a phone costing upwards of £500 ought to.
The right-hand edge incorporates a subtly recessed power button with an integrated fingerprint sensor. There's also a volume rocker and a useful camera button. Additionally the XZ has an advantage over the Xperia X in that it's water-resistant and dustproof to the IP65/IP68 standards.
The 5.2 inch IPS screen has full HD resolution with 424ppi, Triluminos colour and X-Reality engine. Its performance is nearly the same as previous Sony phones. It can't quite match the iPhone 7 for brightness, or the Samsung Galaxy S7's high-contrast AMOLED display, but it's as good as most rival LCD screens.
The phone comes in a choice of Forest Blue, Mineral Black or Platinum.
Snapdragon 820 processor
Sony has experimented with a number of different processors in recent years, but for the XZ it's returned to Qualcomm, with the latest Snapdragon 820 processor. This is a 4-core processor that runs at a very respectable 2.2GHz, and includes an integrated Adreno GPU. Despite having 4 cores rather than 8, this configuration is as fast as anything we've seen in a Sony, demonstrating that for most operations, 4 cores is ample. 3GB RAM proves to be plenty too. The XZ doesn't quite have the raw crunching power of the Galaxy S7, but we don't think you'll notice the difference in real world performance.
Onboard memory is a solid 32GB, and a microSD slot lets you add extra memory space as desired.
The phone runs Android 6 Marshmallow. The Xperia user interface has been updated in fairly minor ways to accommodate the new OS, and is largely unobtrusive.
23 & 13 megapixel cameras
If Sony has a key selling point, it's probably the advanced photographic capabilities of its high-end phones that stands out. Having said that, the capabilities of the XZ aren't very different from the previous Xperia X, or even last year's Xperia Z5.
The main rear-facing camera employs a 23 megapixel Exmor RS sensor with Sony's G lens and a very fast and accurate laser hybrid autofocus system. The autofocus makes it possible to capture fast-moving action shots without blur. The camera is very competent at low-light photography too, with built-in HDR mode and the ability to capture shots at an equivalent ISO value of 12800. Results are typical for a Sony camera, with plenty of detail but evidence of over-processing when you zoom right in.
The RGBC-IR sensor measures both the visible spectrum and infra-red to adjust white balance, minimising the need for post-processing images to bring out natural colours. Advanced photographers have access to manual focus and shutter speed settings.
The camera can also record 4K video, and 5-axis digital image stabilisation helps to avoid shaky videos.
The front camera has a 13 megapixel Exmor RS sensor, and also has good low-light performance with a wide f/2.0 lens.
The Xperia XZ is a category 9 LTE 4G phone that's capable of accessing very fast data networks in most countries. You'll find Wi-Fi with Miracast, Google Cast and DLNA connectivity, plus Bluetooth 4.2, USB and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Positioning technology uses A-GNSS - combined GPS and GLONASS.
The battery life of the XZ should outperform the Xperia X, which was slightly weak in this respect. The XZ comes with a meaty 2,900mAh battery and features STAMINA mode and quick battery charging.
Conclusion - a slightly-upgraded X
Sony has a tendency to release phones that feature small incremental improvements over previous models, and that's not a strategy that we can really find fault with, especially when new models are released every six months. You could argue that it's not very exciting to watch, but it does have the advantage of pursuing perfection in a very reliable manner.
The Xperia XZ may not have much different from previous models, but everything that has changed is for the better. It's a beautiful phone with a high-quality feel, with plenty of memory, a fast processor, strong battery life and superb photographic capabilities. It also has all the connectivity options we require, unlike some makers we could mention - cough, Apple.
The Xperia XZ launches in early October in the UK and will cost around £550 sim-free, or a little over £30 on Pay Monthly contract. We don't think that's too much to pay.
Sony Xperia XZ features include:
- Operating system: Android M
- 23 megapixel Exmor RS camera with 5x clear image zoom, predictive hybrid autofocus, HDR and LED flash
- 4K video capture with HDR, video light and video stabilisation
- 13 megapixel front-facing Exmor RS camera
- Display: 5.2 inches, 1920 x 1080 pixels, X-Reality engine and Triluminos colour
- Fingerprint sensor
- PS4 remote play
- Processor: 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
- Memory: 32GB flash memory plus 3GB RAM plus 256GB memory card slot
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Miracast, Google Cast, Bluetooth 4.2, USB, NFC, DLNA, 3.5mm audio jack, aGPS/GLONASS, nano sim card
- 4G LTE Cat 9, UMTS HSPA+, GSM GPRS/EDGE
- Size: 146 x 72 x 8.1 mm
- Weight: 161g
- Battery: 2900mAh
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