|+ Much better storage options||- Design is looking slightly dated now|
|+ Dual-lens camera||- Awkward for wired headphone owners|
|+ Brighter, more vivid display||- Expensive|
"The Sony Xperia XZ looks to be a strong and well-balanced phone, but the top end of the smartphone market has never been more competitive. The likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the HTC 10 are equally capable, but have been on the market for a little longer, so can be found for slightly cheaper"
The Sony Xperia XZ is Sony’s latest flagship smartphone, and can be seen as a direct follow-on from the Sony Xperia Z5. It may have a relatively compact 5.2-inch display, but its premium build and top-end components reveal its pedigree.
At a price of around £550, however, it’s mixing with some highly esteemed company. Will it be able to stand up to the might of Samsung, Apple, HTC, and now Google? Here are our initial impressions.
Sony has gone with a 5.2-inch 1080 x 1920 IPS LCD screen with a pixel density of 423 pixels per inch for the Xperia XZ. Some may view this as a brave decision, as many Android manufacturers are going with 5.5-inch QHD displays that are both bigger and sharper.
The Xperia XZ display, however, should be easier to use in one hand, and should also be less of a drain on the phone’s battery. Besides, QHD displays are really only useful for VR content, where the phone needs to be held up close to your face.
Don’t be fooled by the change in name - the Sony Xperia XZ follows in the footsteps of the Xperia Z range in many ways. It’s got a distinctively boxy Sony design, with sharp corners and straight edges - though the display does now curve off slightly at either side.
It’s not the most elegant design in the world, though. At 8.1mm thick and 161g you’re certainly going to feel it in your pocket. The flip side is that you can expect the Xperia XZ to survive a dip in the bath, courtesy of its IP68 rating.
One key difference from Xperia Z handsets of old is the use of metal rather than glass on the back of the device, so it should be more resilient to bumps and scratches.
Sony has opted for a Snapdragon 820 CPU for the Xperia XZ, which is pretty much the go-to processor for high-end Android phones in 2016. It’s a very capable and energy-efficient chip, so we have no concerns over performance.
Of course, Google has moved the game on slightly with the Pixel phone and its Snapdragon 821 CPU, but as the name suggests, that should only be an incremental improvement over the Snapdragon 820. The Sony Xperia XZ is plenty powerful enough, especially with 3GB of RAM onboard and a less pixel-dense display to drive.
It’s a curious situation that Sony finds itself in with mobile cameras. It makes many of the top image sensors for other manufacturers, yet its own smartphones often tend to offer a flawed photographic experience.
We’re not yet sure if the Xperia XZ bucks that trend, but on paper it looks quite similar to the Xperia Z5 before it. That means a 23-megapixel 1/2.3 image sensor, an f/2.0 aperture lens, and a disappointing lack of OIS. It’s also got phase detection and laser autofocus, and is capable of capturing 4K video.
The front camera is an impressive 13-megapixel example, which is as pixel-packed as the main camera on most flagship phones. It should be great for selfies.
Sony has continued with its habit of steady iteration with the Sony Xperia XZ, which means there are no particular stand-out features compared to its previous phones.
However, the company’s unusual application of fingerprint sensor technology is again on display here. Whereas most manufacturers go for a front or rear-mounted sensor, Sony positions it on the side as part of the power button. This makes a certain amount of sense, but you’ll only be able to access it comfortably when it’s firmly in your hand.
Also unique to Sony phones is the company’s own custom UI. It’s a lot closer to Google’s stock Android OS than the efforts of Samsung, HTC, and LG, but not to the same extent as Motorola. You also get Sony’s own unique software, which includes the ability to play your PS4 games remotely.
Battery life, memory and connectivity
The Sony Xperia XZ’s 2,900mAh battery is a decent capacity for a phone of this size, though it represents the same kind of screen-battery combination as the Sony Xperia Z5 before it.
Based on these specs and Sony’s history, we’re expecting the new phone to be good for a full day’s moderate usage before you have to recharge, but not much more. Quick Charge 3.0 means you’ll be able to get up to speed quickly if you do fall short.
Sony has also included its own Stamina mode for those days when you need to eek the Xperia XZ’s power out over a longer period. There’s also an Ultra Stamina mode for when things get really hairy, though this basically turns the XZ into a dumb phone until you can get to a socket.
Storage is par for the course, with a choice of 32GB or 64GB. You can expand this by up to 256GB via a microSD slot, which isn’t an option every manufacturer offers these days.
Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and the reversible USB Type-C standard for charging.
The Sony Xperia XZ looks to be a strong and well-balanced phone, but the top end of the smartphone market has never been more competitive. The likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the HTC 10 are equally capable, but have been on the market for a little longer, so can be found for slightly cheaper.
Still, Sony’s unique approach to design helps the Xperia XA stand out, and if nothing else we’re glad to see another relatively compact high-end smartphone hitting the market.
Dimensions (mm): 146 x 72 x 8.1
Weight (g): 161
Battery capacity (mAh): 2900
Colours: Mineral black, Platinum, Forest blue, Deep pink
Screen size (inches): 5.2
Resolution: 1080 x 1920
Pixels per inch (PPI): 424ppi
Processor: 2.15GHz quad-core
Processor make: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Internal storage: 32GB or 64GB
Expandable storage up to (GB): 256
Camera: 23-megapixel (13-megapixel front-facing)
Operating System: Android Marshmallow
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