Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness

Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness

Do you remember the Xperia X Performance – Sony's latest and greatest, Snapdragon 820-powered flagship launched just a few months ago? Well, forget about that guy, as the company is apparently ready to move on to a bigger and badder smartphone: the Xperia XZ. And you know what? That's a good thing. Because while the X Performance managed to undo some of the damage the Z5 did to Sony's own stature, it still left us wanting for an overall better, more refined handset. The Xperia XZ is the supposed solution, the phone that could finally allow us to consider Sony phones again.

Then again, this might have as well been our opening line for the last few Xperia flagships we've gotten our hands on.

So what makes this one different?

Design


Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness
Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness
Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness
Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness
We got to spend some time with Sony's new flagship, and for what it's worth, the XZ feels like a substantially better smartphone than those that preceded it. Compared to the Z5 and X Performance, it comes across as way more thoughtful and mature. This phone is not a radical departure, and it doesn't need to be. It builds on Sony's already elegant exterior design, but adds a ton of refinement which helps make touching and holding the XZ a great thing to do. The Xperia XZ is a big phone, but Sony is not afraid of that – the strict rectangular shape with right angles remains a trademark feature of the line-up. We do not complain. It's a phone which looks undeniably classy and level-headed compared to most things out there. In a way, this familiar shape signifies that despite lack of much success in the mobile business, Sony is keeping its cool and staying true to its principles. We can't help but appreciate this.

The Sony Xperia XZ will be available in three colors – Forest Blue (aka dark blue), Mineral Black (black), and Platinum (bright gray), all of which look very nice. The handset has Gorilla Glass 4 covering the front, while most of the back is made of a special kind of aluminum alloy that Sony calls Alakeido. This Alkaleido aluminum, the manufacturer explains, has been specifically engineered to have better shine and depth properties. We are no experts on alloys and metals, but we have to say – this Alkaleido thing is a joy to touch and look at! It feels smooth and well-engineered, it's not necessarily as cold and rough as the metal on most phones out there, but rather has a slightly warmer, glossier aspect to it. For what it's worth, this new exterior — which also happens to be IP68 rated — feels different and new.

Display


After scaling things down a bit with the X Performance and going with a 5" display, it looks like the company is ready to move up to a 5.2-incher again. And sprinkled across those 5.2 inches are no less than 2,073,600 pixels! Or, in other words – 1080 x 1920 px, making for an amazing pixel density of 424 pixels per inch.

Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness

In case you're wondering, Sony is sticking with an IPS LCD display, which we're perfectly fine with. We only hope the colors will be much better balanced out of the box than they used to be with the previous two or three Xperias, which appeared way too bluish. The display looked more or less OK in person, but we'll need to spend more time with it and take some measurements in order to confirm anything on this front.

User experience


Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness
Just like the X Performance, the Sony Xperia XZ is powered by the Snapdragon 820 chip. This is more than enough firepower for the phone to deliver an ultra-smooth user experience. Whether it succeeds in that, we'll have to wait for a finalized version of it and see. During our time with the XZ, though, it felt pretty brisk and fluid, so we're optimists.

The interface is mostly the standard Sony affair, but the company is looking to up its game a bit as far as design goes, to it's introducing UI color themes that match the exterior colors. Other than that, we can expect an Android experience that is mostly stock, with the usual Sony personalizations including circular icons and a number of exclusive apps, such as Xperia Tips, the purpose of which is to introduce users to all the bells and whistles in store with this phone. There's also going to be a new Smart Cleaner feature which is going to try and keep your Android phone running nice and smooth by automatically cleaning the cache of unused applications.

Camera


Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness

Xperia phones have always had some pretty good cameras, but the XZ appears to be where Sony is getting really serious about imaging on its modern line-up. The main shooter on the Xperia XZ is a 23MP one, with the in-house produced IMX 300 sensor of 1/2.3" size and aperture of f/2.0. That all sounds awfully similar to what we had before, but it seems like the software algorithms is where it's at this time, with Sony promising improved dynamics and exposure handling, as well as a better, 5-axis software image stabilization to counter those shaky hands of ours!

In addition to the phase-detection autofocus that's already at play with Sony's finest, the company is now adding a new laser system for faster and more reliable focus. There's also a new RGB sensor for more accurate color balance.

With so much photography-centric goodness, we're already excited to see what this latest Sony imager is going to produce. Thankfully, the company will be letting consumers get creative with the XZ's camera, with an enhanced manual shooting mode that includes manual focus and shutter speed settings.

Preliminary camera samples
Preliminary camera samples
Preliminary camera samples

Preliminary camera samples


Battery


The 2900 mAh battery of the Xperia XZ supports Quick Charge 3.0, but the big story here are the new battery preservation techniques Sony is looking to employ. In order to keep the juicer inside the XZ in tip-top shape over the long term, with minimal losses to its capacity, an intelligent charging mechanism is going to significantly limit the charging speed of the handset once it reaches the 90% mark, but only in those times when the system knows you're usually not using your phone, like at night, for example. At the same time, it'll make sure that you have a phone with a battery meter that says '100%' by the time you wake up and are ready to begin your day. Obviously, it's a system that's going to adapt to your personal lifestyle, and we're curious to see how it's going to work in real life. Long story short, though, we really appreciate these efforts by Sony to try and preserve the battery's maximum capacity over the long term.

Expectations


The Sony Xperia XZ is a big, bold, and beautiful phone. From the little time spent with it, we cannot be sure if it's going to live up to all the promises made by the manufacturer, but we know this: even if it doesn't turn out perfect, or is even compromised in some way, the Xperia XZ would still be a lovely, lovely phone. Not only does it have loads of character, but it comes across as substantially refined, to the point where it can actually adhere to the high standards Sony sets for itself.

Sony Xperia XZ hands-on: back to awesomeness
With a new, innovative styling and improved camera arsenal, not to mention intelligent battery preservation techniques and solid equipment across the board, with Snapdragon 820 SoC, IP 68 rating, quick charging and a powerful front camera, the Xperia XZ is shaping up as a real threat to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10, or LG G5.

Sony is eying an October release, which is a bit sad, as we'd have enjoyed an earlier, more aggressive launch, but on the other hand, this may be what's going to give the XZ an edge during the Holiday shopping season. When it comes to price, the company isn't ready to disclose specific figures yet, but has been pretty clear that we can expect flagship-level pricing, so we're assuming it'll be somewhere in the range of $650-$750.

If you think about it, the premium smartphone market has become quite the lonely place, with not that much of real competition except for two gigantic companies battling it out with their iPhones and Galaxies. It'd be sad if we lose Sony as one of the top-tier smartphone makers of the world, but you know what? We might not need to, because the Xperia XZ has gotten us hopeful. Hopeful that Sony can pull off a one-eighty and return with a bang!




Related phones

Xperia XZ
  • Display 5.2" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 23 MP / 13 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Quad-core, 2150 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2900 mAh(17.5h 3G talk time)

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42 Comments

1. surethom

Posts: 1535; Member since: Mar 04, 2009

Very nice Sony, BUT still no New Smartwatch update , im not interested in the Eink watch thing. Such a shame .

36. cheetah2k

Posts: 2097; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

And still no wireless charging.. I mean seriously? I hate plugging things in to charge.. Samsung listened to its user base on this one

44. tnuc2014

Posts: 294; Member since: Sep 12, 2014

Yep...and they rushed the launch of a phone and skimped on their QC process at great expense to them and their customers. I can't believe you are quoting Samsung anywhere near battery or charging issues.

39. SuperMaoriBro

Posts: 533; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

this preview reads like a paid ad - "making for an amazing pixel density of 424 pixels per inch" umm it's not amazing when phones have had this pixel density for the last few years. I love my Z5 compact, loved my Z3 compact before that, got excited when I saw the X Compact until I saw the specs. I'm sure it'll be a great device but I am waiting for someone, anyone, to make a true compact flagship.

43. dcwt2010

Posts: 71; Member since: Feb 01, 2013

I think it's sarcasm. At any rate, if they don't write that then how will they justify the gushing for the iPhone 7 which will have even lower PPI?

2. jellmoo

Posts: 2521; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Why does this phone exist? How is this functionally different enough from the X Performance to warrant a whole new sku? This is just Sony being Sony... Again.

13. isprobi

Posts: 797; Member since: May 30, 2011

New design, new USB-C, new stereo microphones, updated CPU, updated camera, new battery technology

16. AmashAziz

Posts: 2867; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Design just made slightly more ergonomic, so nothing new. Same Cpu (snapdragon 820), and same battery tech too. Just 200 mah more. And I don't know if the camera sensor's new or not, but I guess it isn't. So the cam also has 5 axis digital stabilization, which is nowhere as good as ois. You call the phone new with 3-4 changes?

21. isprobi

Posts: 797; Member since: May 30, 2011

It is as new as HTC 10 and Note 7

24. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Its has about as much new stuff as the note 7 vs Samsung S7 edge. Lets make a small list : Bigger screen. Bigger battery. New battery tech ( more intteligent charging speed thats give twice the total recharge cycle for the battery no older sony phone has it only the x compact and this one for now ) change in design to make more ergonomic. New finish for the aluminium. 5 axis digital stabilization ( wich will improve on the older one they used thats was so good its beaten in stabilization mostly all others phone ) https://www.dxomark.com/Mobiles/Sony-Xperia-Z5-Mobile-review-Best-mobile-photo-video-scores-to-date/Sony-Xperia-Z5-video-sub-scores-The-Z5-solves-video-stabilization but hey hater got to hate right?

29. ashrafalhujaili

Posts: 73; Member since: Oct 03, 2014

the difference between sony and sam is that sam has another lineup with other speces but sony just want to refresh it's smartphone every 6 months not to mention that xperia x performance didn't hit store until late June !! so why the same lineup and almost the same speces !! they could've just a phablet and no one would blame them

30. AmashAziz

Posts: 2867; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Marorun first lesson is that don't call anyone hater if that person thinks a phone isn't new. Second thing, the changes need to be major and more than what the xperia xz is currently offering to call itself completely new. 1 or 2 are major changes that might have a big impact on someone's life. The rest are small, a few being tiny ones. And don't forget processor is also same . You ur self proved it by writing only a few differences!

37. cheetah2k

Posts: 2097; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

If it had the SD823 and wireless charging I'd be on this like a rash. but it doesn't, still only 3gb ram.. and most definitely a huge price tag. I mean, seriously Sony? WTF?

38. AmashAziz

Posts: 2867; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

That's my point too!

41. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Ugh, no. The 5-axis EIS has been demonstrated to actually work better than OIS, without the wobbling and jitteriness that an OIS system brings. And the sensor is a new design, despite still being 23MP 1/2.3" sorta like the SD800 vs. SD801AC

3. chancooluk

Posts: 20; Member since: Sep 13, 2015

Camera: "with Sony promising improved dynamics and exposure handling". Followed up by a camera sample photo of cups, saucers and teapots that has almost no detail because the highlights have been completely blown-out by poor dynamic range processing. Same old Sony then.

4. Kumar123 unregistered

Good luck selling this phone because other than looks it has nothing.

6. Kumar123 unregistered

I just looked at the photos and they look like $hit. This is a failure. No SD821, No new camera sensor already make this phone looks outdated. New looks and slightly bigger battery is welcome but overall is a disappointing phone.

7. Osama99

Posts: 41; Member since: Nov 14, 2014

So when Samsung does it, with no new chip, no improved camera over the S7 edge, it is innovation. And now you blame Sony. Nice.

8. Ezio2710

Posts: 548; Member since: Aug 22, 2015

Because they care too much about Sony. They want sony on the competition

10. Kumar123 unregistered

Only stupid samturd like Jason2k13 and trojon_horse and paid reviewers will claim that note 7 is a innovation. But unlike Samsung Sony can't spend huge amount of money on marketing so their phone have to be exceptional, I'm not saying this is a bad phone but just being good is not good enough anymore. This is especially true now that have Samsung producing very competent phone. The same goes for HTC. Despite having a solid phone they are struggling - No wow factor, using same old camera sensor etc.

20. terrybogard

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 01, 2016

agree sony is done their phone not improve from z5

5. hillaryisacriminal

Posts: 242; Member since: Aug 26, 2016

would be a better choice instead of that explosive c4 note 7

19. cheee

Posts: 50; Member since: Jul 11, 2016

nope because sony can explode too

9. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Since when is 424ppi "an amazing pixel desity", Ray. S? Come on, Quad HD dispays have long given us pixel density beyond 424ppi.

12. Ray.S

Posts: 431; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

Since when it isn't? Just because there are 1000 hp cars, does it mean that 500 hp cars are slow?

17. AmashAziz

Posts: 2867; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Ray S but that doesn't mean 424 ppi is amazing. Its just good enough. Amazing is something like a 3k display, since 2k is also common now. And why don't the writers at phonearena answer things regarding the site. I asked Florin T if he could answer me some questions l. He said it will depend on the question types. So I asked him some on an article he posted. 1 week passed and still no reply from him.

22. TerryTerius unregistered

They don't respond to every question. But then again, nobody does that.

31. AmashAziz

Posts: 2867; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

It was the first time I directly asked the question from an author. And only when he allowed me to ask it. So it's his responsibility to answer it and not keep me waiting. If he didn't want to, he should have told me he won't oblige. After all, the questions asked were for the betterment of phonearena.

42. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

300ppi is good enough. Anything over 400ppi is great on a RGB matrix. If you go AMOLED, well, due to the subpixel layout, you need noticeably more ppi to look the same. I've said this and I will continue to say it, QHD is pointless on sub-6" LCD devices.

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