Sony Xperia XZs hands-on: a minor refresh with a fancy new camera0
If you thought that quad-HD “2K” smartphone screens were contentious, that's got nothing on 4K, as Sony learned only too well with 2015's Xperia Z5 Premium. After a year-long hiatus, the company's now taking a second stab at 4K on phones with the new Xperia XZ Premium.
Almost as if it realizes that there's a sizable contingent of users just lining up to scoff at the basic idea of 4K on a phone, Sony's ready with an alternative: the new Xperia XZs. This model gets to still enjoy some of the same hardware upgrades as the XZ Premium, while sticking with a much more traditional 1080p resolution.
A Familiar Design Makes Its Return
Sit an Xperia XZs next to the Xperia XZ and you're likely to do a double-take: Sony hasn't done much to tweak the layout of this new hardware. Look extra-close and you just might be able to spot the few differences that make the XZs stand out, like its slightly more prominent camera bump, but there is not a lot that's new here. To a large extent, that's a good thing, as the Xperia XZ had a really satisfying, clean, well-executed design.
Unfortunately, Sony also hasn't done much to fix the few things we didn't especially like about the XZ, like the use of plastic materials here and there – and maybe most prominently in a plastic “window” at the bottom of the phone's back. And also like so many other Xperias, the integrated fingerprint scanner in the phone's power button will be an international-only feature, disabled for the US release.
All of that's far from a deal-breaker, though, and the sturdy workhorse-like design with all its aluminum alloy panels we appreciated from the XZ is nice to see again here.
4K Ain't For Everybody
Sony's panel taps into the company's Triluminos image processing for high-saturation, bold colors, as well as its X-Reality engine for photo and video enhancement.
But really, this is the same sort of screen setup we got with last year's Xperia XZ. Our experiences there certainly appear to be repeating themselves here, giving us a display that puts more of an effort on visuals that “pop” than necessarily the most accurate color reproduction.
This Refresh Doesn't Include a Silicon Upgrade
For the most part, the choices Sony's made to repeat elements of the Xperia XZ in the XZs are welcome, though that may not be the case for the silicon powering the handset. We're OK to see Sony reserving its 4K display for the Xperia XZ Premium, but we'd love it if Sony would also bring some Snapdragon 835 love to the XZs as well. Instead, the XZs is armed with the same sort of Snapdragon 820 chip we found powering last year's XZ.
Just Call It The "Sony Xperia XZ New Camera"
The flip side of that is that resolution takes a hit from the XZ's 23MP sensor, but as you may remember from our review, we didn't exactly love that phone's full-resolution pics, and actually preferred shooting in reduced-resolution modes. By shrinking the raw megapixel count, Sony manages to deliver a camera with pixels 10% larger than on the XZ.
A Battery That Still Can't Break 3,000 mAh
The XZs brings us more of that story, both in the form of charging systems that anticipate when you're going to need your phone, making sure to top off its charge only right before you disconnect the adapter, as well as app analysis that attempts to identify opportunities to curb the impact of power-hungry software by switching over to the phone's stamina mode.
Would we prefer to simply have a larger battery than the 2,900mAh component present here? Well, probably, as we weren't really wowed by the XZ's battery life – which was all sorts of adequate, but far from exceptional – and that used the same battery-stretching tech as the XZs, as well another 2,900mAh cell.
The Xperia XZs is clearly an upgrade over the XZ, and given how much that stays the same, it's also going to be a handset that targets the same shoppers as that older phone. But while sticking with what works makes sense (to an extent), we also can't shake the feeling that maybe not enough is evolving here. The new camera could spell improved light sensitivity and allow for some fun slow-motion filming, but it's also probably not enough to tempt current users into upgrading. And while the improvements will be welcome by new shoppers approaching the Xperia brand, we also wish Sony did a little more to compensate for some of the areas where the Xperia XZ came up short.
This story is part of:Sony at MWC 2017 (11 updates)