Staying true to its half-year upgrade cycle, Sony has announced its new top smartphone, the Xperia XZ1. If you were hoping for something brand new and revolutionary from Sony, just move on, because it isn't here. Not this year. This year, we have yet another small refinement to the company's flagships phone formula, resulting in a very minor upgrade over the XZs, which was released in the first half of the year. Still, the XZ1 is here, so we figured we could take a closer look at the few differences between Sony's new flagship, the XZs, and, why not! – the XZ Premium big-screen powerhouse.
From the pictures we took, you can almost instantly see that the new XZ1 and "old" XZs are almost completely identical. Aside from the new color options for the XZ1 (a different blue tone and a new pink one), the only other differences are found in minute details like the rounder curvature of the sides, as well as that there's no longer a plastic piece in the back of the phone – it's now a whole piece of metal. Because of this, Sony added interestingly shaped antenna details towards the upper end of the phone. The top and bottom parts are no longer flat – they have a slight curve to them as well, and are made of metal. We aren't sure if this is exactly an upgrade, but we guess it doesn't matter either way.
The only high-end handset in Sony's line-up that continues to stand out is the Xperia XZ Premium, which has a shiny glass back, instead of metal. Its sides are also nicely polished, aiding your grip. All three devices look good. They don't have the now-trendy slim-bezel look, but are stylish nonetheless. Stylish, and tough, as all of them have IP68 water- and dust-resistance.
Pedal to the metal performance
One of the more meaningful upgrades in the XZ1 is the chipset. The XZs launched with the good old SD820 earlier in the year, so the XZ1 can offer a nice performance boost here, although definitely not substantial enough to warrant a direct upgrade. The SD820 is still snappy enough to keep things running smoothly on the XZs. The XZ Premium launched a couple of months later than the XZs, so it came with the SD835, same as what we have now on the Xperia XZ1. This is the best system chip Qualcomm has to offer at the moment.
From our brief time with the smartphone, performance seemed nice and fluid. Of course, to properly test a smartphone, one needs to load it up with applications, accounts, documents, etc., but we're fairly confident the XZ1 will hold up quite well in the long run, just as the XZs and XZ Premium are still more than capable of running whatever you throw at them.
Camera and... 3D object scanning!
Now, here's the biggest differentiating feature in the Sony Xperia XZ1: while it has the same Motion Eye camera as the XZs and XZ Premium, Sony has created a new 3D Creator app which allows you to scan someone's face, head, meal, or just a simple object and turn it into a 3D model. Crazy stuff, we know! Said 3D model can then be used in a variety of fun ways, from putting you 3D-scanned face on a dancing bear avatar, to sending the model to an actual 3D printer.
So far, Sony's 3D Creator seems like a great and powerful new feature, but while it'll definitely be fun to play around with for a few minutes, it feels like Sony is still trying to think of more useful cases where it might prove beneficial. For now, social sharing seems like the most mainstream thing you can do with this technology.
Now, here's the important detail: while the XZs will not receive the 3D Creator in the future, the XZ Premium will, because it has the Snapdragon 835. So if the 3D modeler is something the intrigues you, the XZ Premium is a perfectly valid choice – it's expected to receive 3D Creator with the update to Android 8 Oreo.
The Xperia XZ1 is yet another strong, but not-that-remarkable phone from Sony. It looks good, it's solid, it has impressive system and camera hardware, and now the intriguing 3D Creator feature. With the XZ1, Sony simply makes sure it remains a relevant player on the mobile market; it's just that it doesn't wow us. The same was true of the XZs and XZ Premium before it, although at least the Premium has this turbo-smartphone vibe to it, with its crazy 4K screen and trendy glass exterior. The XZ1 and XZs are almost identical, and feel like the level-headed, predictable products that they are. The XZ Premium, though, now that's the one that stands out from the bunch. If we were on the market for a Sony phone, we would've seriously considered the big guy. What's more, the Premium is already at the price the XZ1 is going to launch this fall (around $699), while the XZs is only $100 cheaper, which isn't that big of a difference.