For Sony, 2016 has so far been a year of might-have beens. After releasing the X and XA earlier this year to largely lukewarm reception, it’s attempting to liven things up with the Xperia XZ, a phone that some might say is the first handset to truly bring Sony’s full firepower to bear this year.
So where does the Xperia XZ sit in Sony’s smartphone lineup? That’s easy: right at the top. It’s the follow up to the excellent Sony Xperia Z5, and it carries with it all of Sony’s hopes and dreams for mobile domination.
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Sony Xperia XZ review: Design
What the Xperia isn’t is a dramatically different-looking Sony phone. It’s still unashamedly slab-sided and rectangular, and that’s a good thing, because I rather like it.
A Sony Xperia phone looks just like you’d expect a phone to look except it’s gone through the pleasing design process of japanese minimalism, stripping back superfluous design elements, creating a device that’s clean, crisp and feels wonderful in hand.
In terms of dimensions, the Xperia XZ is identical to the Xperia Z5 bar an extra 0.8mm in thickness and 7g in weight. It measures 72 x 8.1 x 146mm (WDH) and weighs 161g, putting it in the same general area as the Samsung Galaxy S7 or OnePlus 3.
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One reason the XZ feels so great to hold and use is thanks to the slightly curved glass edges found on its front panel. Your thumb glides effortlessly over the screen and the XZ’s lacquered metal sides provide a comfortable level of grip and warmth many other metal-body phones simply don’t offer.
Sony also ditches the glass back of the Xperia Z range in favour of an all-metal one which, on the “Forest Blue” model I reviewed, looks rather appealing, although I can imagine it looking a little more garish in Platinum.
Sony has kept the recessed, side-mounted power-button-cum-fingerprint reader from the Z5, too, and it’s IP68 rated, just like the Xperia Z5, meaning it’s fully dust-resistant and waterproof to a depth of 1.5m for 30 minutes.
In fact, the only design flaw I can think of is that Sony still hasn’t rectified the problem with its volume rocker position. Since transforming the power button into a fingerprint reader, Sony has stubbornly refused to move the volume buttons – low on the right side of the phone – and they’re just as uncomfortable to use as on the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact.
Sony Xperia XZ review: Display
On paper, the Xperia XZ’s 5.2in Full HD IPS display is no different to that found in the Xperia Z5. Both are 5.2in, 1,080 x 1,920 resolution panels, augmented by Sony’s X-Reality Engine and Triluminos display technologies.
Somehow, though, the XZ’s display looks and feels more vibrant and alive, even with X-Reality for Mobile switched off. Colours take on more of a glow and look richer, even if both phones cover 99% of the sRGB colour space. However, it’s clear that Sony has made some incremental improvements to the XZ, upping its contrast ratio to 1,365:1, which is a direct consequence of a deeper black level of 0.45cd/m2.
Some may bemoan the lack of a higher-resolution screen, hoping that Sony would put its display prowess into practice and develop a 1440p or 4K device but on a 5.2in screen 1080p is more than enough.
Sony Xperia XZ review: Performance and specs
As a new flagship device, it should come as no surprise that at the heart of the Sony Xperia XZ is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, and here it’s backed up by 3GB of RAM. And on the games front this, combined with Sony’s resolve to stick to a 1080p screen, pays dividends.
In the GFXBench GL Manhattan 3 benchmark, the XZ outperformed the Z5 by quite a margin. In fact, the XZ outperforms all Android flagships bar the OnePlus 3 (which also has a 1,080 x 1,920 resolution display), to which it loses out by a just a fraction.
Moving over to CPU-bound performance, the XZ isn’t quite as good. In the Geekbench 4 benchmark, despite having the same processor on board as the OnePlus 3 it lags distinctly behind, a performance gap that’s probably due to Sony’s Android skin. Still, it is quicker in both tests than the Xperia Z5.
As for other specifications, the XZ comes with 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, a USB Type-C connector, Quick Charge 3 fast charge support and a microSD slot.
Click below to go to page 2: Camera, battery life and overall verdict
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