Sony’s overdue-2016 flagship is the phone it needed six months ago, with some of the most crucial upgrades in years for a Xperia smartphone. But is it sufficient?
The more things alternate, the extra they stay the identical. With the apparently sunsetting of the Xperia Z line and the move to Xperia X, Sony seemed to have lost hobby in the conventional spec-chasing excessive-quit telephone recreation. Yet right here we are much less than 1/2 12 months later with a brand new Sony flagship: The Xperia XZ.
The naming convention speaks to the character of the smartphone: A continuation of the X collection spearheaded in advance this yr with the Xperia X and X Performance, but with tips of the old Xperia Z logo: A bigger screen, a extra capacious battery, and some severely crucial digital camera improvements — consisting of, for the primary time in a Sony phone, hardware stabilization.
This is the telephone Sony needed half a 12 months ago — and arguably a device that’s more of a whole thru than the overpriced, underwhelming X Performance. But the opposition within the high-stop space hasn’t died down because the spring, and the XZ will face a similar band of challengers as its immediate predecessor.
So how does the maximum exciting Sony smartphone in years measure up? Read directly to find out.We’re publishing this review after four days with a pre-manufacturing U.S.-spec Sony Xperia XZ (model F8331) in Berlin, Germany on the Telekom.De network. Our review unit became using software program model 39.0.A.1.205, based on Android 6.Zero.1 Marshmallow with the 1 July 2016 Android safety patch.As we’ve come to assume from Sony, the Xperia XZ is a large rectangular slab of a cellphone. But in contrast to a few earlier Sony fashions, the layout stability is the skewed extra in favor of ergonomics within the XZ. The comfort aspect stems from the truth that it is composed, like the Xperia X, of a polycarbonate trim and metallic returned panel. This time the metallic and plastic blend is dealt with otherwise — the plastic curves around the frame of the tool, while the polished metal panel sits around the returned, with subtle curves on its edges.Together with the mild taper of the rims of the front glass, this offers the Xperia XZ a pleasing symmetry. However, there is no averting that the principle contact factors are with plastic, now not metallic. And that plastic body makes it sense really less top rate than ultimate 12 months’ Z5, with its aluminum border. In layout terms, it feels a chunk like one leap forward, two steps back — a choice made perhaps for monetary, now not aesthetic motives.
The outer trim houses a familiar collection of buttons — strength, quantity and a committed digicam key all alongside the proper edge. In the USA you may omit out at the fingerprint security it really is been a standard function in different parts of the sector for the past couple of generations of Sony telephones, which is unlucky. As with the Xperia X, the electricity button on the XZ is only an undeniable old button, and that’s a huge omission for what is alleged to be a flagship phone. (Again, economics seem to be conspiring in opposition to the person.)The pinnacle and backside edges are completely flat, with a USB Type-C slot down underneath and 3.5mm headphone jack up pinnacle. Standard stuff — however Sony’s now taking gain of Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.Zero for faster refills, that is a great addition.
This is a large phone in all directions, with hefty pinnacle and bottom bezels, together with an especially girthy thickness of eight.1mm. And that contributes to a barely frumpy look as compared to the likes of the Galaxy Note 7 — particularly given its fantastically small 5.2-inch display length. This isn’t an unsightly phone consistent with use, however, it’s miles difficult to enthuse over what’s a notably bland layout, keep for one or visual thrives. It’s stable, no longer thrilling.We can not bitch approximately the excellent of the show though. It’s an LCD panel with Sony’s “TRILUMINOS” branding, and buzzwords apart we’ve got discovered it to be as clean and vibrant as any display in an Android cellphone, even under direct daylight. Nor have we noticed any excessive distortion at wide viewing angles.
Top-notch internals interior a pretty bland shell.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 (and others) have the XZ beaten on sheer pixel density, however, in every other area, it’s a top-notch display. And it’s sponsored up via Sony’s picture enhancement software, together with X-Reality for reinforcing comparison and sharpness in images and video.
As we’ve got continually stated, 1080p at this screen size is flawless quality, and I didn’t discover myself lacking the more density of Samsung’s contemporary shows.
On the audio facet, Sony keeps its use of a front-facing stereo audio system that does a respectable activity of putting out masses of extent but lacks the bass of competition like HTC. Thankfully the telephone has plenty of audio hints up its sleeve in other regions, with the capacity to upsample compressed song to high-res quality while the use of stressed headphones.Internally, the XZ packs in widespread high-give up Android internals — a Snapdragon 820 processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB internal garage. And powering the whole meeting is a 2,900mAh internal battery — a welcome upgrade from the 2,620mAh of the Xperia X. We’ll discuss battery sturdiness later on this evaluation, however, the phone always did admirably — the best overall performance lag we noticed turned into in the course of the initial setup, wherein the smartphone was updating apps over an LTE connection. And gaming overall performance impressed too, with the Adreno 530 coping with 1080p gaming comfortably.
A large improve for Sony’s cameras — which includes, for the first time, hardware stabilization.
The internals may be typically identical, however, Sony’s digital camera hardware has passed through some significant enhancements. For the first time, the rear digicam sports activities hardware stabilization — a 5-axis stabilization solution that Sony says has now not yet been supplied to partners — subsidized up by laser autofocus and a brand new coloration spectrum sensor around the returned. The sensor itself is a 23-megapixel Exmor RS unit, much like the Xperia X, presenting a comparable stability of pleasant detail in sunlight hours scenes. The new stabilization capabilities permit the XZ to boast progressed low-mild overall performance although — some thing we’re going to explore in in additional detail later on this overview.
The Xperia XZ is also one of the few phones capable of boast water resistance — some thing Sony has a protracted history with, but a feature simplest it and Samsung are currently imparting. It’s a much-wanted differentiator for the organization and something which offers brought peace of mind whilst using the cellphone around a pool or in heavy rain.
Sony has all the specs, a few precise digicam hardware, and a maximum of the audio and video bells and whistles… And but the business enterprise seems to be treading water on the subject of the layout. As such, it’s tough to look how anybody but die-hard Sony lovers may be getting excited about the appearance and experience of the Xperia XZ. Calling it boring appears harsh, however, it truly is where we are within the telephone market of 2016.
Over the past year, Sony has toned down its customization of Android extensively, specializing in differentiated apps and services, while leaving the middle of Google’s Material Design interface by myself. That fashion maintains into the company’s latest handsets; the XZ’s software is largely a replicate image of the Xperia X.
The main aesthetic flourishes center around Sony’s stylized lock screen and launcher, as well as a handful of the business enterprise’s personal apps, like the Material-fashion weather app.A first out of doors of the Google Now Launcher — at least formally — Sony’s domestic display setup is able to deliver Google Now into the combination via its personal vertical-scrolling pane on the leftmost domestic display panel. That’s a beneficial addition that lets you stick with Sony’s home display screen setup in case you decide on the more customization and app hints it provides, at the same time as additionally retaining Google’s predictive skills at your fingertips.
Elsewhere, it’s all about smaller tweaks to an in large part vanilla Android experience: Things like custom short settings buttons, a Sony launcher with suggested apps and endorsed downloads, and Google’s Doze mode augmented by using Sony’s validated “Stamina” mode, which cuts again on historical past data and CPU performance to extend battery life.Aside from the usual stuff — matters just like the Sony Album and Music apps — there is a new News Reader utility that can get a bit notification-satisfied, and Sony’s “What’s New” app for keeping on the pinnacle of latest apps and other content. All of these link into Sony’s broader surroundings, but the integration among the preloaded apps and Sony’s services are treated in a way it truly is no longer a distraction in case you select not to use them.So the daily revel in of the use of a Sony cellphone hasn’t simply modified from the Xperia X returned in May.
The most effective new features we had been able to track down stay within the Settings app — the brand new Smart Cleaner recreates the phone “optimization” capabilities of competitors like Samsung and HTC, assisting you to clean out antique files and optimize memory for frequently used apps. After our first week with the cellphone there may be now not too much cludge gathered within the inner garage just yet, however, this is a feature that could come to be greater useful through the years.
And for overall novices, the Xperia Tips segment offer interactive walkthroughs to help you arise and strolling.
Other software program bits:
Sony appears to have sped up a number of Android’s integrated animations, just like the deck of cards inside the recent apps switcher. The result is a software program enjoy that feels faster in places. There’s a rather small quantity of preloaded bloatware at the U.S. Unlocked Xperia XZ, the principle offenders being Amazon and AVG Antivirus. The placement of Sony’s “Clear All” apps button is horrible, and it is manner too clean to hit while you’re tapping the Recent apps key.
So this is Sony’s software program in a nutshell: light-weight, fast, and approachable.Cameras were a large part of Sony’s smartphones for as lengthy because it’s been making them. But the producer has ignored to capture onto some of the more recent traits like optical stabilization and laser autofocus — technology which has performed an essential component in a number of the satisfactory smartphone cameras of this technology.
No extra. Finally, Sony has a cellphone with hardware stabilization — in truth, a brand new five-axis stabilization tech adopted from the agency’s Handycam camcorders. That’s subsidized up via a shade spectrum sensor, LED flash and laser autofocus to finish the phone camera trifecta.
Sony keeps to use a 23-megapixel Exmor RS sensor on the back of a f/2.0 lens, and with the aid of default, the XZ downsamples to an 8-megapixel picture. That way you have lots of wiggle room for zooming in even as nonetheless maintaining quality element. During our time with the Xperia XZ, we alternated among 8- and 23-megapixel modes, before subsequently settling on shooting on the maximum decision.
Hardware stabilization brings massive enhancements in the indoor and coffee-light recording.
The plenty-wanted flow to hardware stabilization brings a few serious improvements to Sony’s trendy digital camera — specifically in indoor and occasional-mild situations. For the maximum component, this is a reliable “all-around” digicam that could produce good-looking pics in just about all conditions. When Superior Auto mode gets matters right — and it very frequently does — it will pick out the appropriate scene mode for you, and the end result can be a, in reality, incredible image. (Allowing for lighting fixtures, movement, and your own ability, of path.)
But there are caveats connected. First of all, it’s easier than we would want to capture blurry shots in darker conditions, and surprisingly Sony’s stabilization machine appears a little extra prone to hand movement than the likes of Samsung and LG. Occasionally that new coloration spectrum sensor dramatically misfires, giving outside scenes an unnatural blue or inexperienced hue. And the equal software program confusion can trip up Superior Auto.The different asterisk has to do with the 23-megapixel size, and the quantity of sharpening happening when you zoom in. If you take photographs of the total sensor size, be prepared for pleasant details to be mired in noise while you zoom in, and for there to be plenty of over-polishing taking place, to the point where pix lose the herbal appearance provided via the iPhone and a few other competition.
It looks as if the XZ’s software program processing just needs a touch tune-up. It’s absolutely feasible that’ll happen before release — in the end, we are the use of a pre-production tool here.
Sony’s digital camera app hasn’t changed a whole lot due to the fact that we ultimate saw it within the Xperia X. A slider on the right part helps you to pick between Manual, Superior Auto+, video and Sony’s diverse plug-in digital camera apps. (These include such things as AR modes for adding dinosaurs to your snaps, to sweep panoramas mode, to the dedicated 4K shooting mode.)
Most of the time, no matter its occasional finickiness, you will want to live in Auto+. For finer manipulate, Manual lets you set to pick out unique scene modes, set your ISO, allow HDR and item tracking, and tweak such things as metering and timer settings. (Basically, the whole thing you’ll assume from a standalone virtual digicam.)
Sony expects you to use Superior Auto+ most of the time — and also you probably need to.
It’d be satisfactory if some of these alternatives were a bit more discoverable, but Sony’s truly setting a whole lot of emphasis on the back of Superior Auto+.
In video recording, Sony’s stabilization tech sincerely comes into its very own, with clean 1080p/60fps recording even in darker conditions with minimal quantities of noise. And the 4K recording is likewise supported, though with the usual heat-related warnings. Given the report length constraints of 4K, you will need to paste to a 1080p maximum of the time.
So general this is without problems Sony’s fine telephone camera yet, but it doesn’t pretty reach the requirements of Apple and Samsung in phrases of assured brilliance each time. Sony’s getting near even though, and with a few software program updates the Xperia XZ can be a real challenger.
Other digicam-associated nuggets:
Sony’s wise item monitoring tech from the Xperia X returns and works simply as properly in the XZ. The new 13-megapixel selfie camera is fantastic in daytime and decent in indoor settings, but satisfactory swiftly degrades in darker settings like bars and outdoor scenes lit through streetlight. It’s no longer certainly bad, however, it is also no fit for the likes of HTC’s UltraSelfie digital camera at the HTC 10. Again, this could be a software program tuning difficulty, however, our Xperia XZ unit had an inclination to aggressively overwhelm shadowed areas in outdoor shots — way greater than we have seen from previous Sony cameras
I’ve been the use of the Sony Xperia XZ for simply four days at the time of writing, so I’m nevertheless getting the cling of the smartphone’s everyday battery overall performance. What’s greater, we’ve been pushing it tougher than we generally could on the IFA show in Berlin. Travel is difficult on telephones.
That stated, we have an inexpensive idea of ways the Xperia XZ plays in the real world, and the verdict is that it’s a stable “one-day” phone, but no more than that except you are using it certainly sparingly.
That’s about par for the route for a Snapdragon 820 walking a 5.2-inch display on a battery of this size.
We were regularly getting between 12 and 14 hours out of the Xperia XZ running on LTE all day, before hitting Battery Stamina mode at 30 percentage fee. That’s with round three hours of screen on time as much as that point, that’s a first rate showing for a current Android phone. We’d liken it to what some of our editors had been getting from the OnePlus 3 in recent weeks.
As stated, Battery Stamina mode can step in to keep the day whilst you’re running low on rate, and Sony consists of each everyday Stamina and Ultra Stamina modes relying on just how a lot of functionality you want to reduce in the call of battery existence. There’s a major performance hit while Stamina is enabled even though, so it’s in all likelihood, not something you’ll need to get into the habit of the usage of.
And when it is time to price, the contemporary Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 method you’re by no means under 50 percent for lengthy.
On balance, we’re reasonably satisfied with the battery overall performance we’ve been getting from the Xperia XZ. You may be disenchanted in case you’re coming from an in advance Xperia phone with virtually out of the ordinary toughness. But for most people, it’ll be flawlessly nice.Should you buy the Sony Xperia XZ? If you are a fan
Sony is nearly again on pinnacle form. The Xperia XZ is a strong all-round handset that does a lot of factors right — a handset to restore the religion of Sony fanatics. Its finest sin is probably searching a touch stupid — this is no Galaxy Note 7, in spite of everything — but when you appearance direction it’s monolithic outside there are lots to like.
Sony greenbacks the trend of 2K presentations and instead is going with a first-rate searching 1080p panel, with strength savings as a result. Performance is speedy across the board, and Sony’s software program is considerate and measured. And we’re ultimately seeing a giant soar ahead in camera overall performance in a Xperia phone, with big hardware additions that bring about better pictures almost whenever.
The problem for Sony, like so many other Android producers, is the truth that Samsung’s clearly crushing it this 12 months. Sony’s digital camera is brilliant, however, it’s now not the fine. Same address its display screen, it’s construct high-quality and its battery lifestyles. And U.S. Customers another time get the quick give up of the stick, as Sony cheaps out on fingerprint security.
As such, the XZ’s enchantment is likely confined to hardcore Sony fans. And if it really is you, then you may be getting a hell of a telephone.