Sony’s latest flagship goes by the name Xperia XZ and it takes its seat at the top of the Xperia portfolio.
The new device is the fifth Sony smartphone to launch this year, following the Xperia XA, Xperia X, Xperia X Performance and Xperia XA Ultra, and it launches alongside the Xperia X Compact, making for quite the choice.
Question is, what does this new flagship have above its siblings and what is it like in relation to Sony’s last “flagship”? Here are our first impressions.
Sony Xperia XZ: Design
The Xperia XZ is a Sony smartphone through and through. It offers the OmniBalance and flat slab design, along with large bezels at the top and bottom of the display, all of which are distinguishable Xperia features.
There are a few changes here and there but overall, the Xperia XZ is recognisable as a Sony smartphone, and more specifically as an Xperia X smartphone, mainly thanks to the brushed metal finish.
The Xperia XZ will come in three colours comprising Forest Blue, Midnight Black and Platinum and it adds an additional anti-fingerprint coating to the metal to stop mucky paws leaving marks behind. There were still a few, but nothing compared to the mess the Z Series and its tempered glass rear used to create.
In terms of size, the XZ will feel no bigger to those with an Z5 or Z3. The new device has the same footprint as the Z5 at 146 x 72mm, along with a similar weight at 161g. It is a little thicker than the previous flagship at 8.1mm but the XZ remains comfortable to hold and it reintroduces IP68 water and dust resistance, something many of the X series devices left off their spec sheets when they launched earlier this year.
The top and bottom of the Xperia XZ are where some of the biggest changes in design can be seen, offering a much flatter, squarer appeal than preceding Xperia flagships. The headphone jack sits at the top, while USB Type-C makes its Sony debut at the bottom.
As we mentioned, those large bezels unfortunately still remain at the top and bottom of the display, but Sony has made things more interesting at the sides. The Xperia XZ doesn’t offer an edge-to-edge display as such, but it might as well have done.
A new design feature called Loop has been introduced to the XZ instead. The feature makes it appear like the screen is wrapping around towards each side, leading nicely into the curved edges. The bezels on the sides are therefore almost non-existent and it looks great, even if it does make those bezels at the top and bottom stand out even more.
The right-hand side of the XZ features the oblong power button with built-in fingerprint sensor, volume rocker and camera launcher button, while the left side sees the SIM and microSD tray. That’s nothing new to the Xperia Z5, X and X Performance but if you flip the XZ over, you will see a different camera layout on the rear.
The Sony logo remains in the middle, though it was blacked out on our device as it was a prototype. The camera lens is situated in the left corner, as it always was, but the LED flash has moved from the side of the sensor, to underneath, and there is another small grey circle above the flash. More on the camera and what that grey circle is in a minute.
Sony Xperia XZ: Display
The Sony Xperia XZ features a 5.2-inch display, meaning it adopts the Z series size rather than the X series. The XA, X and X Performance all have 5-inch displays, while the Xperia Z series all had 5.2-inch screens.
In true Sony style, the Xperia XZ also sticks with a Full HD resolution, meaning the new flagship has the same pixel density as the Z5 at 424ppi, and less than competing flagships from the likes of Samsung, LG and HTC.
Sony has always said the increase in pixels isn’t worth the trade off in battery life so the Full HD resolution doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. As you might expect, the Xperia XZ also offers Sony’s display technologies, including X-Reality and Triluminos, as its predecessors have done.
The Xperia XZ’s display appeared to offer good, vibrant colours, as well as good brightness and viewing angles but we will leave our final judgement for when we’ve spent a little longer with the new device. We’re expecting much the same as what we experienced with the Z5 though.
Sony Xperia XZ: Camera
Camera is always an area Sony places a heavy focus on and the Xperia XZ is no different, even if the main sensor resolutions are the same as the Xperia X and X Performance, meaning a 23-megapixel rear camera and 13-megapixel front camera.
It’s not all about megapixels though, as we all know. The Xperia XZ has therefore made a few changes and software enhancements. It comes with five-axis image stabilisation, which is said to help those of you with shaky hands and the new device will also offer manual control of shutter speed and ISO sensitivity.
Additionally, the Xperia XZ has another two supporting sensors on top of the main 23-megapixel Sony sensor. One is to help deliver more vivid colours, while the other is to help with depth of vision. That’s where that grey circle above the LED flash comes into play.
How well the three sensors work together remains to be seen, but it’s good to see Sony not standing still when it comes to the camera. It has some pretty stiff competition out there so new features and functions are essential.
Sony Xperia XZ: Hardware
The Sony Xperia XZ features almost identical specs to the Xperia X Performance. It has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor on board rather the latest SD821 and it is supported by 3GB of RAM rather than 4GB, both of which might come as a disappointment to some.
It ran smoothly enough during our brief time with it, delivering a slick performance with no lag, but we will of course test it properly when we get it in for review. It has the option of 32GB or 64GB internal memory, both of which offer microSD expansion up to 256GB.
As we mentioned, there is a fingerprint sensor built-in to the power button and USB Type-C for charging the 2900mAh battery and data transfer. Battery is another area Sony focuses heavily on and it’s worked well for the company in the past.
The Xperia XZ has a new feature called Smart Cleaner on board that not only shuts down apps automatically, but it also clears the cache automatically too. Based on Sony’s previous flagships, we’d expect good things from the Xperia XZ when it comes to battery life, especially with the enhanced software.
Sony Xperia XZ: Software
Speaking of software, the Xperia XZ launches on Android Marshmallow with the Sony software over the top.
The company did recently announce it will be upgrading the Z5, XA, X, X Performance and XA Ultra to Android Nougat so no doubt the Xperia XZ won’t be far behind but it doesn’t launch with it straight from the box. Shame.
The software experience is familiar and Sony fans will recognise many of the features. There are a couple of extras on the new device, such as the ability to manually control the camera as we mentioned, as well as the battery optimising software, but overall, it’s the same Sony experience.
The Sony Xperia XZ seems to marry the Z series and the X series together, which is what its name suggests, even if that wasn’t the reasoning behind it.
There are a few changes here and there like the Loop feature which is lovely and the inclusion of USB Type-C but overall, the XZ’s design is familiar, as are many of the hardware specs. It’s pretty much the X Performance with a few tweaks in design and some camera and battery enhancements.
Sony has focused on some key areas rather than make any radical changes like Samsung did a couple of years ago. Some might be disappointed as the Xperia XZ isn’t ground-breaking in comparison to some of its competition, but it should do enough to deliver a good upgrade option for the Sony fans out there.