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Sony Xperia XZ review – GSMArena.com tests

Introduction

The Xperia XZ is Sony’s latest flagship smartphone. It comes with an improved camera, due specs update and a refined design. You could think of it as an Xperia Z6, but for Sony, XZ is where it’s at.

The XZ has a lot in common with the Z5. The amount of RAM (3GB) and same display size (5.2″). The competition is already cracking a condescending smile. However, the rest is on par with the rivals with a Snapdragon 820 chipset, 23MP camera, Type-C connectivity and stereo-speakers, just to give you a taste.

First, let’s check the at-a-glance list of Sony Xperia XZ’s main strong points.

Key specifications


5.2″1920×1080 pixels



23MP
2160p



2.15GHz
Snapdragon 820



3GB RAM
32/64 GB memory



2900mAhLi-Ion

But would you care about the not top-charting amount of RAM? We’re yet to see tangible proof that the RAM race leads to actual usability benefits, but if people were to reason that way, the industry would sit still.

What’s more important to us is the lack of fingerprint sensor for the US-bound version of the Xperia XZ. The hardware is there, apparently the paperwork isn’t, so Sony can’t offer the feature on the US market. We do have it on our international version review unit, and we’ll test it for the rest of you to know

Design and build quality

There’s no other way around it – the Xperia XZ has the exact same footprint as the Xperia Z5, safe for the 0.8mm extra thickness. However, the design has gone through Sony’s traditional iterative process including refinement and polishing.

The result is more than mixing the camera and sensor positions. Now, the Xperia XZ is still mostly a rectangle with sharp corners – some things will never change. If anything, the corners have gotten sharper. The design is a stylish mix of sharp edges and smooth curves throughout.

There are three distinctive materials at play here – glass on the front (an unspecified generation Gorilla Glass), polycarbonate on the frame and ALKALEIDO metal on the back. The latter is a type of aluminum alloy.

Sadly, the Xperia XZ is a fingerprint magnet. Nevertheless, we still salute Sony for managing to keep the phone unafraid of water.

In terms of space management, the Xperia XZ is typical Sony – ample bezels all around, but especially above and below the display. Sure, there are the stereo speakers to somewhat make up for them, but still we feel that shaving a millimeter or two wouldn’t hurt.

The control layout is typical Sony too. The fingerprint reader/power button is on the right, a little bit above midpoint and it’s easily accessible.

On the left side, you’ll find the card slot. Our unit takes one nano-SIM card and a microSD card, but a dual-SIM model will be available with a shared slot between the second SIM and the microSD.

Sony Xperia XZ time-saver

The top panel has the secondary mic and (thankfully!) a standard 3.5mm jack. Certain manufacturers tend to think that it may no longer be needed but we’ll have to disagree.

Design and build quality score



3.0

Display

We mentioned earlier that the Xperia XZ’s display size stays at 5.2″ and 1080p resolution. This results in a pixel density of 424ppi – still plenty sharp.

Brightness and contrast are excellent, too. The maximum brightness of 502nits in manual mode goes as high as 608 nits in auto mode, with bright light shining into the XZ.

Sony Xperia XZ time-saver

Where the display comes short is color accuracy. The average DeltaE of 5.8 is decent, but there is a pronounced blue cast to white and gray. Other than that, out of the primaries, green is off the most (DeltaE around 10), and cyan is far from the truth as well.

Lastly, sunlight legibility is superb. It is on par with the iPhone 6s, and a little short of the iPhone 7 when it comes to contrast under direct light.

Screenlight legibility is awesome, and you won’t have trouble using the phone outdoors on a bright, sunny day.

Battery life

The similarities with the Xperia Z5 continue in the battery department. The Xperia XZ manages power using the same 2,900mAh battery. It’s comparable to the direct competition safe for the HTC 10 and Galaxy S7, which have slightly larger battery packs.

The handset also supports the Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 (and, of course, 2.0), but we’re not sure if it will come bundled with a charger to match. If this is important to you, make sure to ask before buying the phone.

As for our battery endurance test, the Xperia XZ proved to be excellent at voice calls and an otherwise balanced performer in the other disciplines. Web browsing over Wi-Fi depletes the Xperia XZ’s battery in just over 9 hours, whereas in 5 hours of web browsing the Xperia XZ calls it quits.

In looping our test video until the battery is down to 10%, the Xperia XZ lasts for 8 and a half hours, pretty much the same as the X Performance.

Coupled with frugal standby power consumption, the above numbers add up to a combined endurance rating of 72 hours. Of the above competitors only the Galaxy S7 edge manages to top that (98h), the HTC 10 stands at 66h, while the iPhone 7 and LG G5 score 61h and 60h, respectively.

To remedy the situation, Sony has included a lot of cool battery technologies in the Xperia XZ. One of them is the Qnovo adaptive charging. The technology allows the phone to monitor the cell’s electrochemical processes in real time and adjust charging parameters accordingly. This improves the battery longevity.

On the software side, there’s Battery Care and Stamina battery saving feature. The former notices charging patterns and makes changes for an even longer life of the battery. The Stamina gives you two modes, each one disabling features of the phone to cut down on battery usage in situations where you need to maximize battery life.

Audio

The Sony Xperia XZ has front-firing stereo speakers, just like every Sony flagship since the Xperia Z2 (and some recent midrangers too). In principle, we’ll take this setup over any other in a heartbeat, but Sony’s speakers are fairly modest in terms of loudness, falling in the Below average category in our test. None of the major competitors truly excels here, yet they are all ahead of the Xperia.

The Sony Xperia XZ delivered excellently clean output when used with an active external amplifier, getting top marks across the board. Its output loudness was just above average so its a very decent performance overall.

Photo camera

The 23MP primary camera of the Sony Xperia XZ is familiar from existing Sony high-end models, but in some aspect it’s better than any of them. The sensor is the same custom one used in the Xperia Z5 and is 24.8MP. Depending on whether you shoot in 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio, different portions of the sensor are used and you get either 22.8MP or 20.1MP images, respectively, and never the full 24.8MP. Hence the official 23MP designation.

Another specification to come from the Xperia Z5 is the 6-element lens. It’s an ultra wide-angle 24mm-equivalent field-of-view and a f/2.0 aperture. Historically, flagship Xperias have had no optical image stabilization, and neither does the XZ. Nevertheless, Sony’s SteadyShot with Intelligent Auto has been upgraded, and now offers 5-axis image stabilization.

Sony Xperia XZ time-saver

There are two modes: Manual and Superior auto. You can judge the samples for yourself below, but the differences are too subtle and pop up in specific scenarios. The way we see it, unless you specifically want to tweak shutter speed, ISO or focus, Superior Auto is the way to go.

The Xperia XZ’s camera output is alright. It excels at resolving high-intricacy detail like foliage (and test charts) in good lighting, but that’s hardly surprise considering the sheer resolution of the 23MP images. All that detail, however, is mixed up with noise and noise reduction artifacts, which doesn’t look good when pixel peeping.

Camera samples: Superior Auto mode - Sony Xperia XZ review
Camera samples: Superior Auto mode - Sony Xperia XZ review
Camera samples: Superior Auto mode - Sony Xperia XZ review

Camera samples: Superior Auto mode - Sony Xperia XZ review
Camera samples: Superior Auto mode - Sony Xperia XZ review
Camera samples: Superior Auto mode - Sony Xperia XZ review

Camera samples: Superior Auto mode

Camera samples: Manual mode - Sony Xperia XZ review
Camera samples: Manual mode - Sony Xperia XZ review
Camera samples: Manual mode - Sony Xperia XZ review

Camera samples: Manual mode - Sony Xperia XZ review
Camera samples: Manual mode - Sony Xperia XZ review
Camera samples: Manual mode - Sony Xperia XZ review

Camera samples: Manual mode

The Xperia XZ is equipped with a 13MP selfie camera, making it the highest-res front-facer on a big-name flagship – Sony gets it. It produces excellent images too, packed with detail and with good dynamic range. It does suffer in less than ideal light, though.

Front camera samples - Sony Xperia XZ review
Front camera samples - Sony Xperia XZ review
Front camera samples - Sony Xperia XZ review

Front camera samples

Video camera

The Xperia XZ is the only model in Sony’s current lineup to feature 4K video recording – largely a marketing decision, since the Xperia X, X Performance and X Compact all have the hardware to do it. Of course, you get the standard 1080p/30fps and high-speed 1080p/60fps options.

The UI is generally simple and easy to use, but there are a few gotchas. For example, 2160p recording is a shooting mode all in itself. Moreover, depending on the shooting resolution, you have different options in SteadyShot stabilization.

4K video is somewhat soft, but you can still read the gas prices on the gas station sign. There isn’t much detail in the shadows, though. The footage is practically noise-free too, and looks really natural.