Sony Xperia XZ

PAT PILCHER has a good time with Sony’s flagship smartphone, but notes a couple of potentially fatal flaws.

Sony, which launched its latest flagship – the Xperia XZ – at IFA earlier this year, is talking up its design, specs and above all, its camera. But the big question is this: How does it compare to other flagship smartphones?

Sony’s range of smartphones has to be one of the more confusing for consumers to navigate because of its mindboggling naming conventions. About a year ago, the company decided to stop using the letter ‘Z’ to denote flagship models, instead opting for the letter ‘X’. But instead of the logical X1, X2 (etc), it opted for the unfathomable XA, XP and XZ! This of course makes it next to impossible to tell if the XA is a budget model or the XP a high-end model, and so on.

As you’d expect given Sony’s industrial design savvy, the Xperia XZ is both attractive and feels good in the hand. Although the XZ is no ugly duckling, there is one small problem: It also looks just like the previous Xperia.

Where previous Experias had some sharp edges however, the XZ has gone for the soft edge look. Sony calls this the Loop Surface, and it gives the XZ a seamless look, making it comfortable to hold. About the only real design gripe I’d have is with the chunky bezels atop and below the XZ’s screen. It mightn’t look great, but you do get front facing stereo speakers.

The XZ is available in three colours: Forest Blue, Mineral Black and Platinum. It’s also IP68 rated, which means it can get submerged in up to 1.5m of water for up to half an hour, and hold its breath the whole time. Amazing, eh?

The XZ’s 5.2-inch screen may only be HD, but it’s still bright, crisp and vibrant. Opting for HD also means the XZ’s display is less punishing on the battery.

Under the hood sits a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. RAM is only 3GB plus 32GB of storage. This seems odd given RAM/storage isn’t expensive, and yet is of much value to buyers. Apple cottoned onto and equipped their iPhone 7+ with 256GB of storage. Here’s hoping Sony follow suite with future models.

Given the XZ’s excellent camera and a half decent collection of apps, the 32GB of storage is a key limitation. This can get extended up to 256GB via a Micro-SD card slot, but of course, that brings with it extra cost.

A particularly nice feature is Sony’s trademark fingerprint sensor. While they’re tucked away on the front or rear on most phones, Sony has baked theirs into the XZ’s power button. This means powering up and unlocking the XZ is a single seamless action. The other big bonus comes on the connectivity front. The XZ comes with dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS and NFC.

For music the XZ acquitted itself well. Thumbing their nose at Apple, Sony included a headphone jack. It also supports 24-bit/192kHz hi-res audio playback, and comes with a USB-C port and a 2900mAh battery. Like earlier models, the XZ has Qnovo Adaptive Charging technology, which Sony claims helps to extend battery life, even with fast charging.

Sony are one of the world’s biggest camera sensor manufacturers, so it isn’t a huge surprise that the XZ has an impressive camera. Its camera specs may sound pedestrian, but Sony have an added twist. They’re calling it Triple Image Sensing technology.

This sees the rear shooter packing not one, but three image sensors. There’s a sensor for movement, a laser sensor (for measuring distance) and an RGBC sensor for colour.

In Auto mode, it’s pretty hard not to get a well-focused and exposed photo. That said, I noted that out of the box the XZ shoots 8Mp photos at 16:9 as its default. Jumping into camera settings I chose the full 23MP option, but found it only delivers 4:3. The front shooter comes with a 13MP camera with a 22mm wide-angle lens, which allows you to cram even more of your mates into selfies.

Out of the box, the XZ runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, upgraded to Android N once I inserted a SIM. Sony win big brownie points by not slathering loads of cosmetic gunk on top of Android. All told, its UI is very close to stock Android. Sony also bundle a bunch uninstallable widgets and apps, most of which proved useful. Gamers will rejoice at the addition of PS Remote Play, which lets you play games from your PS4 on the XZ.

Like many other flagship devices, the XZ sports a peeper pleasing design. It’s also well priced. That said, Sony may be doing themselves a disservice in offering less RAM and storage. Grizzles aside, the XZ’s camera is top drawer. For shutterbugs and gamers, it is a great choice. PAT PILCHER

$1099

3.5 Stars

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