Sony Xperia XZ Review: From Z to X

Introduction

Sony, a Japanese giant manufacturer that has a range of consumer products from smartphones, cameras, TVs, gaming consoles, headsets to in-car receivers and players. It’s true that the company isn’t doing well when it comes to mobile business. The sales of the Xperia smartphones aren’t great, most people would prefer to go for other brands. In 2016, the company announced that the Xperia Z series will be replaced by the X series, but we didn’t see a flagship device until the Xperia XZ was announced. The Xperia XZ is currently the most powerful smartphone from the company, but is it really that powerful? It’s review time!

New Loop Surface Design

Unlike previous flagships, the Xperia XZ now comes with a brand new loop surface design, which actually reminds me about the earlier Lumia phones by Nokia. The phone is made of ALKALEIDO metal, which is known as the rounded aluminum piece. It feels really premium, but slippery and fingerprints magnet too.

Looking at the right side of the phone, you’ll see the power button (doubles up as a fingerprint sensor), volume rocker, and a camera shutter button. Like the Z5, I find that the position of the volume rocker is a bit lower than usual. Strangely, the NFC detection area of the XZ is on the front, in between the notification LED and front-facing camera.

The bottom of the phone houses a USB Type-C port, which sadly doesn’t support Quick Charge 3.0. Not to forget that the phone is IP65/IP68 water and dust resistant, but the USB port and audio jack are uncovered, just like its predecessor.

The Same Display

The Xperia XZ has a 5.2-inch Full HD IPS display, which is similar to its predecessor. It’s a little bit disappointing to know that Sony still sticks with a Full HD panel, but that’s not a bad thing at all.

We put both the Xperia XZ and Z5 side by side and compare, we found out that the XZ is able to show whiter whites compared to the Z5. Overall, the XZ display is more eye pleasing that the Z5. Sony did a good job by further improving its Full HD display with the XZ. The XZ display is also more comfortable to view now.

In terms of colors, Sony X-Reality Mobile Engine technology improves the quality of photos and videos, giving clearer, sharper and more natural images. You can also switch to Super-vivid mode, which makes the photos and videos look more surreal and vibrant. You can also adjust the white balance of the display as well.

Snapdragon 820 SoC with 3GB RAM Only

Powering the Xperia XZ is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with sadly, just 3GB RAM only. Malaysia is having the dual-SIM version, which means it comes with 64GB onboard storage, expandable via MicroSD card.

In terms of performance, the Xperia XZ did pretty well without any major hiccups. Snapdragon 820 processor is also significant colder than the Snapdragon 810 (Xperia Z5) even under heavy load. I tried playing F1 2016 and it was smooth, but there will be some frame drops due to the thermal throttle.

Having only 3GB RAM is a disappointment, but so far performing multiple tasks on this phone is fine. Some apps like Facebook and Chrome will restart though when you opened many apps at once.

The fingerprint sensor is embedded in the power button, which seems to be a good idea. However, it fails to recognize your fingerprint sometimes, especially when your fingers are wet. I would actually prefer positioning the fingerprint sensor on the back of the device or below the display.

The dual front-facing stereo speakers are pretty good. Even though it is not the loudest one in a smartphone, the speakers are able to deliver clear stereo sound, which I enjoy a lot.

Xperia UI

Sony Xperia UI is one of the user interfaces that has close to stock Android experience. There a few apps pre-installed though, such as Amazon Shopping, AVG Protection, and Spotify, which thankfully can be disabled. Sony media apps like Music, Album, and Video remain my favorite media apps, it’s good that the company still keeping its own media apps from the Sony Ericsson era.

Like the Google Launcher, swiping to the left in the home screen will show the Google Now page. I did experience Google Now app stopped working, though. You can turn off the Google Now page and change the icon appearance, but I think that the default looking is good enough. You can also change the theme as well.

Overall, Xperia UI is pretty much like the vanilla Google experience. It doesn’t come with many extra features, the software is pretty simple and straightforward to use.

23MP Camera with Triple Image Sensing Technology

One feature that Sony highly promotes is its 23MP rear camera with triple image sensing technology — PDAF, laser auto-focus and RGB-IR sensor (for color sensing). The focusing speed is pretty fast, still not as fast as the Dual Pixel tech on the Galaxy S7 though. And for the first time in an Xperia smartphone, the camera app supports manual shutter speed and focus controls. Sadly, the slowest shutter speed is only 1 second, which means photographing the Milky Way or stars isn’t possible at all. There are still many things Sony needs to work on in order to have the best camera app in a smartphone.

       

Image quality generally is pretty much the same as its predecessor with some slight improvements. The colors are a little bit closer to the natural thanks to its RGB-IR sensor. The same problems are still there, the images are oversharpened and the noise level is pretty high. Even though it has a 23MP rear camera, the details aren’t as great as some 16MP shooters due to the noise reduction. The device also struggles to capture macro shots, you’ll need to move slightly further for the camera to focus the object. Don’t get me wrong, the Xperia XZ camera isn’t bad at all, it’s just not as good as its rivals. Video wise, its SteadyShot Intelligent Active Mode works pretty well, no doubt it is one of the best smartphones for phone videography.

Still No Quick Charge 3.0

Juicing up the device is a 2,900mAh non-removable battery, which sadly doesn’t support Quick Charge 3.0. The battery, however, does support Qnovo Adaptive Charging for prolonging its life cycle. Charging this phone to 100% took me more than 2 hours, which is a disappointment as most flagship smartphones nowadays come with fast charging feature.

 

Battery life is good enough, I was able to get more than 4 hours of screen-on-time with moderate usage. There’s also a STAMINA mode and Ultra STAMINA mode, which did well to prolong the battery life.

Final Words

Pricing at RM2,699, the Xperia XZ is the best Sony smartphone ever, but it isn’t the best smartphone. It is a good phone, but sadly there are better phones out there offering at the same price. Well, at least it offers something that most smartphones aren’t offering — water and dust resistant, clear dual front-facing stereo speakers, close to stock Android experience, and a camera shutter button. I do really hope that the phone has more RAM, fast charging feature, and a better camera app, but at least Sony is now catching up. We’ll see what Sony will come out in 2017.

Yay

  • Water and dust resistant (IP65/IP68)
  • Good dual front-facing stereo speakers
  • Smooth software experience

Nay

  • Only 3GB RAM
  • No fast charging
  • Camera manual mode isn’t full manual yet