Sony Xperia XZ Review

Introduction


Sony is on an aggressive schedule: while most other companies are launching their new flagship phones once in a year, Sony is updating its top-line Xperia phones much more often, with a new _phone_ every six months or so.

Last fall, we had the Xperia Z5, then in the beginning of June 2016, Sony released the Xperia X and Xperia X Performance, and now, just a few months after that, we have another new top-shelf phone: the Xperia XZ.

Sony Xperia XZ Review
Despite this quick pace of upgrades, little changes in the Xperia line over time: most of the top-shelf Xperia phones evolve very gradually. The new Sony Xperia XZ is probably the biggest update to the series with a brand new ‘loop’ design that changes the appearance of the phone, but even this does not make it a very significant change: yes, it has a slightly larger screen and a slightly larger battery than the X Performance, but the specs and software are nearly identical.

Under the hood, the Sony Xperia XZ features the same top-shelf Snapdragon 820 system chip, with 3GB of RAM on board and the base version of the handset has 32GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD cards. Sony has, however, improved the camera with a 23-megapixel sensor with 5-axis software stabilization and laser auto-focus that speeds up focusing. Let’s see if there are any other improvements and if Sony can pull out a surprise with the XZ.

In the box:
  • Xperia XZ
  • 5V, 1.5A (7.5-watt) wall charger
  • USB-C cable
  • User manual

Design

New and shinier metal back, curved sides, but still on the thick side

Sony has always had a name for a company that makes elegant, stylish devices and the Xperia XZ undeniably looks like one.

Sony Xperia XZ Review
Sony Xperia XZ Review
Sony Xperia XZ Review
While it retains the DNA of a Sony Xperia _phone_ with its sharp corners and somewhat bulky size, it also now comes with edges that are tapered and more comfortable to hold, an approach that Sony calls ‘loop’ design. The back is made out of a special aluminum alloy that Sony calls ‘Alkaleido’. In real life, it’s a shiny metal finish with a very smooth coating that actually makes it feel a bit like glass or glossy plastic. Its slightly colder temperature, however, gives out its true nature. And it looks good when it’s clean, but as all glossy surfaces, it's good at catching fingerprints and getting smudged easily.

Upon closer inspection, however, one can’t help but notice that the sides of the phone are all made of plastic and there is a strap of plastic at the bottom edge of the rear panel for better reception. The physical buttons - all of them are on the right side - are also made of plastic and don’t feel nowhere near as clicky or well made as the ones on Galaxies and iPhones of today. In the international version of the Xperia XZ there is a fingerprint scanner built in the side-positioned power/lock key and it works fast and well, but - quite shockingly for a late 2016 flagship - there is no fingerprint scanner on the U.S. version of the phone. We guess that this has something to do with patents because otherwise this makes absolutely no sense.

Up front, there is a beautifully laminated screen with Gorilla Glass 4 (yet others are already using the tougher Gorilla Glass 5) that uses on-screen Android navigation keys. There are two front-firing speakers, which is a nice addition, while on the bottom of the phone there is a USB-C port for charging, whereas the 3.5mm headset jack is on the top.

The Xperia XZ comes in a choice of three colors: the signature for the model Forest Blue (aka dark blue), as well as a Mineral Black (black) and Platinum (bright gray) versions. We like this good-looking color selection, and as you can see we have the Forest Blue up for review.

Sony Xperia XZ Review

Finally, the phone is also conveniently IP68 certified, meaning it is water- and dust-resistant: it can withstand a 30-minute stay in water, up to 3 feet deep, but rather than being made for use in water, it’s mostly meant to survive occurrences like the rain or an accidental drop in the toilet.

 

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Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia XZ
Sony Xperia XZ
5.75 x 2.83 x 0.32 inches
146 x 72 x 8.1 mm
5.68 oz (161 g)

Sony Xperia XZ

Apple iPhone 7
Apple iPhone 7
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Apple iPhone 7

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
5.94 x 2.86 x 0.3 inches
150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm
5.54 oz (157 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5




Display

5.2” Full HD LCD display with bluish colors

Sony Xperia XZ Review

The Sony Xperia XZ features a 5.2-inch Full HD display (1080 x 1920 pixels) of an IPS LCD kind. “Triluminous”, “X-Reality”, Sony does not shy away from throwing in a bunch of pompous marketing names to convince everyone in the superior qualities of this screen.

But first, sharpness: a 5.2” Full HD display is sharp enough so that most users won’t see pixelization. We find no issue with it, hence, no reason to complain about it not being a Quad HD display. To be perfectly exact, there is one scenario when a Quad HD display would actually be more beneficial: if you mount your phone in a VR headset, you can actually see a real difference in sharpness there. But as far as normal usage is concerned, 1080 x 1920 px is a-OK.

Onto the colors, the Xperia XZ features strongly oversaturated colors and cold temperature that would annoy photographers looking for color accuracy, as well as those who care about true colors. We do, and from that standpoint, we are not happy with the color rendition on the Xperia XZ.

At the same time, if you are not particularly picky about color accuracy, the screen is not terrible: again, colors are unrealistic, but they also ‘pop’ more and the screen gets sufficiently bright to be comfortable to use in various conditions.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Sony Xperia XZ 633
(Excellent)
5
(Excellent)
1:1330
(Excellent)
8184
(Poor)
2.15
5.67
(Average)
6.3
(Average)
Apple iPhone 7 632
(Excellent)
2
(Excellent)
1:1254
(Excellent)
6692
(Excellent)
1.84
2.96
(Good)
5.44
(Average)
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 493
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6586
(Excellent)
2.03
1.47
(Excellent)
2.62
(Good)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all

Sony Xperia XZ Review

Introduction


Sony is on an aggressive schedule: while most other companies are launching their new flagship phones once in a year, Sony is updating its top-line Xperia phones much more often, with a new phone every six months or so.

Last fall, we had the Xperia Z5, then in the beginning of June 2016, Sony released the Xperia X and Xperia X Performance, and now, just a few months after that, we have another new top-shelf phone: the Xperia XZ.

Sony Xperia XZ Review
Despite this quick pace of upgrades, little changes in the Xperia line over time: most of the top-shelf Xperia phones evolve very gradually. The new Sony Xperia XZ is probably the biggest update to the series with a brand new ‘loop’ design that changes the appearance of the phone, but even this does not make it a very significant change: yes, it has a slightly larger screen and a slightly larger battery than the X Performance, but the specs and software are nearly identical.

Under the hood, the Sony Xperia XZ features the same top-shelf Snapdragon 820 system chip, with 3GB of RAM on board and the base version of the handset has 32GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD cards. Sony has, however, improved the camera with a 23-megapixel sensor with 5-axis software stabilization and laser auto-focus that speeds up focusing. Let’s see if there are any other improvements and if Sony can pull out a surprise with the XZ.

In the box:
  • Xperia XZ
  • 5V, 1.5A (7.5-watt) wall charger
  • USB-C cable
  • User manual

Design

New and shinier metal back, curved sides, but still on the thick side

Sony has always had a name for a company that makes elegant, stylish devices and the Xperia XZ undeniably looks like one.

Sony Xperia XZ Review
Sony Xperia XZ Review
Sony Xperia XZ Review
While it retains the DNA of a Sony Xperia phone with its sharp corners and somewhat bulky size, it also now comes with edges that are tapered and more comfortable to hold, an approach that Sony calls ‘loop’ design. The back is made out of a special aluminum alloy that Sony calls ‘Alkaleido’. In real life, it’s a shiny metal finish with a very smooth coating that actually makes it feel a bit like glass or glossy plastic. Its slightly colder temperature, however, gives out its true nature. And it looks good when it’s clean, but as all glossy surfaces, it's good at catching fingerprints and getting smudged easily.

Upon closer inspection, however, one can’t help but notice that the sides of the phone are all made of plastic and there is a strap of plastic at the bottom edge of the rear panel for better reception. The physical buttons - all of them are on the right side - are also made of plastic and don’t feel nowhere near as clicky or well made as the ones on Galaxies and iPhones of today. In the international version of the Xperia XZ there is a fingerprint scanner built in the side-positioned power/lock key and it works fast and well, but - quite shockingly for a late 2016 flagship - there is no fingerprint scanner on the U.S. version of the phone. We guess that this has something to do with patents because otherwise this makes absolutely no sense.

Up front, there is a beautifully laminated screen with Gorilla Glass 4 (yet others are already using the tougher Gorilla Glass 5) that uses on-screen Android navigation keys. There are two front-firing speakers, which is a nice addition, while on the bottom of the phone there is a USB-C port for charging, whereas the 3.5mm headset jack is on the top.

The Xperia XZ comes in a choice of three colors: the signature for the model Forest Blue (aka dark blue), as well as a Mineral Black (black) and Platinum (bright gray) versions. We like this good-looking color selection, and as you can see we have the Forest Blue up for review.

Sony Xperia XZ Review

Finally, the phone is also conveniently IP68 certified, meaning it is water- and dust-resistant: it can withstand a 30-minute stay in water, up to 3 feet deep, but rather than being made for use in water, it’s mostly meant to survive occurrences like the rain or an accidental drop in the toilet.


Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia XZ
Sony Xperia XZ
5.75 x 2.83 x 0.32 inches
146 x 72 x 8.1 mm
5.68 oz (161 g)

Sony Xperia XZ

Apple iPhone 7
Apple iPhone 7
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Apple iPhone 7

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
5.94 x 2.86 x 0.3 inches
150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm
5.54 oz (157 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5




Display

5.2” Full HD LCD display with bluish colors

Sony Xperia XZ Review

The Sony Xperia XZ features a 5.2-inch Full HD display (1080 x 1920 pixels) of an IPS LCD kind. “Triluminous”, “X-Reality”, Sony does not shy away from throwing in a bunch of pompous marketing names to convince everyone in the superior qualities of this screen.

But first, sharpness: a 5.2” Full HD display is sharp enough so that most users won’t see pixelization. We find no issue with it, hence, no reason to complain about it not being a Quad HD display. To be perfectly exact, there is one scenario when a Quad HD display would actually be more beneficial: if you mount your phone in a VR headset, you can actually see a real difference in sharpness there. But as far as normal usage is concerned, 1080 x 1920 px is a-OK.

Onto the colors, the Xperia XZ features strongly oversaturated colors and cold temperature that would annoy photographers looking for color accuracy, as well as those who care about true colors. We do, and from that standpoint, we are not happy with the color rendition on the Xperia XZ.

At the same time, if you are not particularly picky about color accuracy, the screen is not terrible: again, colors are unrealistic, but they also ‘pop’ more and the screen gets sufficiently bright to be comfortable to use in various conditions.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Sony Xperia XZ 633
(Excellent)
5
(Excellent)
1:1330
(Excellent)
8184
(Poor)
2.15
5.67
(Average)
6.3
(Average)
Apple iPhone 7 632
(Excellent)
2
(Excellent)
1:1254
(Excellent)
6692
(Excellent)
1.84
2.96
(Good)
5.44
(Average)
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 493
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6586
(Excellent)
2.03
1.47
(Excellent)
2.62
(Good)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all

Interface and Functionality

Same old Sony skin that feels very simplistic. Some might be upset that the XZ ships with Android 6 Marshmallow on board and no clear timeline for 7.0 Nougat update.

Sony Xperia XZ Review

If you’ve used a Sony phone a few years ago and now happen to pick up the new Sony Xperia XZ, you probably would not find much of a difference.

Yes, we have the same old Sony skin on top of Android 6 Marshmallow here, and there are two things to keep in mind: first, the Sony skin is rather simple, but also without much of a special sauce, it starts to feel a bit bland; and secondly, given that the XZ will launch in the same time as Android 7 Nougat, we can see how many would be annoyed (rightfully) for not having the latest version of Google’s platform.

Let’s start with what’s new: Sony has built in an app cache cleaner and unlike the many apps with similar functionality on the Play Store, this one is absolutely invisible and automatic, so you don’t have to open it and press a button every time you see your phone slow down.

Next, Sony also brings some quite neat and stylish themes with colors matching that of the body of the phone. They don’t bring the radical customization that you might be used to seeing in Samsung phones, or via custom themes for Android launchers, but are still a very nice touch.

We are not very happy with a few of the basic features of the XZ: particularly, the on-screen keyboard. Sony uses SwiftKey and by default it is set to give absolutely no haptic feedback to typing, which slows down typing. Even if you find how to enable haptic feedback (Settings > Language & Input > SwiftKey keyboard > Typing > Sound & Vibration > Enable vibration), the feedback is neither as clear as on, say, Samsung phones, nor as quick as it should be. Yes, it’s not terrible, but in a 2016 flagship, we expect more.

Processor, Performance and Memory

Snapdragon 820 sounds all good, but we see an occasional stutter and performance does not seem perfectly smooth

Sony Xperia XZ Review

Most top-shelf phones in 2016 come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 system chip, and the Sony Xperia XZ is no exception: we have the 820 with 3GB of RAM here.

We have no complaints about this hardware configuration, but what we did notice is that the actual performance of the phone is not perfectly optimized. There is the occasional stutter here and there, and frame rates in animations when switching between apps are also stuttery, and that’s something that we just can’t excuse in a top-shelf phone these days.

Gamers should also know that the XZ comes with the Adreno 530 GPU, which is one of the fastest graphics solutions on mobile. Yes, this means that it should be able to handle even the most demanding games with a consistent frame-rate, and also be future-proof. Take a look at the benchmark scores to see how it fares against the competition.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 7 168795
LG G5 134074
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 128191
Sony Xperia XZ 127482.66
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
LG G5 3515
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 3198
Sony Xperia XZ 3447
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
LG G5 4498
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 4840
Sony Xperia XZ 5333.66
JetStream
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 7 144.71
LG G5 52.218
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 60.315
Sony Xperia XZ 45.556
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 7 57.3
LG G5 54.33
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 52
Sony Xperia XZ 59
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 7 59.1
LG G5 17
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 28
Sony Xperia XZ 32
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 7 3355
LG G5 1913
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 1761
Sony Xperia XZ 1892.66
Geekbench 4 single-core
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 7 3464
LG G5 1686
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 1857
Sony Xperia XZ 1526.33
Geekbench 4 multi-core
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 7 5605
LG G5 4024
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 5569
Sony Xperia XZ 3520.66
View all

With 32GB of space on board that can also be expanded via a microSD card, the Xperia XZ is a happy member of that new wave of devices. At the same time, it’s puzzling that the otherwise simplistic Xperia skin takes up a lot of space. You only get around 20GB of user available space out of the 32 gigs, and that’s really not as much as it might sound.

Internet and Connectivity

This time around, there is a US version that is expected to come with proper LTE bands

The Sony Xperia XZ features Google’s mobile Chrome as its default and only browser. It does the job well, and we’re happy that we don’t have to deal with a confusing two-browser situation.

Chrome is well fitted for use on mobile with its card-based interface, syncing across other platforms including desktop and tablet, and fast rendering speeds.

What about 4G LTE connectivity? There will be different versions of the Xperia XZ for different markets, and the band compatibility also varies. Sony is yet to announce particular 4G LTE bands, but since there will be a U.S.-bound model, you can expect proper band support as well.

In terms of other connectivity options, you also have Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC support.

Camera

This is one wiiiide angle lens! And one sloooow and infuriatingly cumbersome camera app

Sony Xperia XZ Review

The main camera on the Xperia XZ features a custom-made Sony IMX300 sensor of 1/2.3" size, which is currently one of the largest sensor sizes we've seen on phones. On top of it is a Sony G lens with f/2.0 aperture and a 6-element construction. This more complicated construction with additional elements theoretically allows better image clarity across the whole image. Up front, the Xperia XZ is equipped with a 13-megapixel camera.

In terms of special sauce for the main camera, Sony brings in an additional laser AF that helps lock focus faster, and also a color sensor that helps the phone properly set the white balance of an image.

The Sony camera app is a worthy subject of a separate discussion, as it has so many peculiarities that it’s hard to sum them up in a few sentences. Unfortunately, most of them are not something that Sony should be proud about. First, speed: it’s slow in operation. We did a quick hands on test capturing pictures with most major phones from iPhones to Galaxies, LGs, and even the cheaper OnePlus, and it was shocking, but also revealing that the Sony was the only one to give us a loading circle practically every time you capture a picture with the Xperia XZ. The interface also feels clunky: a swipe switches you from photo to video mode, but that switch takes a long few seconds and the video mode for some reason does not allow you to shoot in 4K. Yet, the Xperia XZ does support 4K capture, but you need to scroll further up to camera apps, and only then select 4K video! These are all things that are far from intuitive.

Sony Xperia XZ Review
Sony Xperia XZ Review
The camera UI of the Sony Xperia XZ - Sony Xperia XZ Review
The camera UI of the Sony Xperia XZ - Sony Xperia XZ Review
The camera UI of the Sony Xperia XZ - Sony Xperia XZ Review

The camera UI of the Sony Xperia XZ


Then, there is the fact that the Xperia XZ has a 23-megapixel camera, but its default Superior Auto captures 8MP images. If you go into settings, you can actually choose between: 23MP (4:3), 20MP (16:9), 8MP (4:3) and 8MP (16:9). We compared images at the full resolution and the 8-megapixel once, and we like the latter better: they have slightly better dynamics and clarity, and we recommend shooting in 8MP resolution.

There’s also a manual mode that allows you to tweak shutter speed, exposure, white balance, and manually focus. It also comes with a bunch of ‘scenes’: soft skin, soft snap, anti-motion blur, landscape, backlight correction HDR, night portrait, night scene, hand-held twilight, high sensitivity, gourmet, pet, beach, snow, party, sports, document and fireworks. Yup, 17 different modes! Is your head spinning already? Ours is too! It’s hard to imagine many people apart from die-hard enthusiasts reading through that whole list, and it’s even harder to see who would use them. Even if you wanted to use them, though, there is absolutely no explanation to what they do: what does the ‘Pet’ mode do, for example, and how is it different from ‘Gourmet’? It’s good to have options, but it also helps to know what those options actually do. Here’s the trick, though, the phone automatically selects the right mode of these 17 when you shoot in Superior Auto, so why even bother with manual? And here’s the kicker: despite all those tons of options, there is actually no easy way to enable and disable something as common as HDR! To do this, you have to open a menu, switch on a toggle, close the menu, and only then shoot in HDR. So in conclusion: yes, the Xperia XZ is a feature-packed camera, but rather than that being a plus, it ends up making it overcomplicated and far from intuitive.

Image Quality

Decent, but not quite great: colors in images pop, but the pictures are oversharpened and contrast gets a strong boost

Image quality on the Xperia XZ is fine, but by no means extraordinary or even on par with devices like the Apple iPhone 7 series, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 family, LG’s G5, or the HTC 10.

Sony Xperia XZ Review
While earlier Sony phones tended to capture very natural looking colors, Sony seems to have changed that quite a bit with the XZ, which takes pictures that have a very noticeable contrast, saturation and sharpening boost. Despite this quite obvious oversharpening, in areas of uniform color, details appear smudged out and not all that clear. Some artifacts like color fringing are also particularly easy to notice.

Focusing is, on the other hand, fast and accurate. Sony is also proud of its tracking auto-focus feature and here is how it works: tap on a moving object on your screen and the phone will automatically lock the focus on it and track it as it moves. It might work in the lab and in some carefully orchestrated conditions, but in real life it is hit or miss. It won’t track small objects, for instance, and with Sony’s super wide-angle camera, most objects appear small unless you zoom in. We also didn't have much luck with faster moving objects.

The built-in single LED flash is strong, but introduces a cold, green-ish cast to images that ruins the colors and we’d rather not use it at all.

When it comes to the front camera, we’re content with it, but again, we don’t find it to be extraordinary. In good light, it captures fairly sharp selfies that, with outstanding detail and sharpness, really a class above even when compared with the selfie cameras on the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6s Plus. Indoors and in dim light, though, images do often turn slightly blurry and don’t look nearly as impressive.


Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Apple iPhone 7 1.13
1.49
No data
No data
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 1.5
1.6
283
261
Sony Xperia XZ 1.7
2
No data
No data
LG G5 2.2
2.7
505
480
View all

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Video quality

Shaky and cropped 4K video makes us prefer 1080p, despite its lower detail

We’ve already walked you through the counter-intuitive way to switch to 4K video (you can’t record 4K video in the ‘video’ mode, you have to swipe up to the camera apps, and select 4K from there) and we’ve already told you that it takes forever to switch to 4K video and the interface is absolutely contrary to intuitive.

Why is this important? 4K video happens to look much sharper and better than 1080p, even when you look at it on YouTube on a regular 1080p monitor. It’s a noticeable difference. Yet, if you want to record something quickly, like that time that cat did something funny for a moment, you are more likely to miss it with such clunky controls.

4K video on the Sony Xperia XZ is recorded at 30fps and comes with stabilization turned off by default, which results in very shaky and unpleasant-looking videos. We recommend you go into settings in the 4K mode and enable the Steady Shot option. It’s worth noting that the view you get is also a significantly cropped view of what you get in 1080p.

Sony Xperia XZ Review

Another interesting thing is that the Xperia XZ is one of the first phones that we see that supports the H.265 encoding standard for video. The default one is the H.264 encoding that has been used on phones since forever, but you can switch to the H.265 and the result is much smaller files. For instance, 1 minute of 4K video recorded using the tradition H.264 encoding resulted in a 397MB file, while shooting the absolutely same scene for 1 minute in H.265 resulted in a file that is just 254MB, nearly 36% smaller.

So everyone should just switch to H.265, right? Not really: unfortunately, the new H.265 is still not widely supported and YouTube in particular fails to recognize H.265 videos. Until major services like YouTube don’t add support for this new codec, we don’t recommend using it.

There is another peculiarity about the Xperia XZ: while on all phones that we’ve ever tested, you can record a 4K video even without unlocking the phone, on the Xperia XZ you can only record 1080p video with an unlocked phone, but if you try to switch to 4K the phone - contrary to any and all logic - asks you to unlock the phone.



Media apps: music player, video player, photo gallery


In a time of YouTube and Facebook for videos, as well as Spotify and Apple Music for our music needs, the default music and video players on our phones are getting less and less use. Still, those with sentiment for offline music would still use the built-in apps. There are two music apps on the Xperia XZ, the Google Play one, and a custom-made application that has a clean, straight-forward interface with nice visuals.

We’re happy that Sony has built two front-facing speakers in the XZ: that’s the right direction for audio that you listen to. They are not mind-blowing in quality, but get sufficiently loud and while lacking in depth, provide fairly clean audio.

The photo gallery on the XZ allows you to pinch to zoom in and out easily in images, and can also show you pictures by the place they’re taken in, plus, it can also sort your favorite image files or help you view only videos, for instance. We still recommend the much richer, cloud-based Google Photos that also comes pre-installed.

Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 0.986
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 0.707
Sony Xperia XZ 0.35
LG G5 0.29
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 69.1
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 72.9
Sony Xperia XZ 68
LG G5 73
View all

Call Quality


Sony Xperia XZ Review

Call quality is fine, but not excellent on the Xperia XZ. Voices through the earpiece sound a bit muffled and lacking in clarity, but not to the point where it’s hard to discern what your caller is saying, and they get sufficiently loud.

The experience on the other end of the line is similar: slightly muffled and lacking in clarity, but again, not terrible.

Battery life

Will last a full day as most phones these days, but re-charge times are quite slow

Sony Xperia XZ Review

The Sony Xperia XZ features a non-removable 2,900 mAh battery. Sony made it clear that it is introducing some clever tricks to keep it healthy in the long run by preventing it from overcharging and damaging its chemistry. However what most users will be really interested in is actual battery life in daily use.

That's why we put it through its paces in our standardized battery test that puts all phones on equal playing ground: we set their screens at 200 nits of brightness, a level comfortable for indoor use, and run a custom script that measures typical phone use with no off-screen time. So how much did the Xperia XZ score?

Don't expect miracles: its 2,900mAh batteries scored a good, but not great 6 hours and 41 minutes, practically on par with the Samsung Galaxy S7 with Snapdragon. While not outstanding, the Xperia XZ battery still lasted longer than the one on the LG G5 and Nexus 5X, but less than the battery of the iPhone 6s.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 9h 11 min (Excellent)
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 9h 5 min (Excellent)
Apple iPhone 6s 8h 15 min (Excellent)
Apple iPhone 7 7h 46 min (Good)
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 7h 18 min (Good)
HTC 10 7h 10 min (Good)
Huawei P9 6h 51 min (Average)
Sony Xperia XZ 6h 41 min (Average)
Samsung Galaxy S7 6h 37 min (Average)
Google Nexus 5X 6h 25 min (Average)
Google Nexus 6P 6h 24 min (Average)
LG G5 5h 51 min (Average)
View all

Another interesting thing we test is charge times: how much does it take to fully recharge the phone from 0 to 100% using the wall charger and cable provided in the box?

In the case of the Xperia XZ, there is a 5V 1.5A (7.5-watt) wall charger and a USB-C cable provided. As you can see, this is no quick charger with such a low power output, so expectations for fast recharging were not high, but it was quite a shock to see such a slow charge.

It took us nearly three hours to fully charge the Xperia XZ! The exact charge time stood at 2 hours and 54 minutes, more than that of all modern phones.

Charge time test

Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
LG G5 76
Samsung Galaxy S7 88
Google Nexus 6P 89
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 99
HTC 10 100
Google Nexus 5X 100
Apple iPhone 7 141
Huawei P9 146
Apple iPhone 6s 150
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 165
Sony Xperia XZ 174
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 197
View all

So there you have it, the Sony Xperia XZ scores in the middle of the pack in terms of battery life, and it is annoyingly slow to recharge.

Sony, however, has pointed out that slow charging might come with some benefits. Sony is introducing a new smart charging option in the Xperia XZ. With nightly charges, what happens is that the battery remains plugged in long after it's fully charged and this continuous trickle charge is stressful to a battery cell and makes it degrade faster. Sony's clever trick here is that it learns that you usually wake up at, say, 7am, and it would stop charging the battery at night when it reaches around 90%, and will only resume charging closer to your wake-up time. This way, you still wake up with a fully charged battery, but the damage from excessive charging is avoided.

All of this hopefully should mean that battery health will remain excellent in the long run, but for users looking for the daily charging results, the score is really nothing to write home about.

Conclusion


Frankly, we’re perplexed by the price of the Sony Xperia XZ: it's sold at a whopping $700 in the United States. We expect this price to quickly go down in the coming few months, but right now, it looks less competitive than the Samsung Galaxy S7 that you can get for $100 less, the futuristic Galaxy S7 Edge available at around the same price, and the outstanding iPhone 7 for $50 less.

Sony Xperia XZ Review

The Xperia XZ has some things going for it: it has stylish looks and a clean design, it’s conveniently water-proof and features properly positioned dual front-firing speakers. However, there are just so many places where it falls short, especially compared to the strong competition: its display features bluish and not properly balanced colors, it sometimes stutters, it has a fairly scarce 20GB of user-available storage space, its camera is slow and often counter-intuitive, with images and videos that are not on the same level as the ones from iPhones and Galaxies, it lacks quick charging and in the United States it even ships without a fingerprint scanner.

For $50 less, you can get the excellent Apple iPhone 7 that delivers the same waterproofing, but also an exquisite body, an amazing camera and outstanding, smooth performance. For $100 less, you can get the also superior Galaxy S7 with its more compact design and excellent camera.