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Sony Xperia XZ review: Return of the flagship

The more things change, the more they stay the same. With the apparently sunsetting of the Xperia Z line and the move to Xperia X, Sony appeared to have lost interest in the traditional spec-chasing high-end smartphone game. Yet here we are less than half a year later with a new Sony flagship: The Xperia XZ.

The naming convention speaks to the nature of the phone: A continuation of the X series spearheaded earlier this year with the Xperia X and X Performance, but with hints of the old Xperia Z brand: A bigger screen, a more capacious battery, and some seriously important camera upgrades — including, for the first time in a Sony phone, hardware stabilization.

This is the phone Sony needed half a year ago — and arguably a device which is more of a complete through than the overpriced, underwhelming X Performance. But the competition in the high-end space hasn't died down since the spring, and the XZ will face a similar band of challengers as its immediate predecessor.

So how does the most interesting Sony phone in two years measure up? Read on to find out.

The quick take

The Sony Xperia XZ is a return to form for the manufacturer, with a much-improved camera, a more interesting chassis design and solid performance in other areas. But some nagging issues remain, such as the general dullness of Sony's hardware, and the inexplicable lack of fingerprint security in the U.S. models. And although the camera is a lot better than any other Sony phone, it's not as dependable as Samsung's latest.

The Good

  • Impressive display, even at 1080p
  • Solid performance
  • Camera a decent all-round performer
  • Water resistance
  • Clean, well-designed software

The Bad

  • Boring design
  • Smudgy back panel
  • No fingerprint security in U.S.
  • Large, thick form factor with big bezels
  • Camera scene detection + color wonk

About this review

We're publishing this review after four days with a pre-production U.S.-spec Sony Xperia XZ (model F8331) in Berlin, Germany on the Telekom.de network. Our review unit was using software version 39.0.A.1.205, based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with the 1 July 2016 Android security patch.

Sony Xperia XZ Video Review

Xperia XZ

Understated

Sony Xperia XZ Hardware

As we've come to expect from Sony, the Xperia XZ is a big rectangular slab of a phone. But unlike some earlier Sony models, the design balance is skewed more in favor of ergonomics in the XZ. The comfort factor stems from the fact that it's composed, like the Xperia X, of a polycarbonate trim and metal back panel. This time the metal and plastic combo is handled differently — the plastic curves around the frame of the device, while the polished metal panel sits around the back, with subtle curves on its edges.

Xperia XZ

Together with the slight taper of the edges of the front glass, this gives the Xperia XZ a pleasing symmetry. However there's no avoiding that the main contact points are with plastic, not metal. And that plastic frame makes it feel somewhat less premium than last year's Z5, with its aluminum border. In design terms, it feels a bit like one step forward, two steps back — a decision made perhaps for monetary, not aesthetic reasons.

The outer trim houses a familiar collection of buttons — power, volume and a dedicated camera key all along the right edge. In the United States you'll miss out on the fingerprint security that's been a standard feature in other parts of the world for the past couple of generations of Sony phones, which is unfortunate. As with the Xperia X, the power button on the XZ is just a plain old button, and that's a big omission for what's supposed to be a flagship smartphone. (Again, economics seem to be conspiring against the user.)

The top and bottom edges are completely flat, with a USB Type-C slot down below and 3.5mm headphone jack up top. Standard stuff — however Sony's now taking advantage of Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 for faster refills, which is a welcome addition.

This is a big phone in all directions, with hefty top and bottom bezels, along with a relatively girthy thickness of 8.1mm. And that contributes to a slightly frumpy look compared to the likes of the Galaxy Note 7 — particularly given its relatively small 5.2-inch screen size. This isn't an ugly phone per se, but it is hard to enthuse over what is a relatively bland design, save for one or two visual flourishes. It's solid, not exciting.

We can't complain about the quality of the display though. It's an LCD panel with Sony's "TRILUMINOS" branding, and buzzwords aside we've found it to be as clear and vibrant as any display in an Android phone, even under direct sunlight. Nor have we noticed any excessive distortion at wide viewing angles.

Top-notch internals inside a relatively bland shell.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 (and others) have the XZ beaten on sheer pixel density, but in every other area it's a top-notch screen. And it's backed up by Sony's image enhancement software, including X-Reality for enhancing contrast and sharpness in photos and video.

As we've always said, 1080p at this screen size is perfectly fine, and I didn't find myself missing the extra density of Samsung's latest displays.

On the audio side, Sony continues its use of front-facing stereo speakers that do a decent job of putting out plenty of volume, but lack the bass of competitors like HTC. Thankfully the phone has plenty of audio tricks up its sleeve in other areas, with the ability to upsample compressed music to high-res quality when using wired headphones.

Xperia XZ

Internally, the XZ packs in standard high-end Android internals — a Snapdragon 820 processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB internal storage. And powering the whole assembly is a 2,900mAh internal battery — a welcome upgrade from the 2,620mAh of the Xperia X. We'll discuss battery longevity later in this review, but the phone always performed admirably — the only performance lag we noticed was during the initial setup, where the phone was updating apps over an LTE connection. And gaming performance impressed too, with the Adreno 530 handling 1080p gaming with ease.

A big upgrade for Sony's cameras — including, for the first time, hardware stabilization.

The internals may be mostly the same, but Sony's camera hardware has undergone some significant upgrades. For the first time, the rear camera sports hardware stabilization — a 5-axis stabilization solution that Sony says has not yet been offered to partners — backed up by laser autofocus and a new color spectrum sensor around the back. The sensor itself is a 23-megapixel Exmor RS unit, similar to the Xperia X, offering a similar balance of fine detail in daylight scenes. The new stabilization capabilities allow the XZ to boast improved low-light performance though — something we'll explore in further detail later in this review.

The Xperia XZ is also one of the few phones able to boast water resistance — something Sony has a long history with, but a characteristic only it and Samsung are currently offering. It's a much needed differentiator for the company, and something which gives added peace of mind when using the phone around a pool or in heavy rain.

Sony has all the specs, some unique camera hardware, and most of the audio and video bells and whistles... and yet the company seems to be treading water when it comes to design. As such, it's difficult to see how anyone but die-hard Sony fans will be getting excited about the look and feel of the Xperia XZ. Calling it boring seems harsh, but that's where we are in the smartphone market of 2016.

Xperia XZ

Sony + Marshmallow

Sony Xperia XZ Software

Over the past year Sony has toned down its customization of Android considerably, focusing on differentiated apps and services, while leaving the core of Google's Material Design interface alone. That trend continues into the company's newest handsets; the XZ's software is largely a mirror image of the Xperia X.

The main aesthetic flourishes center around Sony's stylized lock screen and launcher, as well as a handful of the company's own apps, like the Material-style weather app.

For the first time, Sony's launcher can incorporate a Google Now panel.

Software

A first outside of the Google Now Launcher — at least officially — Sony's home screen setup is able to bring Google Now into the mix through its own vertical-scrolling pane on the leftmost home screen panel. That's a helpful addition that lets you stick with Sony's home screen setup if you prefer the greater customization and app suggestions it provides, while also keeping Google's predictive capabilities at your fingertips.

Elsewhere, it's all about smaller tweaks to a largely vanilla Android experience: Things like custom quick settings buttons, a Sony launcher with suggested apps and recommended downloads, and Google's Doze mode augmented by Sony's proven "Stamina" mode, which cuts back on background data and CPU performance to extend battery life.

Xperia XZ

Aside from the usual stuff — things like the Sony Album and Music apps — there's a new News Reader application that can get a little notification-happy, and Sony's "What's New" app for keeping on top of new apps and other content. All of these link into Sony's broader ecosystem, but the integration between the preloaded apps and Sony's services is handled in a way that's not a distraction if you prefer not to use them.

Sony's software is lightweight, fast and approachable.

So the day-to-day experience of using a Sony phone hasn't really changed from the Xperia X back in May.

The only new features we were able to track down live in the Settings app — the new Smart Cleaner recreates the phone "optimization" features of rivals like Samsung and HTC, helping you clear out old files and optimize memory for frequently used apps. After our first week with the phone there's not too much cludge accumulated in the internal storage just yet, but this is a feature that may become more useful over time.

And for total newbies, the Xperia Tips section provide interactive walkthroughs to help you get up and running.

So that's Sony's software in a nutshell: lightweight, fast, and approachable.

Other software bits:

  • Sony appears to have sped up some of Android's built-in animations, like the deck of cards in the recent apps switcher. The result is a software experience that feels quicker in places.
  • There's a relatively small amount of preloaded bloatware on the U.S. unlocked Xperia XZ, the main offenders being Amazon and AVG Antivirus.
  • The placement of Sony's "Clear All" apps button is terrible, and it's way too easy to hit when you're tapping the Recent apps key.

Xperia XZ

Better, but not best

Sony Xperia XZ Camera

Cameras have been a huge part of Sony's smartphones for as long as it's been making them. But the manufacturer has neglected to catch onto some of the more recent trends like optical stabilization and laser autofocus — technologies which have played an important part in some of the best phone cameras of this generation.

No more. Finally, Sony has a smartphone with hardware stabilization — in fact, a new 5-axis stabilization tech adopted from the company's HandyCam camcorders. That's backed up by a color spectrum sensor, LED flash and laser autofocus to complete the smartphone camera trifecta.

Sony continues to use a 23-megapixel Exmor RS sensor behind an f/2.0 lens, and by default the XZ downsamples to an 8-megapixel image. That means you've got plenty of wiggle room for zooming in while still retaining fine detail. During our time with the Xperia XZ, we alternated between 8- and 23-megapixel modes, before eventually settling on shooting at the maximum resolution.

Hardware stabilization brings big improvements in indoor and low-light recording.

The much-needed move to hardware stabilization brings some serious improvements to Sony's latest camera — especially in indoor and low-light conditions. For the most part, this is a dependable "all-around" camera that can produce good-looking photos in just about all situations. When Superior Auto mode gets things right — and it very often does — it'll select the perfect scene mode for you, and the result will be a genuinely impressive image. (Allowing for lighting, motion and your own skill, of course.)

But there are caveats attached. First of all, it's easier than we'd like to capture blurry shots in darker conditions, and strangely Sony's stabilization system seems a little more susceptible to hand motion than the likes of Samsung and LG. Occasionally that new color spectrum sensor dramatically misfires, giving outdoor scenes an unnatural blue or green hue. And the same software confusion can trip up Superior Auto.

Xperia XZ

The other asterisk has to do with the 23-megapixel size, and the amount of sharpening going on when you zoom in. If you're taking photos at the full sensor size, be prepared for fine details to be mired in noise when you zoom in, and for there to be plenty of over-sharpening going on, to the point where images lose the natural look offered by the iPhone and some other competitors.

It seems like the XZ's software processing just needs a little tune-up. It's entirely possible that'll happen before launch — after all, we're using a pre-production device here.

Sony's camera app hasn't changed a whole lot since we last saw it in the Xperia X. A slider on the right edge lets you choose between Manual, Superior Auto+, video and Sony's various plug-in camera apps. (These include things like AR modes for adding dinosaurs to your snaps, to sweep panoramas mode, to the dedicated 4K shooting mode.)

Most of the time, despite its occasional finickiness, you'll want to live in Auto+. For finer control, Manual lets you set select specific scene modes, set your ISO, enable HDR and object tracking, and tweak things like metering and timer settings. (Basically, everything you'd expect from a standalone digital camera.)

Sony expects you to use Superior Auto+ most of the time — and you probably should.

It'd be nice if some of these options were a little more discoverable, but Sony's clearly putting a lot of emphasis behind Superior Auto+.

In video recording, Sony's stabilization tech really comes into its own, with smooth 1080p/60fps recording even in darker conditions with minimal amounts of noise. And 4K recording is also supported, though with the usual heat-related warnings. Given the file size constraints of 4K, you'll want to stick to 1080p most of the time.

So overall this is easily Sony's best phone camera yet, but it doesn't quite reach the standards of Apple and Samsung in terms of guaranteed brilliance every time. Sony's getting close though, and with some software updates the Xperia XZ could be a real challenger.

Other camera-related nuggets:

  • Sony's intelligent object tracking tech from the Xperia X returns, and works just as well in the XZ.
  • The new 13-megapixel selfie camera is great in daylight and decent in indoor settings, but quality rapidly degrades in darker settings like bars and outdoor scenes lit by streetlight. It's not certainly bad, but it's also no match for the likes of HTC's UltraSelfie camera on the HTC 10.
  • Again, this could be a software tuning issue, but our Xperia XZ unit had a tendency to aggressively crush shadowed areas in outdoor shots — way more than we've seen from previous Sony cameras.

Xperia XZ

A one-day phone

Sony Xperia XZ Battery life

I've been using the Sony Xperia XZ for just four days at the time of writing, so I'm still getting the hang of the phone's day-to-day battery performance. What's more, we've been pushing it harder than we normally would at the IFA show in Berlin. Travel is hard on phones.

Battery stuff

That said, we have a reasonable idea of how the Xperia XZ performs in the real world, and the verdict is that it's a solid "one-day" phone, but no more than that unless you're using it really sparingly.

That's about par for the course for a Snapdragon 820 running a 5.2-inch screen on a battery of this size.

We were regularly getting between 12 and 14 hours out of the Xperia XZ working on LTE all day, before hitting Battery Stamina mode at 30 percent charge. That's with around 3 hours of screen on time up to that point, which is a respectable showing for a current Android phone. We'd liken it to what some of our editors have been getting from the OnePlus 3 in recent weeks.

As mentioned, Battery Stamina mode can step in to save the day when you're running low on charge, and Sony includes both regular Stamina and Ultra Stamina modes depending on just how much functionality you want to cut back in the name of battery life. There's a noticeable performance hit when Stamina is enabled though, so it's probably not something you'll want to get into the habit of using.

And when it's time to charge, the latest Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 means you're never below 50 percent for long.

On balance, we're reasonably happy with the battery performance we've been getting from the Xperia XZ. You may be disappointed if you're coming from an earlier Xperia phone with truly phenomenal longevity. But for most people it's going to be perfectly fine.

The bottom line

Should you buy the Sony Xperia XZ? If you're a fan

Sony is almost back on top form. The Xperia XZ is a solid all-round handset that does a lot of things right — a handset to restore the faith of Sony fans. Its greatest sin is probably looking a little dull — this is no Galaxy Note 7, after all — but once you look path its monolithic exterior there's a lot to like.

Sony bucks the trend of 2K displays and instead goes with a fantastic looking 1080p panel, with power savings as a result. Performance is speedy across the board, and Sony's software is thoughtful and measured. And we're finally seeing a significant leap forward in camera performance in an Xperia phone, with big hardware additions that result in better photos almost every time.

The problem for Sony, like so many other Android manufacturers, is the fact that Samsung's absolutely crushing it this year. Sony's camera is great, but it's not the best. Same deal with its screen, its build quality and its battery life. And U.S. buyers once again get the short end of the stick, as Sony cheaps out on fingerprint security.

As such, the XZ's appeal is likely limited to hardcore Sony fans. And if that's you, then you'll be getting a hell of a phone.

Alex is global Executive Editor for Android Central, and is usually found in the UK. He has been blogging since before it was called that, and currently most of his time is spent leading video for AC, which involves pointing a camera at phones and speaking words at a microphone. He would just love to hear your thoughts at alex@androidcentral.com, or on the social things at @alexdobie.

151 Comments
  • I loved the Xperia Z line. Z3 was godly, Z5 was alright.... Sony has great software and even my old Z3 is smoother than my S7 edge overall.
  • Yeah, the Xperia Z2 I have is on Marshmallow right now, and it screams right past the LG G4 my mum has ALSO on Marshmallow, it's almost hilarious actually. Better battery life and heat management, too! Shame about the camera they used here, it's good, but the GNote 3 I also have generally takes better photos, to say nothing of the G4 shots...
  • Goes to show just how shameful Sony's cameras in their own phones have been. Remember that all these cameras you mentioned have SONY sensors, and so have nearly every "best smartphone camera" released, with the single exception of Nokia's Lumia cameras, which had Toshiba sensors AFAIK (meanwhile this proves how bad the HTC One M9's camera suite was: it used the same T4KA7 sensor as the Lumia 930, whose only complaint agains the camera was "slow", while the One M9 was "slow" and "poor dynamic range" and "bad in low light")
  • Absolutely shows how important is software tuning
  • Z3 was almost a perfect phone at that time if they included OIS. I always feel other phones suck at battery life after I sold my Z3
  • It really was that good huh? I knew I should've bought it instead of the Moto X 2014, it was only the equivalent of 50 USD more, but I was concerned about software updates (rightly so, but the Z3 only took 3 extra months to get MM if I'm not wrong, which is bearable).
  • Still have my Z3 and it's great. I brag about this all the time how I went snorkeling in the ocean and recorded video with my Z3 to people.
  • You sir are looking at a Hall of Famer this phone is like James Dean it will last forever in the hearts of people
  • Slightly disappointed. not enough internal storage. surely 64GB should be available. I will need to see one 'in the flesh' and there's no hint of an XZ compact? I like the continuation of the 'minimal skinning' of the interface. I may start to look seriously at the OnePlus 3 or the next Nexus?
  • Nope, there is a compact: http://www.androidcentral.com/sony-xperia-x-compact-hands
  • But this time, that Compact is not equally equipped. It is actually running on a midrange SD 650.
  • thanks for the info. I watched the Sony press conference on youtube last night. I see that there is an X compact but as the poster below says, it's not the equivalent. I'm impressed by the OIS they have now introduced. I will have to compare them 'in the flesh'.
  • Regarding the camera, has Sony finally opened up the camera2api or are third party apps still prevented from accessing true manual controls? By your review it seems despite the improvement of the camera hardware, the software is still the usual nightmare. Which means, to me, if I were to get it, it'd require rooting and replacing software. They boast about manual focus and shutter speed controls on their website but can you confirm that?
  • At least it has manual shutter speed now.
  • Funny how Sony has kept it's flagships stuck in 1080p displays and 3GB of RAM since 2014 (don't get me started with the Z5 Premium). When the Z2 came with 3GB of RAM, it was god-like, but 5 generations later it would be reasonable to step it up a notch. The only thing that differentiates this from the Z3 (again, from 2014) is the camera and the processor (and the system updates), with the Z3 having the looks and the battery life. Outside USA, the fingerprint sensor. Not so much.
  • Eh, I'm fine with the 1080p screen. At 5.2", I really think you hit a point of diminishing returns at 1080p, and going higher than that has more costs than benefits. The lack of fingerprint sensor in the US, though... ugh. I really hoped that that was just a one-off thing with the X line.
  • I am not sure if 1080p is any good. I struggle to read on my nexus 5X and the same text is brilliant on my Note Edge. May be 1080p Amoled is good.
  • At the same DPI, an RGB matrix (IPS) will always look sharper than a pentile matrix (most AMOLEDs) because each pixel has 3 independent subpixels, meanwhile a pentile matrix shares some subpixels with adjacent pixels. The thing is, at 500+ DPI (current QHD screens) pixels are so small you can't make the difference. In your case, the 5X has a 423 DPI vs. 540 or so in the Note Edge, so the latter has a definitely sharper screen. You also have to factor glass transparency (and width), digitizers, overall brightness and contrast in each screen to make a proper comparison. Resolution only doesn't tell the whole story.
  • Yep. Samsung's Pentile sub pixels can never look as sharp at the same resolution. Too much gap in between sub pixels and on top, it has extra green sub, which makes it harder for proper calibration (true color reproduction). From what I understood the reason for their design, was power saving and life of the screen (burn in , dropping brightness). Supposedly blue is used more and burns (fades) at higher rate and the blank black space (gap) between the sub pixels draws less power because it's never lit up (as in LCD panels).
    My old OG Moto X had sRGB even though it was Amoled screen (also by Samsung) and burned so fast (in about 6 months) that was useless outdoors. I would say that it dimmed by 30 % + over that period-epic failure.
  • "harder for proper calibration" Samsung panels are among the best callibrated in the world in phones.
  • But AMOLED panels are, in fact, harder to calibrate. It doesn't mean that they can't achieve better calibration than IPS LED panels, though it will probably cost more work (money).
  • I believe the same, 1080p is more than enough for that screen size, and it goes easy on the SoC / battery. I was just naming specs that were kept the same since 2014 (even if the RAM is faster or the screen better), which makes it harder to justify Sony's pricing of it's devices. They are by no means (well, maybe the SoC and camera) bleeding edge technology for today standards.
  • Yeah, I'd very much rather have a LONGER lasting phone with a 1080P display than a 2K Quad HD display but I can only use it for significantly shorter periods. I mean, the Xperia Z2 I have can still cough up 5 hours screen on time on average when my mum's LG G4 could barely do 3 (bear in mind they're both on Marshmallow) and the display resolution is a big factor in this...
  • Yep.
    2k on cell phones is not necessary as much as the battery life and performance are.
    It's cool to have it, but only when other priorities are taken care of.
  • Absolutely, I wouldn't cripple performance and autonomy just in case I want to watch something in VR.
  • The above comment about Xperia Z s1 vs. the Galaxy edge was left by A-Normal-Guy you can google that
  • better phones Sony that is
  • How long has anyone seriously seeing anybody pimp out a ZTE is go up in the club and lay one down on the bar I don't think so funny yes but Sony is more pimp
  • Review needs some going-through: occassionally refers to the device as the Xperia XR (working name) or ZX (typo).
  • How can they still not have a fingerprint sensor in the US? It's just inexplicable when you can get a phone for $100 with one
  • The hardware are there on the X and Z5. They're just disabled. Flash other regions ROM (FTF flie) and it will be enabled. No rooting or boot loader unlocking needed.
  • The point is we shouldn't have to.
  • Exactly. I wonder if there's some sort of licensing issue in the US
  • you think after 3 generations they'd have those issues ironed out. the z5 first had a fingerprint sensor, then the X whatever's earlier in the year, now this. it's just funny at this point. they obviously just don't care. clueless.
  • I have to say, I wasn't expecting this to have OIS, let alone 5-axis OIS, plus laser AF and a color-spectrum sensor. That's some serious hardware upgrades for the camera over past XPERIAs, though I still have to question whether we get a true-blue manual mode and the ability to focus while recording video. Also whether the heat issues have been mitigated. Furthermore, is this using a glass lens rather than a plastic lens like on the Z5P? Camera discussion aside, this is probably the phone that Sony really has to bank on after a pretty disappointing first-half of 2016 with the initial offerings in the XPERIA X-lineup. It gets a lot right, with strong hardware (even if some might find the 1080p display and 3GB of RAM a bit on the 2014-side, but shouldn't be much of an issue in the real-world) and light software. Personally, I prefer the look of the Z5, but I find this a pretty understated-looking phone. Though the bezels probably could do with some trimming. BUT, there's still no fingerprint sensor in the US. Some people probably wouldn't give a crap about that, but launching a premium device in the US without one just seems overly silly at this point.
  • On the website Sony boasts about manual shutter speed and focus controls. Whether that's true remains to be seen.
  • It's true. Btekt on YouTube recently did a short video quickly covering the manual controls.
  • I saw that video. Definitely something that Sony's phone cameras could use, but in the future, perhaps a more-accessible ISO settings wheel plus a longer shutter speed option (slowest seems to be 1 second, according to Sony's website) would make it much more competitive. Not sure if it shoots RAW, however. Btekt remarks that he can't find the setting.
  • Well about bloody time!
    And assuming that they won't limit that to the XZ, if the Compact is released for 400-450€, I might actually get it just for fun. I'm not expecting any of these to replace my S7 though even if I prefer Sony as a company tenfold over Samsung.
  • I guess you and I have a similar mindset. We prefer Sony as a company, but we own Samsung devices (Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note7) because Sony hasn't made a phone worth talking about since the XPERIA Z3 until now. Will probably take a while before they can get their feet back, but the XZ feels like the step in the right direction. Let's hope they don't get the price horrifically wrong.
  • Yup, pretty much. I'm just not sure if Sony's mobile division will live long enough for them to catch up =\
    I see no real urge on Sony's behalf. They keep acting as if everything was fine and their phones were the last Cola in the desert. The time it took them to do things my Nokia 920 did in 2012 is unbelievable.
    And then there's the prices and Sony's delusion that they're Apple. I really hope they bounce back but the market is more competitive than ever and they just don't seem to realise it. For my part I had this secret hope I'd be able to use one last Sony Compact phone before returning to Nokia.
    Unfortunately that won't be happening. Oh well.
  • Yeah, Sony is still pretty delusional when it comes to the overall handset market. From the looks of it, the XPERIA XZ is a much-improved handset from the earlier phones, but if Sony wants to command a super-premium price-tag for it, what compelling feature does Sony have that other phones don't, minus PlayStation integration?
  • None. Even the PlayStation integration is now open to all Android devices through the PlayStation app. They literally have no compelling reason for consumers to buy their phones over the competition other than "it's a Sony".
    Problem is, we're not in the 90's anymore.
  • Water resistance. Them and Samsung (and I guess now Apple too) are like the only ones with it. From what I know anyways.
  • The biggest issue I see is launching with Marshmallow. The official AOSP code drop for Nougat has already happened and I daresay Sony (along with the other OEMs) would've had early access to the official code drop. If LG can get a phone running Nougat out in September, why can't Sony (or any of the other OEMs)?
  • Nothing is launching with Nougat right now. Nothing. There are many things to criticise Sony for, but not having Nougat right now isn't one of them. Blame them in 6 months when it doesn't have Nougat, and blame them again a year from that when they announce they're dropping support for it. But don't blame them yet.
  • The upcoming LG V20 will launch with Nougat. Makes you wonder if Sony has fallen asleep at the wheel given that they would've also had early access to the final AOSP build of Nougat.
  • The key word there is 'upcoming'. That phone hasn't been formally announced yet. And even when it has, we don't know when it will ship, and where it will be available. And let's wait and see just how Nougat-y their Nougat is. Point being, there's still nothing out there that comes with Nougat, and shaming Sony for being part of that is silly.
  • Yeah, V20 has been announced. It's real Nougat, notification shade and all (even if it is now a bright white). Split Window there. They even had a more uphill climb: Second Screen and dual camera features take extra time to work, but they managed it anyway. And it's launching by the end of the month. I see no reason why the Xperia XZ, with a much lighter skin, simpler hardware and launching in October, can't run Nougat out-of-the-box.
  • The Sony Lumia 920.
  • Without any of the Nokia qualities that is.
  • Yep. This thing pales in comparison to the design of classic Lumias.
  • Oh yeah I forgot about that
  • Glad I'm not the only one... All I could see was the 920 body. It's an extremely boring design though, to be honest.
  • Yeah but the 920 was a phenomenal phone in its day. One of the best built and designed phone. I once threw it a car and caused a 10 car collision. Built like a tank.
  • As you'd expect from the company that makes the legendary 3310. :P
  • Thanks let's not forget the s
  • Similar but not quite the same. Also the L920 is still heavier than this phone. That thing was a brick. I'll have to see this phone in person before making any judgements on it. I currently own a Z3 and it's slowly starting to show it's age so I'm ready for something new. This may be it. However, I am curious if/when Nokia brings anything out if it will be something decent.
  • I always laugh when I see comments about heavy phones.
  • It was like carrying a rock around in your pocket and believe it or not it did get tiring holding it a long time. No I'm not a pansy either. It's just a fact. I used it for almost two years so I'm not just saying things for the heck of it.
  • It had a curved back and Qi wireless charging though. This doesn't.
  • That's why I said it was similar. The L920 had a curved back. The Z3 doesn't have Qi either and I get by just fine. As much as wireless charging is nice I don't really needed and rarely used it when I had the L920.
  • I had a girl date me just because I have that phone it was so pimp
  • My favorite phone to this day was my z3, I wish I hadn't traded it in for a Samsung note two years ago. Like all Sony phones, it seems like this is a good phone all around. Sure, it's not the best in all categories, but no phone is perfect. Competition is so fierce right now, with little to differentiate the phones. If you don't like Samsung, which I don't, then it's a hard call. And with Google stepping up the Nexus line, and this year's phone, it makes it even harder to decide. And, I want all companies to do well, as the competition will just make them better.
  • A couple minor complaints about the phone - what's with the weird little panel at the bottom of the rear panel? As for the rounded sides, I personally prefer the flat sides of the original Z. Meant that I could prop the phone on a table to take timer photos. Can't do that with the rounded edges. Also, did I miss it or does the phone not have expandable storage? edit: Nevermind, the other article says it supports up to 256GB SD Cards. Now the big question is going to be when will the phone actually be buyable. It looks pretty competitive now but if it's four months between preview and actual mass availability (like with the Xperia X series) it's going to be out of date again.
  • 1080P, 3GB, and no fingerprint scanner... Return of the flagship? I am confused? This looks just like the Xperia X Performance with a little bigger display that was released in June and rejected by the market. This a Sony ad or a AC post?
  • There's a few other upgrades in tow. Especially the camera, since the one on the XPERIA X was actually kinda shameful.
  • No fingerprint scanner IN THE US. Everywhere else in the world there's a fingerprint scanner on the home button. And since there's far more important World outside the US (specially for Sony) that's not even a problem. The rest is.
  • Yes, IN THE US. That's where I am located so it would obviously be very relevant to me.
  • Well, the reviewer is British. Hence the "return of the flagship" ;)
  • My mom's at the flagship right now she's been sitting on it for 2 months across the Persian sea
  • Well god damn, Sony's back in the game! You go Sony, you go. I'm glad they've bucked the 2K screen trend. As someone who went from a Z2 to a Priv I can confirm that 2K is a gimmick, though a nice one. I'd much prefer better performance and battery life, considering I rarely take advantage of the 2K screen (2K youtube results in sound and a frozen picture :| ). Hopefully Sony get their butts into gear after this and avoid dropping steamers like the Z4 or any of the X range.
  • I've always loved the look of Sony phones but they're always so expensive
  • You see that thing waaaay back there, that almost indistinguishable spot on the horizon that you passed a long time ago? That was the shark.
  • Interesting review. Pretty much a summary review. Not much if anything said about the software experience which was my favorite part of the Z3. A lot said about the camera, but not much about the camera software, does it load up quickly? Focus quickly? The jabs on the device as inferior to others because of lack of a fingerprint sensor are interesting. I'm still not seeing the fingerprint sensor as a selling point on any mobile device as a security advantage over a good password. Hopefully this is just a pre-review?
  • About the finger print reader...
    Time is money.
    Finger print saves time over typing quality password.
    Time savings over 2 years generates enough money to buy new phone with something that's more secure than a password.
  • So what we don't need a fingerprint scanner the only thing if you have Sprint does it make you look guilty
  • Completely agree. Phone reviews these days rarely cover the important aspects, especially android central's. Also, I don't understand all the displeasure towards the design of Sony's phones at Android Central. They're beautiful. My Z3 was easily nicer than any samsung i've owned. Snappier too. For some reason, A.Central don't like to mention the snappiness of phones, which to me is majorly important. If they did, I don't think samsung's phones would get such good reviews here.
  • I was really looking forward to this phone and I feel like they got alot of things back on track now. I only wish it had 4GB of RAM, either then that, this seems pretty awesome.
  • How can any phone be considered a flagship device in 2016, WITHOUT a fingerprint scanner?
  • I have no problem with Sony's understated design and large bezels if the rest of the experience is top notch or remarkable, but again, it doesn't seem that it is. No fingerprint sensor, on a phone this size?
  • There's a fingerprint scanner. Just not in the US.
  • They just refuse to go to 4gb's of ram. They were ahead of pack for years with 3, but now...
  • I think the saddest thing about this is that this phone ticks the boxes of what most people on this site want in a phone, but it won't be widely available or adopted. Front facing speakers, good battery life, camera with OIS, no camera hump, water proofing, SD card slot, USB C, quick charge 3.0, nearly stock Android that's fast and has minimal bloat. And no one will buy it.
  • About that last point: most don't care if stock Android or stockISH Android comes aboard. Mostly Nexus snobs care and they are a small bunch in comparison to the common consumer who much prefer iPhone and Galaxy.
  • Well I did say most people on this site. And I also references not just stock Android but also speedy software.
  • The phone is fast I blazed through apps like you wouldn't believe I had like 46 of them open
  • This phone just released, how can you guys have a full review already?
  • Sony gave reviewers pre-production devices prior to the launch. Duh.
    This is awfully common in case you haven't noticed ;)
  • As much as we complain about Sony's tired design, If Sony released a Z3 body with today's updated specs, how many of us would jump on that? I'd be 1st in line. Oh course Sony isn't in the business of making us happy anymore. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Depends. If it was a real Compact or a Mini like the Xperia X Mini they launched.
  • Maybe... If it had equal or better battery capacity.
    If the camera was good.
    If they could be trusted with updates.
    If the price wasn't too high. I have no confidence in any of those things any more.
  • Amazon UK has the X Compact for pre-order for £379.
    My Z3C, on pre-order, cost me £349. I think there's nothing else to say regarding price.
  • The Z series have been very good for the latest android updates. My Z2 tablet and Z3 compact both have 6.0.1 and regular security patch/updates. (June o/s build)
  • How are they for security patches? Because my Z3 is well behind. It also took a long time to get Marshmallow. Also, the Z3 which is less than 2 years old won't be getting Nougat. So I don't trust them with updates at all.
  • Switch to concept software, you won't regret it!
  • Yelp Sony's been on top of it same as always Sony is one of the best companies in the world
  • My black Note 7 actually reminds me a lot of the Z3 I used to have.
  • lol My S7 the same.
    And that's because the S7 line from Samsung is what Sony *could* have done 2/3 years ago if they had listened to their users instead of insisting they know best.
  • Now that you mention it, it kinda does.
  • Alex Dobie will you guys potentially re-visit the camera? I'm really hoping it's just pre production issues. I want to love sony. I really do. My z3 was fantastic but everything after the z3 was just mediocre or worse. Their cameras always excited till I read the reviews. Also does it do slow mo at more than 120 fps? Can you control the fps for slow mo?
  • If you're waiting for an update to improve the camera processing, I wouldn't hold your breath. I've been waiting literally years for Sony to improve its camera software. It's not going to happen.
  • Also does it by chance have a small slot or cut in on the body for a camera wrist strap? Again I loved that about the z3
  • Can someone please explain WHY Sony doesn't put fingerprint sensor on the US version? What is the point? Anyways, this looks good. But the price will make or break it. As with most other Sony phones.
  • To cut costs. The US isn't a priority for them and the trouble of going through the extra regulatory approvals that hardware with biometric sensor has to go would be expenses that wouldn't be compensated by sales of the devices. It's just easier and cheaper to remove it.
  • Cut costs? Don't they already cut enough costs with some of the things they skimp out on? Huh?
  • Sony is convinced they're the Apple of Android. In case you haven't realised it yet ;)
  • I guess that would explain it. :P
  • What are you talking about they got some of the best materials on the phone online HTC in there Boost Mobile plastic
  • The fingerprint scanner actually is there in the US model, it's just disabled by software.
  • Yeah dude if you disable it you can do it you can have it I have it that's why I'm saying people be trippin it's cuz it loses it function like a fingerprint who gives a darn do you really want your fingerprints all over your phone
  • Oh shut up so he's one of the best companies in the world way above Samsung Samsung would have to make a spaghetti dinner just to entertain Sony
  • No one knows why the finger print scanner isn't enabled, there's no explanation from Sony. Guess is that someone owns the patent in the US for a similar system and Sony doesn't want to pay the $$$ to either buy it or use it. Still sucks though.
  • That's my understanding. Read somewhere it was a patent HP had in-house or otherwise acquired.
  • And here we are again. 2 perfectly capable phones once ruined by very minor deficiencies.
    1. Sony Xperia XZ. This phone , just like Xperia X Performance and HTC 10, isn't a bad phone by any means. Infact this is really a great device, but it is it's price that will let it down against its competition. By the time Xperia XZ makes it to the market, Samsung Galaxy S7 will already be available for at least 150-200 $(may be even 250$) less than this phone and with a much more global availability. Not to forget the small time but really capable phones like Huawei P9, P9 Plus, Honor 8 and ZTE Axon 7(damn that phone costs 400$ with 2 years warranty). I don't know how can one convince someone to buy an Xperia XZ instead of those phones except that Galaxy S7 has a Glass back which I completely despise.
    So what Sony should have done to really make this still brilliant smartphone stand in the crowd was:
    i. They should have outed it with Snapdragon 821, even if that processor really doesn't add up much to the user experience, but still. If Asus can get their hands on that processor for Zenfone 3 Deluxe, why couldn't Sony.
    ii. For a FHD display, I am totally fine with 3 GB ram, but again, to stand out and really look eye to eye to the bigger and more potent players, they should have outed it with 64 GB base storage. WTH Sony, Huawei P9 Plus and ZTE Axon 7 can do that, but you can't.
    iii. In a 7.9 mm and 7 mmthick body, Samsung and Huawei could accommodate 3000 mah batteries respectively, but sony in an 8.1 mm couldn't? Come on Sony, you can definitely do better than that.
    iv. Launch it either with a price equivalent to Galaxy S7's launching price, or even better, for a lesser price. That would really give them a head start at least against the upcoming LG V-20 and IP 7.
    2. Sony Xperia X Compact. Well one simple thing, SD 652 instead of 625 and price it at least equivalent to either Huawei P9 or if they truly want to make a mark, then Honor 8. That would have really put Xperia X compact on everyone's radar, but for now, I don't have a very good feeling for both these devices.
  • Sorry, my bad. Xperia X Compact already has Snapdragon 650. Now all it needs is an aggressive price tag.
  • Hell yeah I would have paid a thousand for this phone I don't give a darn I love my Sony they last forever
  • I like it's design. It's simple.
  • It's really disappointed to see a Japanese company used to be the technology pioneer becoming a technology conservative
  • Some of these companies aren't hungry anymore. Sony seems pre-occupied with other things. The name Sony used to be synonymous with top notch electronics. For 30 years they had the best tvs, now they are getting hammered by Samsung and Vizio. I can't think of a single Sony product that I own or want to own. They just don't have that drive anymore, everything they make now seems lackluster.
  • Their camera industry is doing well though, relatively. The mirror less cameras they make is second to none Posted via the Android Central App
  • Cameras are awesome on this phone and I'm a big gamer so let me tell you there's nothing like gaming on my Sony
  • What are you talking about Sony still hungry there like eating short stacks at Denny's
  • One thing that doesn't get mentioned about Sony devices is the fact that you get PS4 remote play and native PS4 controller support for Android gaming. I use it a lot and it's a great feature.
    That aside, hopefully they got their Bluetooth audio issues dealt with because the Z5 has crap Bluetooth audio playback. It keeps skipping.
  • I had the bluetooth skip issue on my Z3 compacts - but the latest release seems to have fixed it. (fingers crossed!)
  • Oh hell I have that on Motorola so what's the big deal wants a Bluetooth disconnect all the time if I had a dollar for everytime disconnected hell I have enough to get a new Bluetooth
  • I see Phil walking by in the background pretending to be a local.
  • Phil b like pimp with that awesome Sony phone
  • Sigh... I *was* kinda excited about this phone. Not anymore. Mediocre camera and no fingerprint reader in the US version, no sale. Not for me. And I liked the look of their Z-series devices better (I still miss my Z3). This is just... "meh." Very disappointing.
  • Almost 4 years already, and Sony is still stuck on "8 mp resolution in Auto Mode" whether it is a 20.7 mp camera or a 23 MP cam. I mean come on Sony, WTH. You still haven't learnt how to make a 23 MP camera in Auto mode despite supplying camera sensors to almost 80% smartphone manufacturers globally. That's definitely a let down.
  • they are using over sampling technology so they are actually using the full 23mp camera sensor's capability. The automode 8mp pictures are down-scaled 23mp pictures.
  • Look at the forehead and chin on that thing! Ugly!
  • Hey Sony, the Z2 called and said it wants it's thick bezels back. Posted via the Android Central App
  • WHY does Sony intend on gimping the fingerprint sensor on all its US phones? Deal breaker for me.
  • I thought that the new release of sony Z series would have a 4k display :P
  • Definitely a sony with those huge top and bottom bezels.
  • I like this new Sony might even be my next buy. Especially the blue model. And where I live it will got the fingerprint sensor also.
  • Just sold my Z3 and miss it alread. Still a really fast phone with concept software on it but I wont be upgrading to this Sony phone due to boring design, lack lustre specs/camera and dodgy update path.
  • Reviewing a phone that isn't even out until October? Seems Legit...
  • Have they still not fixed the photograph naming issue yet? i'd love a sony but that issue has kept me from buying one
  • I still have my Z3 Compact even though I rarely use it anymore. I'd buy another Sony phone but not one without a fingerprint sensor, I've just grown too used to the convince of using it to unlock the phone and with apps like 1Password and my banking software.
  • I have a Z3 for work. I really don't like it at all. Sony is no longer an option for me at all.
  • Ouch.
  • Nice Phil. You almost had me.
  • True boring design.
  • Thanks for the review, am a fan and I would definitely buy it.
  • Just cut it in stone: 5 phones a year, release every 6 months! 2 mids with 1 big-bear flag. Then 1 flag with 1 small-bear flag. I just listened to your Android Central Podcast "304: IFA 2016 Crossover Special" Y'all were so down on the Sony XZ, but I also do agree with y'all on your review that they should have released it 6 months ago with the X series. The thing is Sony tries to brand "Compact" as same specs as the flagship in a smaller size, as there's a market need for a smaller size phone as iPhone 6c showed. Just sometimes they loose their way like they did with the "Ultra" branding. I just wish X Performance specs were in the XA Ultra screen size of 6 inches, to be sorta-comparable against the Note 7. The original marketing pitch for the Z Ultra was a top specs of the time in a large screen and can use a pen without an "S Pen" just any writing object. Ultra lost it's meaning when they made the T2 Ultra, C5 Ultra, and XA Ultra. Sony's team can't draw a line: I'm telling you. just make "Compact" Hi-Specs small size. "Ultra" High-Specs past 6 inches range, never under. Just cut it in stone: 5 phones a year, release every 6 months! 2 mid-range with 1 Ultra. Then 1 flag with 1 Compact.
  • Gotta love the phone
  • Thanks pops for this wonderful phone I love these phones and my dad knows I love them and this one is no different it's sunny with a great camera fast processor and a beautiful screen that'll make it just let yourself your inhibitions Run free felt like watching Easy Rider on the screen Felt So Good I feel like Dennis Hopper in a pimp hat when I was with my phone for the very first time I have the black in the black is sexy it's kind of Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption except without the sad stuff phone is so pimp
  • I want this phone as my next upgrade, this is coming from a Windows Phone guy that is tired of the app ecosystem of Windows Phone/Mobile 10 and has switched to Android (Sony Xperia M4 Aqua). I love waterproof phones, I'll never go back to a non water resistant phone.
  • I get a kick out of the "Cons" with "Boring design". Are you kidding me? Sony makes the most beautiful phones available. You want to see boring? Look at the Pixel. When you look up the word "boring" in the dictionary, they have a photo of the Pixel phone.