Sony Xperia XZ review: A solid effort, but not the best
Sony Xperia XZ review: Camera
Core hardware isn’t the only thing the Sony Xperia XZ shares with the Xperia Z5, however. They both also have what looks like the same camera, complete with 23-megapixel resolution, f/2 aperture, and 1/2.3in sensor. Despite looking the same on paper, however, the XZ’s rear snapper is different: it now has laser autofocus (in addition to its hybrid phase-detect system) and an “RGBC-IR” sensor that should be able to assess the white balance of a scene more accurately and render more realistic colours.
Alongside these added sensors, the camera will launch and capture within 0.6 seconds, and has an ISO sensitivity of up to 12,800. The camera app did launch quickly, allowing you to take photos near instantaneously – it’s hard to say whether it took exactly 0.6 seconds, though. All you need to know is that it’s quick.
Comparing photos with the Samsung Galaxy S7 – the best camera available on any smartphone today – it’s clear to see Sony’s snapper is more than capable of taking great photos. However, it’s not quite the best in the business. In good light, images look vibrant and crisp, and colours well-balanced and true to life, but the S7’s images are a little crisper and more detailed.[gallery:4]
In low light, the difference between the two widens. Despite the extra resolution, fine details are obscured by noise and over-processing – a problem we’ve seen with Sony’s smartphone cameras before. Still, you have to zoom in pretty close to see the differences, and I was largely very pleased with the results. This smartphone has an excellent camera; it’s just not quite as good as the best.
Not to be outdone by the competition, Sony has also included a ridiculously high-resolution 1/3in, 13-megapixel sensor in its front-facing selfie camera. Not only does this share the same bright f/2.0 aperture as the rear camera, but it’s also capable of HDR and 1080p video to help capture all your narcissistic moments.
As you can imagine, it’s one of the best front-facing cameras available on a smartphone, with images that come out clear and super-crisp. It lacks the same object tracking, laser autofocus and colour sensor of the rear camera, but chances are you won’t be trying to take award-winning shots with your front snapper anyway.
Sony has also introduced a rather handy, if somewhat gimmicky, feature for taking selfies. If, like me, you strain your eyes or fumble about trying to shift your grip to press the capture button when taking a selfie, Sony’s new palm-detect feature is a godsend. Simply show your hand to the camera and it’ll initiate a timer so you can easily snap photos without fumbling.
Sony Xperia XZ review: Battery life and features
One of Sony’s smartphones biggest strengths in recent times has been good battery life, with the Xperia’s battery-saving features turned on, you can easily get well over a day’s use before charging becomes an issue. The same can be said of the Xperia XZ.
In day-to-day use over the course of a few days, I found the battery typically lasted a full day and only dropped to that anxiety-inducing, sub-10% level once after a particularly heavy day. Using the Xperia XZ as my main phone for the last few weeks, and measuring battery use with GSam Battery Monitor, Sony’s new flagship gave me – on average – 18 hours of charge a day, which is rather good. In our battery test, which runs a video in aeroplane mode with the phone’s brightness set to medium, the Xperia XZ dished out 14hrs 32mins of life – three hours more than the Xperia Z5.[gallery:0]
Much of this extra battery life comes from the efficiency improvements found in the Snapdragon 820 over the Snapdragon 810, but Sony has also worked a bit of magic behind the scenes (so it says) to improve battery longevity.
First up is its intelligent charging system, which learns your habits and charges your phone appropriately. For instance, it won’t push the phone up to 100% until right before you generally tend to start using your phone in the day. It also closes down inactive background apps that tend to get left open and forgotten about, saving you slithers of battery life, processing power and storage space in the process.
It takes around a week or so for the XZ to learn your charging habits before it steps in to help. Generally, the new feature worked quite well, telling me it would finish charging around ten or so minutes before I usually wake up. For the most part, this was handy and entirely unintrusive. However, on the odd occassion I’d be getting up earlier than usual, I’d discover my phone hadn’t fully charged – albeit still sitting around the 90-95% mark. It would be nice if Sony had integrated its technology to also take your phone alarms into account but, for the most part, the tech works relatively seamlessly.
Sony Xperia XZ review: Verdict
Once again, Sony has produced a flagship smartphone that’s more than competent enough to stand with the industry’s big dogs. The improvements to its camera may not place it in the realms of the Samsung Galaxy S7, and its battery may not last quite as long either, but it’s good enough to sit up there with this generation’s smartphone standard bearers.
However, as with every Sony smartphone, there’s one caveat that really cripples its appeal – the price. Sony is asking for £549 for those wanting to buy an XZ outright. That’s a shade less than the arguably better Samsung Galaxy S7 and a whole lot more than the rather appealing OnePlus 3.
If the very best in performance isn’t your priority, you can pick up the equally competent Xperia Z5 on Amazon for £400. However, you’re still better off snapping up a OnePlus 3 for £329 and benefiting from its extra power and cleaner Android install.
After the fantastic leap of design and performance the Z5 brought over the Z3 and Z3+, the Sony Xperia XZ is more of an iterative improvement. But, while this resulted in a solid smartphone with an excellent camera, it isn’t good enough to draw level with the best.
This post has been updated from the original posted on 29 September to reflect more testing of the Xperia XZ’s battery features. The verdict and score remain unchanged.