Sony’s Xperia XZ – A Simple Design with Powerful Features

Sony’s Xperia line of phones are known for being sleek, simple to use, and about as close in feel to an iPhone as Android gets (despite Samsung and Apple’s rivalry taking the spotlight). I received a demo unit of the Xperia XZ and X Compact from Sony to check out and see how it holds up to the competition.

Although there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the Xperia XZ, Sony may have made a mistake trying to compete with the iPhone and falling behind on some of the innovations found in other Android phones like Motorola and LG’s modular designs. It’s not as small nor powerful as the Galaxy S7, but it’s still a great phone for $650 unlocked.

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Under the Hood

The Xperia XZ has a 5.2-inch, 1920x1080p screen with 424 ppi. It sports a Snapdragon 820 quadcore processor at 2.15 GHz and 1.6 GHz running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (which was updated to 7.0 November 2016). The front camera is 23MP and the back is 13MP, with the front capable of 4k resolution at 30 fps and 1080p at 60 fps.

With only 3GB RAM, it does also have 64GB of internal memory and can accept up to 512GB in the dual-SIM version using two 256GB microSD cards. Active noise cancellation, PS4 Remote Play connectivity, and a variety of other proprietary features are onboard. It also includes a headphone jack and USB-C adapter.

Compared to Galaxy S7 and Moto Z Droid

Since Sony’s camera technology is a highlight of most reviews on the Xperia XZ, I decided to put it to the test against a Samsung Galaxy S7 and Motorola Moto Z Droid. I put a clay miniature bust of Mr. Oogyboogyman from Nightmare Before Christmas on a basic black mousepad and take a pic with each phone by only tapping the circle in the left eye to focus them.

Here’s how they turned out.

android-smartphone-camera-comparison

The high resolution of the Sony camera made for larger file sizes, but there’s much better shadow, detail, and depth on the other phones. The image size for Motorola is the smallest, but it’s also a really detailed camera, considering how much flack it gets in other reviews.

There are various color of white and yellow lights that case different shades all around the mostly white background, so you can really get a feel for how they each handle light and shadow, along with subtle color changes.

While Sony’s pictures come out larger, they’re a bit blurrier, so that selling point is a bit moot. What it really boils down to is having larger files sizes taking up more space for lower-detail photos. Now you may be able to employ a lot of manual adjustments, but I have a DSLR for that. A smartphone camera is for quick-snap pics.

As for size, here’s how the three compare:

android-phone-size-comparison

Although it’s the slimmest (without any mods or back plates), the Moto Z Droid is the tallest phone. The Galaxy S7 is the shortest, while the Xperia XZ is in the middle. While the Xperia X Compact is smaller than the S7, you do sacrifice some quality.

android-smartphone-sizes

Here’s another view to see how the same dynamic is also true of the width, although it’s much less dramatic of a difference from low to high.

galaxy-s7-moto-z-force-xperia-xz

As for thickness, once you add a back to the Moto Z Droid (because who wouldn’t?) it’s a much closer race. The Xperia is minimally thicker, with the Galaxy in the middle, and the Moto Z just barely beating the other two by a hair.

The Sony Xperience

Like Apple, Sony brings a lot to the table in terms of proprietary software. While Apple’s claim to fame is mostly creativity software, Sony is all about entertainment. If you’re a PS4 owner, the native PS4 Remote Play connectivity may appeal to you. Connecting to the PS4 is still possible on the Galaxy or Moto, but it’s not as simple and intuitive.

There’s also access to Sony’s proprietary content streams, which again may or may not appeal to you. Audio is enhanced on the Xperia, and using the same pair of Logitech Artemis headphones on all three phones, it was a noticeably fuller sound.

Plenty of fine tuning can be done, and Sony’s flavor of Android is much less bloated than Samsung’s (though not as streamlined as Motorola’s). The Xperia XZ is a competent phone in many aspects and still better than an iPhone.

However, the Xperia’s screen isn’t as bright and colorful as the Galaxy S7, nor as large as the Moto Z Droid. It also lacks the innovative mods of the Moto Z, making it good at everything but not great at any one thing.

Overall, the features it does include are bland and feel like Sony spent 2016 more focused on the PSVR launch than making any real improvements to its phone lines aside from beefing up the specs a bit.

The Xperia XZ isn’t a bad phone – it’s just not hardcore enough to impress.

Final Grade: B-

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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