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Coming round again: Xperia XZ

by viridis ‎21-11-2016 15:08 - edited ‎18-01-2017 11:04 (3,043 Views)

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I love Novembers,

not only do i sit on the 15th of the month and celebrate another digit added to my increasing clock count of life, but i also get a new phone, a flagship and, for the last few years, a Sony. Last year I got myself a spanking Z5 Premium and in all honesty, is a tough one to beat. this year its the turn of the new beginning for Xperia, a new chapter in sony's mobile communications story, this year... It's Sony Xperia XZ.
So, how does someone compare a new line, to the features of the old, with the features of the new without drawing on the fact that mostly, XZ is pretty much the same package? we could go on about how its all refined, a new design, new camera technology, yada yada yada..... the truth is... it's much like the Xperia of old but now is so, so optimised, the experience is one of sheer excellence and perfection. the fat has been trimmed, the junk has been rid of and whats remained is one of the finest Android experiences available to customers and is also the closest to stock AOSP outside of the Nexus/Pixel circle.
We first saw this ultra optimised experience with the release of the Xperia X in the spring. whilst many decide not to upgrade from their handsets to the X, those that did immediately fell in love with the fact sony had squeezed so much out of the hardware compared with other brands, even allowing addition of the hi-res audio compatibility, Playstation services and the same High end cameras found in the flagship models. In comparison to many handsets released at the time, Xperia X could keep up with the best of the best in real world use due to this optimised OS.... and it was just a taste of what was to come.

Anyhow,...


Here's ya box

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And contents

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And, the Sony Xperia XZ

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Set-up.
Setting up the Xperia XZ is pretty much the same standard as all Android phones nowadays, enter Google info, enter Sony info, then select which backup if any you wish to restore from Google servers or indeed off another handset via tap and go NFC service. The whole setup process can take a little as a few minutes to an hour depending on what, if anything you choose to restore.

 

Ui
The ui of Xperia XZ is solid Android and so close to the vanilla Android builds that are free of clutter and bloat, you do get the Sony apps such as Album, music, PlayStation etc, but these are more benefit to keep and use than any other solution tbh. I like the new wallpaper and by now it's clear that whilst Z series had moving waves and wave like wallpapers, the X series is all about patterns of paint. Wasn't so keen on the X wallpaper, but XZ is growing on me.

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Of course tho... I could just change it if it annoyed me.

 

Design.
Unfortunately, we all saw the XZ long before release. i say unfortunately because it took some of the surprise away from us. from the moment i saw the leaks, I immediately was excited about this new handset.. many names fluttered on the internet, with many leaked (faked) specs X Premium, Z6, XS, and finally XZ which turned out to be the winner. from these initial snaps online we all could see the evolution of the Omnibalance into something quite special. the edges no longer are just squared off, instead the front, back and sides form an infinite loop of surfaces which, in hand, provides a much nicer feel when holding. The glass front is now curved round to meet the side bars adding to the seamless looping design with the only breaks being the dual stereo speaker ports. the back panel is no longer a piece of Glass that needs special care, but instead is a slab of beautifully coloured ALKALEIDO metal which adds to the stunning finish of the design (ALKALEIDO i believe is a hardened, construction grade Aluminium). The bottom is furnished with a new USB-C port and the top has a 3.5mm jack (because unlike some fruity phones, sony understands musical needs of consumers .....) both the top and bottom plates contain a microphone opening. the whole sealed package is rated at ip68 for waterproof protection.

 

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Hardware
The XZ contains quite a beefy set of specs, and is more than ample to handle any app you can throw at it
Following taken from sonymobile.co.uk as always:

 

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820, 64-bit
3GB RAM
32GB eMMC (Single SIM)*
64GB (Dual SIM)*
Up to 256 GB microSD™ card
Single/Dual Nano SIM
Fingerprint sensor
Fast and secure unlock

Operating System
Google™ Android™ M

Battery
2900 mAh
Qnovo Adaptive Charging
Battery Care
STAMINA mode
Quick Charge

IP65/IP68**
Corning® Gorilla® Glass
161g
Dimensions
146 x 72 x 8.1 mm
Colours
Forest Blue
Mineral Black
Platinum
O2 exclusive pink

Display and design
5.2" Full HD 1080p
TRILUMINOS™ display for mobile
X-Reality® for mobile picture engine
Dynamic Contrast Enhancement

Main camera
23 MP
Triple image sensing technology
Predictive Hybrid Autofocus
Fast Capture
Low-light photo: up to ISO 12800
1/2.3” Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor
24mm wide Sony’s award-winning G Lens
5x Clear Image Zoom
The BIONZ® for mobile image-processing engine
SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablization)
4K video recording
HDR photo

Front camera
13 MP
1/3.06” Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor
Low-light photo: up to ISO 6400
22Mm wide-angle lens F2.0

Networks
GSM GPRS/EDGE (2G)
UMTS HSPA+ (3G)
LTE (4G) Cat 9
Connectivity
A-GNSS (GPS + GLONASS)***
Wi-Fi Miracast
Bluetooth® 4.2 wireless technology
DLNA Certified®
Google Cast™
NFC

Sound
High-Resolution Audio (LPCM, FLAC, ALAC, DSD)
DSEE HX
LDAC
Digital Noise Cancellation
Clear Audio+
S-Force Front Surround
Stereo recording

Entertainment
PS4™ Remote Play
Music
Album
Video
Movie Creator
Spotify
News
What’s New
Sound Photo
AR Effect

The Snapdragon 820 keeps the phone humming along at a blazingly fast pace, doubled with Sony's light ui skinning of Android, this makes the phone quite simply amazingly fast and lag free.
Whilst most OEM's out there are currently looking at 4 or 6 GB of ram, Xperia XZ keeps things ticking over with 3GB of LpDDR4 ram, some say this is too little for a modern flagship, but also some know that with the light Android skin and the phones launcher needing very little ram on the outset, 3gb is more than enough for this device. And the system seems to work quite well, in benchmarks, Xperia XZ beats many current flagship units from other manufacturers.

 

Camera.

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So, the camera, or should I say, camera system has had a complete overhaul as far as the mechanics of taking a photo. Instead of just a wide angle lens over the imx3xx series sensor, we now have a 3 sensor system, paired with a 5 axis stability enhancement. Does it work? Yes. How? I'll show you.
Well, smartphone cameras before, had two ways to determine focus, contrast based and phase detection. With contrast based auto focus (AF) a the sensor would be monitored during focus for optimum contrast, clearer lines and sharpest points. It worked well but tended to be quite slow for large megapixel cameras. With Z5 we saw the introduction to phase detection, this has separate senor monitors that focuses on certain points of the image sensor, 192 of them in fact, and when the selected region is tapped on screen, the sensor detectors in that area would be used. They send out two signals, when these signals cross at sensor, you have near focus, when they are apart at sensor, you have far focus, when the detectors are at exact point at sensor, you have perfect focus. The system works well and very fast, faster than your eye can blink, the only thing it needed was something to get more accurate results consistently, and with that, we now have laser assisted phase detection for superior reliability. But, and it's a big but, the system will only fully work with decent stabilisation, before we had 3-axis stability (vertical, horizontal, roll) but now, to support the laser AF we have pitch and yaw added to the axis giving us a smartphone with 5 axis laser assisted phase detection AF...... In a phone! But that's not all, in XZ we also have a new RGB sensor that will detect and adjust the scenes white balance, tint, colour temperature and hue, meaning the photos you take will reproduce colour near 100% correctly as opposed to before when this information came from the main sensor itself which was subject to quite a few variables, such as temperature meaning sometimes we got bad colour results, especially at night time.

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This new system eradicates this as much as possible now so is a real improvement. Overall the new system works well, really well images are sharp and true to colour of what you're seeing.
Combined with the new hardware system, is a new software system for the camera too, giving full manual controls of iso, shutter, focus, exposure and other goodies. Unfortunately we still don't have RAW but the 23mp of data gives apps like photoshop plenty to work with.

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Gaming.

As expected, the XZ supports PlayStation services and Remote Play with resolution up to 1080p at 60fps (if connected to PS4 Pro, otherwise it's 720p at 60fps) and as before with X,Z5,Z3+ etc etc, it works flawlessly. You can also, as before, connect a dualshock 4 to use for Android games too meaning gaming on the XZ is as superior as it gets.

 

Audio
Hi-Res audio makes its mark yet again as a major selling point of XZ, with support for a wide array of file types and formats, XZ provides one of the most sublime audio experiences available in the world today, not just on phones but on dedicated music players too, pair up the XZ with a good pair of Hi-Res earbuds and you'll be experiencing one of the best audio players around. Its not just the file support or earbuds used either, something inside the XZ is different from the previous flagships. Sound feels more alive and bass is more punchy. I'll be honest and say straight up, I don't know what the difference comes from or whether it's hardware or software, but XZ sounds 1000x more potent than any Xperia to date, and I really, really rated the Z5 audio player as high end.

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Battery
A slab of 2980mah lithium powers the Xperia XZ, and it can easily last a day of hard use or two days of regular use( I use phones exclusively during the day and never needed a charge before bed). Of course with battery design and safety in the press recently, everyone wants to talk about safety features and how quick it can charge safely....
Well the USB-C port can handle a charge rate about 30% faster than Qualcomm Quickcharge 2, utilising the new fast charging Quickcharge 3, only problem with this is that the UCH12 adapter is pretty rare so it's still good old UCH10 for me on Quickcharge 2 which will still give me a few hours use off a 15 minute top up, or a full battery in about 70-90 minutes.
The battery software is also pretty intelligent, using Qnovo adaptive charging to reduce cell damage from the battery when it's getting too warm or unstable, the software is designed to extend the overall life of batteries by some serious margin. The end users will enjoy this feature in a years time when instead of the lithium being 60% of as new life... It's still 95%, that's some serious extension. The newest feature builds on this by providing one of those things that make you facepalm while muttering “of course, why didn't Samsung do this” this feature is called “Battery care”
What Battery care does is, it learns your charging patterns and prevents the phone from charging for extended periods. For example: you go to bed and charge phone A over night. Phone A will sit there for 7 of the 9 hours it's plugged in simply charging/not charging/charging/not charging/charging etc as it sits at 95-100%. With Sony Battery care, your phone will spend a few days learning your pattern and then will charge your phone to 90% and then stop. It will then activate charging again approx 30 minutes before your wake up time meaning it only reaches 100% once and will sit at that state for not long at all. The extension to battery life this will bring is huge and a real, real good feature.

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Summary
Well, it's here, after the mid season release of the upper mid-length X, the Xperia XZ is the overdue flagship we've been waiting for. Building on the best features of the Z range, the XZ trims the fat of not so popular apps such as fm radio, small apps, screen record etc, all in an attempt to get the system in the most optimised state possible. It works, it really does. As an Xperia handset it's fast, well built and future proof enough for anything Nougat or Oreo cookie throw at it. The enhanced audio and increased camera features are worthy of the upgrade from Z5, and even from X to be honest. Sony have delivered a well built, well rounded handset that is faster than most thanks to using power where needed and not wasting resources on OS gimmicks.
The new chapter for Xperia has begun.

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Comments
by Cairdeas
‎21-11-2016 15:26 - edited ‎21-11-2016 15:26

Fantastic review @viridis. Thorough and well written as always. Photos are brilliant too. My next handset for sure Heart x

by MI5
on ‎21-11-2016 15:33
Nice one fella - a lot of work went in to that for sure.
by RCL
on ‎21-11-2016 15:54
Upgraded to this phone 3weeks ago from Z3, and agree it is a fantastic phone xxx
by Bambino
on ‎21-11-2016 16:12

Good review @viridisSmiley Happy

by lovemyphone
on ‎21-11-2016 18:16

Great review @viridis love the photos 

by Cleoriff
on ‎21-11-2016 18:58

You always provide us with brilliant reviews @viridis I would say this is your best to date. Certainly worthy of publication in any mobile phone journal. Great photographs.

A template of how to write a review has been set out superbly.

I have a couple of questions.

1) How much does it cost?

2) Considering the emphasis you put on the excellence of the XZ regarding the camera etc....would potential buyers need to have the same degree of enthusiasm as yourself to make the purchase worthwhile?

I ask this as I tend to point and shoot...so may be intimidated by all that camera could do if I wasn't going to use it to its full potential?

Well done you. .

by viridis
‎21-11-2016 21:09 - edited ‎21-11-2016 21:16

Cleoriff wrote:

 

I have a couple of questions.

1) How much does it cost?

2) Considering the emphasis you put on the excellence of the XZ regarding the camera etc....would potential buyers need to have the same degree of enthusiasm as yourself to make the purchase worthwhile?

I ask this as I tend to point and shoot...so may be intimidated by all that camera could do if I wasn't going to use it to its full potential?

Well done you. .


1. it's available from o2 for £37 a month or other retailers at £500+

2. Xperias are quite different from say Samsung or htc, the cameras do take better pictures but rely more on manual control of the scene to get the best image. I think the phone as a whole is a good package to warrant interest from consumers who are less enthusiastic than my, obviously, somewhat biased view.. the music player is excellent and far above anything offered by anyone else and the Playstation features are a huge unique selling point.

Is it the best Xperia? Yes, it is.

Do i wish it was 5.5" with 4k and called X Premium. I very much do.

by Cleoriff
on ‎21-11-2016 21:16

Thanks for that @viridis Not actually as expensive as other flagship phones then

As you say "Do i wish it was 5.5" with 4k"......

Same here....

 

by jonsie
on ‎22-11-2016 04:43

Brilliant review @viridis

by gmarkj
on ‎22-11-2016 07:46
Cracking review as always.
Are you sure writing reviews isn't your job? Shame some websites don't cover devices as well as you!
by Community Manager
on ‎22-11-2016 12:37

Amazing job  here @viridis! Great to read your thoughts on the XZ and I'll see if we can feature this on the homepage for a shirt while. I'll also PM you soon about moving this over to the Reviews board Smiley Happy

I agree with @gmarkj, you could do this professionally!

 

 

by Fellwalker
on ‎13-01-2017 18:30

The one thing that has always bothered me when picking up Sony Xperia phones is those corners.  They feel really sharp and as if they'd be painful to hold the phone for any length of time.  THe Nexus and Samsung devices I have had (phones and tablets) all have nicely rounded corners.

 

What is the feeling (sorry) from owners?

by MI5
on ‎13-01-2017 18:43
My Z5 has lovely rounded corners.
by WispaRed7
on ‎13-01-2017 20:50

(little) Young Lord @viridis ... please accept my apologies for not kudoing you att ... I've just read your as ever excellent review, because of the 2 posts above  ^  ^  ^ have come to my attention just now ... because ... of the way I use the forum 

I am a big listener to BBC Radio 4 on my very old clock / radio, at the end of the day ... I'm interested when you say the phone has trimmed the fat, including eg FM radio (sorry in advance if I've misunderstood what you have written)

# just saying

Wispa' Cat the forum's regular & permanent tech novice LOL

 

by Community Manager
on ‎19-01-2017 17:40

Hi guys,

I'm happy to announce that we've obtained an XZ available for Try the Tech Smiley Happy. One of the reasons is because of this amazing review, so a big well done to @viridis

 

If you'd like to test and review the XZ for us, send me a PM. First come, first served Smiley Wink.

by jonsie
on ‎19-01-2017 17:44

Postage is quite cheap to Thailand @Toby....I promise I will return it....sometime Happy Dance