Review: Sony is back with a winner in its Xperia XZ smartphone

Sony’s Xperia XZ is the Japanese firm’s best flagship smartphone in several years, with a fresh premium design and improved camera, even if its display continues to lag behind its competitors.

With the XZ, released in the UAE last month, Sony has fin­ally ditched the tired design of its Z range. In its place comes a far smoother metal and glass casing with perfectly rounded edges and joints that looks particularly impressive in the new “forest” blue shade.

Like last year’s Z5, the XZ sports a 23MP rear camera, which now uses “triple image sensor” technology to create that extra-special image. That’s fine in theory, but in reality images are OK but not spectacular, especially compared with the likes of the LG G5 and the Galaxy S7 range.


What has improved, however, is the XZ’s front-facing camera, which has been upgraded to 13MP, and, more importantly, a wider-angled lens for an all- round better selfie experience.

Many of the XZ’s other features are holdovers from the Z5, for better or for worse. On the plus side there’s IP68 dust and ­water resistance, as well as a nippy fingerprint reader conveniently placed on the right-hand edge.

Less happily, the XZ’s display is virtually identical to the Z5’s, which in turn was little different from the Z3’s display before it.

The same old 5.2 Full HD display is fine, with nice colours and smooth action scenes in the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. However, it simply can’t match the Amoled display of the S7 Edge and the Super LCD5 of the HTC 10 for sheer wow factor.

It seems, however, that Sony is less concerned with competing directly with the S7s of this world, focusing instead on a slightly cheaper market segment. The X5 retails for Dh2,299, Dh400 below the Z5’s starting original price, and well below that of the iPhone 7 or S7.

The Xperia XZ’s average display prevents it from being an out and out winner, but its long overdue design overhaul and brilliant selfie camera make it Sony’s most compelling high-end phone in ages.

Q&A:

Yay, water resistance. So I can take it scuba diving with me?

Not so fast. Sony advises you not to expose the handset to seawater, saltwater, chlorinated water or drinks. Still, it’ll survive the odd spill better than most.

How’s the battery life?

Sony also claims the (non-removable) 2900mAh battery will last twice as long as its competitors, thanks to intelligent charging based on the owner’s indivi­dual usage patterns. In reality, battery life is solid but not particularly spectacular.

What else should I know about the XZ then?

It ships with Android Marshmallow, with an upgrade to Nougat expected before long. There’s 32GB of memory, expandable to 256GB through one of the two Sim slots. The 3GB of Ram and Snapdragon 820 processor make the user experience nice and nippy.

A 5.2-inch display is a little large for me. Is there anything smaller available?

Sony unveiled the X compact at the same time as the XZ, with a 4.6-inch display. Sadly you’ll have to go to Saudi Arabia to buy it, where it’s available for 1,699 riyals (Dh1,663). If you don’t fancy the trip, the Z5 Compact is still available in the UAE.

I’ve never associated forests with being particularly blue. Are there any other colours available?

It’s a very nice shade of dark blue, whatever it’s called. It’s also available in “mineral” black, platinum and “deep” pink.

jeverington@thenational.ae

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