There’s been a trend going on this year with Sony, and it’s not a good one. With the new Xperia X line, the company is releasing some solid pieces of hardware which we love, but they’re pretty expensive, even by flagship standards…
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I’ve already shared my thoughts on the Xperia X, Sony’s “mid-range” option which originally cost $550, and after that our own Stephen Hall shared his thoughts on the X Performance, a more powerful and more expensive version of the X. For both devices, the statement “it’s great, but way too expensive” rang true. Now we’ve got the Xperia XZ, which is the X Performance on paper, but with a few more features and a surprisingly conservative price tag. This time, I can say the XZ is almost worth its price tag.
Most of what we’ve said with the Xperia X and X Performance ring true with the XZ, so we’re going to go over the highlights on this model.
─ USB-C. Starting off the good, the Xperia XZ finally brings USB Type-C to the X line, and that’s great. It gives the phone a bit of “future proof-ness” ─ something which should always be taken into consideration when buying an expensive smartphone.
─ A slightly bigger display, but a more compact and pleasing design. Compared to other Xperia X phones, the XZ also features a slightly larger display at 5.2-inches. However, the phone has thinner bezels all around, leading to only an ever so slightly larger overall size. Just like Sony’s other devices, the XZ also features a square-ish, boxy design, but in this case with curved sides and completely flat top and bottom sides. Overall, it looks really nice and surprisingly, it feels good in the hand, due in part to the compact size. The black model I spent my time with looks great, and the “Frost Blue” variant looks absolutely wonderful and very unique as well.
─ IP68 water/dust resistance. On the Xperia XZ, Sony also brings back a feature from years past, water/dust resistance. On the XZ we’re looking at IP68 protection with an uncovered headphone jack and USB-C port. At this point, I still consider water/dust resistance to be just an added bonus, not a necessity. However, having this feature is certainly a plus on the Xperia XZ.
─ Fantastic performance & software. Packing the Snapdragon 820 chipset and 3GB of RAM, you’d expect the Xperia XZ to be pretty powerful, and it is. Sony’s light software layer helps out with that fantastic performance, mainly since it is very close to stock Android. Alterations are few and far between, and nothing that is changed is for the worse. Things only get better with Android Nougat (shown below), where Sony’s apps get some enhancements and the launcher gets the welcome addition of Google Now integration.
─ A bigger battery. Then there’s battery life. The 2,900 mAh battery on the Xperia XZ works with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 through USB-C and should easily last you through a day as well. I used the Xperia XZ on T-Mobile and never drained it in a day.
─ The fingerprint sensor is disabled in the US. One feature we’re pretty accustomed to on basically any device nowadays is a fingerprint sensor. Many affordable devices pack sensors, and at this point almost every flagship does as well. However, that’s not the case with the Xperia XZ, at least not in the US. While all variants of the device pack the hardware needed to read your fingerprint, the sensor is disabled via the software in the United States.
─ The back of the phone is a fingerprint magnet. Speaking over fingerprints, the metal back of the Xperia XZ is an absolute fingerprint magnet, especially on the black model. While fingerprints aren’t really that big of a deal, on the XZ they look worse than usual, and they’re also a bit harder to clean off. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but I certainly found it annoying during my time with the phone.
─ The camera could be better (although it is decent). As for the camera, the Xperia XZ packs the same 23MP rear camera sensor as the Xperia X and Xperia X Performance. It’s a solid camera overall, but the low light performance is not great and the processing is also pretty poor. It’s not the worst sensor out today, but it could and should be better on an expensive flagship smartphone. On the plus side, though, there is a dedicated camera shutter button.
Is It Worth It?
The main reason that Sony’s other 2016 smartphone have fallen flat was their price tag. Asking hundreds of dollars over the competition for a phone that doesn’t offer as much is, well, to be frank, it’s stupid. Thankfully, Sony has finally come to its senses.
Pricing on the Xperia X has finally fallen to decent levels, and the X Performance has as well. The Xperia XZ still carries a hefty price tag at $649, but honestly, it’s almost worth that much. Plus, it goes on sale quite often. My sole reason why it’s not? The lack of a fingerprint sensor in the US. There’s no situation where consumers should be spending hundreds of dollars on a device and not getting that feature. Otherwise, though, the Xperia XZ is a fantastic option.