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Hands On with the Sony Xperia XZ

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Sep 1, 2016, 6:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

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Sony Xperia XZ

Sony's newest flagship-class device is the Xperia XZ. This phone builds on the design and features we saw in the Xperia X earlier this year and makes strides with the camera and video camera tools. Here are our first impressions.

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The Xperia XZ is the natural evolution of the X family we saw earlier this year. It is a flagship-level device in terms of specs and performance, but the design and display could be better.

Like the Xperia X Compact, the Xperia XZ uses Sony's "loop" design language. This is only obvious when you view the device from the top or bottom edges, as that's the only profile that resembles any sort of loop. The side edges are rounded and create the loop look (so we're told.) The device still has the distinct four corners that Sony's devices so often include, which may make the phone uncomfortable in your pocket.

The device has a polycarbonate frame, 2.5D glass, and a metal rear panel. Sony calls this metal "alkaleido." It's some sort of hybrid. Pay no attention to the silly branding. I like the feel of the frame, which is smooth and seamless as it runs its course around the outer edge of the XZ. The 2.5D glass fits into the frame nicely. I'm not 100% pleased with the way the metal panel fits into the frame. It's better executed than the X Compact's plastic rear panel, but it's not a perfect fit and gaps are apparent. Worse, there's a piece of plastic filler at the bottom to allow radio signals to pass through. It just doesn't feel well thought-out.

Xperia XZ  

The front face is all glass. I like that there are no buttons; the XZ uses on-screen controls. Some people may be displeased that there is no fingerprint reader and I am one of those people. A fingerprint reader has become table stakes for a flagship device and Sony's excuse for disclosing it is weak. (An exec told us it just couldn't make it happen right now.) Like the X Compact, the XZ has to slits carved into the glass for the stereo speakers. The user-facing camera and sensor array are positioned on either side of the earpiece grille.

The 5.2-inch 1080p HD display is fine, but didn't take my breath away. It is bright, colorful, and clear. Many other modern flagships have quad HD screens. Sony said it is skipping quad HD screens and will eventually go straight to ultra HD (4K) once they make more economic sense.

A hatch on the left edge covers the SIM/memory card tray. It is no trouble to find and use. The rest of the controls are piled up in the right edge. The dedicated camera button is placed closest to the bottom. It has very good travel and feedback. The volume toggle is just above the camera button and I dislike this very much. As I've said about other Sony phones, I often adjust the volume unintentionally because my thumb accidentally presses the toggle as I hold the phone. The screen lock button is the top-most button on the right edge. It is flat, but easy to find. The travel and feedback are decent. The headphone jack is on top and the USB-C port is on the bottom.

The rear metal panel is perfectly flat. The camera elements are tucked into the top-left corner. The camera lens itself is rather small, but the focus/flash array is rather large. The phone has laser and phase-detection to assist in focusing on your subject. The panel cannot be removed, nor can the battery.

Under the hood, the XZ has flagship-class specs. The XZ is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor with Adreno 510 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. The main camera rates 23 megapixels, and the selfie cam rates 13 megapixels. It also has a 2,900mAh battery with Quick Charge and CAT9 LTE.

The Android 6 Marshmallow platform carries the usual Sony UI skin. Perhaps most importantly, Sony improved the camera software so it is simpler to dial in the different shooting modes and settings. I like how quickly you can shift between normal and pro modes, as well as tweak things like exposure.

interface  

The Sony Xperia XZ is a solid device, but could be better. The design is better than what we saw in the earlier X series handsets, but I question the execution of the XZ's rear panel. Sony said it will sell the phone unlocked in the U.S. starting in October. Don't expect it to be cheap.

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