It may prove too little too late, but it looks like Sony’s mobile division is finally getting its act together. The Japanese giant’s got a new flagship, and for the first time in a long stretch, it doesn't feel like a total letdown.
Truth be told, the Xperia XZ isn’t all that different from its predecessor, the Xperia X Performance. There’s the same Snapdragon 820 processor and 3GB of RAM in both handsets, and though the new kid on the block has a slightly larger display, at 5.2-inches compared to 5-inches, both show off a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution.
It's a big drop down from the 4K display of the Xperia Z5 Premium, but that handset never felt like anything more than an experiment. The XZ's screen isn't the sharpest I've ever come across, but it's good.
Where it stands out from the older members of the Xperia family is in the looks department. Yes, it’s unmistakeable an Xperia, but Sony’s tweaked its design blueprint a touch, and the tinkering has paid off. The XZ’s rounder edges are a very welcome addition, both for the eyes and the fingers, and its glass front blends beautifully into the metal body.
Why the company waited for Xperia to become so stale before introducing the changes is something we may never know.
The XZ also features a microSD slot, a USB Type-C port and a fingerprint sensor, so no complaints there, and it’s also IP68-certified. What we would like to see, however, is an upgrade to Nougat, as the XZ currently runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with a few modifications, as is Sony’s style.
The company’s made a bit of a song and dance about the XZ’s camera, so it’s a shame we’ve only been able to test it in a room with extremely unfavourable lighting so far. On the back of the handset is a 23-megapixel sensor with laser autofocus and the ability to shoot 4K video. Sounds good on paper, looks… disappointing in a room illuminated by crazy lights, but our final verdict will arrive in the full review.
Oh, and there’s a 13-megapixel shooter on the front. My selfies in the testing zone looked good, but then again they always do.
Something that doesn’t look quite as impressive on paper is the 2,900mAh battery. Sony says it’ll last all day, but it would have been nice to see the XZ show more ambition by at least hitting the 3,000mAh mark, as Samsung has with the Galaxy S7. Once again though, we’ll have our final word on stamina once we get our hands on the phone properly.
The Xperia XZ has left behind generally positive impressions, but it feels as if Sony wants it to be compared to the X Performance, rather than the best handsets on the market.. It definitely represents an upgrade on its predecessor, but lags some way behind the likes of the S7 and iPhone 6S.
The XZ just doesn't feel like it deserves to be described as a flagship. Not in 2016, anyway. Now where's my time machine?