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Sony Xperia XZ review: Fast, gorgeous – and flawed

Nathan Spendelow Katharine Byrne
28 Jan 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
540
inc VAT (SIM-free)

It's fast and has a great screen, but the Xperia XZ's mediocre camera and underwhelming design fail to get the pulse racing

Pros 
Excellent, colour accurate display
Fast performance
Great battery life
Cons 
Rear camera isn't great
Design feels cheap
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So much for the 4K smartphone. After painstakingly squeezing a 4K screen onto its previous flagship – the Xperia Z5 Premium – Sony's latest top-of-the-range handset, the Xperia XZ, has reverted to a standard Full HD display.

Far from a sign of retreat, though, the Xperia XZ is in many ways a sign of re-consolidation for Sony, and a return to its strengths. It might have a different name, but the Xperia XZ is very much the true successor to the Xperia Z5, and much more so than the underwhelming Xperia X that was launched earlier in the year.

Sony Xperia XZ review: Design

Even though the screen resolution has changed, the Xperia XZ retains the same 5.2in display as previous models, and the familiar ultra-slim power button-cum-fingerprint sensor once again adorns the side of the handset. You'll need to press the sensor before it can recognise your fingerprint, but on the whole, it's pretty quick and accurate. Likewise, with built-in NFC on board, it's primed and ready for Android Pay, so you can use it to make contactless payments.

Sony Xperia XZ rear

Despite sharing the same screen size as its predecessors, the Xperia XZ's design is rather different from its Z-series brethren: it ditches Sony's traditional glass back for something altogether more plasticky. In a way, it's the right move; the frosted glass back of the Z5 was rather prone to shattering. However, it isn't an aesthetic improvement, and it’s particularly good at collecting messy-looking fingerprints.

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The line break on the lower section of the phone's rear also looks like it's been tacked on at the last minute, breaking the XZ's otherwise clean, minimalist design. At least the nano-SIM and microSD card tray are no longer covered by a cheap-looking flap. Instead, it's a simple pull-out tray – but you'll still need to make sure it's sealed properly to retain the XZ's IP65/68 water-resistance. Contrary to previous Z phones, Sony now doesn't recommend submerging the phone for any length of time, but the XZ should be able to handle heavy rain showers and short-lived aquatic mishaps.

Sony Xperia XZ fingerprint sensor

Sony Xperia XZ review: Display

The design might not be to everyone's tastes, but the good news is that Sony's IPS screen technology remains first-class. To the naked eye, it looks beautiful, and our X-Rite colorimeter certainly thought so too. The 5.2in Full HD display reproduces a nigh-on perfect 99.3% of the sRGB colour gamut, hits a peak brightness of 609.7cd/m2, and has a huge contrast ratio of 1,365:1.

All that adds up to one of the best IPS displays available on any smartphone currently. It might not look quite as saturated as Samsung's Super AMOLED screens on the S7 and S7 Edge, but colours are beautifully rich and vibrant. Videos, in particular, look fantastic.

Sony Xperia XZ display

Sony Xperia XZ review: Performance

The XZ’s quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and 3GB of RAM are a lightning-quick combination – even if the benchmarks don’t always show it. For instance, its Geekbench 4 scores weren't all that impressive, achieving 1,337 in the single-core test and just 3,326 in the multi-core test, which puts it more or less on a par with the Snapdragon 650-powered Xperia X Compact. However, having used both phones side by side, the difference is night and day, with the XZ pulling ahead every time.

Indeed, Sony's version of Android 6.0.1 felt silky smooth on the XZ, and web browsing was equally quick, showing few signs of stutter – even on pages laden with dozens of images. Gaming performance was impressive, too: it managed an average of 48fps in GFXBench GL's onscreen Manhattan 3.0 test, and 46fps in the offscreen version. This is faster than Samsung's S7 and S7 Edge as well as the LG G5.

Sony Xperia XZ top

Of course, being a Sony phone, the Xperia XZ can also be used in conjunction with the company's PS4 Remote Play app, which lets you use the XZ as a second screen for streaming games around your home. This makes it a particularly promising prospect for PS4 owners, since PS4 Remote Play isn't currently supported by any other phone manufacturer.  


 

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