The Sony Xperia XZ is Sony’s brand new flagship phone – or crown jewel as the corporation prefers to call it.
Sony is keen to push the camera, intelligent battery, smart technology, and design as the key features that really make the XZ stand out – but is it worth the purchase in a market dominated by the iPhone, and a raft of excellent Android competitors?
Well, that’s what we’re here to help you figure out. Is the Xperia XZ the ultimate Android gaming smartphone for 2016 and beyond? Let’s work it out together.
As we mentioned earlier, the design is a key feature of the Xperia XZ that Sony is keen to highlight – and I can’t argue with that at all. It’s an absolutely gorgeous and relatively flawless design that rivals the best Apple has to offer.
It’s sleek, minimal, and curved in all the right places, blending smooth plastic, brushed metal, and clear glass to create a phone that looks so clean and premium you wouldn’t be ashamed at all about whipping it out in front of your iPhone 7-wielding friend.
The XZ also comes in three different colours to suit different tastes, and that includes Mineral Black, Platinum, and Forest Blue – the latter of which we had as a review unit.
Now to get into the nitty gritty – just what is this phone capable of? Well, an awful lot to be honest – which is what you’d expect from a phone with an iPhone-rivalling price.
Starting with what us pocket gamers care about most, the XZ is powered by the market-leading Snapdragon 820, a 64-bit Quad-core processor which is currently unrivaled on Android. You’ve also got 3GB of RAM and a microSD card slot that allows up to 256 extra GB of space.
So, to put it briefly, you should have no trouble gaming at all on this phone.
Games look awesome as well, thanks to the 5.2 inch, full HD 1080p Triluminos display, which enhances colour saturation, and dynamic contrast enhancement, which does what it says on the tin. The screen is a joy to behold, and stands up well against QHD screens, which is no mean feat.
You’ll squeeze a little extra juice out of the battery thanks to the adaptive charging, which learns and adapts to your patterns. Apparently this can result in up to twice the lifespan, but it’s difficult to judge.
Finally, there’s no need to worry about water damage – provided you don’t swim with it in your pocket of course. The design is water-resistant, and will easily withstand splashes and rain.
The standout is, as Sony is key to push, the cameras – and the technology fueling them. The rear features a whopping 23 MP while the selfie-cam is a not too shabby-either 13 MP.
But what do these numbers actually mean? Well, on paper, that you’re likely to be taking clearer and sharper photos than ever before. But that’s not entirely down to loads of megapixels, it’s also down to that technology we talked about.
Rather than bore you with nitty gritty that you could just read on the official Sony site anyway, the various technologies essentially ensure that you can take great photos faster, in any light conditions, and that moving objects will appear sharper and with more clarity.
During my test, I took photos in a variety of light conditions and didn’t notice a vast amount of difference from the same photos taken on my iPhone 6s Plus. They looked a bit sharper, more focused, and vibrant, but I couldn’t say it’s a huge improvement over what you’d fine elsewhere.
Gaming and performance
Thanks to the Snapdragon 820, gaming – and general performance – on the XZ was an absolute blast. We tested a number of different games from the gorgeously minimalistic Alto’s Adventure to the battery and resource-hogging Mobius Final Fantasy, and the XZ didn’t miss a beat.
That was further enforced by the comfortable design and excellent display, with the technology powering it making every colour pop and dazzle. In fact, I’d even go so far as to argue that Alto’s Adventure looked better on the XZ than it did on my iPhone 6s Plus during a test.
It’s also worth mentioning that, as this is a Sony phone, the XZ is capable of playing PlayStation 4 games with the Remote Play app. So if you have a PS4 and always bemoan the fact you can’t play in bed, this could make the decision a little easier.
Similarly, watching movies and general browsing was as slick and smooth as you’d expect from a premium phone such as this.
The only slight issue is that the XZ tends to run quite hot even when running quite a simple game. It’s not a deal breaker by any means though.
It should be quite clear at this point that if you’re planning on getting the XZ as a gaming phone, you won’t be remotely disappointed.
The Snapdragon 820 and 3GB of RAM are capable of handling absolutely anything Google Play has to throw at it, the display and the technology powering it are an absolute joy to behold, and the extra battery and storage provided by the SD card and adaptive charging combine to provide some essential extra features for gaming on the go.
Then there’s Remote Play – the hidden gem of the XZ – which allows you to play your PS4 games around the house. So if someone’s hogging the TV, you don’t have to wait until long after your bedtime to finish that mission in GTA V.
However, this does come with a downside and that’s the temperature the device reaches while playing even the simplest of games. It’s not quite so uncomfortable that you’ll have to put it down, but it is noticeable and a tad off-putting.
Then there’s the camera which takes snaps that are, admittedly, not that much better than my iPhone 6s. Perhaps that’s to be expected of a phone that costs a similar price, but Sony is selling the XZ on the camera so I was a little disappointed it didn’t blow me away.
The Sony Xperia XZ may cost the same as an iPhone, but I’d argue that you’re getting a pretty comparable experience. The design isn’t that far off the slickness of any Apple product, the performance is excellent, and the touch ID, battery, and adaptive charging were all very reminiscent of an iPhone.
In fact, it’s actually better than an iPhone in some areas. The SD card slot, for one, can provide up to 256 GB of extra space and the display is undoubtedly more pleasing to the eye, with bolder colours and an improved contrast.
Where the XZ falls apart is in its false promises, mostly. The camera, the supposed standout feature of this premium smartphone, is disappointing – and really not that much better than an iPhone’s. And it runs hot when playing games.
Making the decision on whether to purchase the Xperia XZ depends on what you’re after. If you’re dead set on buying an Android smartphone, are into gaming, and own a PS4, then this is hands-down the phone for you.
If you’re buying a phone for the camera, on the other hand, then we’d argue you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Generally speaking, the Xperia XZ is an incredible piece of kit and really impressed us during our review. If you do end up buying it, you won’t be disappointed – that’s for sure.