Despite falling short of great market success, Sony keeps trying to bring a commercially successful Android phone to the market. Their latest attempt at the premium tier is the Sony XZ, a 5.2-inch Android 7.0 device sporting all the specs you could really want.

The 5.2-inch form factor makes the XZ easy to hold and use one handed whilst the FHD LCD screen provides a crisp and beautiful viewing experience. There’s little doubt that Sony set out to make a premium device, and largely they have succeeded.

The design is familiar yet distinct from Sony’s recent devices, and perhaps even reminiscent of some of the last non-Windows Phone devices Nokia made. In a market saturated with similar rounded rectangles the Sony XZ actually stands out as a little different, and that’s a very welcome thing.

There’s nothing missing from the Sony XZ; if you want something it’s most likely already in here, the question is does the overall experience equal the sum of its parts? Read on to find out.

Sony XZ Hardware

At 146 x 72 x 8.1 mm the Sony XZ, we’ll just call it the XZ from here on out, is a small device by current standards, however, Sony has managed to pack a 5.2-inch screen into that body. While noticeable smaller than a 5.5-inch device it is also perceptible bigger than a 5.0-inch device and offers a nice balance between screen size and hand size.

For some reason, I am reminded of the obelisk out of 2001: A Space Odyssey when I look at this phone. Not that it bears a resemblance per se but thanks to its flat top and bottom you can stand it on your desk, and for reasons, I don’t even understand that’s cool, very cool.

What’s inside

There’s a lot to like inside the XZ with a still very snappy Snapdragon 820, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage it’s just as much a premium spec’ed device as any other on the market. Rounding out the specs is a 23MP rear camera, 2900 mAh battery, USB C, NFC and all the other connectivity you could want.

Check out the full specs below.

Key Specifications:Sony Xperia XZ
Release dateSeptember 2016
Screen size5.2-inch
Screen technologyLCD
Resolution1,920 x 1,080
Rear camera23MP
Front camera13MP
ChipsetSnapdragon 820
Core config 2 x 2.15 GHz Kryo + 2 x 1.6 GHz Kryo
Storage32GB/ 64GB
MicroSDYes, Up to 256GB
Battery2,900 mAh
Battery removable
ConnectorUSB C
Headphone PortYes
Headphone LocationTop
Speaker ConfigurationFront
Android OSAndroid 6.0
Vendor skinXperia UI
Dimensions146 x 72 x 8.1 mm
  • Forest Blue
  • Mineral Black
  • Platinum

Build quality

The Obelisk-like design is striking with a strong curved front glass panel and rear case giving the device a symmetrical design front and back. The flattened top and bottom are unique if a little polarising. Personally, I liked it but others I showed it to didn’t.

Construction wise the phone is solid with a premium fit and finish that is the hallmark of the premium device. Sony went for a metallic paint style finish which gives the XZ a smooth shiny if a little smudge-prone look and feel.

Sony XZ Camera

Sony is known internationally for their mobile camera sensors, Sony supply almost all of the top Android OEMs with their parts. However, this hasn’t always translated into great camera performance on Sony devices, so how does the XZ fare?

The XZ is equipped with a 23MP rear and a 13MP front facing camera, and as is Sony’s way they have also included a dedicated camera button which can be both long pressed to launch the camera and then tapped to shoot images.

The camera app is simple if you want it to be, but offers both a full manual mode as well as several enhanced image modes. One thing missing if you ask me is a burst mode since the LG G4 and Google Photos came out I’ve been addicted to turning burst photos into mini .gifs I don’t understand why some OEMs with hardware that clearly should support it don’t include this feature.

That’s enough of the hardware how does it perform? Time to load the camera can be a bit sluggish from a “cold boot”. If you pull your phone out of your pocket and long press on the shutter button you have a small lag waiting for the long press to register, and then the camera can spit and splutter a bit loading up. If you turn off the phone and immediately try and launch the camera it’s noticeably faster.

Once loaded the imaging taking speed is routinely good. I found the camera focused faster and capture images quicker than previous Xperia devices I used. I rate the actual shooting experience right up there with the Pixel and Galaxy S7.

Sure, if I was moving the camera about widely, shooting a fast moving object or shooting in low light results weren’t perfect and yes it did miss some shots. But if I was shooting with anything approaching reasonable expectations I think the picture taking performance of the Sony XZ is right up there.

If a fast load time is important to you this may not be the camera for you, but for 99% of picture taking situations, I think it would be fine.

Photo samples

Check out the photos we grabbed below.

Sony XZ Software rear

I’ve been impressed with Sony’s approach to Android in the past. The Xperia UI is a very light touch on top of the stock experience, it’s almost an icon pack installed on top of AOSP. Everything is where it’s “supposed to be”, and Sony has not modified any of the major systems, notifications shortcuts etc just work like stock Android.

Sony does bundle a couple of extra apps, but not too many, and depending on your use case some of them may even be useful. I’m not a huge fan of their launcher, but with Launchers and keyboards being easily replaceable I hardly think this is even with mentioning anymore. However, unlike some Chinese ROMs, I’d be more than happy to have my mum use this phone as is and provide the tech support, just don’t tell her that!

One thing Sony really has right is software updates, it almost feels that each time I turn on the phone it’s getting a new security update, to the point that at the time of writing the XZ is running Android 7.0 with the February 2017 security patch in tow. All other OEMs could learn from Sony here; this is how it should be done by everyone, without excuse.

Sony XZ Performance and Battery

From a daily usage perspective, the XZ never missed a beat in my use of the phone. App load times, multitasking and large file handling all work exactly how you’d expect a recent flagship t0o.

We’ve never been ones to put much stock in benchmarks, but we know some of you love them so feel free to check out the comparison below.

Device PC Mark Score Battery Life
Sony XZ 5,713 5h51m
LG G5 5,798 6h32m
Samsung Galaxy S7 (SD 820) 5,860 8h25m
Samsung Galaxy S7 (Exynos) 4,793 8h08m
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (Exynos) 4,808 9h06m
Google Pixel XL 5691 7h19m

Battery life

With a sub 3000mAh battery, it would be understandable if you were a little concerned with the battery life of the XZ. That said the combination of a 5.2-inch screen and 1080p resolution does provide for more battery life than the 2900 mAh may suggest.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a multi-day device you will be charging it each and every night, but let’s face it if you’re reading this review the likelihood is you charge your device every night anyway.

I found that with my typical daily use the XZ would just get me through my day, anything heavier would see me getting a little anxious and searching for power by later afternoon. With a charging dock in my car and charging whenever I drive, I found that the XZ always had juice to spare unless I was gaming.

One nice trick the XZ does have up its sleeve is its adaptive charging designed to improve battery life. When you first get your device it actually analyses your charging habits. Say you wake up at 6:00 am every day the XZ will intelligently stop charging the device before it’s fully charged, it will then finish the jib just before you wake up.

Why you ask? To prolong the long-term battery life. By reducing the top end cycles, Sony hopes to prevent the 18-month battery slump we’re all too familiar with. Obviously, I haven’t used it for years but the theory is sound, and anything that prolongs a devices usable life and reduces e-waste is ok in my book.

Sony XZ Connectivity

Sony has clearly looked to the future with the XZ with USB C, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2 and all the Wi-Fi and GPS you could want. There’s nothing lacking from the XZ and what it does have works exactly as you’d expect.

With the inclusion of NFC the XZ brings with it Android Pay compatibility, a new must-have feature for me. Using it for all of my daily payments was easy and the XZ never missed a payment, shame I can’t say the same for the app/ user selecting the wrong account.

At this stage I’ve given up blaming individual devices for any Bluetooth wonk I experience and have moved fully into the Bluetooth as a standard sucks camp. That said, I had a smoother ride with the XZ than I have with others.

Sony XZ Conclusion

The Sony Xperia XZ misses out nothing and brings a lot of solid features to the table. If you’re a Sony fan and wanting to know if this is a phone you should get, then yes, yes it is. What about everyone else?

If having a ultra fast loading camera is crucial, and I think those instances are very very limited, then the load time of the camera may give you reason to consider other options, however if you have those 2 seconds and know how to use your smartphone camera you’re going to get great images from the Xperia XZ.

With a solid track record of both OS and security updates, I feel hopeful that Sony will keep the XZ update today well into, if not beyond, its second year of life. Sony is one of the few OEMs who seems to know how to do Android right.

With a retail price of $899 AUD the Xperia XZ sits at the lower end of the “Flagship” spectrum with all of the features. Sony has a heritage in premium design and great quality hardware and the Xperia XZ is the embodiment of that.

Should you buy the Sony Xperia XZ, only you know that, but I can say there’s a lot to like and very little to be concerned about. I personally know several people who already have this device lined up as their next replacement phone, that could be you.

Disclosure Statement

Sony has not sought the return of the Xperia XZ review device.

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Having owned this model since not long after release it’s been a disappointment. Thermal management is not good, the phone seems to run hot at the strangest of times (ie not under challenging conditions, no resource hungry apps running etc) and when it does performance goes out the window. You don’t cover this in the review but it’s a consideration for most people – the camera is great in well lit conditions, I’ve been able to take some stunning photos. But at night or any low light situation it’s a massive disappointment, grainy as hell and forgot trying to take… Read more »

Max Luong

Oh how the mighty fall. From the Z3’s gargantuan battery life to now sitting at the very bottom of that battery life chart. One of the two things that separated the Sony phones from the rest is now an embarrassment.

David Griffiths

Looks great, apart from headphone jack on top.