Sony Xperia XZ review

Sony finally has its flagship X

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Our Verdict

The Sony Xperia XZ is a great premium handset offering everything you'd expect from a flagship phone. If you own a recent Sony phone though it might not be enough of an improvement to rush out and buy it on day one.

For

  • New refined design
  • Impressive camera improvements
  • Return of waterproofing

Against

  • Only full HD screen
  • No fingerprint scanner in the US
  • Not running Android 7 software

The Sony Xperia XZ may be the brand's fourth flagship in the last two years, but it's been a whole year since it released the Xperia Z5 to critical acclaim at IFA 2015.

In the meantime Sony has released the Xperia X, which we believed to be its latest flagship handset at the time – but it wasn't. The Xperia XZ is that phone.

Sony Xperia XZ

The Xperia Z line is now dead. Every Sony phone will now be part of the Xperia X line, whether it's a budget, mid-range or high-end device, and will sit under the top-dog Xperia XZ – at least until we see the Xperia XZ 2.

It's the best of the best of Sony's mobile tech in one full package. It features all the highlights of Sony phones we've seen the past, put into a melting pot and blended to create something familiar, yet different.

If this was an iPhone, it would be an S iteration. There are small improvements to the design, camera and battery tech – but there's no big, headline feature or major difference when you compare it to the Xperia Z5.

On the iPhone 7, for example, the headline feature was the introduction of a water-resistant build – but Sony has been there and done that, waterproofing its flagships since the Xperia Z back in 2012.

Instead it's a reworking of the highlights from the last few years – and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Sony Xperia XZ price and release date

  • Doesn't launch until October 2 in the US, October 6 in the UK
  • It's not cheap either at $699.99 (£549, about AU$939)
  • Free £150 pair of Sony headphones if you pre-order in the UK

Sony's Xperia XZ isn't ready to buy yet - in most markets it will be released on October 2 in the US and October 6 in the UK.

It's a flagship price at $699.99 (£549, about AU$939) which is similar to what the Xperia Z5 cost last year. In the US, that makes the Xperia XZ more expensive than the 32GB version of the iPhone 7, while in the UK it's a little bit cheaper than Apple's flagship.

Sony Xperia XZ

Pricing for Australia is set to be announced within the coming weeks.

If you pre-order now in the UK you'll get a free pair of Sony XB950BT headphones, which would usually cost £150. There's no word on whether this deal will be available in the US or Australia before the Xperia XZ is released.

Key features

  • Return of the useful water-resistant design
  • Great fingerprint scanner, but not for every market
  • Play PS4 games on your Xperia XZ screen

Like Samsung's, and now Apple's, flagship handsets, the Xperia XZ is water-resistant. That means you'll be able to take your phone into the shower without having to worry about the internals getting frazzled from water seeping in, or get away with dropping it in the sink.

Sony Xperia XZ

This is a feature Sony has had on its flagship line for quite some time now. The Xperia XZ is IP68 water- and dust-resistant, so you can safely immerse it up to depths of one meter, although Sony advises against keeping it submerged for long periods of time.

Dust-resistance, meanwhile, ensures that if you take your phone to the beach sand isn't going to get jammed in the sockets and ports.

This is impressive, considering that both the 3.5mm headphone jack and the USB-C slot at the bottom of the phone are open; despite it being a feature of Sony flagship phones for quite some time, the waterproof design is still something worth shouting about.

For most markets, Sony has included a fingerprint scanner on the side of the phone to make easy to unlock, yet secure. However, buyers in the US don't get the scanner.

When TechRadar asked Sony's Senior Director of Marketing why this was, he told us: "It was a business decision we needed to make in order to transition [in the US] from the carrier market to the unlocked market."

That answer isn't entirely clear, and it's a big shame that customers in the US won't get this security tech included on their Xperia XZ.

The scanner is built into the power button on the right-hand side of the phone, and is in a great position for your thumb when unlocking your device.

Sony Xperia XZ

The fingerprint scanner works quickly as soon as you hit the button. The position can be a little irritating if your phone is sat on a desk and you just want to turn it on though.

For those situations you can just use the on screen unlock pattern or pin, so it's not a major issue.

Those who are left handed may also find it a little more difficult and will need to register a different finger to get the benefit of unlocking it in the hand.

There's a 5.2-inch screen on the Xperia XZ, which may feel a little large for those with smaller hands. This is an average size screen for flagship smartphones right now, but you should note you'll likely need to use both hands to reach all the edges.

Sony Xperia XZ

In terms of resolution, unlike competition from Samsung and HTC, the Xperia XZ is still only Full HD.

The screen is bright and looks good though - it's not 2K, but that's likely not a deal breaker or a reason to not buy the Xperia XZ. If you want to experience VR with your phone, it may not be the best choice as it only offers 424 pixels-per-inch compared to 534ppi on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Sony Xperia XZ

PS4 Remote Play is a big bonus if you're into your gaming too. If you have Sony's home gaming console you'll be able to play games on your Xperia XZ over the same Wi-Fi network your console is on – handy if someone else is watching the TV.

The only issue here is that the screen on the Xperia XZ is a little too small for playing games on a regular basis – for that we'd recommend picking up an Xperia Z4 Tablet with its 2K 10-inch screen.

You'll also need to make sure your Wi-Fi connection is up to handling PS4 Remote Play.

Design

  • New high-end material on the back
  • Fits comfortably in the hand
  • No durable corners as on the Xperia Z5 range

If you've used a Sony phone before, you'll recognize much of the design language that you'll find on the Xperia XZ.

There's a new kind of metal material on the back of the phone, which Sony calls ALKALEIDO, although you won't notice anything radically different about it – to the touch it feels much the same as the metal on previous Sony handsets.

It does feel premium, though, and it looks better than the glass on early Xperia Z-line handsets. But be warned: it may be a new kind of material, but the Xperia XZ will still pick up your greasy fingerprints.

Sony Xperia XZ

The boxy design is still here, but it comes with slightly rounded-off edges, which enable the phone to sit in your hand comfortably. Out of all the Sony phones we've reviewed that feature a 5-inch-plus screen, this one feels the easiest to hold.

Sony Xperia XZ

The top and bottom edges of the phone are flattened off, giving the Xperia XZ a look you won't find on other flagships. It reminds us of the Obi Worldphone MV1, but it's done with a high-end, premium feel which the Obi didn't have. Apart from enabling you to stand your phone up, though, this doesn't really offer much.

On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack (take note if you're a disgruntled iPhone fan) – it's in a good place for plugging in headphones when your phone's in your pocket.

Xperia XZ

There's a USB-C slot on the bottom of the phone, while on the left-hand side is the slot for the microSD and SIM cards.

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The volume rocker is in a strange position, two-thirds of the way down the right-hand spine – it's not a natural placement for your fingers to reach it quickly if music is blaring out of the phone and you need to turn it down.

Below this is a camera button, which enables you to snap shots without touching the screen. This will come in useful if you use the camera a lot, and it's something you don't get on many other flagship phones.

Sony Xperia XZ

A feature we do miss here is the reinforced corners from the Xperia Z5, designed to absorb the impact if the phone is dropped – their omission leaves us a little concerned that this phone won't be able to take as much of a beating.

In short, the Xperia XZ is the best-looking phone the company has created, and the most comfortable to hold – but the differences are all quite minimal.