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As stated earlier, the software running isn't final, nor is the product I got hands-on time with either. In this state, I'll avoid coming to a complete conclusion on performance, but what I saw looks promising.
Running on Android Lollipop 5.0.2, the Xperia Z4v is a snappy device, operating on a balanced mix of stock features with a few touches of custom overlay. I was pleased that it never got bogged down while I swiped away and accessed the limited set of apps and features available to me.
Internal storage out of the box with the Z4v rings in at a generous 32GB, with support for additional storage through the microSD slot. The 3GB of RAM, working in tandem with the octa-core, 64-bit Snapdragon 810 seems to be doing the right tricks to make this phone tick at a good measure. You can rely on some fairly extensive testing being done once we get the final hardware in our hands.
Despite being limited during my hands-on time to an aggressively lit convention room, the phone's 5.2-inch IPS panel features pretty good viewing angles. It gives off a warm, vibrant picture and is full of detail, thanks to its WQHD (2560 x 1440) resolution. This is a step up from both the Xperia Z3+ and last year's Xperia Z3v, which both feature only FHD screens.
With a meatier screen, the battery inside better be good enough to power it for a long time. Unfortunately, while we won't know just how long it will last until we get a review unit, we do know that Sony has increased the battery capacity to 3,000mAh.
It's a slight, but appreciated improvement over the 2,900mAh-toting Z3+, but compared to the Z3v's 3,200mAh, we're left puzzled. For how much larger the Z4v is physically than its relative counterparts, why not include a battery with more juice in it?
Moving onto the cameras, which is the deciding feature in a smartphone for many, I had mixed results. It's hard to expect much from a decent DSLR camera in such a harshly lit room, let alone a smartphone camera.
That said, the samples that I snapped with the 20.7MP sensor on the back, which offers improved ISO versatility in low-light situations, were pretty good. The colors are accurate, the white balance did a serviceable job of painting the scene without harsh highlights or grainy dark spots.
On the other hand, the 5MP front-facing captured shots that were a little less than favorable. Again, it's tough to be harsh when you shoot in a room with unforgiving lighting conditions, but I found the results to be lackluster. I absolutely loathed the blur effect that I couldn't avoid during my hands-on, making each photo look like my face was caked with a pound of makeup. We'll test the cameras much more extensively for the final review.
Another deciding feature for some is gaming, which is where the Sony Xperia Z4v beats out the competition with its PS4 Remote Play feature. Through an app, it's easy to hook up a DualShock 4 controller and get going with Android games built into the phone, or to connect to a nearby Sony PS4 and continue where you left off on a blockbuster title.
From my time with Sony's US-bound Xperia Z4v, it seems to check a lot of the necessary boxes. It's comfortable to hold, responsive and easy to use and it looks stunning.
At the time of writing, I don't know how much the phone will go for. Whereas most Xperia phones have the tendency to be prohibitively expensive, it's likely that the Xperia Z4v will be more affordably priced (relative to the competition), since it's tied to Verizon Wireless contracts. Full pricing details will be available closer to the phone's release.
Additions like the WQHD panel are appreciated, as are features that some might not even use, like wireless Qi charging support. But some of the changes come at a cost. Namely, the size of the phone and the battery inside. I'm not sure why these feats couldn't have been accomplished in the same slim and lighter build of Xperia Z3+, but hey, I don't make phones.
We'll see if and how these design choices impact the Z4v's performance once we get our hands on a review unit. Until then, what's here provides more than enough reason to be excited for the Xperia's return to the US.
Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.
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