Kudos to Sony for its latest and best premium phone, the Sony Xperia XZ. It stands out. It actually looks different. I, for one, love it.
I love it because it is almost entirely featureless, style wise. There are no artful curves, apart from the edges which are curved enough so that you won’t be injured by sharp corners. There are no pseudo chrome highlights. It reminds me of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s just a thin black slab (although, if you prefer, you can get it as a thin “Forest Blue” slab instead.)
That said, when I held it up to family members to say how much I liked the styling, most didn’t agree.
The back of the case is made of something called “ALKALEIDO” which, looking at Kobe Steel’s trademark application, appears to be sheet aluminium. Perhaps there’s more to it than that. The (black) colour looks smoothly anodised with a satin finish. It’s easily marked by fingerprints, but they wipe off as well.
The Sony Xperia XZ is water and dust resistant, with an IP65/68 rating. The “6” means it is completely dust tight, the “5” means it can cope with water jets (but not “powerful” ones) while the “8” means it can cope with immersion to more than a metre depth. All of which is pretty impressive.
The phone is 8.1mm thick – there is no camera bump – and 72mm wide and 146mm tall. The display is 5.2 inches with a full HD (1920 by 1080) resolution in 16:9 aspect ratio, so it tends to be a little taller by comparison to its width than most. There’s a headphone/microphone socket on the top, power key to the right with the volume rocker underneath that and a “camera” key even further down. Hold that for a second and the camera fires up. Press it again and you take a picture. That edge of the phone is so well populated with keys, it can be tricky to apply the clamp of a selfie stick without causing mayhem.
The home key is a “soft” key on the bottom of the display, along with the “apps” and “back” keys.
The power key has a fingerprint sensor. I had it memorise my usual right index finger and thumb, but then I got smart and also had it memorise my left middle finger. When I picked up the phone in my left hand, that finger fell naturally onto the power button. A little squeeze and a virtually instantaneous recognition made this the best phone I’ve used for unlocking from a secure screen.
The phone runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 830 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of built in storage. The SIM tray also accommodates a microSD card of up to 256GB capacity.
It incorporates LTE Cat 9 support for downloads of up to 450Mbps if, you know, hardly anyone’s using the cell tower, you’re not far away, the wind’s blowing the right way and the ancient gods have granted their blessings. Oddly, Sony doesn’t say much about the WiFi. I can attest to it supporting dual band and it seemed to work just as well as any other.
The Bluetooth connectivity comes with NFC. Google Cast is offered from the quick menu, while Miracast can be easily added to the quick menu. Both GPS and GLONASS satellite systems are used.
Sony seems very proud of the camera. The rear camera has 23 megapixels and “triple image sensing technology” which means, I think, the camera itself, the laser autofocus system and the RGBC-IR sensor which separately gathers data for white balance. It has predictive autofocus, intended to help you capture moving objects, and six tenths of a second start up to help you catch subjects before they run away. There are lots of manual settings if you like to play with such things, including manual focus and a shutter speed able to be as slow as one second. The camera is in the corner, so watch those wayward fingers. I’m speaking to myself there.
Of course, 4K video is supported. There’s optical image stabilisation. The specs speak of Sony’s award-winning 24mm G Lens, which had me scratching my head until I realised they were talking about 35mm camera equivalent focal length. That is quite a wide angle.
The front camera has a rather high 13 megapixels of resolution and is capable of low light operation thanks to an available ISO of up to 6400.