IFA 2016: Sony announces Xperia XZ, its first flagship phone of the year

Sony announced a couple of new smartphones at IFA in Berlin today, one a compact version of the Xperia X and the other a full fledged flagship to take on the Galaxy S7.

Both Xperia XZ and X Compact phones will be available at giffgaff but Vodafone is giving the mid-range delight a miss.

Despite launching the premium-range X Performance earlier this year featuring impressive innards like a Snapdragon 820 processor, an Adreno 530 GPU, a 23-MP rear camera, a 13-MP front camera, LTE Cat 9 compatibility and NFC as well as the Xperia XA Ultra with a 6-inch Full HD display, a 64-bit octa core MediaTek MT6755 processor along with 21.5MP and 16MP cameras, Sony claims that the just-launched Xperia XZ will be the first flagship phone in the Xperia X line of phones.

Sony Xperia XZ

With such powerful comrades in the X-series line and to be termed even better than them, the Xperia XZ has to be really something. When we looked at the cameras, whose performances are always among the first determinants of what we term 'good phones', we came across the same 23-MP rear and 13-MP front camera setup, something we've already seen in the Xperia X and Xperia X Performance phones earlier this year. However, Sony claims that the new 23-MP rear camera lens, which also features in the inexpensive-sounding X Compact, comes with Sony's proprietary 'Triple Image Sensing' technology. This means that apart from the well-known Exmor RS™ mobile image sensor, the new lens incorporates a new Laser AF sensor which enables you to capture blur-free photos in low light conditions as well as the new RGBC-IR[i] sensor which adjusts the white balance based on light source. Sony has also introduced SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode to let you capture steady videos with advanced 5-axis image stabilization.

The 'flagship' Xperia XZ also features a 5.2-inch TRILUMINOUS display with a resolution of 1920 x 1280 pixels. While this doesn't make it the most advanced display ever (the Xperia Z5 Premium arrived with a 4K display last year), Sony has introduced X-Reality® for mobile picture engine which, according to Sony, 'adds missing pixels, reduces noise, and sharpens the image.' We aren't sure if the technology makes the Full HD display as good as Quad HD ones in other premium flagships, but we'll let you know more about it once we subject the phone to a thorough review.

As far as the engines go, Xperia XZ is powered by the top-of-the-line 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 820 processor and an Adreno 530 GPU which are supported by 3GB of RAM to offer seamless performance for long durations. With almost all OEMs transitioning to 4GB RAM standards, we wonder why Sony hasn't done the same even with their flagship phone, and a lot of potential buyers may not be too happy about it. Sony has, however, not made any compromises as far as storage is concerned. Xperia XZ will be available in 32GB (Single SIM) and 64GB (Dual SIM) variants  and both will ship with MicroSD slots with capacities of up to 256GB. Sony's Xperia X Performance came with 32GB of maximum internal storage so we can safely say that that the Xperia XZ offers a better alternative.

Sony's Xperia XZ also features a 2,900 mAh battery which is a slight improvement over the 2,700 mAh one in Xperia X, XA and XA Ultra and comes with battery saving technologies like Battery Care and STAMINA mode as well as quick charging technologies like Qnovo Adaptive Charging and Qualcomm's Quick Charge. Given that the phone's display isn't too large and that the battery won't have to support a power-intensive 4K display, we assume that the battery capacity is just right for a day's usage on a single charge.

To be sold in Forest Blue, Platinum and Mineral Black colours, Xperia XZ comes with IP65/IP68 splash-proof rating and supports technologies like NFC for contactless payments, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi Miracast, Google Cast and LTE Cat 4 speeds. The phone runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS and will also be compatible with PlayStation 4 Remote Play.

Sony Xperia X Compact

The smaller 4.6-inch Xperia X Compact is now among the smallest smartphones around expect for the 4-inch iPhone SE. It features a 720p HD display, a 64-bit hexa-core Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 650 processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage along with a MicroSD slot. Running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, it also features a 2,700 mAh battery, same as in Xperia X, XA and XA Ultra phones but unlike the Xperia XZ, won't be available in a Dual SIM configuration. Given that Sony pride themselves on their camera technology, the company has blessed the Xperia X Compact with the same 23-MP rear camera as the Xperia XZ but the front camera will only be a 5-MP one with a wide-angle lens and an EXMOR RS sensor.

While Xperia XZ is only 8.1mm thick, the X Compact is 9.5mm in thickness but at 135g, won't be a burden on your palm even if you're in for a long haul. If priced well by Sony, the phone could challenge a number of other mid-range phones especially for its premium camera. Sony hasn't announced the pricing of these phones as yet but as soon as we hear about them, we'll let you know.

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