You’ve probably heard of Sony‘s brand new smartphones by now — the Sony Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact. One feels a little bit unnecessary in a world with the Xperia X Performance, while the other is an enticing revitalisation of what Sony has always been good at, but with a small catch. However, with these two smartphones, you do get the distinct impression that Sony wants you to focus one a single aspect — their cameras.
In terms of specifications, the Xperia XZ isn’t all that different from your regular Android flagship. It’s got a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB (single SIM) or 64GB (dual SIM) of storage (expandable via microSD). In fact, these specs are actually a little underwhelming when Android flagships these days come packing up to 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It’s also got a relatively small 2,900 mAh battery, but the good news is that it only has to power a 5.2-inch Full HD display.
Build-wise, it’s certainly a treat as the XZ feels really well put together. The metal feels good and the symmetrical design will have minimalist gurning in pleasure. It’s also nice and rounded at the edges so it fits in your hand nicely. Sony has also continued to include their dedicated two-stage shutter button, which is nice for photography, making them one of the handful of manufacturers that still do that.
Then we get to the camera. At the front you get a 13-megapixel Exmor RS selfie camera with a fast f/2.0 aperture lens. At the back, though, things get a little wild as you have what Sony is calling a camera system with Triple Image Sensing technology. What this means is that in addition to the 23-megapixel Exmor RS camera sensor, the camera system also sports a second Laser Autofocus sensor and a third RGBC-IR sensor.
Now we know the camera sensor is to capture images and the Laser AF sensor is for quick focusing, but what you probably scratched your head a little was at the RGBC-IR sensor. What this does, according to Sony, is measure the colour and infrared information of the scene to ensure that the camera will always capture “colours the way you see them”.
Does it work? Well, with my brief testing, it’s sort of a hit and miss. While taking quick shots around the Sony booth, I noticed that the camera performance (in terms of snappiness and immediacy) was much better than that on the Xperia X. However, many of the images were a little on the cool side and there was quite a lot of aggressive sharpening going on in the post processing.
Focusing was decent, but because of the sharpening, images turned out a little bit blocky and distorted when you zoomed in. I thought the Galaxy S7 edge was aggressive, but Sony seems to have one-up them in that aspect. The XZ’s camera is also not as satisfying to shoot with as the Galaxy S7 edge because it wasn’t as quick or as accurate.
And that’s a little disappointing because the S7 edge doesn’t pour all its money into one feature. It’s also IP68 water resistant like the Xperia XZ and it’s got more RAM and a great powerful processor too. But the S7 edge edges out the Xperia XZ in terms of build, finesse and that otherworldly dual-curve display.
Still, if you’re a Sony fan, the XZ is definitely good news because it’s far better than the Xperia X and there’s a higher chance of it coming to Malaysia than the X Performance.
However, if you want a smaller device but the same camera experience, you could opt for the X Compact instead. This one comes with a 4.6-inch 720p screen and is powered by a Snapdragon 650 processor, 3GB of RAM plus 32GB of expandable storage. And that makes sense because it’s basically just a shrunken down Xperia X.
You will have to make some compromises, from the XZ, when it comes to build because the X Compact is made out of plastic not metal. This means it doesn’t feel as premium but it’s still put together incredibly well and you only lose 200 mAh off the battery capacity (2,700 mAh). Unfortunately, the X Compact also loses the water resistance rating of the XZ which is a bit of a bummer.
I think these smartphones from Sony are a valiant effort. With regards to camera performance, you should keep in mind that I only had a brief time with the handsets and that they were still running on demo software so there is a chance — no matter how slight — that by the time you buy one, Sony would’ve refined that aspect too.
There are, of course some drawbacks, like the relatively low res screen which is unsuitable for VR and the fact that Sony are still only baking in Android Marshmallow — with no indication on whether it will hit Nougat before it goes on sale — but I think these are not big enough to turn your average buyer off them.
I think the crucial point for the XZ and X Compact to succeed in Malaysia will be their price tags. If Sony Malaysia can keep them competitive, then I think they stand a chance. Otherwise, I’m not so sure.