Sony announces the Xperia XZ and X Compact

Back in February, Sony had announced it was wiping the slate clean with the Xperia X series. No more Z, M, or C. Just X. However, the three phones announced there were rather underwhelming. We got the low-end XA, mid-range (but priced high-end) X, and supposedly flagship X Performance. Soon after, the XA Ultra, a mid-range phablet, was announced.

Sony were extremely tight lipped if the X Performance was going to be their flagship for the year (or half-year). Despite the device being powered by the Snapdragon 820, the top-of-the-line SoC, Sony refrained from naming it the flagship in any of their promotional materials. No more confusion, however, because the true X series flagship is here — the Xperia XZ.

Also here is the continuation of the Compact subseries. Let’s have a look at their specifications alongside the X Performance (XP).

Xperia X Performance (XP) Xperia XZ Xperia X Compact (XC)
SoC 64-bit Quad-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

and

Adreno 530

64-bit Quad-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

and

Adreno 530

64-bit Hexa-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 650

and

Adreno 510

RAM 3GB 3GB 3GB
Storage 32GB 32GB 32GB
Display 5.0” 1080p IPS LCD 5.2” 1080p IPS LCD 4.6” 720p IPS LCD
Dimensions 144.8 x 71.1 x 7.6 mm max, 165 grams 146.4 x 71.9 x 8.1mm , 161 grams 129 x 65 x 9.5 mm , 135 grams
Camera 23 MP, f/2.0, 24mm, 1/2.3” sensor, LED flash 23 MP, f/2.0, 24mm, 1/2.3” sensor, LED flash 23 MP, f/2.0, 24mm, 1/2.3” sensor, LED flash
Front Facing
13MP, f/2.0, 22mm, 1/3” sensor
Front Facing
13MP, f/2.0, 22mm, 1/3” sensor
Front Facing
5MP, f/2.0, 22mm, 1/3” sensor
Battery 2700 mAh 2900 mAh 2700 mAh
Launch OS Android 6.0 Android 6.0 Android 6.0
Fingerprint Sensor Yes Yes Yes
SIM Size NanoSIM NanoSIM NanoSIM
Waterproofing Yes (IP68) Yes (IP68) No

More of the same. Just more of the mediocre same from Sony. The Xperia XZ is just a larger but lighter, 4K video, and waterproofing toting XP.

The Xperia X Compact
The Xperia X Compact

As for the X Compact, no longer do you get a full flagship-grade experience like you did with the Z Compact subseries, but instead a slightly watered-down mid-range version. What the XC is, is a smaller, lower-resolution, albeit larger battery Xperia X.

Not only are the phones hardly an improvement over the existing devices, majority of individuals who were looking to upgrade are now already on the LG G5, Galaxy S7/Edge, or the Galaxy Note 7.

How will Sony position the XZ in its price tree?
How will Sony position the XZ in its price tree?

What is still confusing, though, is the fact that the X Performance (XP) still hasn’t launched here in Singapore. Given that the X already exists, and is just a marginally poorer X Performance, we aren’t sure what will happen to it. It is possible we might not see the XP launch here at all, being superseded by the XZ instead. This is also taking a rather big leap in logic, though.

With Sony having priced the X at S$848, naturally one would expect to see the XP retail at about S$1000. If both devices do launch alongside each other, we may end up seeing a whopping S$1100 price tag for the XZ. While other manufacturers wouldn’t dare to do this, Sony’s recent actions do raise genuine concerns of such a scenario occurring.

Design

The X Compact
The X Compact

There’s really not much new here to see. Sony’s devices have all looked identical (and beautiful) for the past three years, and the XZ and X Compact (XC) are no different. While both are identical in looks, the XZ incorporates a new material called ALKALEIDO (a moulded piece of aluminium in non-marketing speak), and the XC uses polycarbonate instead.

sony-xperia-xz_013
The XZ | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

The material loops around the devices beautifully, and looks especially stunning in the new Forest Blue colour which is exclusive to the XZ. It is more scratch and smudge-resistant as well. According to reviewers who’ve enjoyed hands-on time with the devices though, the XZ feels far too heavy with its aluminium body, but the XC too light.

Display

Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends
The XZ | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

Unfortunately, the XZ still sticks with a 1080p display, in the age where every single one of its rivals have moved on to 1440p displays. Yes, there’s the OnePlus 3 with a 1080p display as well, but it retails at a price even lower than Sony’s Xperia X, so it’s forgiven. On a 5.2 inch display, no less, it’s a huge deal breaker for many potential customers.

The XC, too, does still persist with the 720p display seen in the previous Compact devices. While it’s true that the lower resolution compared to 1080p will reduce power consumption, it does make you wonder why Sony is unable to extract sufficient battery life (2 days, as they like to claim) regardless.

As we saw with the X, the display quality is expected to be top-notch with soaring highs and dipping lows in terms of brightness, as well as greatly accurate colour reproduction. Also seen here is the superb fun-to-swipe-on 2.5D curved glass, with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4. Disappointingly, we don’t see Gorilla Glass 5, which debuted with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

Furthermore, the XZ includes IP68 waterproofing just like the XP. However, the XC glaringly omits what was a standard feature for it once.

Internals

qualcomm-snapdragon-820

The Xperia XP and XZ feature the same System-on-Chip (SoC) powering them — the flagship series Snapdragon 820. This chip, while an excellent upgrade to the ridiculously inefficient S810, is now actually ‘old’. Its successor is the Snapdragon 821.

However, don’t fret, because the S821 is just marginally better than the S820, similar to the S800, S801, and S805 successions. The key difference between the two chips is that the S821 has the CPU and GPU clocked a tad bit higher, giving it a small 10% boost. A big reason manufacturers would prefer the S820, like Sony have with the XZ, is that a lower clock speed consumes less power and thus extends battery life.

While the S821 certainly would have improved on power efficiency, it is a gamble that many manufacturers will not see fit to take, especially with the disastrous S810 fresh in their minds.

The X Compact | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends
The X Compact | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

On the other hand, the XC only has the mid-range Snapdragon 650, a SoC with about half the computational power than that of the S820. Given that the Compact series has traditionally commanded high prices, a trend we don’t see changing, we expected much more from it. It’s not a bad chip, but it’s less than what you’d want for your money.

In terms of memory, both devices have 3GB of RAM. While this is acceptable for the XC with its smaller, 720p display, in 2016 it’s simply less than what the competition has for the XZ. In their flagship devices, other OEMs are including 4GB of RAM, with OnePlus going as far as to include 6GB, but Sony is stubbornly sticking to 3GB. Light as their UI is, more RAM for the same price is what others offer, and Sony falls short there.

Both the new devices will also feature USB Type-C, another first for Sony devices.

Camera

The XZ | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends
The XZ | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

From the X to the XP, XC, and XZ, all the devices share the same 1/2.3″ sized, 23MP, f/2.0 rear camera modules. The XZ wraps it together with a 1/3″ sized, 13MP, f/2.0 front module, but the XC has to make do with 5MP for the front. The XZ also ‘unlocks’ 4K video recording, up from just 1080p on the XP. The XC, though, can only do 1080p. Sony blamed the limitation on the X Compact’s weaker processor.

Now, Sony also seen fit to include a laser depth sensor, and an RGB sensor for better white balance below/to the right of the rear camera modules of the XZ and XC respectively. Also in a big step from their traditional digital image stabilisation, we get a five-axis gyroscope-based digital image stabilizer that accounts for pitch, yaw, horizontal, vertical, and “roll” movement.

The XZ | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends
The XZ | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

In what is also perhaps the best news to come out of Sony Mobile’s camera division in recent times, manual shutter speed control is also finally available. No word on RAW, though, but the fact that shutter speed can be controlled manually means that Sony has finally begun utilising the Camera2 API, which should unlock RAW as well (if not officially, then via a third-party app).

While the autofocus was something that impressed us greatly on the X, the actual image quality did not. Images had little fine detail, were oversharpened, and lacked contrast. With the exact same module featuring in the XZ and XC, there’s only a slim hope that there has been an improvement here.

Battery

The XZ and XC sport 2900 mAh and 2700 mAh capacity batteries respectively, which is about as much as previously well-performing Xperia flagships had. The Z3 featured 3100 mAh of juice, and the Z3 Compact 2600 mAh. Both devices also feature Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, which should translate to relatively short recharge sessions.

However, recent phones have seen Sony lose their battery-king crown quite spectacularly, and it’s a valid fear that we might not see them regain it with the XZ battery’s 2900 mAh capacity. Surely, with other manufacturers squeezing far larger capacities in similar physical dimensions, Sony could have done the same.

Launch Date and Pricing

The XZ | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends
The XZ will launch after the X Compact | Photo: Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

Thankfully, unlike the 4-month wait we had with the first three X devices, the XZ will be launching in early October, which is just around a month. It will be available in three colours — White, Graphite Black, and Forest Blue — and in both single SIM and dual SIM variants. No word on pricing as of yet, however. The XC, on the other hand, will launch in just a few days in White, Graphite Black, and Mist Blue colours, and with the same SIM variants, so we should see pricing details come out far sooner.

So, what do you think of the XZ and XC? Will either of these two devices be your next upgrade? Keep tuned for more!

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