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    October 27, 2016

    Hands-on preview: Sony Xperia XZ – Back to the Future

    Sony Xperia XZ

    We’ve got our mitts all over Sony’s new flagship, the Xperia XZ. Can this handset re-capture Sony’s glory days, or is it just another attempt at greatness?

    Sony has had a troubling year. Fresh from introducing (yet another) Z flagship in the form of the Z5, Z5 Compact, and the crazy Z5 Premium, the Japanese firm elected to walk away from its trademark lineup to branch out with the Xperia X range; a marque neither consumers nor critics flocked to. Faced with a difficult choice, the company has resorted to doing what it does best; making another flagship. This time, it’s called the Xperia XZ, and it’s as much a fusion of the past, present, and future as one can get.

    It’s difficult to produce a smartphone that can recapture days gone by and simultaneously reassure consumers that an entirely new lineup is one worth investing in. Thankfully, we had the chance to get up close and personal with the Xperia XZ just as it has assaulted the South African market.

    Read: Sony unveils the new standard PlayStation and PlayStation 4 Pro

    First things first – this is a faithful merger of the Omnibalance design language Sony punted with the Z series, and the likeness of its newer X range. Corners are somewhat rounder while a steeper top and bottom chin remains, and the handset sits comfortably in the hand while whipping up that gentle tinge of nostalgia you’re likely to have if you ever swore by a flagship Xperia handset.

    xperia xz

    Thankfully, the side-mounted fingerprint scanner remains on the international version of the Xperia XZ; you won’t find an active scanner on the model shipping in the United States. This was one of our favourite elements from the Z line, and we’re glad it’s here; having a fingerprint scanner integrated with a power switch makes a refreshing amount of ergonomic sense.

    While we’re still not completely sold on the presence of a large top and bottom chin, the device does give a sense of breathing room; the shutter button located on the bottom right-hand side of the device feels like it has just enough room to think, and that’s a good thing – because with the XZ, Sony is punting its photography smarts all over again.

    Let’s talk a little bit about software. The XZ refines on the visual overhaul Sony’s Android skin received with the X lineup, and that’s both a good and bad thing. Menus and app switching remains Marshmallow-level fast, but we did notice that – as we made use of tour devices which had already been used for an undetermined period of time – there was a fair amount of lag when switching back to the home screen.

    xperia xz

    Similarly, it would seem that Sony’s camera app can still punt quality, but isn’t perfect. Shots suffered from overexposure in broad daylight, while frame rates remained silky smooth in video. If there’s a caveat – and there’s a big one – it’s that the XZ overheats dramatically when exposed to the warmth of the sun, and began to shut down internal processes to reduce heat. This is no Galaxy Note 7 disaster, but it’s something we’d hoped that Sony would have fixed by now.

    With the XZ, Sony’s intent to sell is evident – and that’s made obvious by the presence of multiple local deals which either bundle the XZ with the XA Ultra, or a Sony Smartwatch 3.

    Read: Sony launches a new receiver that supports CarPlay and Android Auto

    Will the Sony Xperia XZ prove to be a device that can rekindle the fire for consumers who’ve been put off by the company’s most recent efforts, or is this one of many nails in an increasingly crowded coffin? Stay tuned for our full review in the weeks to come to find out!

    Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA

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