Sony is known to sell its camera sensors to all major OEMs in the industry that deliver exceptional photography skills. But the company has a line of its own Xperia smartphones that leverage from the best of its sensors. Continuing the Xperia line, Sony recently launched the Xperia XZs in India, adding a new player to the flagship race.
There are some big players such as Apple, Samsung, LG and even OnePlus that have exceeded users' expectations on new levels. With Sony's participation, the competition only gets extreme. The Xperia XZs is a premium device by the company that has many strong points, but not devoid of flaws entirely.
We received the Xperia XZs for review and after spending a little over a week with the phone, here's what we think of the phone. From design to camera and performance, Xperia XZs offers what Sony fans most long for. But it also raises the question where it stands on the current trend of evolving flagships.
Let's start by the Xperia XZs' design. Frankly, there isn't much here. Sony has for long stuck to its signature design in smartphones and the Xperia XZs continues that with the same rectangular, aesthetic design as seen in its predecessor Xperia XZ. Despite the lack of evolution in the design, Xperia XZs is one of the few compact phones in the market. It is handy, non-slippery due to its polycarbonate finish, and of course water resistant at IP68 rating.
The display of the Xperia XZs, which measures 5.2 inches, has a Full HD resolution and the Triluminos technology makes it really combat against most 2K phones out there. The blacks are purely black and the true colours are portrayed without compromise. If you are a movie buff, Xperia XZs is great for watching them while on the go. The device's high-res display makes your favourite games look really good.
We played a few games like the Asphalt, Candy Crush Saga and Brothers In Arms to test the handset's gaming performance. It is designed to handle the best of games out there in Play Store with great graphics, but there's the heating problem if you play for too long. Our trick to instantly cool off the phone was washing it off, which is one of the perks of using a water resistant handset.
While the gaming graphics is one of the best we've seen in a phone, the sound to match that level of excellence is missing in the Xperia XZs. Audio quality in the headphones is quite fine, but using it without hands-free makes it challenge. The audio speaker for calls is too feeble even when in a closed room, which can be challenging for some users.
Besides gaming, the general use case for the Xperia XZs is lag-free. Even though the phone runs the latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat, the UI doesn't make it look a lot different from last year's Xperia XZ. But it does not heat during long voice calls, or while using the phone with data and GPS (while navigation), which is a good improvement. It looks like the Snapdragon 820 chipset paired with 4GB RAM makes it all a breeze.
With great performance and compelling need for watching videos and playing games, it is essential to have a long-lasting battery. The Xperia XZs packs a 2,900mAh battery, which we were skeptical of lasting more than a few hours of extensive usage. For an average user, with calls, messages, data-driven apps, music, and occasional gaming, the Xperia XZs will manage to survive through the day. But if you are a heavy gamer who likes to do a lot of internet-connected stuff on phone and even shoot videos, expect the phone to easily give you an 8-hour run. But that's usually an irregular use case scenario.
Sony is probably one of the few phones to have a unique yet useful placement for its fingerprint sensor. The biometric sensor is placed on the unlock/power button on the right, which is quite snappy and accurate. There's also a dedicated camera button to quickly launch and shoot moments in a fraction of a second.
Now to address the elephant in the room – the camera – we have done some quick research on how Xperia XZs strives to impress users. In the beginning of the article, we mentioned Sony sensors are behind most successful camera smartphones in the industry. On that notion, we had some really high expectations.
Sony Xperia XZs features a 19MP Motion Eye camera with a 1/ 2.3-inch Exmor RS memory sensor with Mobile BIONZ sensor, and predictive hybrid autofocus. This is really a great combination to excel in the camera department. There are some strong camera points and some disappointing weaknesses we wished Sony had done better.
Firstly, the Xperia XZs camera shoots great macro shots. If you want to get a close-up shot of your pet or even a flower, your reliance on the Xperia XZs cannot be hindered. However, the phone loses details in low-light landscape and portrait shoots. The camera tries to compensate for the lack of light by making the photos look neat as long as you don't zoom into the details. You'll notice distortion when you zoom into an image shot under challenging lighting.
But shooting in low-light conditions is better in terms of capturing more light, which can directly be credited to the sensor size. The photos appear bright, but that's not always the point. If the Xperia XZs is challenging handsets like Samsung Galaxy S8, LGG6 and Google Pixel, it really should have some strong backing there.
What we loved about the Xperia XZs camera is its ability to track subjects precisely and capture them without delay. Secondly, we have seen one of the best slow-mo video shots in the Xperia XZs. It also has 4K video recording, which adds to the clarity and details. But if you are planning to shoot videos or use the camera for too long, be prepared to see a warning message saying the phone's is too hot to continue using the camera. That's disappointing.
On the strong side, the Xperia XZs has some fun filters pre-loaded in the camera. We have a sample shot of how Xperia XZs uses its face-recognition to accurately place different masks and props on the subjects. There's no challenge there.
We also clicked various photos to show how the Xperia XZs captures under different conditions. In our view, the camera is decent for a flagship device and certainly not at par with rivals such as Google Pixel.
Besides the camera in low-light condition, we think the Xperia XZs is a complete package for those who demand performance, battery and great display quality from a phone. At Rs. 49,990, the Xperia XZs will have to struggle to remain in the top 5. It's just the consumer expectations from a flagship phones have gone too high and big players such as Apple, Samsung and Google are also upping the ante on this front. Sony needs some motivation to do the same and may be start by revolutionizing the design before moving into the hardware.