Sony Xperia XZ – Review

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The Xperia XZ has been the flagship for Sony this year 2016 and XZ is placed in the top premium segment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdY4IJguI0k

There are two variants of the Sony Xperia XZ. I’ve been testing the Singapore version, which support dual SIM, 64GB storage and  3GB of RAM. There’s also a Xperia Compact model that has a mid range processor, and comes with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. I will be reviewing the latest Sony flagship Xperia XZ retails at: $998 (without contract).

The Sony Xperia XZ comes with powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 MSM8996 64bits Architecture Quad-Core 14nm FinFET  2.15Ghz processor and a Adreno 530 Graphics processor packed into system on the chip [SoC]. It also comes with dual channel 3GB of Low-power LPDDR4 RAM. The phone packs with 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded up to 256GB via a microSD card. Xperia XZ is IP68 water- and dust-resistant, so you can safely immerse it up to depths of one meter and Dust-resistance.

The design comes with a nylon frame, scratch-resistant front glass and an aluminium alloy metal at the back. Xperia XZ sports a 23-megapixel rear camera with Sony IMX300 CMOS sensor and f/2.0 aperture. It is capable of recording 4K videos apart from 1080p and 720p videos. It also sports a 13-megapixel front camera,  f/2.0, 22mm, 1/3″ sensor size.

The Sony Xperia XZ features a beautifully laminated screen with  5.2-inch Full HD display (1080 x 1920 pixels) Gorilla Glass 4 of an IPS with pixel densities of 424ppi and comes with Sony famous technology display  “Triluminous” & “X-Reality”.

If you plan to use two SIM cards will not be able to utilize a MicroSD card. A memory card is supported, but to do so, you will have to give up one of your SIM card slots.

Processor: Snapdragon 820 with Adreno 530 GPU

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The Snapdragon 820 is the first 800-series chipset to be built on a power-efficient 14nm FinFET process, this allows its four Kyro cores to be clocked at over 2.15GHz and the graphics processor has been upgraded from Adreno 430 to a newer generation Adreno 530. This is the third 800-class chip (after the 800, 810) to record 4K  UHD video (with supports both AVC and HEVC codecs); it also supports up to 28MP cameras with its dual ISP. It’s paired with an X12 modem for Cat. 7 LTE – up to 600Mbps downloads and 150Mbps uploads. The chipset also supports Wi-Fi 802.11ac.

Audio: 24-bit DAC, High-Res built-in for headset support.

  • Qualcomm WCD9335 Audio Codec

The Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec has an integrated DAC (Digital-to-Analog) converter that supports up to 192-kHz/24-bit playback. The audio codec also supports dual oscillators; the dual-clock design supports sampling frequencies 44.1kHz and 48kHz independently so your music files can be processed at native sampling rates without any conversion.

Once the analog signal is converted by the DAC, it still needs to be amplified for the headphone experience. The Aqstc audio codec is designed to deliver the amplification performance that is usually captured by impressive SNR and THD+N numbers. For audio geeks, SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) and THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion + N) are specs that determine the dynamic range and signal purity.

  • Qualcomm WSA8810 Amplifier

The Qualcomm Aqstic smart PA (Power Amplifier) is another piece engineered to deliver even more oomph to your external speakers. Your music can be loud and crystal-clear thanks to the wide dynamic range and low noise floor on the smart PA. It also features Speaker Protection that protects your speakers from damage when pushing volumes levels beyond normal range.

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The dual speakers and smart amplifier that provides clear and defined sound. Users can enjoy Hi-Res Audio that provides up four-times-better sound quality than CDs.

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If you have a high definition Bluetooth “aptX” headset and you will be able to enjoy on the Sony Xperia XZ. Qualcomm aptX make use of the Bluetooth connection data pipeline to transmit bits of data between devices and the pipeline has a maximum width, it can flow large audio files to the device. AptX also solves the problem of sending pure audio wirelessly over Bluetooth by reducing the size of the audio files so they can be squeezed through the wireless pipeline without affecting the sound quality.
AptX supports music resolutions of up to 24-bit/96kHz which is actually better than the quality of audio stored on CDs which is 16-bit/44.1kHz.

Audio Settings:

You can enable Sony DSEE HX or ClearAudio+ feature.

  • Enable DSEE HX will disable all functions of sound effects and dynamic Normalizer
  • Enable ClearAudio+ will disable all functions of sound effects

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Sony had already developed DSEE technology (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) – a signal processing technology which converted compressed sound such as MP3s to CD-quality sound by recreating the high frequency signal lost when compressing files. The technology converts both compressed sound and CD-quality sound (uncompressed or lossless 44.1kHz/16bit) to near Hi-Res quality sound by recreating higher frequency signals and finer signals (Sampling frequency up to 96kHz and bit depth up to 24bit if you’re a details person).

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ClearAudio+ is a special sound field that detects a music tract that the user is currently playing, then selects the best sound field to deliver the best possible sound listening experience. Hence, you may hear a different sound effect whenever a tract with a different audio format is played.

GPS Navigation Testing

GPS Signal Support
A-GPS –
Assisted Global Positioning System
United States Navigation Satellite System
GLONASS –
Global Navigation Satellite System
Russian Navigation Satellite System
BDS –
BeiDou Navigation Satellite System
Chinese Satellite Navigation System

When we test the phone in the middle of the Helix Bridge, the phone can capture a GPS signal and show an accurate location. We able to connect 19 satellite signal under the hot sun and we walk around to track the GPS signal and it shows good result.

Camera

The Snapdragon 820 will debut with the new Qualcomm Spectra™ image signal processing (ISP) unit, designed to support superior DSLR-quality photography and enhanced computer vision.

The state of the art dual ISP design produces superior camera image quality and experiences. Qualcomm Spectra supports the latest sensors for a wider range of colors and more natural skin tones. Users can also expect better photos through the hybrid autofocus framework and multi-sensor fusion algorithms that support next generation computational photography.

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Qualcomm Spectra ISP is Qualcomm Technologies’ most advanced dual-imaging signal processing unit to-date, integrated and designed to provide best-in-class camera image quality and end-user benefits, including:

  • Superior image quality, with more natural skin tones via advanced, dual ISPs supporting up to 2 simultaneous cameras (e.g. one facing the user, and one rear facing), and up to 25 megapixels at 30 frames per-second with zero shutter lag;
  • Improved photos with Qualcomm Spectra ISP’s flexible hybrid autofocus framework and multi-sensor fusion algorithms supporting next generation computational photography;
  • Improved power efficiency when compared to previous generations, better noise immunity and higher throughput via advanced compression techniques and use of the latest MIPI serial C-PHY interface; and
  • Next generation Computer Vision and other use cases via direct-to-DSP raw bayer data streaming and pre-processing capabilities.

What is Sony Exmor RS?

The Exmor RS is a Sony’s improved CMOS image sensor achieves high-resolution, high-performance and compact size by having a stacked sensor technology. With a higher density of sensors that processes analog to digital conversion, a overall more accurate image can be produced.

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Exmor RS 23MP Exmor RS for mobile image sensor – More details and less noise

  • The high sensitive 1/23″ Exmor RS image sensor allows you to snap highly detailed shots with low noise

G Lens – 24mm G Lens with aperture F2.0 for bright photos even in dark conditions

  • Praised for its light-gathering capthering capabilities, Sony’s  G Lens excels in dark conditions. The main camera has 24 mm wide angle G Lens with a bright F2.0 aperture.

BionZ for mobile – For mobile image processing clearer photos with true colours

  • Sony’s intelligent BIONZ imaging processor employs power full algorithms to generate beautiful images. Is suppresses colour and luminance noise for enhanced colour reproduction, richer tonal graduations and clearer photos.

An important feature of the Xperia XZ cameras is it’s 5-axis electronic image stabilization (EIS), laser auto-focus, phase detection AF (PDAF), Predictive Hybrid Autofocus technology and RGBC-IR sensor. It aims to reduce camera shakes, thus improving night shot quality with a longer exposed shutter speed, automatically tracks your object as it moves and accurately adjusts the white balance based on the light source in the environment..

Sony triple image sensing technology & camera features:

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Image sensor – Fast and accurate autofocus with the Predictive Hybrid AF capability to track objects for sharper photos of moving subjects.

Laser AF – Assists the main sensor to detect the distance to the subject even in low-light conditions to capture sharp images.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG-do8ltJ8U

RGBC-IR  Adds accuracy to the main sensor’s auto white balance and lets it capture true-to-life colours in bright sunlight or poor lighting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MASBntELeAY

  • Five-axis video EIS – Sony Xperia XZ is the first smartphone to support 5 – axis stabilization, reducing camera shake occurring in five different directions.
  • PDAF function – The high speed auto focus technology.
    This technology has the following merits compared with a conventional one (contrast AF)

Predictive Hybrid Autofocus

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Sony Mobile introduced Predictive Hybrid Autofocus in the Xperia X and X Performance, the first Sony handsets to support this feature and the new Xperia XZ also included. The feature enables a user to focus on a particular object which will then be intelligently tracked, predicting where that object will move and thus keeping it in focus throughout.
To see Predictive Hybrid Autofocus in action, check out the video below.

Camera Apps

You can select more camera feature on the camera apps option and you can add more from play store.

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Camera AR effect

AR (Augmented Reality) effects to your pictures and videos! Take pictures and videos with virtual scenes and characters with the AR effect application.
There are many themes you can create pictures with growling dinosaurs, have fairies walk on your desk, attach masks to your friends’ faces, and much more.

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Sony is heavily advertising the camera capabilities of the Xperia XZ with the new triple image sensing technology. On paper, the Xperia XZ comes with the familiar f/2.0 23 MP rear camera with 1/2.3″ IMX300 RS sensor, which has the same specifications as the Xperia Z5. Overall, how well does the camera perform and does it meet the demand of photography enthusiasts?

The 24mm equivalent field-of-view isn’t new to Sony Xperia phones but will be well-appreciated by people who love landscape photography. Having a wide angle lens would also means that you don’t need to step far away from your subjects when taking group photos.

The f/2.0 aperture however, is definitely not a feature worth boasting about. Considering that the Xperia XZ is Sony’s latest flagship, the company should catch up with the competition as more flagship phones are already moving towards having f/1.7 or f/1.8 apertures. As photos taken by mobile phone cameras generally suffer from high noise due to the tiny image sensors, having a bigger aperture would be useful when you need to take hand-held photos in low light situations.

The addition of manual function in the camera application allows us to explore and expand our creativity, creating interesting shots that can’t be achieved with auto mode. For example, we can capture simple light trails along a busy road and introduce intentional motion blur to our photos. Through slower shutter speed, we can also capture images with minimal noise in low light situation due to eliminating the need for high ISO. However, the manual mode is not really entirely ‘manual’ but more of a shutter priority mode. The application allows you to manually adjust white balance, exposure compensation, shutter speed, and focus. In my opinion, it is not a deal breaker for excluding the adjustment of aperture as most of the time, I don’t see the need to play around with the depth of field on mobile phone camera due to the tiny image sensor. For shutter speed, you can manually adjust it from 1/4000 sec to 1 sec.

Although 1 sec is sufficient for most of the time to capture night scene effectively with relatively low noise, I believe most photography enthusiasts would still love to be able to explore their creativity beyond the 1 sec limitation, such as performing interesting light painting or creating that silky smooth water in your images. This is something that I do hope Sony would consider implementing in future updates.

Main camera

Model number Number of effective pixels Sensor size (diagonal) Unit cell size Subpixel layout Phase detection autofocus Gyro Image Stabilization Lens Software stabilization
IMX300 5520 x 4140
23MP
7.87 mm (1/2.3″) 1.1 μm RGB Yes Yes 24mm wide-angle G Lens F.20 5 – Axis

Front Camera

Number of effective pixels Sensor size (diagonal) Subpixel layout Phase detection autofocus Gyro Image Stabilization Lens Software stabilization
3120 x 4160
13MP
(1/3″) RGB Yes Yes 22mm wide-angle G Lens F.20 5 – Axis

Camera resolution settings
I highly recommend configuring camera settings to 20MP (16:9) aspect ratio. You will spot the difference between 23MP (4:3) and 20MP (16:9) below.

Daylight Photoshoot

Auto Mode 8MP, f/2, ISO-40

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Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

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Auto Mode 23MP, f/2, ISO-40

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Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

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Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

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Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40 

Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

Auto Mode 20MP, f/2, ISO-40

Night Photoshoot

White balance and colour is generally very accurate and well managed even in tricky environments.

The JPEG image quality captured by the camera is very good in ample light situation. For higher ISO such as 1000 and above, images do suffer from loss of sharpness and detail due to JPEG processing and strong noise reduction effect being applied. Unfortunately, there is no option to shoot in RAW, which means that you won’t be able to bring back those lost detail and do your own processing instead.

Manual Mode 8MP, f/2 Shutter: 1s, ISO-40

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Auto Mode 8MP, f/2 Shutter: 1/16s, ISO-1000

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Cropped Image

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Personally, I don’t see the need for such high megapixels especially on a mobile phone. More pixels would means that the individual pixel size would be smaller. Smaller pixels are more sensitive to camera shake, as a smaller movement will cause the image to move across more pixels. However, if you are able steady your camera by using a tripod, I believe you’ll be pleased with the amount of detail the camera is able to capture in high megapixel setting. If you’re hand-holding the camera, it’ll be better to shoot in 8MP or lower in low light situations.

Manual Mode 20MP, f/2 Shutter: 1s, ISO-64

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Cropped Image

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Manual Mode 20MP, f/2 Shutter: 1s, ISO-80

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Cropped Image

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Manual Mode 20MP, f/2 Shutter: 1s, ISO-200

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Manual Mode 8MP, f/2 Shutter: 1s, ISO-80

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Manual Mode 20MP, f/2 Shutter: 1s, ISO-250

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Video Test – Daylight

We are going to show you what 5-Axis Stabilization Can Do?

I did a quick test on the daylight to see the difference of the 5-axis stabilization. The 5-axis did a very impressive job and the video was smooth on both resolutions.

Full HD: 1080P  – 60fps

4K resolution – 30fps

Full HD: 1080P – 60fps

 

Video Test – Night 

The 5-axis didn’t work well during night video shooting and you can notice traces of micro-jitters throughout the clip.

Full HD: 1080P – 60fps

4K resolution  – 30fps

Full HD: 1080P – 60fps

4K resolution  – 30fps

 

Motion Shot

The motion shot app has a limitation of resolution up to HD (1280x 720).

During our video shooting the phone get heated up and the camera apps will show you this warning notice.

Battery life & Charging speed

Sony Battery Care

Charging your phone overnight is convenient, but if left plugged in after it’s fully charged, battery life degrades. Battery Care solves this by learning your wake up time. It charges to 90%, pauses, then tops up to 100% to start your day.

STAMINA Mode for when you need it most

When you really need to eke out your battery power, switch on STAMINA Mode. With three power saving levels to choose from, it automatically adjusts your settings to keep your phone active for longer.

  • Battery time preferred

Phone, email and browse as normal, but restrict battery guzzling functions like background data and GPS.

  • Balanced power saving

Save power without losing all the everyday smartphone features you love.

  • Device performance preferred

Use your phone as normal and restrict only high power use like image enhancement.

Quick Charge 3.0: Next-gen fast charging technology

Quick Charge 3.0 employs Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage (INOV), an algorithm which allows your portable device to determine what power level to request at any point in time, enabling optimum power transfer while maximizing efficiency. It also supports wider voltage options, allowing a mobile device to dynamically adjust to the ideal voltage level supported by that specific device. Specifically, Quick Charge 3.0 offers a more granular range of voltages: 200mV increments, from 3.6V to 20V. That way your phone can target one of dozens of power levels.

We will use Anker PowerPort+ 6 with Quick Charge 3.0 charger to benchmark the charging speed.

  • 1st Test: YouTube playback loop with 100% brightness, Volume 100% and wireless connection only.
  • 2nd Test: Quick charge 3.0 to charge the phone from 1% to 100%
  • 3rd Test: Fast charging to charge the phone from 1% to 100%

[Quick Charger 3.0 Charger did not include in the package and you need to buy Sony Quick Charger UCH12 – Quick charge 3.0 from the Sony store.]

Performance Benchmark

We will be testing the performance of the two devices “Nexus 6P and Samsung Note 3” against Sony Xperia XZ.

Model Sony Xperia XZ Nexus 6P Samsung Note 3
Display 5.2 inch 5.7 inch 5.7 inch
Resolution 1080 x 1920 FHD 1440 x 2560 QHD 1080 x 1920 FHD
Processor Snapdragon 820 Snapdragon 810 Snapdragon 800
Clock speed 300Mhz – 2150Mhz 380Mhz – 1550Mhz 300Mhz – 2260Mhz
Cores 4 Cores 8 Cores 4 Cores
Graphics Snapdragon Adreno 530 Snapdragon Adreno 430 Snapdragon Adreno 330
RAM DDR4L – 3GB DDR4L – 3GB DDR3L – 3GB
Memory 64GB 64GB 32GB
Android version 6.0.1 7.1.1 5

 

PCMark for Android

PCMark for Android introduces a fresh approach to benchmarking smartphones and tablets. It measures the performance and battery life of the device as a complete unit rather than a set of isolated components. And its tests are based on common, everyday tasks instead of abstract algorithms.

 

3DMark for Android
3DMark is used by millions of people, hundreds of hardware review sites and many of the world’s leading technology companies. It’s the industry standard benchmark for graphics performance measurement, a professional-grade tool available to home users for free.

AnTuTu Bechmark

AnTuTu Benchmark is a comprehensive Android Benchmarking application. It includes “Memory Performance”, “CPU Integer Performance”, “CPU Floating Point Performance”, “2D and 3D Graphics Performance”, “SD card read-write speed”, “Database IO” performance testing.

AS SD Benchmark

Use A1 SD Benchmark your phone & tablet SD card, RAM and memory, to test IO read / write speed (Quick, Long, Random I/O and Accurate) and check media performance.

Vellamo Benchmark

Vellamo is designed to be an accurate, easy-to-use suite of system-level benchmarks for devices based on Android 4.0 forward. In Vellamo we want to enable performance enthusiasts to really understand their system, and how it compares to other systems, and our mission has just begun. Vellamo began as a mobile web benchmarking tool that today has expanded to include three primary Chapters. The Browser Chapter evaluates mobile web browser performance, the Multicore Chapter measures the synergy of multiple CPU cores, and the Metal Chapter measures the single core CPU subsystem performance of mobile processors.

GeekBench

Geekbench 4 includes updated CPU tests that model real-world tasks and applications. These tests are designed to quickly and accurately measure mobile CPU performance. Every Geekbench 4 CPU test is multi-core aware, allowing Geekbench 4 to measure the full potential of your device’s CPU.

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