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printed June 27, 2017
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Hands On with the Sony Xperia XZs

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Feb 27, 2017, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

The XZs is a carry-over from last year. Sony took the XZs and gave it many of the amazing powers lurking under the hood of the XZ Premium, such as the camera sensor and image processor. The XZs is a better phone than last year's, even if it looks mostly the same. Here are our first thoughts.

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I'm somewhat disappointed with Sony. The XZ was a fine phone last year, but people like to see companies change things up once in a while. We gave Apple plenty of grief for recycling the iPhone 6 into the iPhone 6s and into the iPhone 7, so I have to give Sony grief for doing the same thing with the XZ and now the XZs.

The XZs is a compact metal-and-glass phone that doesn't dazzle like the XZ Premium, and in fact is starting to look a bit dated. The phone has a metal frame with glass on the front and back. The glass panels fit into the frame well. The top and bottom edges are perfectly flat, while the side edges are rounded nicely. Believe it or not, this is Sony's true flagship for the year due to its price tag (which we'll get to in a bit).

XZs  

The phone is rather long thanks to the screen size and large top and bottom bezels. Sony's phones have been this way for a long time and I don't expect them to change too soon. It is slim enough that you can easily store it in a pocket and the weight and build quality are nice.

The 5.5-inch full HD screen is quite good, though I am surprised Sony hasn't made the jump to quad HD with its flagship, as so many of its competitors have. That said, the full HD display still looks very nice thanks to the bright panel, sharp resolution, and over-saturated colors. It's great for watching videos or looking at pictures.

You'll find all the controls on the right edge of the phone. Believe it or not, the XZs has a dedicated camera button and it's perched close to the bottom edge of the phone. It is a two-stage key that has good travel and feedback. I can dig it. The volume toggle is actually next. It's a little too low on the side for my tastes. I'd prefer the toggle to be up a bit more, as I accidentally hit it fairly often. The screen lock button is close to the middle and is recessed somewhat. On international models, the screen long button doubles as a fingerprint reader, but the US version will lack that feature (don't ask why). The action is okay, not great.

I like the glass rear panel, though I'd like it more if it didn't have a large plastic section filling in at the bottom. I understand Sony had to do that for the radios, but it doesn't look that great. The hatch covering the SIM and memory cards is on the left edge, the 3.5mm headset jack is on the top, and the USB-C port is on the bottom.

As noted, the XZs has the same camera sensor and camera software of the XZ Premium, but it doesn't have the Snapdragon 835 powering it. Instead, Sony went with the Snapdragon 820 — not even the 821. Sony refused to answer why. However, the company would say that the camera sensor and associated ISP are powerful enough on their own without the Snapdragon and the XZs performs just as well as the XZ Premium. That can only be proven in the photography field of battle.

My biggest gripe with the XZs is the price. It goes on sale in early April for $700. Yep, it costs more than a base iPhone or Galaxy S7. Sony should not be charging a penny over $600, let alone $700. I fear it just can't compete at that price and is probably best left to Sony enthusiasts who want the camera alone.

XZs Screens  

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