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Sony's Xperia XZ flashes its 23-megapixel camera (hands-on)

The latest flagship plays to Sony's strengths with waterproofing and a lot of camera potential.

Jessica Dolcourt Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt's career with CNET began in 2006, and spans reviews, reporting, analysis and commentary for desktop software; mobile software, including the very first Android and iPhone apps and operating systems; and mobile hardware, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of practical advice on expansive topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read

Cameras are Sony's strength, so we took note when its Xperia XZ appeared with a 23-megapixel rear shooter and a 13-megapixel selfie cam. Partly because of the cameras, partly because of its metal build and partly because of the current Qualcomm 820 chipset, Sony considers the Xperia XZ a flagship phone of the X series. And so far it seems to mostly fit there, as far as the specs list goes -- especially compared to the tiny, plastic Xperia X Compact that shares the same megapixel-heavy rear camera. (That phone might well wind up being the better buy for casual users.)

This Sony Xperia XZ is a sliver of silver

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At 5.2 inches, the screen's a little smaller than some, which makes the body easier to maneuver with one hand. The resolution and battery capacity are a little lower, too. An IP68 rating makes the Xperia XZ -- named for its a stylistic cross between the Xperia Z and Xperia X Performance -- submergible in 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

Shop for Sony Xperiz XZ (Platinum, 32GB)

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I didn't get a whole lot of quality time with the camera in our hands-on briefing, so it's too soon to comment on image quality. But the camera is easy to operate with both tap and swipe controls, and there are plenty of filters. Lasers help with autofocus and an RGBC sensor promises to punch up lowlight scenes. More exacting photographers will find a manual mode.

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My complaint with Sony is that it (illogically) insists on turning off the fingerprint reader in the US. Globally, though, the power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader works quickly and accurately on other phones we've tested, like the Xperia X from earlier this year. Anyone Stateside who buys the US version of the XZ (or any other Sony phone) will have to do without that common security measure.

The Xperia XZ starts selling October in the US. We'll update with global pricing and availability as soon we have it.

Sony Xperia XZSony Xperia X Compact
Software Android 6.0.1 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Display 5.2-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels4.6-inch; 1,280x720 pixels
Construction Metal buildPolycarbonate (plastic) build
Rear camera 23-megapixel23-megapixel
Front-facing camera 13-megapixel5-megapixel
Processor Snapdragon 820Snapdragon 650
Storage 32GB/64GB32GB of storage
Battery 2,900 mAh2,700 mAh
Fingerprint reader Globally; Not in USGlobally; Not in US
Waterproofing IP68None

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