Hands on: Sony’s monolithic Xperia XZ and tiny Xperia X Compact

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Sony is at IFA 2016 – and it has brought phones with it(Credit: David Nield/New Atlas)

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IFA 2016 is only just getting underway and already we've seen a wave of new tech announced by the big names. Today Sony took its turn, with two major new major Xperia X handsets to show off, and New Atlas was there to take a look.

Earlier this year at Mobile World Congress we saw three Xperia X phones, with the X Performance model the pick of the bunch. The new Xperia XZ ups the stakes just a notch: It has a slightly larger 5.2-inch 1080p display, an improved camera and a bigger battery, as well as a few tweaks in the looks department.

For those with smaller hands or just a preference for a smaller handset, there's the Xperia X Compact too, a 4.6-inch 720p phone running a more modest Snapdragon 650 processor. It has a ceramic finish, rather than the metal of the Xperia XZ, but both phones look like monoliths that have been slightly curved around the edges.

And from what we could tell from our hands-on time in Sony's demo area, that works just fine – both phones have a smooth, shiny finish that's at odds with the brushed metal look of many other 2016 handsets, but they definitely don't feel cheap or poorly made.

The Xperia XZ builds on the X Performance released earlier in the year(Credit: David Nield/New Atlas)

In fact, the more time you spend with the Xperia XZ and the Xperia X Compact, the more you come around to Sony's way of thinking. The technique the manufacturer has used to blur the lines between front, edge and back gives the impression of an S7 Edge-style curved screen (though it's not).

Sony calls this a "unified design with loop surface" (we can only imagine the marketing meetings leading up to that decision) and it looks like the 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith with its edges carefully rounded at the sides. It's actually more impressive than it might look in these pictures, and while everyone has a different idea of what makes a phone aesthetically pleasing to the eye, there's no doubt these phones feel very well made.

The 4.6-inch Xperia X Compact can, as you would expect, be easily clasped in one hand, though it doesn't ever feel too small. Thanks to some slim-looking bezels down the sides, there's still plenty of screen to work with.

In a hands-on session like these we can only really give you our first impressions of a phone's look and feel, and the area where Sony is claiming the biggest jump forward is one we couldn't really check out – the camera.

The Xperia X Compact's key feature is its small size, with a 4.6-inch screen a rarity in 2016(Credit: David Nield/New Atlas)

There are three sensors packed into the camera on these handsets, one handling laser autofocus, one an RGBC infrared sensor and the other acting as the main sensor (which, this being Sony, should be excellent). Sony says that gives images that are sharper, better balanced and more natural in a range of challenging conditions.

We'll have to reserve judgement for a full review, and whether that camera upgrade is enough to tempt people away from their current handset manufacturer of choice remains to be seen, but based on first impressions we like what Sony has done here.

In the US at least, the Xperia X Compact is out first at the end of September, with the Xperia XZ following a month later. There are no prices confirmed for either as yet.

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