Sony and Verizon Wireless today announced the Xperia Z4v, a new flagship phone with a 20.7-megapixel camera and a high-res 2,560-by-1,600, 5.2-inch screen.
The Z4v is actually unique in Sony’s lineup; it isn’t just a copy of the international Z3+ and Z4, both of which have mere 1,920-by-1,080 screens. In a body the same size as the earlier Xperia Z3v, the Z4v now has that better screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, faster LTE, better low-light performance, a wide-angle front-facing camera, and the ability to play uncompressed audio to wireless headphones.
The Android Lollipop-powered Z4v is slightly smaller than last fall’s model at 5.7 by 2.8 by 0.33 inches, but not so much smaller that you’d notice. It isn’t a super-slim phone, but for many people that’s just fine. It’s banded to work on Verizon and to roam internationally, with LTE bands 2/3/4/5/7/13/20, although it’ll work somewhat—just not optimally—on AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon sells all of its phones unlocked, so you’ll be able to use a unit on AT&T or T-Mobile if you aren’t tied to a Verizon contract.
The Snapdragon 810 processor brings some new capabilities like quick-charging and 4K video recording, but most of the photo improvements here are from Sony. Most notably, Sony ramped up the maximum virtual ISO on the main camera to 12800, which the company says will dramatically improve low-light performance. In our recent camera showdown, we found the Z3 was good, but needed some more work, especially on the front camera.
Speaking to the front camera, Sony improved low-light performance and made it wider angle for group shots.
Music is another big focus here. Sony makes a big deal about its support for true 24-bit/192kHz music files, and is now pairing it with a new hi-res Bluetooth codec called LDAC. There are only one set of headphones that supports LDAC, though: the $399, new Sony MDR-1ABT headphones.
People with other kinds of headphones will get something called “automatic headphone compensation,” which equalizes your sound for the type of headphones you’re wearing.
Like the Z3v, the Z4v is water-resistant, although Sony gave some weird caveats about it not resisting salty or chlorinated water. As many people want to use their phone at the beach or the pool this summer, I can only hope the company is being over-cautious.
The Z4v also supports PS4 Remote Play, where the phone becomes a second screen for a PS4 game console that’s on the same home network.
The phone has a Snapdragon 810 processor, but Sony isn’t specifying the speed—perhaps because of the 810’s well-known overheating problems, which forced NTT DoCoMo to put a warning label on Japanese Z4 models. The Z4v may have the new second-generation 810 that doesn’t overheat as easily, or may be throttled to prevent overheating.
Sony has been delivering high-quality phones to various carriers for years, but it’s never managed to break through in sales. We gave the Z3v 4.5 stars and an Editors’ Choice, calling it better than the Samsung Galaxy S5$1.00 at Amazon and HTC One M8$1.00 at Amazon. But Sony’s never managed to parlay its high-quality devices into broad sales.
The Z4v will come in black and white models, and will arrive later this summer. Sony and Verizon didn’t announce a price, but it will probably be $199 with contract.