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Google Pixel phone vs Sony Xperia XZ: Which is best for me?

We compare the new ‘made by Google’ Pixel phone, with Sony’s 2016 flagship mobile the Xperia XZ. What’s the difference in terms of specs, camera tech and other features, and which one is best for you? Here’s our Pixel phone vs Xperia XZ comparison review.

Just this week, Google pulled back the curtain on its 5-inch flagship Pixel phone, packing premium specs for a super-premium price. The Pixel boasts a sharp and colourful Full HD screen, the latest Snapdragon processor and a powerful 12-megapixel camera, but it’s also just as expensive as other flagship phones like Apple’s iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7.

So how does the Pixel compare with Sony’s Xperia XZ, another super-powered Android handset that just hit the UK last month? Here’s our full Pixel vs Xperia XZ comparison review to help you decide. And have a gander at our full hands-on review of the 5-inch Pixel phone, to learn more.

Check out our hands-on Pixel XL review too, where we share our first thoughts on the super-sized 5.5-inch version of the Pixel phone.

Google Pixel phone vs Xperia XZ: Specs at a glance

Phone Google Pixel Sony Xperia XZ
Screen size 5-inches 5.2-inches
Screen resolution Full HD 1920×1080 Full HD 1920×1080
Weight 143g 161g
Fingerprint sensor? Yes Yes
Water resistant? No Yes
OS Android 7.1 Nougat Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Processor Snapdragon 821 Snapdragon 820
Memory 4GB 4GB
Storage 32/128GB 32/64GB
MicroSD? No Yes
Battery 2770mAh 2900mAh
Rear camera 12-megapixel 23-megapixel
Front camera 8-megapixel 13-megapixel
Price From £599 From £500

Google Pixel phone vs Xperia XZ: Design

Sony’s Xperia XZ is a proper hand-filler, although just about usable one-handed. Those rounded edges makes it quite comfortable to hold, while the matte metallic surfacing gives an attractive finish in a selection of shades. It’s not impervious to scratches sadly, although these are difficult to see unless the light catches the phone just right.

Google’s Pixel phone is more compact and a little lighter too, with a slender design that’s well suited to one-handed use. Around the back you’ll find an unusual blend of glass and metal, which certainly stands out from the rest of the smartphone crowd. It feels quite hardy but we’ll be testing that out when we use the Pixel phone as our full-time handset.

The Pixel phone isn’t water resistant, unlike the Xperia XZ, so you probably shouldn’t check your Twitter feed in the bath or anything.

Google Pixel phone vs Xperia XZ: Screen and media

Both the Pixel phone and the HTC 10 sport a sharp Full HD screen, which means you’ll struggle to make out individual pixels. With either handset you get rich colours that really pop and bring images to life. And both phones will be easy to use in harsh sunlight, thanks to those powerful brightness levels.

Sony’s Xperia XZ also supports Hi-Res audio when your plug in headphones, for a super-detailed musical experience. In our brief play, the Pixel phone didn’t seem to offer the same support. The Pixel phone also doesn’t have a microSD memory card slot so you can’t expand the on-board storage. Although there is a 128GB model, if you’ve got £699 hanging around in your wallet. Thankfully the XZ does support microSD, so you can fill up a massive card with loads of movies and more.

Google Pixel phone vs Xperia XZ: OS and features

Sony’s Xperia XZ still uses Android Marshmallow, which was released last year, just like every other flagship Android from 2016. But the Pixel phone comes with the latest Android Nougat pre-installed – no surprise, as this is a ‘made by Google’ mobile. This gives you Google’s new Assistant AI straight out of the box, which is basically a step beyond Google Now with its context-aware helpfulness.

Of course, the Xperia XZ should get an update to full Nougat soon, but you won’t get the Assistant feature because Google is saving that for Pixel handsets alone. Bums.

The good news for gamers is that the Xperia XZ does support Remote Play, which means you can stream your PS4 gaming sessions straight to your phone. You can even pair your PS4 controller, with zero latency to spoil the show.

Both phones pack a fingerprint sensor, to quickly and securely unlock to your desktops. On the Xperia XZ this is mounted on the edge, while the Pixel phone’s is stuck around the back. Both are easy and intuitive to use.

Google Pixel phone vs Xperia XZ: Performance and battery life

Gamers and media fans will enjoy a smooth everyday performance from the Xperia XZ, thanks to the Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM stuffed inside. We’re not expecting to see any sign of slowdown any time soon.

That said, the new Pixel phone uses the latest Snapdragon 821 processor, which promises a ten percent increase in performance over the old 820 chipset. In terms of real-life experience, there’s unlikely to be any real difference between these two mobiles, at least for some time – but in a year or two, the Pixel may be the smoother operator of these two.

As for battery life, the Xperia XZ gives you at least a day of heavy use per charge. And of course it supports fast charging, to get you powered up and ready to rock in no time at all. We’re yet to test the Pixel phone’s battery life, but early word is that the Pixel can keep going for even longer. Fast charging is again supported, while both handsets use Type-C USB for power and data transfer.

Google Pixel phone vs Xperia XZ: Cameras

When we get our review sample of the Pixel phone we’ll be thoroughly testing the 12-megapixel rear camera, but in our hands-on tests it certainly seems to be a worthy flagship snapper. You can take rapid-fire shots and there’s zero shutter lag, just like on the iPhone 7’s excellent camera. Just tap and your photo takes instantly.

Our test photos were pleasingly detailed, although unlikely to beat the Xperia XZ’s output. Sony’s 23-megapixel camera really impresses with its sharp, attractive images, and the XZ’s new triple-sensor tech works well in low-light conditions. Check out our in-depth Xperia XZ camera review for full samples and more.

Both of these phones can capture up to 4K resolution video, with strong image stabilisation to cut down on shakes and judders. If you shoot a lot of home movies, you don’t need to lean towards one phone or the other.

Google Pixel phone vs Xperia XZ: Price and verdict

When it comes to cost, the Xperia XZ and Google Pixel phone both pack a premium price. However, it’s possible to pick up the Xperia XZ on contract for less cash than the Pixel, and in terms of specs and features there’s not a massive gap between them.

You can grab the Sony Xperia XZ from O2, from £37 per month with no up-front cost. Check out our round-up of the best Pixel phone UK deals.

Stay tuned for our full Google Pixel phone review.