Review: Sony Xperia XZ Premium

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It wasn’t that long ago that we reviewed Sony’s last flagship; the Xperia X. The device which brought out some of the better points that we hand’t seen from Sony in a good while. Sony’s new flagship is an evolution of that device brings some impressive new specs to the table.

Sony are continuing their tradition of bringing out a new flagship every 6 months, instead of the usual year that we get from most companies. Sony has taking them some time to find their legs again, and the Xperia X was definitely a step in the right direction.

Let’s check out the new Xperia XZ Premium and see what it has to offer over it’s predecessor and against the competition.

  • Android OS, v7.1.1 (Nougat)
  • Display: 5.5″ Triluminos display, 4K resolution (803ppi) with Gorilla Glass
  • Design: Aluminum top and bottom with Polycarbonate sides (slightly curbed), Gorilla Glass 5 on front and back
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 835 (4 x 2.46GHz +4 x 1.9GHz), Adreno 540 GPU, 4GB RAM
  • Memory: 32GB Memory (64GB available), expandable with microSD card
  • Rear Camera: 19MP Sony IMX400 camera, f/2.0 lens, hybrid laser/phase detection/contrast AF, IR sensor for white balance, LED flash, 4K Video, 1080p@60fps, 720p 960fps (Limited).
  • Front Camera: 13MP camera with 1080p@30fps video
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, hotspot, DLNA, Bluetooth 5, NFC, GPS/GLONASS/Beidou/Galileo, 3.5 mm audio jack,
  • Modem: LTE Cat.16 (1Gbps/150 Mbps)
  • Other: Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic, 24-bit/192kHz Hi-Res audio, Fingerprint Sensor, Stereo Speakers, Quick Charge 3.0, USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
  • Dimensions:  156 x 77 x 7.9 mm Weight: 195 g
  • Battery: 3,230mAh

Already we can see some pretty substantial upgrades over Sony’s previous device. Sony are the only company to have a Smartphone featuring a 4K HDR display. They previously had a 4K smartphone with the Xperia Z5 Premium, but the overall quality left much to be desire. Sony are attempting the insane resolution on a smartphone once more and the HDR tag should mean much better quality this time around.

The Snapdragon 835 is the latest from Qualcomm, and we can already tell will do very nicely, but we will check out the benchmarks later and see how well it performs on the Xperia XZ Premium.

Lastly before we take a close look at the device, the Camera has gotten a decent upgrade, and don’t let the lower pixel count full you, the new IMX400 sensor inside the phone is one of the best from Sony and should provide us with some top of the line quality photos; along with 4K Video, and the newly added insane 720p@960fps. So that will be interesting to take a look at.

Let’s get right in and take a close look at the Xperia XZ Premium.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

The large 5.5-inch display takes up most of the front of the device, but we still have the usual layout on the front with no difference over the previous Xperia XZ. The device again sport front facing stereo speakers, which offer decent volume and balance.

  

We have a fairly slim device with subtle and natural curve around the polycarbonate edges; which allow for a great grip. The left side of the device has the removable flap for the MicroSD and NanoSim card.

Sony are including Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back of the device, which should prevent scratches or shattered to a decent excent. That being said, we always recommend a cover for expensive device such as these.

The right side for the phone contains the Power Button/Fingerprint Sensor, Volume buttons, and as always, a dedicated camera button. Those residing in the U.S will san the aforementioned Fingerprint sensor, which is a true shame, and still not completely understood, but word is that the sensor is actually in place, but disabled in software due to certain deals Sony have made within the US regarding fingerprint sensors on their devices’ explaining why not Sony device has a fingerprint sensor within the U.S.

On the back we have the included 19MP IMX400 sensor and laser focus/dual flash. We also have the Xperia branding and NFC icon. The back of the device is completely Gorilla Glass 5 and while this looks great and has slight decline into the side which works very well to compliment the look and give smooth feel; the glass is of course a huge fingerprint magnet that ultimately means wiping the back constantly to keep that fresh clean look.

Here we have the USB Type-C connector on the bottom of the device, and the main microphone.

Lastly we have the noise cancelling microphone and thankfully a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Sony’s newest flagship is a lean evolution of their previous Xperia XZ. This time around Sony have gone for a complete glass back with metal frame on the top and bottom and stylish curved polycarbonate sides.

This is definitely one of the nicest devices to come from Sony in a long time. As we mentioned above, the fingerprint magnet on the back is something to note, but looks great when it’s spotless.

UI

Sony almost always include a pretty vanilla version of Android, and thankfully their latest flagship get’s the same treatment. We mostly have what you get form a stock Android OS, but with the inclusion of some Sony specific apps.

It’s great to see a very clean version of the Android OS on the device and is a huge plus for Sony. Some of the custom launchers and skins that other makers like to include end up causing some extra lag, but everything is super smooth on the XZ Premium.

Camera UI

The camera UI has always been somewhat of a let down when it comes to Sony devices. Mostly because the camera’s themselves are always top notch, but lack some of the features/benefits that their competitors include.

Auto mode is where most will end up taking their photos, but it still lacks the ability to control HDR, which would be handy if you wanted to force a HDR shot.

Sony continue to keep the record and photo side of things separate. While not always an issue, it would be nice if they included both video and photos within the Auto Mode. Slow motion is launched by it’s own record button that’s permanently apart of the video recording mode.

Slow motion can be done in 3 modes. Single shot: which records 960fps for 2-3 seconds, Standard Slow-Mo: 30fps as standard with 960fps trigger when you want to get things super slow, and finally 720p@120fps continuous shooting.

Navigating the settings can be cumbersome, but you can get use too it after awhile. It does feel very stale that we have yet to get any form of update from Sony on the camera app. It sometimes even feels a little sluggish, which is a shame since the camera itself is stellar.

Lastly we have the mode section screen, which again shows 4K being a separate mode and not a part of the resolution options with the normal video mode. This is understandable, but considering this device has a 4K display, we would think 4K would be standard feature and not require a separate mode.

Photos and Video

As we mention above, the camera app doesn’t give many options unless you go full manual mode. So for that we have taken all of our usual images with different modes. First up we have the straight up Auto mode, then we have Manual Mode without HDR, and then again with HDR. We don’t expect much of a difference between some of the images, as they very well have the same settings, but in cases where they don’t, we felt it was important to include all of the shots.

Auto Mode

 

 

 

Manual Mode (HDR Off)

 

Manual Mode (HDR On)

Here we can see the included 19MP sensor is doing a fantastic hob. There was some issues with reflection on the lens, but not a faault of the camera, but merely the sun being in the way. The dedicated camera button also adds to the ease of taking great shots and doesn’t require the specific press on the screen.

It’s clear this is one of the best cameras to come out of Sony and the quality is remarkable.

Full size images

The above images are resized for viewing on the website. If you wish to check out the full size images, you can do so with the link below.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Full Size Photos

Videos

Now let’s take a look at some videos taken with the Xperia XZ Premium. The phone supports 1080p/1080p@60fps, 4K@30fps, and finally the new 720p@960fps. We have taken videos with all of the above resolutions and again including the different modes that are support. This includes the different stability options available.

1080p

1080P@60fps

720@960fps

4K

4K looks crisp and full of detail, but does lack the benefits of the intelligent active stability when shooting. The new slow motion video is extremely impressive, but lacks the ability to go long enough to really offer great functionality. The 2 second real time limit makes for a very narrow window to get something great, but none the less might provide some fun for a short while.

Benchmarks

Now it’s time to check out some performance on the Sandpragon 835 that powers the lovely Xperia XZ Premium. We run the benchmarks on the leading apps that anyone can download for free on the Play Store.

3D Mark Ice Storm Extreme 14372
3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited 40564
3D Mark Sling Shot 4933
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme 3659
Antutu 173611
Geekbench 3 Single-Core 1906
Geekbench 3 Multi-Core 6186
PC Mark Work 2.0 6542
PC Mark Computer Vision 3446
PC Mark Storage 4904
PC Mark Work 7452

Battery Life

Battery life is one of the most important aspects of any device, and something that Sony does better than you would expect with their typically low mAh batteries. This time we’re finally breaking the 3k mark with a decent 3,230mAh battery.

Our test is aimed at medium to heavy usage within a 12 hour period and we see how much percentage we have left. It’s not an exact test, but meant to represent how long you would get with typical usage in mind.

Phone Calls20-30 Minutes
Text message/Chat/EmailsThroughout the day(checking) and 20-30 sent
Photos10-20
Video recording20-30 Minutes
Internet browsingThroughout the day(around 30-40 minutes total)
Gaming30 Minutes
YouTube/Netflix30-40 Minutes
ConnectivityWiFi and 4G; mostly 4G
Screen Brightness50-percent

We’re glad to see Sony including a larger 3,230mAH battery this time around, as while Sony are great at conserving power when this get low, it’s important to have a fully capable device for as long as possible.

Thankfully the Xperia XZ Premium is one of Sony’s longest lasting devices in recent years, and after 12 hours of usage we had 41-percent battery life left, meaning two days usage shouldn’t be problem if you drop some gaming, or lower the brightness, or even simply use auto brightness.

It’s great too see Sony’ including a larger battery and we hope to see that trend continue.

Conclusion

Now it’s time to wrap up our review on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. Sony’s 6 month release cycle has given them plenty of chances to get things right, but the small adjustments over the past few years have finally led to something truly great.

Design

This is easily the best looking Sony device in recent years, and in complete honest it didn’t take much for Sony to make the adjustments necessary. The grip is easy and doesn’t feel influenced too much by the large device size, and the slight curve on the back definitely helps it from feeling like a slab.The weight is very reasonable and well balanced.

Ultimately it doesn’t scream much of an difference over their previous devices, but Sony have seemed to have found a design principle they like, and thankfully they have gotten it better each time. Since the device has Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back, we hope we have a strong phone for better durability.

Display

Sony haven’t backed down from the display game when it comes to mobile device, and they were the first with a 4K display on a mobile device, and again their the first with a 4K display with HDR. It may seem like a small difference, but that added factor of being HDR means we have fantastic colours and excellent brightness.

It’s impossible for the human eye to possibly registered the amount of pixels on this display (8 million if you had to know), and one of the most dense displays avaialble at 807ppi. Watching anything in 4K looked truly remarkable and really showed just how good this display really can be.

It must be noted that the 4K resolution isn’t actually running natively when your not showing 4K content. So when using the album app or video app and your watching 4K/HDR content, you have nothing to worry about.

It would have been better if Sony gave users to the option if they wish to take full advantage of the screen permanently, but if the GPU had to drive 4K resolution permanently, then of course battery life would suffer. None the less this is one of the best displays from Sony in a long time, and one of the best on the market.

Camera

A great area for Sony and their impressive sensors. The included IMX400 sensor and amazing focus ability make it one of the fastest and sharpest we have seen.

The video side of things again impress, but the camera app remove a few notches for lack of updates and cumbersome navigation. None the less the quality very impressive and great plus for the Xperia XZ Premium as one would expect.

The 960fps slow motion ability is amazing on paper and impressive when you strike a great moment when recording, but the 2-3 second real-time limit on recording at that speed makes it sometimes very difficult to truly benefit from the ability and as such makes the functionality mostly a gimmick.

Performance

Sony needed the best performance available for their latest flagship device and Qualcomms latest and greatest fits the bill perfectly. We have some of the top benchmark numbers around with the Sony Xperia XZ Premium showing king of the hill performance.

The user experience backs that up, with everything thrown at the device being handled perfectly. It’s easy to say that you won’t get better performance on an Android smartphone just yet, and that’s big props the Snapdragon 835 chipset from Qualcomm.

Battery performance has also thankfully improved, with previous Sony devices not doing as well as other phones on the market with similar specs. The Xperia XZ Premium gets all of the software love that we usual get from Sony with battery saving if things get too low, but now with an even bigger battery and in turn better longevity. We’re pleased to see Sony include a much larger battery, and hope this is something they stick with in the future.

Overall

That’s pretty much it for our review on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. It has taken Sony some time to find their legs again, but thankfully the Xperia XZ Premium truly does deliver and offers some of the best specs you can find on the market. The latest design takes a small leap forwards, but doesn’t offer anything truly new or unique like we’re seeing from other manufactures.

The 4K HDR display looks spectacular, 19MP camera shoots amazing photos and videos, and lastly performance is some of the best you can get on the market. This all with the decent enough design, and much improved battery life making it the best Sony have delivered.

We’re happy too see Sony making a bigger impact in the mobile business and hope the trend continues. As for pricing, Sony’s latest is in the same ballpark as most of their competitors, and in some cases a little cheaper, which is good to see, and this time makes sense since we have something definitely competes this time around.

It would be impossible to give this device anything other than Gold, and we happily recommend it to anyone looking for a beast of a device that brings amazing quality and performance to the table. Welcome back Sony.

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