Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review
Sony’s top Android smartphone offering has all the bells and whistles to make it a viable contender against other top dogs. While Samsung and LG have opted to go with an all-screen phone, Sony is still taking the simple path. With its tried and tested design language, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium looks just like another Xperia phone, but for some, that’s a good thing. Here’s our review.
Design and Construction
The Xperia XZ Premium inherits the design of the Xperia XZ we reviewed. Frankly, every Xperia handset looks similar to each other. Their uniform design language is consistent throughout the Xperia line of smartphones.
Up front, we have the 5.5-inch 4K display and to compliment it, the phone has front-facing stereo speakers that sound better than most flagship phones. The 13MP selfie camera is situated above the display along with the earpiece and a couple of sensors. Perhaps the main gripe we have so far is the ridiculous amount of bezel this phone has as it only holds a 68.4% screen-to-body ratio. This makes the phone feel bigger on hand compared to other phones with the same display sizes.
To the right of the handset are the physical buttons of the phone. Here we have the volume rocker, power/lock button, and the dedicated shutter key we see on most Xperia phones. The fingerprint scanner is integrated into the power/lock button — another usual Xperia aspect.
On the left is the hybrid card tray. It’s easy to access, unlike other phones that need a pin to eject the tray. The phone automatically restarts everytime you pull out the card tray, just so you know.
Down below is the USB Type-C port and the main microphone while up top is the 3.5mm headphone jack and the secondary noise-cancelling microphone.
At the back, we have a shiny Gorilla Glass 5 rear panel. It gets smudgy real quick so it’s best to keep a microfiber cloth around to keep it clean. Ignoring your reflection when checking the back will show you the main 19MP rear shooter and its sensors and LED flash. The NFC is position in the middle.
It’s easy to say that the Xperia XZ Premium is not the most ergonomic phone in the market. The sharp edges of the top and bottom frame are quite cumbersome on the palm. But, it’s undeniably well-built and speaks the Xperia language.
Display and Multimedia
The phone’s 5.5-inch (but it’s 5.46-inch to be precise) display is an IPS LCD equipped with Sony’s proprietary technologies like X-Reality Engine and Triluminos display. It has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels or simply 4K. Having 4K at this size gives us a whopping 807ppi making it one of the sharpest display available in the market. Lastly, it’s also capable of showing HDR content whenever available.
Sony being Sony, the company has invested a lot on the display and, honestly, it’s one of the best display you can put slip inside your pocket. The downside is the limited library of 4K content that you can consume. Also, 4K will drain your battery faster than usual, so Sony reserves the 4K power when you’re only playing 4K content like your own videos and from streaming services. For the rest of the time you use your phone, it’s automatically rendering in 1080p only.
A pair of front-facing speakers compliments the display. It’s stereo, clear, and gets loud when in a closed environment, but not the loudest. Playing games, YouTube videos, and even Spotify is something we enjoy on the phone. We hear no distortion even at max volume.
OS, Apps, and UI
We have Android 7.1.1 Nougat onboard the Xperia XZ Premium with slight customization from Sony. As with all new Xperia phones, the skin is light so things are pretty close to stock. The modification is mostly cosmetic to provide a consistent UI experience throughout Sony phones, may it be new or old.
There are some preinstalled apps aside Google and Sony’s own suite, including Facebook, Spotify, Amazon Shopping, Amazon Prime Video (where you can get 4K HDR content), and AVG Protection. You can’t uninstall these apps though but you can disable them if you want to.
Every Nougat feature is present including split-screen apps, improved notification panel, and better Settings layout. Things run smoothly everywhere in the system. And, based on previous releases, Sony keeps its promise to deliver updates as soon as possible especially for its flagship devices.
Apart from the 4K display, another advanced feature of the Xperia XZ Premium is its camera. You’d always expect Sony to put its best sensor on its own phone, right? If the display has the familiar tech Sony offers with its other products, same goes with the camera. There’s the G Lens, Exmor RS sensor, and BIONZ image processor. But, what’s new here is what Sony calls Motion Eye which brags predictive capture and super-slow video at 960fps.
The rear camera is a 19MP shooter equipped with a hybrid autofocus system combining predictive phase detection, laser, and contrast. It also has a 5-axis electronic image stabilization (EIS) utilizing its gyro sensor. Since its only EIS, it maxes out its stabilization support up to Full HD recording only, leaving no 4K video stabilization.
The stills captured by the rear camera look sharp, detailed, and well-saturated. Thanks to the advanced AF system onboard, autofocus is quick to lock on — most of the time. It has its own struggle in the dark environments. There are also a number of shooting modes available in the camera app including manual controls. The front-facing camera, on the other hand, is not left behind to be just a secondary camera. It’s a 13MP shooter with autofocus for the sharp selfie you wanted. It has a wide-angle lens to fit more people in a shot but distorts solo portrait a bit.
As for videos, it can do up to 2160p or 4K at a steady framerate of 30fps. If you switch to 1080p, you can capture at a smoother 60fps. Like with the photos, the video recording capability here is top notch. It’s detailed and the stabilization feature for 1080p video works just fine. Check it out:
If a 120fps slow-mo video isn’t enough for you, the Motion Eye camera of the Xperia XZ Premium can please you better with its 960fps capture. But, there’s a catch to it — it only captures a second of the whole video footage.
Unlike with other slow-motion cameras wherein you capture the whole scene and edit the slow-mo portion afterward, you have to precisely hit the button during recording to get that 960fps clip. It’s tricky to capture the right moment. Also, it’s best to shoot in bright environments as the super slow-mo mode doesn’t allow a lot of light to pass through the sensor. Check out the sample:
We do know that a continuous 960fps capture requires a lot of processing power but if Sony was able to deliver that on a mobile phone, we’d be very impressed. For now, this is what Sony can offer, and it’s not something you’d take advantage every time you need to do video.
Performance and Benchmarks
The phone is powered by the top chipset available from Qualcomm — the Snapdragon 835. The Xperia XZ Premium was actually the first one to have it onboard, it just didn’t hit the market sooner than the Galaxy S8. Along with octa-core processor is the Adreno 540 GPU and 4GB of RAM. It’s easily a flagship setup even though we’ve seen more RAM with other phones in the market that are even cheaper.
Since you’re already paying a premium for this phone, you can expect nothing short of a stellar performance. The Xperia XZ Premium feels a lot smoother and refined than most phones in the Android-verse. Sony must have done some good optimization with the chipset and its software to provide a lag-free, iOS-like smoothness. We usually see stutter when browsing web pages with other phones, even some flagship, but not with this one. The light skin on top of the latest Android software also helps here.
There’s nothing worry about gaming, too. You can play games with high settings, and even unlock some of the extra graphic setting thanks to the Adreno 540 GPU. Overheating is not an issue during our time with the phone. The phone gets warm after half an hour of continuous racing on Asphalt Extreme but the wide borders of the phones keep your grip away from the source of heat.
As always, here are the benchmark scores we got from the device:
- AnTuTu Benchmark v6.2.7 – 148159
- Geekbench 4 – 1906 (Single), 5662 (Multi)
- PCMark – 6628 (Work 2.0), 7925 (Work 1.0), 4205 (Storage)
- 3DMark – 3203 (Sling Shot Extreme)
- AndroBench 5 – 672.94MB/s (Seq. Read), 206.37MB/s (Seq. Write)
Call Quality and Connectivity
Since the earpiece also acts as a loudspeaker as part of the stereo setup of the phone, it’s louder than usual. This equates to better voice calls, especially when on a VoIP. Cellular phone calls are clear as long you have good reception.
The unit we have accepts two Nano SIM cards but the second tray can trade it for a microSD card when you need more storage. The phone has a number of LTE bands and it fully supports what local telcos use including the 700MHz Band 28.
We were able to get good speeds around the Metro under Globe’s network but, as always, it varies from time to time.
Despite the large body size of the Xperia XZ Premium, it only has a 3230mAh battery. We’ve seen bigger capacities in smaller dimensions but the battery can already last for a whole day. With our personal usage, we get enough juice to keep us entertained as we wrap our work day. We get around 4 to 5 hours of screen-on-time.
Bundled inside the retail box is a Quick Charge 3.0 charger. We were able to get 25% juice within 30 minutes of charging. Getting to a full 100% charge daily is a bit tricky since the phone smartly controls the charging times to preserve the health of its battery. A full 100% charge takes about 2 hours since it trickles down the current. Most of the time, after charging it for an hour, it’s at around 80%.
Author’s note: PCMark kept on crashing during the battery test.
Is the Xperia XZ Premium the best flagship for 2017? If you value performance, great camera, and attractive design, it could be the one for you. Sony stuck to the basics of a smartphone and focused on camera features to keep it on top. While the bezels are not exactly 2017 standards, the display makes up for everything. Perhaps what we can just say about the XZ Premium is that it wasn’t able to introduce us to something new except for the super slow-mo video novelty.
The handset is officially available in the country for Php45,490. Our unit was lent to us by Widget City and they offer the handset at a cheaper Php41,999 tag. See listing here.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium specs:
5.5-inch 4K HDR Triluminos display
X-Reality, Dynamic Contrast Enhancement
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 64-bit CPU
Adreno 540 GPU
Up to 256GB microSD
19MP 1/2.3″ Exmor RS Motion Eye rear camera w/ Hybrid AF
Super slow motion 960fps video capture
SteadyShot w/ Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stabilization)
13MP 1/3.06″ Exmor RS front camera
GPS with aGPS support
Android 7.1 Nougat
3,230mAh Li-Ion non-removable battery
What we liked about it:
- Excellent performance
- Great camera
- Good multimedia features
What we didn’t:
- Finicky super slow-mo capture
- Uncomfortable to hold