Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Premium yes, but competition is ahead

Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a top notch phone, there’s no doubt. The camera ticks the right boxes, the overall UI and performance is not bad, though it could be smoother. As far as premium goes, this phone covers it all, offering the complete package.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Written by Shruti Dhapola | Published:June 21, 2017 2:20 pm
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Sony Xperia XZ Premium is the second smartphone from the company after the Sony Z5 Premium to sport a 4K display, though this is a 4K HDR resolution display. This means Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium can play content shot in HDR format, and so far it has partnered with Amazon Prime Video for this HDR ready content. Also 4K videos on YouTube can be viewed in full resolution on this phone.

Sony has itself announced plans to concentrate on the premium category in the smartphone business, where the company is struggling to make a mark. Premium is not an easy category to play, given Apple and Samsung’s domination.

But the meaning of premium smartphones has also changed drastically over the last couple of years. OnePlus in particular has pushed this trend of introducing great specifications, including the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, which the Xperia also sports, at a mid-budget premium pricing. So how does Sony Xperia XZ Premium fare in our review? Will this be premium phone that sees some major success for the company? Here’s what we thought after using this phone.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium specifications: 5.5-inches 4K HDR display | Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor | 4GB RAM+64GB storage (expandable) | 19MP Motion Eye camera + 13 MP front camera | Android Nougat 7.1.1 | 3230 mAh battery

Sony Xperia XZ Premium price in India Rs 59,990

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Design, Display review

Sony Xperia XZ Premium has the familiar wide, angular design just like the previous generations past. It sports that glass and metal body just like the S8 series and the recent HTC U11, and LG G6. Like all these other phones, this is smudge city. You’ll need to keep a special tissue or cloth at hand to keep the phone sparkly clean. The Deep Sea Black colour review unit we got does have a unique reflective colour shiny all around, all of which screams premium. There’s Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back of this phone, but still best to get a cover. Getting a shattered display repaired isn’t cheap.

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Sony Xperia XZ Premium has the fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button, and there’s a dedicated camera button as well. While the fingerprint scanner is accurate, one major issue is that you might accidentally press the power button when you’re just trying to unlock the phone, which locks it all over again. This can be frustrating at times. Sony has a push slot for the SIM cards, and this is a dual-SIM smartphone with a dedicated slot for a memory card.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium has 5.5-inch display with 3840×2160 pixels resolution, but the company hasn’t done away with bezels on the side or top. At 5.5-inches, this is still an old-school display, and the phone is just slightly wider than the Galaxy S8+ which sports a bigger 6.2-inch Infinity Display. The angular design, and sharp edges also means this one isn’t always so comfortable when you’re trying to put it in your jeans pocket or use with one hand.

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Coming to the display, Sony Xperia XZ Premium has one that is vivid, bright, and competes with the likes of Samsung Galaxy S8 easily. When you check out the phone’s specs on benchmarking apps like Antutu or even CPU-Z, it shows 1080p as the resolution. However, once you’re watching 4K content, the resolution gets bumped up and screenshots that I took of 4K YouTube videos confirmed the 3840 resolution on this display. From a display perspective, Sony has winner here, except you’ll need a high quality internet to stream content at 4K.

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Sony Xperia XZ Premium Performance review

Sony Xperia XZ Premium is currently the only smartphone in India on sale with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, though HTC U11 just launched and the OnePlus 5 is coming soon. Xperia XZ Premium comes with 4GB RAM+64GB on board storage, and overall we didn’t face too many problems with running multiple apps on this smartphone.

In Antutu and GeekBench, this phone doesn’t exactly set the records on fire, which is disappointing for a smartphone launching in 2017. In Antutu, Sony Xperia XZ Premium scored even lower than the earlier Galaxy S7 series, and the older iPhone 6s, which is surprising. Of course, benchmark scores are not the be-all and end-all as far as performance goes. Multi-tasking, games like Asphalt 8 and Nova Legacy are not a problem, and visually it’s all very appealing.

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However, it’s not all smooth in this device. There were moments when the camera app didn’t open for me, and I had to restart the phone to get this issue sorted. And yes, the Sony problem of the device getting warm when pushed for too long is there. But I wouldn’t say the device becomes unusable, and on our temp gun, the maximum we got even with 4K video recording was 39, after around 5 minutes of video.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Camera review

Sony’s new phone sports a 19MP ‘Motion Eye’ camera, and this one also has the 960 FPS slow mode. Now the camera is something that takes time to getting used to. So the camera comes with “Predictive Capture”, which the company claims “buffers images one second before you press the shutter button, and lets you choose from a best of four images.” There are small differences between these shots, and you might not always see them when asked to pick the best shot. The Predictive Capture feature can be turned off in the settings though, and it will work better for action based shots.

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It comes with auto object tracking as well, so if you pick one object as the focus, the camera will ensure this stays in focus. For standard still shots, I would say the Sony Xperia XZ Premium delivers excellent results, and while the colours might seem over-saturated in some instances, the images themselves are also sharp and have enough detail. Of course, since you’re seeing this images on a gorgeous display makes a whole lot of difference, but there’s no denying the XZ Premium has a camera that does  perform well. Though I would say it struggles with pinks at times.

In low-light, the Xperia XZ Premium’s performance is also quite good. The pictures come out looking sharp, and while there is noise on the edges,the overall picture composition is good.

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Finally, the 960 FPS slow-motion mode is supposed to be the other highlight of this smartphone camera. Now, honestly it takes some time figuring out how this works While recording the video you need to press the button for it to record in the slow-mode. Yes, it is best to do this in bright-lit conditions, but even then there is too much noise. Sure the Super-slow video looks cool when you get it right, but this isn’t something I would want to use on a daily basis. Full marks to Sony for trying something new, but the implementation will take some time to perfect on smartphone cameras.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Battery, UI and Audio review

Battery is the unpredictable part of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. In the PC Mark battery test it scored around 4 hours plus, which is really not acceptable for a premium smartphone. Depending on your usage you can make this phone last for a day. I used this phone to listen to music all day, run WiFi hotspot and inevitably by the end of the day from 99 per cent it would be down to under 20 per cent.

On average, I’d say I was getting 8-10 hours with this phone, which is not so great for a premium phone. However, Sony has added its Stamina mode, which really pushes the battery usage beyond the average capacity. There were times when I expected the phone to be dead soon, because it had 12 per cent battery, and yet it would manage to last another hour or so.

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Sony Xperia XZ Premium comes with Android Nougat 7.1.1 with Sony’s Xperia UI on top. It is loaded with Sony’s own apps as well, and the UI isn’t so bad or clunky. Could I do without a Sony app folder on the phone? Sure, but this phone has enough storage to keep most people happy. Notifications from the Xperia Lounge can be annoying, and it’s best to turn these off.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium comes with High Resolution Audio and if you like listening to music on your device, you won’t be disappointed. If you have compressed audio files, you can upgrade their quality, but the setting only works with headphones. There’s also ClearAudio+ for headphones, which makes a noticeable difference to the audio quality. There are also equalizer presets for those who care to explore.

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Sony Xperia XZ Premium Verdict

There is no doubt that the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a top notch. The camera ticks the right boxes, the overall UI and performance is not bad, though it could be smoother.  However, this still has an outdated design and a display, which despite the 4K feature, looks old, and the heating problems haven’t gone away. Plus, the 960FPS video might not always live up to expectations. Sony Xperia XZ Premium might be one of the best bets from the company till now. The only problem: The competition seems to have gone ahead.

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