A year and a half after the release of the first smartphone with a 4K display, Xperia Z5 Premium, Sony is back on the market with the new Xperia XZ Premium. Apart from this record-breaking resolution, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium also includes several features that make it one of the most advanced smartphones in the world. While the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is quite impressive, the first thing you’ll notice is the outstanding finish, which combines plastic and metal with Gorilla Glass 5 for an exceptional feel in your hand. The Motion Eye camera with the option of recording slow-motion video with 960 fps and a 3230 mAh battery supporting QuickCharge 3.0 are just icing on the cake.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium
Sony Xperia XZ Premium Build & Design
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is the manufacturer’s first phone which uses Gorilla Glass 5 as the main material to define its finish. The entire front and rear surfaces are covered in this type of shatter-resistant glass. The handset’s left and right sides are curved and crafted out of plastic but Sony’s designers managed to execute this in a way to make things absolutely unnoticeable for users; we couldn’t feel the change in materials when we ran our fingers along the side of the phone. Of course, plastic sides contribute to the phone’s resilience if it should be dropped, just like the metal upper and bottom sides, which are perfectly flat.
The smooth surfaces might make the device feel a bit unsafe when held in hand — as if it might slip from your grasp — but the mass of the Xperia XZ Premium(almost 200 grams) gives it a touch of robustness. Our only objection to the design is that it’s extremely similar to its predecessors. Sony has been sticking to its guns for years, based on the very squared shape and minimalistic hidden keys on the right side. No matter how elegant and modern this solution is, it has become rather difficult to differentiate between individual Xperia models. It is time for something new, even though a touch of the old is a good thing in the sense that this handset is dust and water resistant.
The screen bezels are very large, but this is one of the design details where Sony has been ignoring the market trends. In addition, the control keys (Home, Back and Tasks) are located on the display itself (despite the large bezels providing more than enough room for physical buttons) and are a part of the user interface. This means you’ll only find perforations for the stereo speakers and microphone featured in the front (above and under the display), along with the front-facing camera and the Sony logo.
The rear side includes a perfectly flat camera lens and flash. The left side reveals a nano-SIM and microSD cards drawer. The right side includes the Power key with the volume controls above it and the physical camera activation and shooting key below it. The bottom side reveals the USB Type-C connector and the primary microphone, while the upper side holds the 3.5-mm audio jack and the secondary microphone. The phone’s dimensions are fairly large: 156 x 77 x 7.9 mm (6.14 x 3.03 x 0.32 in) and almost math those of iPhone 7 Plus.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium Display
The 4K display is one of the most interesting technical features of Sony Xperia XZ Premium, even though we had the opportunity of previously seeing this resolution on Xperia Z5 Premium a year and a half ago. Of course, the new display is much better compared to the old one, in every way. It finally boasts a pleasant, even impressive contrast and realistically saturated colors. To be precise, the screen has 3840 x 2160 pixels, which gives it a record pixel density of 807 ppi on a 5.46-inch diagonal (the older model featured 806 ppi because the screen had a 5.5-inch diagonal). In relation to the phone’s entire front surface, the display takes up 68.4 percent of the surface.
Another positive feature about the image quality is that the display supports HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology as well, a current must have in the world of flagship TV sets, which is why we noticed added levels of details in highlights and shadows along with richer contrast, which can be spotted with the naked eye.
This is the first mobile phone in the world to offer something like this. Deep black and pure white tones, good display brightness and realistic color interpretation result in a more enjoyable experience when using the phone in direct sunlight. Apple and Samsung’s flagships are arguably a shade better in terms of visibility in direct sunlight, but Sony is now well above average with Xperia XZ Premium.
When it comes to 4K resolution, it is fully used only for playing videos with the same resolution. When working with the basic user interface or applications, the device upscales the native resolution to 4K. When we are talking about everyday work, the difference in sharpness compared to Full HD is not evident on a screen of this size, but Sony did not plan to improve image sharpness with 4K resolution. The main application for the huge number of pixels is VR. Improved VR is almost certainly why Sony decided the Snapdragon 835 is a necessity for this handset. If you don’t care about using your phone as a VR headset the hardware is still useful for streaming HDR 4K video onto larger 4K displays.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium Performance and Battery Life
Sony’s current top model comes with Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 835 and has a 1 GBps LTE modem, a speed for which global carriers are just starting to upgrade their networks. What is somewhat disappointing is the fact that Xperia XZ Premium comes with just 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of memory storage – a higher level is expected from this year’s flagships – while plenty of rivals ran the extra mile by offering phones with 6 GB of RAM. However, 4 GB is still more than enough for current applications and games, especially with Adreno 540 graphics. Thus, Sony’s phone scores equally impressive results on synthetic benchmarks and in everyday work, where it is fully fluid in any situation. GeekBench 4 displays a score of 5840 for Xperia XZ Premium for multi-core measuring, while it scored 1940 for single-core, which approximately matches Samsung Galaxy S8’s score.
The 3230 mAh battery reveals above average battery life – since 4K resolution is rarely used and S835 is a well-optimized chipset. The phone will have no problems providing reliability until late at night, even with intense use, and it will still be running the next day with average use. It also has USB Type-C connector which supports QuickCharge 3.0 technology and Sony’s Qnovo technology that extends the battery’s life as the device predicts how long the user will keep it charging so that it can adjust the recharge rate of its capacity in the best possible manner.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium Camera
The Xperia XZ Premium is equipped with a 19-mega pixel camera, but distributed across a fairly large 1/2.3-inch sensor. To be precise, this is the biggest sensor among all this year’s flagship models and is a significant advantage that this model features. Its lens features a bright f/2.0 aperture but that is less impressive than most rival top-range models. Interestingly enough, Sony has omitted the sensor’s optical stabilization. It relies on electronic 5-axis stabilization, i.e. software stabilization instead. Such stabilization type is particularly powerful while recording videos.
Yet another headline feature when it comes to shooting video clips is super slow motion recording, based on 960 fps, which no other smartphone in the world can do at the time of this writing. In order to focus, Sony relies on a combined approach which includes a phase detection sensor and laser auto focus. Speaking about its ability to focus, the XZ Premium is one of only few smartphones with a dedicated shooting key. Just like on cameras, the key has two levels of pressure sensitivity and can be pressed half way down in order to focus on an object and then all the way down to capture the image. The front camera has the same aperture as the rear-facing one and a whole bunch of megapixels – 13 to be precise.
The camera software is well organized lacks certain options like enhanced depth-of-field (selective focus) for portraits. The manual settings mode is also limited, because the ISO option is hidden in the deeper menu, while the aperture and shutter speed cannot be controlled separately. The application does not even support recording in RAW format in this mode either.
Despite limited manual control, the images are among the best ones when it comes to this year’s flagship phones. The level of sharpness, visible details and lack of noise are above average. Sony still applies a default level of post-processing via software that touches up photographs – especially those taken during the night in poor lighting conditions – losing details as it removes noise, but this is acceptable with a fairly high resolution because there’s still plenty of detail.
The front includes a 13-mega pixel sensor, also with f/2.0 and a wider angle with 22 mm of focal length.
Sony is trying to make the Xperia XZ Premium interesting for demanding customers by using five key features: 4K HDR display, Snapdragon 835 processor, Motion Eye camera, premium fit and finish, and great battery life with Quick Charge 3.0 capability. It is clear that this model is a technological signpost for the flagships that are yet to come. If trendy gimmicks are added to these specifications – like extending the screen, dual cameras and edges responsive to touch – we get a clear picture of a future smartphone yet to be revealed. Free of such gimmicks, Sony’s new flagship will be one of the most coveted smartphones among developers, content creators and other early adopters.
- Exceptionally robust and reliable design and finish
- 4K HDR display better than the previous model
- Above average battery life
- Motion Eye camera with slow-motion video
- Display bezels are too large
- The phone’s mass and dimensions
- Only 4 GB of RAM
- Lack of 4K content
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