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Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Ahead of its time
Sony has been manufacturing technology products from quite a while. The company is well known for its big screen LEDs, impressive audio devices and top class cameras. Sony has also made a name for itself in the mobile phone industry by giving this world some of the best Android devices after the smartphones was introduced to this world.
- Premium and durable design
- 4K HDR display is a delight
- immersive audio and gaming performance
- Amazing camera
- lag free performance
- A bit bulky
- Fingerprint magnet and slippery design
- battery performance could have been better
However, the company's smartphone lineup has never managed to grab the No. 1 position in terms of sales figure. But when it comes to innovation and quality, Sony has never failed to disappoint consumers.
The company's latest offering in the mobile world is Xperia XZ Premium. A flagship Android smartphone, indeed a pricey affair but combining the best of company's experience of creating top class audio, video and camera products. Sony Xperia XZ Premium brings the world's first 4K HDR display on a mobile phone.
It can record super slow motion videos at 960 fps, another industry's first feature for a mobile device. It is powered by the latest Snapdragon 835 CPU and also aims to deliver the best of audio experience, all packed inside a premium metal-glass constructed device that also keeps a close check on durability.
This brings us to the question- Is it the true Flagship smartphone of the year 2017? Let's try to find this out with the review of Sony Xperia XZ Premium.
Design: Premium and durable but not much handy
Durability and style goes side by side with the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. While the smartphone instantly makes an impression with its glass-metal construction, it also boasts Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on front and rear side to maintain a robust design.
The highly reflective Glass at the rear panel does give the handset a premium feel, but at the same time it also makes the device quite prone to smudges making it a nightmare for users who love their mobile devices to be free of fingerprints. It's just impossible to keep the Xperia XZ Premium free of smudges; however I can adjust with that as the XZ premium looks amazing and will surely turn heads as soon as you take the phone out from your pocket.
And it's not just the rear panel that makes the XZ Premium a great looking device, the diamond cut edges with perfectly rounded corners are just impossible to ignore. These edges hold the frame firmly, protect the device from accidental drops and also create a nice light-bending effect.
While Samsung and LG are adopting new and unconventional screen sizes, Sony is still sticking with the traditional approach, which in the case of Xperia XZ Premium is a bit of step back. Unlike the taller and curvier flagships from LG and Samsung, Sony Xperia XZ Premium feels a bit bulky and has noticeable bezels on top and bottom of the screen, which are even visible on the Chrome variant. The all boxy design with no curves also makes it difficult for the handset to nestle easily in the hands.
If you have used the latest Galaxy S8/S8+ or LG G6, you will instantly feel the difference. A bulky phone with slippery metal-glass construction does not add to an ergonomic design in everyday use. However there's a bright side of those large bezels on top and bottom of the screen. These spaces work as a good resting spots for your thumbs where they don't interfere with the screen while you watch videos or play games. Something you will find irritating with the bezel-less tall display devices launched by LG and Samsung.
As far as controls go, Sony has done a neat job. Sony Xperia XZ Premium has two stereo speakers placed on the front fascia, giving you ample of sound while you play games or stream videos. The fingerprint sensor positioned on the right side is in the reach of your thumb (right handed) and index finger in case you are left handed.
It's fast and unlocked the phone with 4 out of 5 attempts in my usage. Sony's dedicated camera button on the same side is just amazing for camera use. The volume rockers are also placed on the right side. The SIM card tray is on the left.
As you are paying a hefty amount, Sony is also making sure your phone stays protected from dust and water. The smartphone is IP68 certified making it easy for you to click pictures, record super slow motion videos even if it's raining heavily or you are taking a dip in a pool (not sea).
Summing up all, Sony Xperia XZ Premium come out as the most premium and polished Sony handset I have come across in a while. It's built on the experience that Sony has achieved in the last few years by manufacturing some of the best-looking Android devices.
It also maintains the durability standard by offering dust and water resistivity. But now when I have used the new Galaxy S8 and LG G6, I wish Sony had also worked on cutting the extra bulk to make the handset a bit more practical and ergonomic in everyday use.
Display: Sony’s Bravia powered 4K HDR display delivers the most lifelike videos
Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a clear cut winner in display department, on papers, and in real-life as well. While the screen is super crisp, churns out some mind-boggling pixel count, the very fact that it feels so buttery fluid while you swipe your fingers on it, is something you can only experience while using the handset. A good touch response is the most basic requirement for a touch-screen device and the XZ premium scores full marks in it.
Coming on the number part, the smartphone flaunts a 4K HDR screen which is the first for a mobile phone. Technically, this is not the first 4K and HDR display; however the combination of 4K resolution and HDR capability makes it the first of its kind. We have previously seen the 4K panel on Sony's Xperia Z5 Premium but it did not have the HDR technology, something that makes the Xperia XZ Premium quite interesting.
There's so much going on underneath the display when you are streaming a video, playing a game or simply looking at a static image. The display utilizes Sony's super-resolution that examines each pixel and reproduces the ones that are missing.
The display technology also keeps a check on noise levels and produce clear output by taking care of textures and outlines in the content you are viewing. Moreover, the display uses Sony's Bravia TV technology and results in better rendering of highlights and shadows. The colors pops out better and you get to see more of dynamic range on a mobile device.
In real-life use, Xperia XZ Premium offers the most lifelike video playback experience in the market today, something that has to be seen from one's own eyes to be believed. And for this, you need 4K compatible content which you can source from Amazon Prime or Netflix subscription.
This brings us to the fact that Sony Xperia XZ Premium feels a bit ahead of time for now as there's not much of 4K content available easily in the market. In that case a 2K screen, and even 1080p in some cases seems workable. Sony Xperia XZ Premium here seems like a guy who's a baseball champ in the nation of Cricket lovers.
Camera: Sony’s best optics in a compact form factor
There's not much to talk about the camera. It's for the fact that it is the same 19MP Motion Eye Camera that we have previously tested on Xperia XZs. The camera has an Exmor RS mobile memory stacked sensor which has its own set of memory to capture and scan imaging data. This gives the 19MP camera an ability to read the image resolution with 5x faster speed than the other smartphones to minimize distortion while capturing moving objects. Besides, the stacked memory also allows the camera to save images at a faster rate. The camera also has Triple image sensing technology, Predictive Hybrid Autofocus and can record Super Slow motion videos at 960 fps.
In real-life usage, the camera captures a wide frame as it is equipped with a 25 mm wide angle G lens by Sony with aperture value of F2.0. The camera offers 8x digital zoom and also comes equipped with 5-axis stablization and can also record videos in 4K format.
The super slow motion videos are recorded in 720p resolution and run in standard fps until you press the toggle button to start recording in 960fps. The 720p video resolution might not sound impressive at first but the fact that how tough it is to integrate such kind of slow-motion camera tech in a small form factor is truly amazing. Give it a year or two and Sony will extend the HD resolution to full HD to make the super slow motion videos even more compelling and workable. You can check our first impression video of Xperia XZ Premium on GIZBOT YouTube channel to see the video sample recorded in 960 fps.
The still images look highly detailed and maintain good contrast levels. I have compared the camera samples of Xperia XZ Premium with HTC U11 and found that the colour levels on the former are a bit on saturated side. The HTC U11 with its highest rates DxO mark camera was able to give more natural colour tones in daylight photography.
You can check the below samples to better understand the image output from the 19MP rear camera. The 13MP front camera that works on a 22 mm wide angle lens and F2.0 aperture is also a decent shooter.
Hardware: Great audio and immersive gaming experience
The smartphone leaves no stone unturned in processing and multitasking department, so I will focus on other important factors such as audio and gaming. But just to give you a hint of the underlying machinery, Sony Xperia XZ Premium is backed by the latest and fastest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. There is 4GB of RAM to take care of multitasking and 64GB built-in storage, which can be expanded further by 256GB via microSD card. While we have more powerful devices in today's time on papers offering the same CPU but double the RAM, this is also a winning combination and will make sure you never feel stuck on everyday and strenuous tasks.
Coming onto the audio part, Sony Xperia XZ Premium will come as a delight for audiophiles, who prefur music with or without headphones. The smartphone has Sony's proprietary DSEE HX technology that transforms the audio quality of compressed files to near Hi-Res audio. Basically it restores high-range sound and theoretically works only for wired headphones.
In real-life usage you will instantly feel a difference in audio quality while listening to a track. The handset also supports high-resolution audio and also comes equipped with digital noise cancelling. Moreover you also get stereo speakers with stereo recording that deliver loud and clear sound.
As far as gaming is concerned, the game play is smooth and graphics on the 5.5-inch 4K display are rendered beautifully. I did not come across any frame drops even with settings set to maximum while playing Asphalt 8 and Injustice 2.
Software: Much cleaner and lag free Xperia UI over Nougat
To complement the flagship hardware, Sony Xperia XZ Premium runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat with Sony's Xperia UI on top of it. Likewise Xperia XZs, the user interface on Xperia XZ Premium feels less cluttered and works without any glitches. The user interface works much more efficiently than the ones on Samsung's latest Galaxy devices and even the current HTC U11 I am using these days.
Sony has also thrown in its regular freebies. These include Sony's signature apps such as Sony Lounge, Movie maker, Sony Liv, What's new, etc. You can download apps, games, themes and read news on these pre-installed apps. While some of these come really useful, a number of them might come as unnecessary additions to some users. Thankfully, you can disable them for a less Son-y-fied user experience.
The XZ Premium also comes with Xperia Actions, which is basically the next gen version of Xperia tips to provide weather, place and time based suggestions to simplify daily life scenarios.
Battery and Connectivity
Sony Xperia XZ Premium is powered by a 3,230 mAh battery unit that also gets Quick Charge 3.0. The battery's firepower seems to be on a lower side as it has to support a 4K HDR panel; however the smartphone did manage to last a day on a single charge. I guess Sony's built-in power optimization management mode actually works in keeping a close eye on your smartphone usage and charging patterns.
However, it is worth mention that with such an amazing display onboard, you are forced to stream graphics heavy videos and games, which does take a toll on the battery power. So in case you are streaming too many videos on the phone or playing games on a stretch, keep a charger handy with you.
As far as connectivity is concerned, Sony Xperia XZ Premium comes with VoLTE, A-GNSS (GPS+GLONASS), WiFi Miracast, Bluetooth 5.0, DLNA, Google Cast, NFC and USB 3.1 Type C.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium is ‘Alpha among Alphas'. It is by all means a flagship smartphone that can give other flagships a run for their money when it comes to features. The smartphone might not look as fancy as the Galaxy S8 and S8+ due to its standard screen size and boxy looks, but it's design gives you a sense of confidence in day-to-day handling and it is as premium as a smartphone can get in today's time.
The 4K HDR screen, the super slow motion video support, robust construction, immersive audio, fluid software and the speedy Snapdragon 835 CPU are some of its top qualities that impressed us during the course of reviewing this near perfect product.
The price tag of Rs. 60k seems quite heavy on pocket for a mobile device, but the payback in the form of world's first 4K HDR display, the Motion Eye camera, and all above mentioned features is much appreciated.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a smartphone built in present to last for future.