Sony Xperia XZ Premium hands-on review: the 4K smartphone with Snapdragon 835

Many people are loyal fans of the Sony brand, not just for their smartphones, but for their televisions, displays and image processors and sensors for cameras of all types. The new Sony Xpreia XZ Premium is the essence of each of Sony’s areas of focus. During Mobile World Congress 2017, we had the opportunity do a hands-on review of the Xperia XZ Premium for you.

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Sony Xperia XZ Premium release date and price

The Xperia XZ Premium was launched during the MWC 2017. Due to the processor in the XZ Premium, the Snapdragon 835, the smartphone will most likely only be available by about June. The XZ Premium will ship in Chrome and Black. Amazon UK briefly showed the handset as available to pre-order, confirming it was set for release from June 1, and that it’ll be priced at £649, making it just around the $800 mark. 

Sony Xperia XZ Premium design and build quality

Anyone expecting a revolution in design in the Sony Xperia XZ Premium will be disappointed. On this point, however, one can always disagree. Over the years design of the Xperia smartphones has become more refined, and loyal Sony fans have come to see the high recognition value of the Sony smartphones as a brand trademark.

Sony has certainly focused on the details for the new Xperia XZ Premium. The timeless OmniBalance design has been retained and the fingerprint scanner is still in the power button. A dedicated camera shutter button has been added, and can be found on the upper right edge when holding the phone horizontally.  

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Sony stays true to the OmniBalance design principles. / © AndroidPIT

Since Sony’s OmniBalance design is rather unspectacular to the lay person, the Xperia XZ Premium needs something else enticing to draw people to it. So, Sony offers the XZ Premium, like the Z5 Premium before it, in a very eye-catching Chrome color version. Both color versions, Chrome and Black, are protected against scratches on the front and back with Gorilla Glass 5. Gorilla Glass 5 is less vulnerable compared to the fourth generation, and it can withstand a fall from a greater height (1.6 m vs 1 m).

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The camera gets a physical button on the side. / © AndroidPIT

Unfortunately, the high-gloss finish covered with glass on both sides has a huge disadvantage: it’s a fingerprint magnet. You either have to wipe down the phone after each time you touch it, or cover it with a case. On the other hand, the build quality of the mix of the metal frame and the glass is outstanding.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium display

In terms of displays Sony can, as already mentioned at the beginning, reach into its own cabinet. For the company’s current flat-panel displays, the Japanese manufacturer increasingly relies on display panels with 4K resolution and HDR support. Why? In a nutshell, Sony closes the loop between the production of HDR content to the consumption of HDR content. Sony Pictures supplies content typically in 4K HDR, and then the corresponding media is presented in its optimal form on devices like the Sony TV and now also Xperia smartphones.

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The LCD display. / © AndroidPIT

Of course, an HDR display needs HDR content to showcase. This is what YouTube, Netflix and Amazon will bring, even on mobile devices. Whether the HDR display brings advantages to normal everyday smartphone use we will find out in our full review of the XZ Premium, as the device shown at MWC was a prototype. To illustrate what HDR displays offer in theory, you can watch the following video from Sony. 

The LG G6 and the recalled Galaxy Note 7 both already have HDR capability. The resolution and the pixel density of the XZ Premium speak volumes: 2,160 x 3,840 pixels and 801 ppi bring the 4K display of the Xperia XZ Premium to life. But, we will have to see whether this is noticeable in normal everyday situations. For the Z5 Premium, Sony had to explain that only while 4K content was being played was the display truly used as 4K. In normal situations, like when using traditional apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc., the display showed only Full HD because that’s all the apps support. The energy requirements of the 4K display need to be looked at still.

To what extent the higher resolution can also be useful for VR applications in the future, we unfortunately can’t say yet. In theory, VR applications can benefit from higher resolution. Whether this is quickly taken advantage of by the VR industry is unknown.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium software

The Xperia XZ Premium is equipped with Android 7.0 Nougat and the Xperia UI. Sony uses an almost stock Android interface and integrates a few of its own features. Since only one prototype was available to us at the Mobile World Congress, we can’t offer you any really well-founded insights about the software of the Xperia XZ Premium. However, as soon as we hold the final model in our hands and test it, we will give you our in-depth impressions. 

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The XZ Premium with Android Nougat. / © AndroidPIT

Sony Xperia XZ Premium performance

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor, Qualcomm’s latest development, which will probably be used in the Galaxy S8. The smartphone has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage, which can be expanded by up to 2 TB by MicroSD card.

The new Qualcomm chip is equipped with a strong LTE modem, the Snapdragon X16, which enables the XZ Premium to have download speeds of up to 1 GB per second. The new modem allows speeds that previously weren’t possible to get wirelessly. Unfortunately, mobile networks don’t yet support such speeds. This added value therefore has a rather theoretical character.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium audio

Sony attaches great importance to the audio quality of the XZ Premium. It is one of the main features of the smartphone, next to the screen and camera. The XZ Premium is equipped with stereo speakers, which are located on the front.

The smartphone supports the LDAC technology, which prevents loss of quality when the XZ Premium is connected to wireless loudspeakers or headphones. The DSEE technology, developed by Sony itself, is also used to provide better sound when playing MP3s. High-res audio is also supported by XZ Premium.

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The 3.5 mm headphone jack is still available. / © AndroidPIT

The model supports LDAC technology, which means that there is no loss of sound quality data when the XZ Premium is connected to wireless accessories such as speakers or headphones. In addition, other audio technologies are present in Xperia XZ Premium, such as the DSEE, developed by Sony and that intensifies the sound of MP3 files. It also supports high-definition audio.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera

The camera of the Xperia XZ Premium is a completely new development and is also installed in the Xperia XZs. At the heart of the new camera is the new three-layer sensor from the Sony Imaging division, which was unveiled on February 7, 2017. The newly added layer in the image sensor serves as a kind of additional buffer for image information. Thanks to this buffer, it is possible to record slow-motion video at up to 960 frames per second in Full HD. Not only does the new image sensor allow such slow-mo recordings, it should also be possible during a normal Full HD video recording to start a time-lapse recording. What that looks like was already shown at the presentation of the new image sensor.

In addition to these super slow-motion recordings, the image sensor has a maximum resolution of 19 MP. Each individual pixel should be large enough to ensure good images in poor lighting conditions. How big the pixels are was unfortunately left unanswered.

Another feature that Sony highlights with the camera of the Xperia XZ and XZ Premium is called Predictive Shot. This is to ensure that users of the Xperia XZs and XZ Premium never miss a moment. Short and sweet: as soon as the camera has started up, it is already capturing images so that some are already recorded by the time you press the shutter button. Afterwards, you can then select the best picture from a set of several pictures.

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The camera could be the main highlight of the XZ Premium. / © AndroidPIT

Was that all? No, there is another feature in the Sony Xperia XZ Premium and XZs camera. An image stabilizer is also available on board. Although Sony just says that five-axis image stabilization has been integrated, if you know Sony well enough, then you know that means that the Japanese company is once again using a technology that is already being used in another product world. Modern Sony cameras, such as the A7 SII full-size camera or the Alpha 6500 APS-C model, have a five-axis image stabilizer that is attached to the sensor. In conjunction with the gyroscope, shaking of the camera is compensated for. This should be used both with videos and photos.

As the Xperia XZ Premium at the Mobile World Congress was still in the prototype stage, we could not test the announced features in detail. Although it was possible for us to present you with our preliminary preview, the result was not yet satisfactory. There is still plenty of time for Sony to improve and optimize before sales start in June 2017. Until then, you can watch the following promo video for the new camera in the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium battery

Sony knows that a model with a 4K screen and a camera full of features is going to be a strong consumer of battery power. So much so that STAMINA mode now has a new category, which is called Smart STAMINA, that analyzes user behaviors and sends this data to Xperia Actions. This feature then offers advice that can make the 3,230 mAh battery last longer. 

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The charging port. / © AndroidPIT

Xperia Actions offers some tips based on the usage patterns of each user, such as turning off Bluetooth at certain times or turning off other functions that it does not use during certain periods during the day. Qnovo battery technology is also present here to extend the life of the battery despite the fast charging function.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium technical specifications

Dimensions: 156 x 77 x 7.9 mm
Weight: 195 g
Battery size: 3230 mAh
Screen size: 5.5 in
Display technology: LCD
Screen: 3840 x 2160 pixels (801 ppi)
Front camera: 13 megapixels
Rear camera: 19 megapixels
Android version: 7.0 – Nougat
User interface: Xperia UI
Internal storage: 64 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.45 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2

Early Verdict

There is no denying that the Xperia XZ Premium is what Sony itself calls “the best of Sony.” It is very interesting to note that Sony is one of the companies that has not given much attention to VR technology for mobile devices (let’s not forget the PS4), although it is investing in augmented reality with the Xperia Touch. But, in a way, the manufacturer is putting a smartphone on the market that has the perfect requirements for those who want to venture into the VR universe.

My first impression of the model was quite positive, at least on paper. Now, when it comes to reviewing here in the office, we’ll have the chance to thoroughly test Sony’s promises for the camera and other technologies like the 4K HDR screen, which make the XZ Premium a unique smartphone.

What do you think of Sony’s latest? Are you looking forward to getting your hands on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium? Let us know in the comments below.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

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