Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Design
The body looks like a cross between the previous Premium and last year’s XZ flagship with a rounded form that sits nicely in the hand and is capped by finely milled metal that looks great against the light. The XZ Premium is one of an increasing number of phones caught up in the growing trend of mirror-finish colourways and the Luminous Chrome option is to be avoided if you don’t want to constantly stare at smudges, fingerprints or scuffs. Instead opt for the Deepsea Black option, which takes on a classier, subtle green hue and better hides scratches (there’s also a Bronze Pink option, if that’s more your thing).
Despite being an absolute palm-filler (it’s taller and wider than the decidedly chunky Pixel XL), the curved sides, relatively narrow waistline and considered button placement make it just about comfortable to wield in a single mitt, even if swiping around will still prove trying for smaller-handed folk.
The side-mounted power button doubles as an incredibly snappy fingerprint sensor, there’s Gorilla Glass 5 protecting the front, a microSD and nanoSIM slot reside under a sealed port on the left side, whilst the phone also features a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and an exposed USB-C port all the while boasting IP68 dust and water resistance, matching that of key rival the Galaxy S8.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Screen and media
It’s great to see that Sony has distilled down both its technical and entertainment know-how in order to supercharge the XZ Premium’s multimedia chops.
The 5.5-inch 16:9 IPS Triluminos display packs in an insane 807ppi as a result of its 4K resolution and by adding in HDR10 support, it’s also a world first. Of course, such a screen is only as good as the content available for it (a challenge similar to the one faced by the original Z5 Premium) and right now pickings are unsurprisingly slim.
It’s a joy to look at in everyday use, with Sony’s own X-Reality Engine and a few display tools on offer to customise the look of standard content but right now its real potential can only be glimpsed using dedicated sample footage. Support for streaming compatible content from the likes of Amazon and Netflix is yet to materialise (the latter has just added support for Dolby Vision on LG G6 but not HDR10) and there’s no clear date as to when it will be made available.
As for audio, the dual front-facing speakers offer solid overall volume and don’t readily distort sound, which is as much as we can hope for. Dive into the settings and you can also fiddle with an integrated equaliser, upscale standard-resolution music tracks to near Hi-Res audio standard and there’s even support for noise-cancelling headphones.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: OS
The Premium’s Android 7.1 user experience adopts some considered modifications from Sony, like a greater level of personalisation with home screen tweaks and downloadable themes on offer. There’s also integrated activity tracking via the Lifelog app and split-screen multitasking which is now a native part of Nougat that works particularly well on the phone’s expansive and crisp screen.
Whilst there’s some doubling up with regards to Sony’s own offerings sitting alongside Google’s, some might find added value in the likes of the SideView app for film and TV listings, as well as the News Suite.
The XZ Premium also boasts PS4 Remote Play compatibility and the preloaded PlayStation app also links you through to the wider PlayStation community – a trait unique to Sony phones out-the-box.
We also have to praise Sony for its excellent Assistant app, which helps new users find out how to leverage the power of their new mobile powerhouse whilst also putting easy-to-use battery and resource management tools at users’ fingertips, all in one place.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Performance and battery
It should come as no surprise that as the first phone through Recombu Towers powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 we were excited to road test the XZ Premium and it didn’t disappoint. It benchmarks within the same realm as the comparable Galaxy S8 and S8+ and in general usage seems completely at ease with everything you throw at it, with no sign of significant heat build-up (a common issue with previous Sony flagships). Provided Sony keeps on top of software optimisation, the Premium should remain a fast and fluid phone for the length of your standard 24-month contract without issue.
64GB of internal storage seems like the standard fare for a 2017 flagship smartphone and will only really give users cause for concern if they plan on watching 4K content and nothing else. Luckily, the aforementioned expandability should also help as you can slot in anything up to a 256GB microSD card if your Premium does start to feel a little cramped.
As for longevity, in general usage the XZ Premium nails Sony’s promise of all-day battery life and paired to some smart power management tech dubbed ‘Battery Care’, should also degrade more gracefully over time. We managed four hours of screen-on time much of which was occupied by gaming, so expect closer to five hours in general usage. What’s more, STAMINA mode is as ever on-hand should you need the phone to hold out a little longer before getting back to a plug point.
Despite the processor’s native support for Qualcomm’s next generation Quick Charge 4.0 standard, the XZ Premium packs the 3.0 iteration instead, giving you over 60 per cent charge of the 3230mAh cell after 45 minutes at the plug, more than enough to get through the day.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Camera
By going Premium you’re also getting the first Sony phone with the company’s Motion Eye sensor technology, which replaces the tri-sensor used by the XZ and drops the megapixel count to 19 (meaning images process faster) whilst also increasing individual pixel size for improved low light performance.
Paired with a wealth of other imaging wizardry according to Sony shots should appear 19 per cent brighter with 50 per cent less noise and whilst we haven’t taken out a light meter to check, they do look bloody incredible. Low light shots are particularly arresting for all the right reasons but the XZ Premium also boasts a super snappy shutter and one of the most competent iterations of its Superior Auto mode that we’ve ever seen – ideal for fuss-free photography.
As well as AR modes, creative effects, manual control and 4K video recording, all of which we’ve seen on previous Sony phones, the XZ Premium also one other rather unique talent with its Super Slow Motion video recording, something we previously described as having to be seen to be believed.
Thanks to onboard memory stacked within the camera itself, the XZ Premium can capture 0.18 seconds of 720p HD video at 960 frames per second, around four times more than the next best slow motion mode on a phone. Whilst it doesn’t sound like much, slow that footage down to 30 frames per second and you’ll almost always get some pretty spectacular results.
There’s so much to talk about with the XZ Premium’s snapper setup that we could only really do it justice in a dedicated camera review.
Read next: Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera review
Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Verdict
For most people, the Xperia XZ Premium’s headline features are more party pieces than key reasons to buy it, but even without them, this is a truly solid top-tier flagship.
What’s more, it undercuts its predecessor by £50 (the Z5 Premium was £699 when it first launched) and its biggest rivals, both the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ as well as Google’s Pixel XL and the iPhone 7 Plus.
If you’re already a Sony fan looking for a new high-end blower then there’s no real way in which the XZ Premium can disappoint and if not, Sony has ensured that there are countless reasons why the XZ Premium is the phone to go for.