Android 7.1.1 on board
Design feels a little dated
Super slo mo feature is a bit of a gimmick
Not quite as good as the best around
The Xperia XZ Premium, Sony’s 2017 flagship phone, comes promising much.
First up, it's packing a heavily trailed 4K display and super slow mo video recording that, in theory, bests standalone cameras. And it's got the very latest Android 7.1 software, too.
Pull it from its box and it feels every inch the premium smartphone, with a sleek design and toughened glass frame.
The device seems rather heavy in the hand, despite being just 7g heftier than the similarly–sized iPhone 7 Plus.
Fire it up, however, and the bright, crystal clear screen means you soon forget the weightiness.
On first look, the Xperia XZ Premium is an extremely slick smartphone.
- Looks a bit old-school next to the Galaxy S8 et al
- Heaviness means it's a mite awkward to use one-handed
Sony has long eschewed the more generic looks of other Android mobile-makers, sticking with a rigid, squared-off design that makes its handsets very easy to spot.
And while the Xperia XZ Premium has slightly curved sides, it adheres to this tried and tested template. On this occasion, though, a change might've been welcome.
Try using the device one-handed and it's a bit uncomfortable. The sharp corners don't help.
Throw in the fact that Sony hasn’t seemed to tweak its design after years of being back in the smartphone game, while the likes of Samsung have innovated, and it’s easy to conclude that the Xperia XZ Premium isn’t quite the design tour de force Sony was hoping for.
- Spectacular 4K screen
- Upscaled 1080p in some cases
The Xperia XZ Premium’s biggest selling point is its screen.
While most rival top–end devices opt for 2K or Full HD displays, Sony has gone all out and has equipped the XZ Premium with a 4K effort.
That's the kind of screen tech you’d be more likely to find in the corner of a living room rather than in your pocket.
The result, when watching 4K content at least, is nothing short of spectacular.
Colour reproduction is outrageous, with greens, oranges and blues bursting to life in the nature documentary we watched.
Blacks are deep, whites clean and clear. It’s a revelation if you love HD content.
The quibble, if we have one, is that 4K saps battery life. That means that for everyday tasks, Sony has peeled things back to upscaled 1080p HD.
In reality, no one needs 4K when browsing the web or scrolling through Google Play, but it can be somewhat confusing to resolution nerds looking for the latest, greatest in video on the go. This, however, is a minor complaint.
Sony also offers a range of themes for its home screens, which we can live without, especially as some cost extra.
We reckon it’s best to stick with the freebies and enjoy playing 4K content on the device instead.
- Superb shots in all conditions
- Motion Eye tech ensures photos look the part
- Slow mo video mode feels gimmicky
Dual lens cameras are fast becoming an essential component of top–end smartphones, with forthcoming handsets from Samsung and Apple both expected to utilise the cutting edge tech.
Sony, however, has opted for a single 19-megapixel lens. Although on paper that's a disappointment, in reality it's really not a deal breaker.
Yes, it’s officially a step down from the 23-megapixels of the standard XZ, but the pixels here are bigger, making up for the shortfall.
Throw in Sony’s new ‘Magic Eye’ tech for improved image processing and the results are predictably superb.
In auto mode, shots are crisp and detailed in both regular and low light. The manual mode also affords a huge amount of control and first-rate snaps to boot.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera sample City Hall
Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera sample statue
Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera sample Tower Bridge
Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera sample me
However, the much–vaunted super slo mo video mode doesn't quite live up to its billing.
Capable of shooting 960 frames per second (fps), something rival standalone cameras can’t do, it nonetheless feels a bit gimmicky.
Things aren't helped because it's a bit tricky to use, requiring precise timing without obvious prompts as to when to shoot slowed down footage.
Performance and battery life
- Speedy to use
- No annoying bloatware
- Latest Android software
No one can fault Sony when it comes to the Xperia XZ Premium’s performance.
A top–end Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and a hefty 4GB of RAM means it tears through tasks, whether it’s browsing the web or opening up and using apps such as Netflix or its own PS4 Remote Play.
Throw in Android 7.1 and things couldn’t be better on the software front.
The 3230 mAh battery is huge and means that it’s easy to squeeze a whole day of heavy use out of one charge.
We were left with 10% charge after 24 hours of watching video, checking Wimbledon scores and taking video, plus the usual rigmarole of social media check-ins.
Value for money
At £649 SIM–free, the Xperia XZ Premium comes with a big price tag. Is it worth it? If you’re a Sony fan who values PS4 gaming on the go, then yes. It's also best-in-class for watching video on the move and comes with a very, very good camera.
But if you’re after a top–end smartphone and don’t mind who makes it, it's worth taking a look at the Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel XL before you take the plunge.
- Excellent camera
- Stunning screen
- Design doesn't stand out
- Slow mo video mode isn't everything it might be
- Solid battery life
Sony has made a solid flagship smartphone in the Xperia XZ Premium. It's a shame it feels so weighty and that Sony didn't adapt its design much for 2017. But even so, it ticks almost every box and excels as a camera phone.