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Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review - Ageing Design Meets Flagship Speed

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Sony's Xperia XZ Premium is one of the most talked about flagship of 2017. The screen is stunning, specs is beastly, and the slow motion camera is interesting.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium review
Sony Xperia XZ Premium review

In terms of build, it has one of the sturdiest out there. However, Sony's choice of design and the return of big top and bottom bezels are very questionable in this era where smartphones with sleek full screen design and very slim bezels reigns.

But, the mirror glass finish (even if it is very prone to smudges) has that very premium appeal for most.

Anyway, after using the phone for more than a month, it's now time to verify if this is the flagship to beat!

For our review part 1: Sony Xperia XZ Premium Unboxing And First Impressions

Display Quality

Display is stunning, arguably the best in the market
Display is stunning, arguably the best in the market

Despite the thick top and bottom bezels, Sony managed to equip the XZ Premium with the sharpest screen on a smartphone in the world. It has a 4K HDR Triluminos screen with 3840 x 2160 pixels at whopping 807 pixels per inch.

If you like watching high resolution movies on a mobile device, this is one of the best out there!

It's also HDR10 compliant. Colors are very rich, saturation is excellent, and contrast / shadows ranks among the best in the market today. It can also go very bright even for outdoor use. It's simply outstanding for viewing photos, videos, and other contents.

Using our naked eye, we can't really distinguish the difference that much compared with QHD panels from other flagship phones. But, on VR glasses, the 4K display would really help in delivering better output compared with other flagships.

Adaptive display is accurate, cColors are adjustable in the display settings, and it has 10 points of touch.

Audio Quality

The Xperia XZ Premium highlights a pair of speakers in front with stereo output. Quality is excellent where it can produce lots of details and musicality for the small size. Vocals are also very clean and well separated. Bass response is also quite tight and highs has sparkle and has less hissing.

However, it isn't as loud as expected. There are even some flagships with single speakers like the LG G6 that can even match it in loudness level. Distortion is minimal though.

Audio quality through headphones is just fine. It can deliver very clean output with nice tonal balance all across the frequencies. But, to our ears, it isn't on the level of both LG G6 and Galaxy S8+. Both of those other flagships are simply more HiFi than the XZ Premium.

The XZ Premium has reasonable driving power (good enough to run most earphones with ease), but it isn't that loud again.

Let's hope that Sony would improve this in their next flagship.

It has a pair of microphones with very good performance though. It's excellent for calls and has minimal noise for recordings.

Battery Life

Even if this phone has a power hungry 4K screen and top notch specs, battery performance is good considering that it only has 3,230 mAh of battery.

Battery performance is good!

In our actual usage that includes a lot of browsing, listening to music, taking photos / videos, and playing games, the phone lasted for 11 hours. Our PC Mark battery test keeps on failing, but in our looping video test, it was able to last for 6 hours and 50 mins. Still impressive.

It even has their own Regular Stamina to turn the performance down and Ultra Stamina mode to only enable basic phone use to save power.

Charging time using a proprietary Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 charger like Aukey PA-T11 is very fast. It can charge the phone from 0 to 100 percent in less than 1 hour and 30 mins.

However, using the stock adaptive charging is slow. It can charge your phone from 0 to 100 percent in 2 hours and 30 mins.

Camera

The 19 MP Motion Eye camera
The 19 MP Motion Eye camera

Behind Sony equipped the Xperia XZ Premium with their new 19 MP f/2.0 IMX400 Motion Eye camera with 960 fps super slow motion, Hybrid AF, SteadyShot, and dual tone LED flash.
The manual camera interface

For the modes, it has the usual superior auto mode that automatically detects and select that right shooting mode for the lighting condition. Manual HDR mode is hidden in the settings when needed.

It has a manual mode for the pro photographers, but it is still very limited compared with other flagships. You cannot adjust ISO here and only has up to 1 second shutter speed. Shooting is also easier with the use of the dedicated physical shutter button.

Sony claims that even if it is down in resolution, the quality and shooting experience is better than their usual 23 MP sensor found in the Xperia XA1 series. Shooting speed is faster and focus is more stable. Shooting close-up images even in lowlight is also possible.

In daylight, this phone is outstanding in capturing details and has very little noise and softness. Colors also has good white balance and decent contrasts. But, we find some shots over sharpened or over saturated at times. Quality could be very good at times, but it is inconsistent.

Even if this phone only has f/2.0 aperture, point and shoot lowlight performance is actually on par with the competition at times. Yes, it is still grainy, but there's still enough detail. 

However, it has no full manual mode for mobile long exposure photography. Use the strong flash if there's very little light.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight sample
Daylight sample
Indoor well lit
Indoor well lit
Close-up
Close-up
Indoor dim
Indoor dim
Gourmet mode
Gourmet mode
Night 1
Night 1
Night 2
Night 2

For selfies, the 13 MP f/2.0 sensor with Intelligent Auto and beautify is one of the best out there. It is very wide in angle that can fit a lot of people in one frame and details are excellent for a selfie camera. Colors are also punchy and dyanmic range is solid.

However, it has no screen flash or dedicated selfie flash for selfies or groufies in the dark.

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie
Indoor well lit selfie
Indoor well lit selfie
Indoor selfie
Indoor selfie
Lowlight groufie
Lowlight groufie

For videos, this phone can shoot in 1080p (30 fps) and 1080p (60 fps) by default. But, it also has a dedicated 4K mode. Quality is crisp, great in contrast, and has pretty accurate and punchy colors.

It even has SteadyShot software video stabilization for all videos even on 4K. But, stabilization is the best on 1080p at 60 fps.

For selfie videos, we noticed that quality is cropped, but it is also nice in colors and pretty stabilized for a selfie camera.

Using the super slow motion feature is fun. Like the Xperia XZs, it can shoot up to 960 fps videos. But, the slow motion feature is grainier than regular videos. In indoor or lowlight, the super slow motion mode is close to unusable.

Video Samples (Super slow motion)



Performance

Top notch benchmark scores
Top notch benchmark scores

On paper, the Xperia XZ Premium has one of the best specs on a phone today. It is equipped with a very powerful 2.45 GHz 64 Bit Snapdragon 835 octa core processor paired with Adreno 540 graphics.

It has 4 GB of RAM for smooth multitasking and 64 GB of expandable storage up to 256 GB via micro SD card. We would have liked it better if its at 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, but it isn't that much of a big deal.

As a result, phone performance is close to top notch. There are very few phones has slightly smoother performance than this device when opening multiple apps and switching from an app to another.


Gaming performance is arguably the best. Running games like NBA 2K17, Asphalt 8, and other modern 3D games are very fluid on this device even on all very high settings.

The best part? Thermal management of this device is excellent. It doesn't heat up that fast even on WiFi hotspot mode.

For the software, this device runs with Android 7.1 Nougat OS. UI is improved and it is more stock looking than ever. It is also rich in features, can be customized with ease, and has minimal bloats. Most of those bloats are uninstallable though. It has no file manager by default as well.

Fingerprint scanner is fast and accurate. It can also be used to authorize purchases and app access.

Connectivity-wise, GSM signal is always strong and WiFi connectivity is stable. It's LTE connectivity is one of the fastest and most stable that I ever tested. It can rival Huawei P10 Plus in speed and reliability. Its 4G+ signal can reach up to 80 Mbps easily.

Pros - Premium build, water and dust resistance, top notch performance, good thermal management, capable point and shoot camera (back and front), loud speaker, very fast LTE connectivity, clean user interface
Cons - Fingerprint magnet, large top and bottom bezels, old design, slow motion only works in daylight, no stock file manager, limited manual camera option, no FM Radio

Verdict

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is one of the most powerful smartphone in the world today on paper. Build is excellent, 4K screen is amazingly clear, speed is top notch, battery life is decent, LTE connectivity is very fast, and cameras are capable for point and shoot photography.

However, Sony needs to improve on a lot of things to properly compete against most of the modern flagships and justify its PHP 45,490 price tag.

1. Sony should improve their ageing design and make the screen bezels slimmer.
2. Sony's "Hi-Res audio" must be better better than competition. Speakers should be louder.
3. Sony could also add a file manager and make some of the bloatwares uninstallable.
4. Camera performance is just fine, but they could make its software feature rich. The manual camera is very limited. Post processing must be close to consistent as well.
5. Slowmotion mode should have acceptable performance for indoor use.

Build / Design - 4.25
Display - 4.75
Audio - 4
Battery - 4.25
Camera - 4.25
Performance - 4.75
Average - 4.375 / 5
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