Sony hasn’t had a particularly great time in the high-end segment, and that’s mostly of its own creation. The manufacturer continued to roll out two flagships every year with little to no variation in terms of the design, and it has gotten to such a point that the Xperia XZ Premium looks similar to the original Xperia Z1 from four years ago.
There have been numerous changes under the hood along with a few refinements to the overall design, but in the age of the thin-bezel phones like the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6, the Xperia XZ Premium feels archaic. Let’s see if the phone can redeem itself in other areas.
As soon as we got our hands on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, we were blown away by the beautiful mirror finish. The device looks unique, and it is certainly an attention-seeker. While the design itself is boxy like previous Xperias, the mirror finish makes the Xperia XZ Premium stand out.
The build quality is excellent; it feels sturdy and rock-solid. However, one serious issue with the design is that the device is very slippery. It is so slippery that it slipped 10 to 15 times from our hands and various surfaces during our review period. What we loved about the device is that even though the device fell so many times, it didn’t show any sign of damage — not even a single dent.
Another issue which is isn’t particularly serious but worth mentioning is the SIM card tray. The SIM card tray is very flimsy, and you get the feeling that it doesn’t fit as firmly as the SIM trays on most of the smartphones. Nonetheless, it didn’t show any issue during our test period.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a 4K HDR display, which is the first in the smartphone industry. Now, Sony undoubtedly gets to tout its horn and say that it was the first brand to roll out a phone with a 4K display, but whether the 4K display is actually useful is the real question. We believe that a 4K display is in fact detrimental to the user experience. We would have liked if Sony chose to use an AMOLED display instead of investing in a 4K display.
Coming to the performance, the colour reproduction is on the punchier side — pictures look like they have been pasted on the surface. The touchscreen is very responsive, and sunlight visibility is good too. Overall, we felt that the display is good for a flagship device, but it loses when compared to the displays of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ or the HTC U11, which are similarly priced.
The Xperia XZ Premium is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. Basic tasks like opening applications, installing apps, switching between applications, and split-screen multitasking are a breeze. We used the device for five hours of continuous navigation, and the device didn’t heat up or lag even once, which is a great deal because most of the smartphones tend to do so.
The gaming performance is excellent too, in spite of a 4K display. We played Modern Combat 4, Need for Speed, and a few other graphics intensive games, and we did not find any issues, and the gameplay was fluid at all times. That said, there are a few problems when it comes to the performance: there’s a lot of stutter when scrolling through the call log, and the animation while booting the device stutters too. Also, the device gets laggy as soon as the battery level goes below 5%, but these are software issues, and we hope a software update will fix them. Overall, the performance is good, but it is still not as smooth as the Google Pixel or the OnePlus 5.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a 19-megapixel primary camera and a 13-megapixel secondary camera. Let’s talk about the primary camera first: the image quality in the daylight is excellent, the images have a punchy colour tone, and they contain an incredible amount of detail, but the image quality is mediocre in low-light conditions. The images taken in low-light conditions contain a significant amount of noise, and they lose out on the detail front.
Also, the images look over-sharpened, which makes them ugly to look at. So overall, the main camera is above average at best in spite of having a great sensor, which is mainly due to the lack of OIS and not-so-good software tuning.
Coming to the secondary camera, it is pretty impressive. The images captured in daylight, as well as low-light, are sharp, detailed, and punchy.
Moving onto the camera UI, it has very limited functionality, and it looks outdated. If you’re looking for a great camera, you will be better served by the Galaxy S8 or the HTC U11.
The fingerprint scanner is placed in the power button on the right side of the device, and it is blazing fast. Not only is the unlocking quick and accurate, but the performance of the fingerprint scanner is also consistent. The only problem with the fingerprint scanner is its placement, it is designed to be used with the right thumb, so whenever your right thumb/right hand is busy, you have to use the PIN or pattern to unlock the device.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a stereo speaker setup, which includes one speaker above the display and one below the display. The speakers are weak, and they lack depth. Sure, there is stereo sound separation while watching videos, but the sound is not involving or exciting. Also, when the device is placed upside down, the speaker tends to get muted, and you end up missing calls and other notifications. It would have been good if one speaker was on the front and the other on the top or the bottom to avoid the muffled sound.
For the first time in a while, we felt that Sony has worked hard on the user interface. The device ships with Android 7.1.1 Nougat operating system. The custom notification tray/toggle bar has been replaced with Android’s native notification tray. It also replaced its custom messaging application and the dialer application with the Android’s native applications for the same, which is a great move according to us, as Sony’s custom applications didn’t look all that great.
The device has a custom launcher which is fast and fluid; and there are selectable custom themes and a theme store. Sony has come a long way in terms of UI design, but it should have done more considering the cost of the XZ Premium.
The connectivity is one criteria where we are disappointed with the device. The most frustrating issue is the cellular connectivity. The signal reception is so bad that we hardly got two bars out of five during our entire test period. We tried formatting the device, reinserting the SIM card, and using a different carrier, but that didn’t change anything.
To test the signal reception, we took two other smartphones apart from the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, the HTC U11, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. We tested these three phones in our office, and at a few popular destinations in the city. Among those three phones, the HTC U11 and the Galaxy S8 Plus always had four to five bars of signal reception, but the XZ Premium had only one to two bars signal reception. First, we thought there was some glitch with the software and that it wasn’t showing the real measurements, so we tested the data speed using ‘Speedtest’ application and found that the data speed on the XZ Premium was the lowest.
Having bad signal reception on a smartphone that costs over Rs. 50,000 is ridiculous. However, the GPS and the Wi-Fi worked perfectly. We were happy to see that the Xperia XZ Premium comes with USB 3.1 Type-C connector, which will allow for faster data transfer.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has an excellent battery backup. The device comes with a 3,230 mAh battery. At first, we thought that the 4K display would bleed the battery, but that was never an issue. On a full charge, the device lasts about 24 to 28 hours along with an average of 4 hours and 30 minutes of screen-on time, which is good for a flagship smartphone. We also used the device for navigation, and it lasted for five full hours till we had to charge it again.
The battery backup is similar to that of the Galaxy S8+ and the HTC U11. The smartphone also comes with Quick Charge 3.0, and it does a great job at charging the battery quickly. The device took just minutes to charge from 0% to 100%.
The Xperia XZ Premium may looks similar to previous models, but this is the most robust smartphone we’ve seen from Sony in a very long time. Apart from the bad signal reception, the device has a good display, great camera that works magnificently well in daylight conditions, powerful hardware, decent software performance, excellent battery life, and a phenomenal build quality.
However, the device just doesn’t cut it when you look at the alternatives available in this segment. We’d say the device is good, but it still falls some way behind the HTC U11 and the Galaxy S8+ in almost every criterion.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium₹ 57,945
Design and Build Quality9/10
Value for Money7/10
- Beautiful design and strong build quality
- Excellent day to day performance
- Fast fingerprint scanner
- Good image quality in daylight
- Superb selfie camera
- Good battery backup
- Bad signal reception
- Poor low-light camera performance
- Dated UI design
- Tinny speakers