Sony Xperia XZ Premium review – A slow fall into mediocrity


Let’s get something clear, the Sony XZ Premium is a good handset.

It is a bit chunkier than the other smartphones on the market but I look beyond that. The camera tech is good and the performance is also good.

The problem with the XZ Premium is that it isn’t great and that will likely be its downfall.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium review – A bit about the build

As I mentioned in my preamble the XZ Premium is chunky. There are gargantuan (by today’s standards) bezels on the top and bottom of the handset. Sony gets a pass here because while the bezels are horrid to look at they do house the speakers. It’s a far better compromise than having a speaker that fires into my hand.

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Where Sony fails is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. In this smartphone it’s on the right-hand side and terrible for anybody that needs quick access to their phone. More than once I’ve picked the handset up without looking for it and needed to flip it around to access an email I just received.

Mostly bezels. Did you miss the memo Sony?

All of that said, the XZ Premium is rather sturdy and feels that way so you won’t have the constant fear of dropping your handset and cracking the display looming over your head.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium review – Passing performance

Inside the XZ Premium is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset which houses an octa-core CPU that is capable of running at a peak of 2.45GHz.

This is paired with 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 540 which takes on GPU duties.

The performance is great but then that is what we expected from a phone running the latest and greatest in components. The handset handily beats out the LG G6 in performance which is great news but the G6 was no slouch at least during our review period.

The point I want to hammer home here is that when you’re pushing these figures in benchmarks you won’t really notice too much of a difference in day-to-day operations. That’s a problem for Sony when competitors are pushing unique features that increase the usability of the handset by leveraging this high performance.

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Sony’s handset performs well in games as is evident from me running out of data twice while at Cape Town International waiting for a flight and playing Hearthstone.

For work the handset performs well enough but Sony could have fitted a bigger display to editing a document or simply viewing a spreadsheet a bit more viable.

Speaking of the display Sony has fitted the XZ Premium with a 4K (2160 x 3840p) display. It looks gorgeous but do remember to edit screenshots before you send them along, they tend to average 7MB in size.

As for storage the XZ Premium has 64GB on-board which I found to be ample but you can increase this with a microSD card.

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Sony Xperia XZ Premium review – A shot in the dark

When this handset was revealed the world lost its collective mind at the news that it would feature a slow-motion camera sensor capable of records 960 frames per second.
The translation of that is super smooth slow motion camera shots. But why?

Truth be told this was the first thing I tested in regards to the camera but the scene I was shooting was rather dark. The result was the noisiest image I have seen since the days of VGA cameras.

Rear camera is good but I feel the S8 takes better snaps.

The footage was wonderfully smooth but it was so terrible to look at I deleted the footage immediately. It got me thinking, sure slow-mo is cool but I don’t need that in a handset especially when I’ll be second guessing my footage in a particular light.

It also requires a bit of fuss to get to the slow-motion camera making any off the cuff filming you want to do decidedly more tricky.

Thankfully the rear camera as a still-camera is great. Colours look true to life and the 19MP sensor captures a lot of detail. It is a delightful camera for stills and I’d be happy forgetting the office DSLR at home when I attend events.

The front facing camera houses a 13MP camera and while the f/2.0 aperture is serviceable for photos in the dark just don’t expect a spot at MoMA with the snaps you take from it.

Our usual gallery of snaps follows below.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium review – It has the power

Witchcraft fuels this battery. Okay not really, its a lithium ion battery that keeps the XZ Premium on but it may as well be witchcraft because testing this battery was not easy.

Initially the handset lasted a day but then I was downloading a multitude of apps and the handset was updating its software so I waited until the handset was settled in to test the battery properly.

In our gauntlet test where we set the brightness to full, connect to a Bluetooth speaker and switch Wifi on to stream a movie we got 12 hours of continuous on-time.

With normal use (Wifi on, bluetooth on, occasional games and posting to social media) we were able to unplug the handset and then plug it back in at around midday the next day.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium review – Gripes and bloatware

Something that has annoyed me time and time again with the XZ Premium is the fingerprint scanner.
Really, I’m not sure how it passed QA because at anytime the scanner is only reading a sliver of your digit. The translation is frustration because more often than not the scanner doesn’t read your finger.

Add a bit of water, sweat, or dirt to the equation and you’ll be using your passcode or password to get into your handset more than your fingerprint. To be honest it ruined the experience for me and I’ll be happy to hand this phone back to Sony after the review period is up.

Endless frustrations with the fingerprint scanner.

As for bloatware there is very little aside from Sony News, the Sony Playstation app and Sony’s own app store. There aren’t even social apps that come pre-installed which is a welcome change.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium review – Conclusion

As I mentioned the XZ is good but it falls woefully short of being great and in a space where great is expected that’s bad news.

The camera is good and so is the battery life but a poorly placed biometric scanner, a lack luster slow-motion camera option and the fact that most of the XZ is bezel left us wanting.

To me it looks like Sony was trying to one-up the competition by including a 4K display and clever camera trickery but when I get to the checkout counter I would rather get myself an LG G6 or a Samsung Galaxy S8.

If you really must have a Sony smartphone I’d recommend the XZ that was released last year.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium specifications

Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 835

CPU Octa-core Kryo @ 2.45GHz

GPU Adreno 540

Memory 4GB

Storage 64GB, microSD card support up to 256GB

Operating system Android 7.1

Battery 3 230mAh

SIM Nano SIM

Display 5.4inch 4K (2 160 x 3 840)

Primary camera 19 MP, f/2.0, phase detection, laser autofocus

Secondary camera 13MP f/2.0

Network Up to LTE

WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac

Extras Bluetooth 5.0, fingerprint scanner, USB Type C, Quick Charge 3.0, dedicated camera button

Price R13 999

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium was sent to htxt.africa for review purposes. The handset will now be returned.

Let’s get something clear, the Sony XZ Premium is a good handset. It is a bit chunkier than the other smartphones on the market but I look beyond that. The camera tech is good and the performance is also good. The problem with the XZ Premium is that it isn’t great and that will likely be its downfall. Sony Xperia XZ Premium review - A bit about the build As I mentioned in my preamble the XZ Premium is chunky. There are gargantuan (by today’s standards) bezels on the top and bottom of the handset. Sony gets a pass here because while the bezels are horrid to look at they do house the speakers. It's a far better compromise than having a speaker that fires into my hand. Where Sony fails is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. In this smartphone it’s on the right-hand side and terrible for anybody that needs quick access to their phone. More than once I’ve picked the handset up without looking for it and needed to flip it around to access an email I just received. Mostly bezels. Did you miss the memo Sony? All of that said, the XZ Premium is rather sturdy and feels that way so you won’t have the constant fear of dropping your handset and cracking the display looming over your head. Sony Xperia XZ Premium review - Passing performance Inside the XZ Premium is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset which houses an octa-core CPU that is capable of running at a peak of 2.45GHz. This is paired with 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 540 which takes on GPU duties. The performance is great but then that is what we expected from a phone running the latest and greatest in components. The handset handily beats out the LG G6 in performance which is great news but the G6 was no slouch at least during our review period. The point I want to hammer home here is that when you're pushing these figures in benchmarks you won't really notice too much of a difference in day-to-day operations. That's a problem for Sony when competitors are pushing unique features that increase the usability of the handset by leveraging this high performance. Sony’s handset performs well in games as is evident from me running out of data twice while at Cape Town International waiting for a flight and playing Hearthstone. For work the handset performs well enough but Sony could have fitted a bigger display to editing a document or simply viewing a spreadsheet a bit more viable. Speaking of the display Sony has fitted the XZ Premium with a 4K (2160 x 3840p) display. It looks gorgeous but do remember to edit screenshots before you send them along, they tend to average 7MB in size. As for storage the XZ Premium has 64GB on-board which I found to be ample but you can increase this with a microSD card. Sony Xperia XZ Premium review - A shot…

TL;DR

Score - 6

6

Good not great

The problem with smartphones is that they need to stand out from the competition and sadly there is very little that compels me to go out and buy an XZ Premium.

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