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Sometimes Sony confuses me with the number of Android phones it releases every year.
After using the Xperia Z5 in early 2016, I had a feeling that Sony might slow down or completely stop its high-end Android smartphones.
I was wrong and naive.
Not only did the Xperia X range came later in 2016, Sony continued its Android flagship journey with the XZ range in 2017.
And it forced me to get its 2017 flagship and try it.
This time the Xperia XZ Premium – the 4K display one.
Over a month of using this phone as my daily driver, I am going to share my final views about this phone in this review.
If you are in the market in search of your next Sony phone or you just want to know more about this machine, stay with me and by the time you finish this article, you will have a good flavour of the Xperia XZ Premium’s strong and weak points.
Let us split this review into 3 main parts.
The strengths, the weaknesses and the forgettables.
The 4K HDR screen
Make no mistake, this insanely rich ~807 ppi display is beautiful.
I won’t go into the overkill debate here. I am purely talking about how it looks like on a normal day.
The 5.5 inch screen size (5.46″ to be precise) is not the biggest in the competition but the amount of detail it holds and the colours it displays are phenomenal. Watching videos and images is a treat on this device.
Remember, it is not an OLED type display which tends to be quite vivid and over saturated in my opinion. I prefer LCD panels over OLED where whites are a bit more cooler and subtle.
Couple of points to keep in your mind. One you don’t see the full 4K resolution all the time. It kicks in when you watch 4K content. Second, the 4K content is not widely and easily available at the moment. So make sure that you know this limitation before making your decision.
Whether it is an overkill for a smartphone, or whether naked eye can’t see the difference, I tend to ignore these technicalities and enjoy the sheer quality of the display. This shiny and beautiful screen is sharp, crisp, clear and rich. More importantly, it produces colours which are closer to real life.
It adds to the overall user experience of the phone.
Go and have a check in your local high street shop if you can find one on display.
Design with individuality
Xperia XZ Premium looks and feels premium.
Sony has not moved from its typical rectangular style. And I give full marks to Sony for being different here.
The slab-like, glass clad design is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5 from front and back. The sides are rounded plastic and top/bottom frame is made of metal. The overall build quality and construction feels impressive.
Read my detailed review of the XZ-P’s design in this article here.
Xperia XZ Premium has lots of design niggles but none of them outshine its overall style and flare.
It is a big phone which weighs 195 grams with large bezels on top and bottom. Many argue that large bezels are so 2016 and I tend to agree but again, as an overall package, it feels good in hand.
The glass is slippery (without any protective screen or case etc.) and it also attracts fingerprints as well. The corners are quite defined and to have this phone accommodated in your jeans pocket can be tricky.
It is glass back and front. I personally prefer metal chassis as I feel that it looks more premium and resists day to day wear and tear better than glass. In my one month of using this phone without any screen protector or case, it did not attract a single mark or scratch anywhere on its body. I am a careful user though, I am not saying that the glass is 100% scratch proof, if you are in two minds, add protection.
Despite all these weaknesses, I will stick with my stance, it is a beautiful phone at the end of the day.
It has a character to it. If you are a Sony fan, you will love it. If you are coming from a different device, give it a try.
It is pricey
This section includes affiliate* links – disclosure here.
XZ Premium is retailing at £530 on Amazon UK at the time of writing this article (check US price here). Released in June 2017 at nearly £700, its price has dropped but still, it is not a cheap flagship.
Comparing it to the competition with the likes of LG G6, OnePlus 5 and Galaxy S8, it is pricier than all of them. Now I must say that the 4K screen is a definite plus in comparison to others (2K generally) but for a common user, it might be just a bit too much to pay.
I am a believer in value for money.
I have seen a few flagships in recent years which stand out due to their value for money and competitive price tag. I am also aware that there has been a trend in the high-end market for big numbers (iPhone X, Note 8 etc.) but that should not stop me to advocate my value for money mantra – as it directly affects the end-user.
XZ Premium is touch expensive, so plan accordingly.
US Customers are without fingerprint scanner
This can be a clear deal-breaker for some of our friends in the US.
I would not have liked it personally had it been the situation in my case.
XZ Premium does not have a fingerprint scanner in the US despite the fact that rest of the world gets this as a standard feature in their models. Android Central has given us an explanation of the reason why US models don’t have the fingerprint scanners.
At this price tag, I can see many Android followers frowning on this matter. I hope that in future models, this issue is resolved.
Camera quality and experience
Sony has traditionally struggled with smartphone cameras in terms of producing stunning pictures consistently.
This year, Sony has made some positive strides in the camera department. The general results have improved but I would be hesitant to call it anywhere near the top of the competition. I am aware that smartphone photography is a hot topic at the moment and the competition is cutthroat (Pixel 2, S8/+, iPhone X etc.)
I am not a pro when it comes to photography.
I mainly rely on default settings and auto mode to take my snaps. I have taken hundreds of photos with the Sony’s iSuperior Mode (auto-mode) and here is the selection included below to give you a flavour.
There is no doubt that Sony has improved the camera picture quality for a common user here. As I mentioned earlier, the results are acceptable but will not satisfy the smartphone camera enthusiasts perhaps.
If you are a casual shooter, you won’t be disappointed. If camera is mega important for you, look elsewhere.
Earlier this year, I had a chance to try the Pixel camera and the experience was great. The benchmark is high in this department. Sony needs to up another notch in future flagships.
Average battery life
I don’t see the Xperia XZ Premium much different from the rest of the competition in terms of battery life.
With full charge and low-to-medium use, it will last you most of the day. Perhaps a need to recharge overnight every day.
With full charge and medium-to-high use, you will need to charge it again in the afternoon/evening to keep it going.
XZ-P comes with quick charge which is a welcome feature and helps for a quick boost as and when required.
XZ-P also comes with a software based feature “Battery Care” where depending on your charging habits, it creates a slow charging routine for the device to improve the battery life span (in long run). It was useful in my case as I put my phone to charge every night. It learnt and picked up my routine of overnight charging and started charging my phone over 6/7 hours while I am asleep.
Some might argue that the 4K screen could have been sacrificed in favour of a slightly improved battery life but I am in two minds on this one.
Overall, I have no strong feelings about the battery life. It is average.
Sony’s user interface
Sony’s user interface (UI) hasn’t taken a step change for a while now.
It is a progressive evolution and refinement of their OS skin and user interface. The Xperia XZ premium is a smooth device and runs the apps without any issue. The transitions are pleasant and smooth and generally the phone feels extremely responsive – thanks to its beefy Snapdragon processor (835) and 4GB of RAM.
Some of the pre-packed apps could have been removed. I like simplicity and I prefer that the option of additional apps should be given to the user to decide. Hence I love the stock Android experience which we normally see in the Pixel devices.
Has Sony done anything significant and innovative to stand out through its software experience?
XZ-Premium is a fine effort by Sony and an indication that Sony wants to stay in the high-end flagship market.
It has a stunning 5.5” 4K display and while it is a beautiful looking phone with gorgeous display, it is mediocre on two important factors, camera experience and battery life.
Many Android users rate these two factors very high and consider them carefully. See below why I say that, the results are from a survey I carried out with a sample size of 200 readers on this blog.
Unfortunately, Sony remains average on both these elements. With a premium price tag, it can be difficult to justify jumping on this phone if it is not stunning on key matters.
If you are a Sony fan, you will like the design of this phone. If the name Sony is not important to you, you will perhaps look elsewhere to get a better bang for your buck.
“Sony Xperia XZ Premium will get my 8 out of 10 for overall user experience – feels good.”
Have you seen or tried the Xperia XZ Premium personally?
Do you think Sony has done enough to keep it fighting in the flagship Android market?