Sony Xperia XZ Premium Hands-on: Smart camera package, shiny look

Xperia ZX Premium header photo

With its latest flagship, the Xperia XZ Premium, Sony is doubling down on the elements that make its phones unique: camera, design, and display.

The first thing users are bound to notice about the premium device, which is the successor to the Xperia XZ (a handset released outside of Canada in September 2016), is the almost mirror-like appearance of its back plate. It’s incredibly shiny in either of its colour variants, mystically named ‘Luminous Chrome’ or ‘Deepsea Black.’ I am not a fan for several reasons, the first being the over-the-top flashiness of the overall look.

Secondly, all-glass devices always feel fragile to me — though this one comes equipped with Gorilla Glass 5, so it should hold up in real world scenarios. Finally, the device is hands-down the worst fingerprint magnet I’ve ever come into contact with, appearing greasy within mere moments of use.

To top it off, it’s a heavy beast at 195g and bulky as well, with a thickness of 7.9mm. However, I will grudgingly admit that the look is at the very least unique, with its rounded edges and side-mounted fingerprint sensor, a plus for small-handed users and a trademark of the Xperia line for the last few years.

The hardware design also features two front-firing speakers and a USB Type-C charging port for Qnovo Adaptive Charging of its 3,230mAh non-removable battery. Qnovo is an interesting technology that trickle charges the battery overnight to avoid over-heating and promote battery health.

The premium device has a strong focus on photo and video capabilities, but with a slightly different strategy than Sony’s past flagships. Rather than once again boosting the megapixels on its mobile camera, the company is aiming for improved low-light shooting with a 19-megapixel shooter (down from 23-megapixel in previous flagships). The lower amount of megapixels makes for a 10 percent bigger pixel size in the sensor and, according to Sony, 19 percent brighter pictures. In my brief time with the device, I wasn’t able to ascertain just how well the camera fared with low-light shooting, but the photos I did snap looked defined and bright in an indoor, reasonably well-lit setting.

The camera also stocks the world’s first memory stacked sensor in a smartphone, which adds memory between the camera sensor and the phone’s processor, allowing for faster readout (the process of transferring data and displaying it in an understandable form) and a new super slow motion feature that records video at 960 frames per second. This was an impressive upgrade from slow-motion features on other smartphones with distinct clarity throughout playback — though it seems like a fairly niche marketing point.

The camera’s predictive capture feature will likely be more of a draw to consumers. When opened, the camera snaps pictures in the background, allowing users to select from the previous three frames before they pressed the capture button.

This tech already exists — in Google’s Pixel and Apple’s iPhone 7, for instance — but being able to select the shot rather than being provided with an optimized picture or motion still is a unique touch. In reality, it was a necessity to make sure the camera focused on the moving element of the photograph before snapping the picture, which occasionally caused small hiccups.

The other main selling point of the phone is its 5.5-inch 4K HDR display, which was stunning in person, with rich colour saturation and clear detail. The display takes advantage of Sony’s Triluminos technology also used for its premium TV displays.

The screen, paired with the phone’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor — the newest and most powerful of Qualcomm’s technologies — make a strong case for the XZ Premium being Google Daydream compatible, but Sony has yet to confirm a partnership. If the certification does come to pass, the only remaining question will be whether its moderately-sized battery will be enough to power VR experiences for long.

Backing up the 835 chipset is 4GB of RAM and a cushy 64GB of Universal Flash Storage, expandable up to 256GB. Running on top of this hardware is a modified version of Android Nougat 7.1. While Sony has traditionally received complaints from stock Android purists for modifying Android too much with its previous skins, at first glance the UI seems to stay relatively close to stock, complete with Google Now opening with a right swipe from the home screen.

Upon testing, the XZ Premium felt responsive — even when operating its processing intensive camera software — and looked great from a display perspective. The camera, however, is the main selling point and for the mobile photographer, it could very well offer compelling reasons to switch from devices well-known for camera excellence like the Samsung S7 or iPhone 7.

In addition to the XZ Premium, MobileSyrup got the chance to try out three other brand new devices: the XZ Premium’s mid-range kid brother, the Sony Xperia XZs and the camera-focused mid-range Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra.

With so many similarly marketed devices featuring similar names, Sony has followed its tradition of making it difficult for consumers to decipher the differences between its lineup — but there are distinct differences.

The XZs boasts many of the same camera features of its premium sibling, including super slow motion and predictive capture, but has a 5.2-inch form factor like the original XZ and runs on a Snapdragon 820 chipset with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.

Meanwhile, the 5-inch Xperia XA1 and 6-inch Xperia XA1 Ultra are being sold on the merit of their large, border-less screens, 23-megapixel rear-facing camera and 16-megapixel front-facing shooter with OIS and LED flash.

None of Sony’s new devices have set launch dates and Canadian pricing yet, but the company did confirm to MobileSyrup that consumers can expect the devices to hit the Canadian market in late spring.

Photography and videography by Patrick O’Rourke. Video editing by Zach Gilbert. 

Comments

  • xunit94 .

    I’ve been eagerly waiting for this! Thank you! How did you find the camera quality compared to the iphone and galaxy phones? The Xperia lineup tends to have terrible cameras, hopefully this is different.

    • neo905

      It’s their software that has been awful. Ironically Samsung and Apple use Sony sensors with much better results.

  • Goran Mihajlović

    Lol when did 7.9mm thickness become bulky in a smartphone?

  • MoYeung

    For Xperia XZ Premium, major selling points are 4K HDR (youtube video rRtOAMAqe1s), and the new Motion Eye™ camera (youtube video MfjZDIpTSIk and z-MQ6UKVYlU).

  • Ipse

    Interesting, I thought Samsung had first dibs on SD 835 until April. If not true, I have an even harder time to understand what LG has done with G6

    • Shamoy Rahman

      Qualcomm very clearly said there is no exclusivity for the Snapdragon 835, anyone can buy it from day 1.

    • Ipse

      No, Qualcomm said there is “no contractual exclusivity”, but went ahead and sold 95% of production to Samsung. You read that the way you want.

  • Dimitri

    I am hoping this comes to Rogers or any Canadian carrier. Looks great!

    • AppleBerrySandwich

      Without carrier support this thing is DOA. Would love to see it at Rogers also. Between this, the S8 and the LG G6 there could be some great choices for my upgrade.

    • Dimitri

      It’s between this and the S8 for me. I do hope Rogers does get this though.

    • Ridge

      I’m curious, any reason you’re not considering the G6?

    • Dimitri

      Always had issues with LG devices. G4 has major issues with the Battery and it’s a known fact. The G5 has software issues which LG still hasn’t said anything about..when calling LG they claim it’s u thay screwed it up. Not them.. So.lack of support and having issues doesn’t make me

    • Ridge

      Very good points. I’m rocking a G5 right now and have software issues out the wazoo. Random crashes, frozen apps, long loading at random times.. Pretty unacceptable for a flagship these days.

    • Dimitri

      Agreed. Many have complained to the carriers but they can only do so much. Exchanging it for another G5 or G4 won’t do anything as they all will have this issue. That’s why i am staying away from LG Mobile until I see them actually releasing a device worth my money and without major battery or software issues

    • Smanny

      “Agreed. Many have complained to the carriers but they can only do so much. Exchanging it for another G5 or G4 won’t do anything as they all will have this issue. That’s why i am staying away from LG Mobile until I see them actually releasing a device worth my money and without major battery or software issues”

      As if you own a LG G5, especially with what you have said above. Dimitri just stick to you single tasking iPhone that you have. Clearly it’s a device made for single tasking simpletons, like yourself.

    • Smanny

      Both you and Dimitri clearly have issues. I have the G5 and it doesn’t have any issues at all. The speed of the G5 is really good, especially since it has the SD 820, which is rock solid. Never had any memory issues with it’s 4 GB of RAM. The only issue for me is the module support, or lack thereof. They never followed through with any other modules.

      Today there is some good deals to be had at reasonable prices for this smartphone.

    • Dimitri

      Search on Google ” LG G5 issues and software issues”. Look how many are having the issues. Just because you aren’t having the issues, doesn’t mean everyone else doesn’t have issues. There a few that don’t but by searching online, u can see many.

    • cantbanthisguy

      Weird. I’ve had none of these issues. It’s been running great on Nougat so far.

    • Ridge

      it comes and goes, definitely software issue. Not to mention the screen’s image retention which gets pretty annoying.

    • cantbanthisguy

      What software issues have you had with the G5? Other than the auto brightness not not locking on sometimes, the one I have has been great.

    • Dimitri

      Lag o open apps or even in the home page. I noticed my battery is draining a bit faster and not doing anything else other the want i was doing before.

    • cantbanthisguy

      Have you tried a phone wipe and reinstall?
      Cleaning the cache under the storage option?

      New batteries are CHEEEEAP on Amazon right now as well. Just over $20 for an oem battery.

    • Dimitri

      I have tried everything. Nothing has worked for the lag. Even had lg do remote diagnosis on the device and they noticed it with nothing installed after the factory reset.

      Yeah that’s true. Most likely hand it down to my niece and I’ll get the S8 Plus

    • Yearoftherat

      And like any other premium phone with the carriers,there will be a premium price to own this. It will be interesting to see what the pricing will be compared to the S8 and the LG6.

    • Dimitri

      Oh i know just like all the flagship devices out there. The specs are amazing and the device it self looks amazing. So i wouldn’t mind paying a premium price.

    • Yearoftherat

      The specs are amazing. The only real turn off is that it would be hidden in a case…damn smudges..lol

    • Dimitri

      Lol that is true. I have the Jet Black iphone 7 Plus and it’s covered by a Otterbox Commuter case. You can barely see the color on the back.

      Oh well that’s the price we pay to keep our devices clean and non damaged haha. I might get a clear case which shows the back of the device it I do to with this.

    • Yearoftherat

      Take a look at the Otterbox Symmetry. I’m using it and have to say it’s by far the best clear case out there compared to ones by Speck, Spigen,etc.

    • Dimitri

      I used the Otterbox Statement case which is 80% clear but catches so many scratches it’s not worth the $49 Plus taxes.

  • TheTechSmith

    Wow excited for the XZs. Hope the price is good. This new lineup looks so much better than the lousy X lineup, and weather sealing is back again. Glad to see they went with a better quality lower MP camera sensor with larger pixels as well (although 19MP still pretty high – curious to see how it performs relative to the 12MP sensors on the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7). Too bad it was the X lineup that was out when I needed a new phone.

  • Anze. ro

    Couldn’t believe Sony jumped onto the Camera Bump Wagon! No!!

  • TheCuddlyKoala

    Why the GIANT bezels?

    • Bruce Wayne

      Front facing speakers

    • TheCuddlyKoala

      That doesn’t explain the giant chin and forehead bezels

    • Brad Fortin

      Leaves more room for internal components. They could get the same effect by making it thicker and getting rid of the bezels, but then they wouldn’t be able to brag about how thin it is.

    • cantbanthisguy

      True. look at the top and bottom bezels of the Nexus 6 with front stereo speakers. I miss those the most of any phone feature 🙁

    • TheCuddlyKoala

      Exactly. There’s no excuse for this.

  • hunkyleepickle

    Nice phones. Unfortunately you can all but count on stupid carrier exclusives (likely Bell), ridiculous prices, and very late availability. Also this phone is set to be overshadowed by the galaxy S8 and other phones that spend way more time and money on marketing and courting the carriers into exclusives. This device will be all but forgotten within 3-5 months.

  • artiplier

    The US versions won’t have the fingerprint scanner, but I’m hoping the Canadian ones will.

    • Jeremy PHAN

      > fingerprint scanner _enabled_.

      It’s a firmware issue which is easily rectified by flashing a non-US firmware.

    • artiplier

      Yep it’s an easy enough fix, like the x compact for instance. But I’d still prefer it to work out of the box.

    • Shamoy Rahman

      US version DOES, it just comes software disabled but you can easily re-enable it in under 5 mins with a quick firmware change.

  • Mo Dabbas

    Works nicely as a mirror

  • Smanny

    The SD 835 also comes with the new Bluetooth 5.0 hardware, as well as WiFi ad. You wrote that it has Bluetooth 4.2. Also Rose the new Sony camera sensor had to come with the this new stacked storage built-in, because the 960 fps is too much data for any processor to handle all at once. So the sensor was built to hold the images until the system could grab them.

    • Shamoy Rahman

      This is also great for 4K recording. No more overheating.

  • dirtyKIMCHI

    The whitepaper is out. The G8141 lists TBD within the LTE Bands, so hopefully Band 66 LTE gets added to its long list of supported bands, which are currently:

    1,2,3,4,5,7,8,12,13,17,19,20,26,28,29,32,38,39,40,41

    Source: https://dl.developer.sonymobile . com/documentation/whitepapers/Xperia_XZ_Premium_G8141_WP_1.pdf

    • Shamoy Rahman

      Band 66 support would be awesome. Then I could enjoy Wind LTE.

  • jay

    That’s the one to get right now. Not sure what Samsung is bring to the market but Sony has a good device however they will have a hard time again.

  • bigshynepo

    This phone is a beast. Only things they could’ve improved was Battery Capacity and an OLED instead of LCD screen. I hope Sony’s next release is a slightly smaller version of this same spec’d phone.

    Great release for 2017.

    • Shamoy Rahman

      OLED is coming to Xperias in 2018 but not 4K OLEDs. That will take a lot of time to develop. Sony is going to manufacture it’s own higher quality OLED panels in Japan instead of buying them from Samsung.

  • danakin

    Nitpicky disclaimer: I think the also MWC announced XZs is the successor to the XZ. The XZ premium is the successor to the Z5 Premium, 4K screen and shiny exterior.
    Just my $0.02

    • Shamoy Rahman

      Of course they are lol

  • Jeremy PHAN

    It’s definitely NOT Google Daydream compatible, as confirmed by other posts. It uses an LCD screen, which isn’t fast enough for VR.

    • Smanny

      OLED is recommended for Daydream VR, but it is NOT a requirement. Look up the guidelines yourself.

    • Jeremy PHAN

      Daydream phone requirements:
      – The display latency on Gray-to-Gray, White-to-Black, and Black-to-White switching time MUST be ≤ 3 ms
      – The display MUST support a low-persistence mode with ≤5 ms persistence

      The Xperia XZ Premium’s LCD display does NOT meet these requirements.

    • Shamoy Rahman

      It might meet those requirements since it’s a really small IGZO/LTPS screen so it might have ≤3ms GtG/Btw latency. The best IPS monitors on the market achieve 4ms on IPS panels using slower amorphous silicon substrates so there is a very high chance this screen has a much lower latency.

  • jeff the chef

    Too bad Sony isn’t allowed to include a fingerprint reader. nice phone otherwise

    • Shamoy Rahman

      They are and the fingerprint sensor works everywhere in the world except the US. However it’s only software disabled in the US and all it takes is a firmware change which can be done in under 5 minutes. That means the XZ Premium’s fingerprint sensor is available in all Xperia phones and can work anywhere in the world.

    • TheCuddlyKoala

      Why have to go through all this trouble? Just make it available in the US.

    • David Gritt

      Canadian xperia models always have the finger print sensor.

  • David Gritt

    If sony doesn’t bring a chrome XZ Premium or a blue XZs to Canada I will simply cry. I need me unique coloured xperia, the last time we got coloured xperia’s was the Z3 everything since then has only been in white or black, ugh. I love my white Z5 but I want something more visually interesting this time.

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  • RYKER J.

    I called Sony this morning and the rep said the XZ premium will be available June 1st 2017 in Canada. He did not know through which carriers, however.

    • Shamoy Rahman

      Awesome, then I won’t have to pay like $1000 outright for this. I hope its available on Freedom too.

  • Van Thieu

    The 265GB repeatedly written within this article bothers me. Could you please correct it to 256GB! For crying out loud, it’s always a power of 2. Does anyone ever proofread or re-vet their articles anymore?

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