The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a genuine flagship smartphone. It boasts a market-leading 4K display, the latest high-end power under the hood and Sony’s professional photography heritage, including super slow motion capture, round the back.
There’s a lot to like about the XZ Premium on paper – but a feature-packed spec sheet doesn’t always produce the top-notch experience we’ve come to expect from high-end smartphones.
Sony is still stuck in a bit of a design rut, and it’s struggling to compete with the might of Apple and Samsung, while the likes of LG, Huawei and Motorola continue to offer stiff competition.
The Xperia XZ Premium is Sony’s chance to put itself firmly back on the smartphone map, but has it succeeded? Let’s find out.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium price and release date
£649 (around $800, AU$1,100) SIM-free
On sale early June
This will likely come as no surprise, but this is not a cheap phone. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium price is £649 (around $800, AU$1,100) which sees it rub shoulders with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7 Plus in terms of cost.
Pre-orders for the phone have opened, but in terms of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium release date there’s no official word, although some online retailers are saying early June.
Find out what the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is like to live with by watching our 'week with' video.
Semi-premium glass, metal and plastic build
Side-mounted fingerprint scanner is useful
SIM slot is fiddly
Sony's latest may be Premium in name, but it's not overly so in nature. When it comes to design the Sony Xperia XZ Premium leaves something to be desired compared to its flagship rivals.
The Gorilla Glass 5 front and rear at least provides some tough protection, but the sides of phone are noticeably plastic, and it’s this material which you feel when you hold the phone.
It’s a shame, as it makes the handset feel cheaper than it is – something you don’t want when spending top dollar – and the flat front and back means it doesn’t nestle in the hand as neatly as some of the more curved devices on the market.
We found the glass was a real fingerprint magnet – much like the Galaxy S8 and Jet Black iPhone 7 – so it can quickly end up looking messy.
There’s also a lot of bezel around the display, which pushes the dimensions of the XZ Premium to 156 x 77 x 7.9mm, making it taller and wider than the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 – phones which boast bigger screens than the Sony.
These bezels do allow for stereo front-facing speakers, and provide space for you to hold the phone in landscape orientation when gaming or watching videos without your fingers blocking the display.
The power button on the right of the handset also falls nicely under thumb or finger, and it’s enhanced by the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner built into the key, allowing you to unlock the phone without entering a pin, pattern or password.
We found it was fast at unlocking most of the time, but every now and then we’d have to have a second attempt to get it to register.
It’s worth noting that previous fingerprint-reading Sony handsets have dropped the digit scanner tech for their US models, so there’s no guarantee that if/when the Xperia XZ Premium hits the US it’ll have the feature.
The top and bottom edges of the XZ Premium are metal, and we’d have liked to of seen this finish extend up the sides of the phone, as it would have provided a better look and feel in the hand. On the base of the handset there’s a USB-C port while on top there’s a headphone jack – which will please those who have watched in horror as Motorola and Apple removed it from their phones.
Another positive with the Xperia XZ Premium is its IP68 dust and water resistance, which means it’ll survive a dip in the bath and heavy rain – just don’t go deep-sea diving.
Something else that's slightly disappointing is the SIM and microSD flap and tray. The plastic insert feels fragile, plus it only has space for the microSD card. The separate SIM tray (which is under the same flap) requires you to dig a nail into the side of the phone and tease it out.
For many this will be an operation they'll only need to perform a couple of times, but the plastic flap feels like it could prove a weak link in the water-resistant chain if you’re someone who swaps microSD cards on a regular basis.
Lined up alongside its peers the Sony Xperia XZ Premium doesn’t quite pull off the same flagship finesse – and even more affordable handsets, such as the OnePlus 3T and Honor 8, have arguably smarter finishes.
5.46-inch 4K HDR display
While the design of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium may not set it apart, its screen is certainly in a league of its own.
Following on from the Xperia Z5 Premium, the XZ Premium is Sony’s second smartphone to boast a 4K display backed up by the firm’s Bravia TV tech – and in most markets it'll be the only phone you’ll find with such a resolution.
That equates to a resolution of 3840 x 2160, which when stretched over 5.46 inches gives you an eye-popping pixel density of 807ppi. To put that in perspective, the beautiful Infinity Display on the Galaxy S8 manages 570ppi, while the LG G6 gives up 564ppi.
You won’t find a sharper screen on another smartphone, and unlike its 4K-toting predecessor you actually get the full resolution all the time. The Z5 Premium would only deliver the full 4K experience when you were watching video of the same resolution, whereas on the new Xperia XZ Premium it’s 3840 x 2160 all the way – from the home screen and browser to the app store and your social media profiles.
The screen panel uses LCD technology, delivering a crisp, clear image; it doesn’t have quite the same pop as the AMOLED displays found on the Galaxy S8, Moto Z and OnePlus 3T, but the Triluminos Display technology does enhance colors over standard LCD panels. This is a screen you’ll still want to ogle.
It also feels a little small, especially now that the 5.7-inch LG G6 and 5.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S8 have started to break new ground when it comes to screen size in 2017.
That said, if you haven’t had the luxury of using those phones yet, you’ll still find the Xperia XZ Premium provides ample space – especially if you’re upgrading from a two-year-old phone.
Interface and reliability
Cleaner Android overlay is easy to use
Number of pre-installed apps is unnecessary
Sony has tidied up its Android overlay over the past year or so, which means you get a cleaner, less cluttered on-screen experience with the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.
Under the slick Sony coating is Android 7 Nougat, Google’s latest mobile operating system, and for the most part it’s business as usual for anyone transitioning from another Android device.
Even if you’re considering a switch from an iPhone, Android and iOS have become more similar over the years, so the learning curve isn't as big if you do opt for the Xperia XZ Premium.
Something Sony hasn’t got out of the habit of doing, though, is pre-installing a number of apps on its phones. The Xperia XZ Premium has the standard phone-based applications along with Google’s suite, but the Japanese firm adds to these with at least another 10.
Some are useful, such as the fitness-tracking Livelog and video-editing Movie Creator, while Email, Music, Album and Video basically just duplicate the core functions of Gmail, Play Music, Photos and Play Movies & TV.
Then there are Sony’s What’s New and Xperia Lounge apps, which push content, downloads, apps and games, as well as a smattering of competitions and news, to you.
On the plus side, you can disable most of these apps if you decide you won’t use them – just long-press on them and tap the small ‘x’ that pops up next to the icon to hide them from view.
We found the XZ Premium was reliable under finger, and minus the odd screen rotation issue – fixed by closing all apps in the multi-tasking panel and re-opening – it had no trouble keeping pace with us.
Music, movies and gaming
4K footage difficult to find, but looks stunning
Gaming is impressive
Great audio experience
With a heap of power under the hood, dual front-facing speakers, a 4K HDR display and high-resolution audio support, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a serious multimedia machine.
If you have access to 4K HDR video content, the Xperia XZ Premium will seriously impress. We watched a number of videos, and were blown away by the clarity of the display.
On-screen people look like they're sitting just the other side of the glass, as if you were looking through a window rather than at a smartphone display. It’s a wonderful viewing experience, and one that really has to be seen to be believed.
The thing is, it’s not exactly straightforward to see. That’s because the Xperia XZ Premium doesn’t make finding 4K HDR video easy. Not at all.
We hoped that on starting up the phone for the first time we’d be directed to an app or store featuring videos that would show off the phone’s corking display.
However, there were no obvious signposts after getting past the setup wizard, so we headed to the pre-installed Sony applications – Xperia Lounge, What’s New and Video – to see if any of them could offer us some help.
What’s New is essentially just a simple app store and download centre for apps, themes and wallpapers, while the Xperia Lounge doesn’t offer movies or TV shows, with the focus on entertainment news and competitions instead.
The Video app was potentially the most confusing, however, allowing us to select the cable television service we used at home and showing us a full program guide, but no links to any of that elusive 4K content we were after.
Google Play Movies & TV is no help either, as it doesn’t provide 4K HDR footage for handsets, so we headed to the Amazon Prime Video app. Sony’s own website states that selected shows are available in 4K HDR on the XZ Premium – but they weren't when we tried.
We attempted to both stream and download (at the highest available quality) episodes of The Grand Tour and Red Oaks, but we only ever got a maximum resolution of 1080p.
This forced us onto YouTube, where there's a large selection of 4K HDR footage, and as we’ve said it looks fantastic – but it’s not movies or TV shows.
Sony needs to make 4K HDR content easily accessible to users, otherwise no one will be able to take advantage of the excellent display it's lavished the Xperia XZ Premium with.
Gaming, thankfully, is a much more straightforward affair. The Snapdragon 835 chipset and 4GB of RAM ensure the Xperia XZ Premium can handle anything you throw at it – and with the settings set to maximum.
The additional bezel above and below the display provides welcome room to hold the phone when in landscape mode – perfect for keeping as much of your hands as possible off-screen and out the way of the action.
The front-facing stereo speakers are another plus point, firing audio towards you, rather than into one of your palms.
Those speakers also come in useful when you want to to listen to music, with the Sony Xperia XZ Premium kicking out room-filling audio, although the quality isn't the highest.
Plug in a set of headphones though and the XZ Premium excels, thanks to its audio-enhancing technology and Automatic Headphone Optimization, which adjusts the sound output to suit the type of headphones you've plugged in.
There's good news for fans of wireless headphones and speakers too, as Sony has enhanced the audio output over Bluetooth.
It's not the same high-resolution quality you'll get over the wired connection when you plug a set of headphones into the 3.5mm jack, but it is an improvement over the general standard.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium gives a great audio experience over headphones, both wired and wireless, so if you're a big music fan you'll want to check out this phone.
Fast, fluid operation with no lag
Apps open quickly and multi-tasking is easy
As we’ve already hinted at, the performance of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is excellent. The Snapdragon 835 chip and 4GB of RAM combo matches the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 for pure grunt.
Something slightly odd, though, was the fact that our XZ Premium handset wouldn’t let us download any benchmarking apps – which means we can’t bring you any scores to compare against other handsets.
We’ve contacted Sony about this, and we'll update this review when we’ve had feedback on whether this is a glitch or a deliberate move.
Not that you need to worry, though, as apps load swiftly, Android runs smoothly, and the Xperia XZ Premium will happily run multiple apps at the same time and let you jump between them with ease.
You'll easily get a full day's use from a single charge
Quick-charge support and power-saving modes
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium comes with a 3,230mAh non-removable battery packed inside its 7.9mm-thick body.
It’s not the most generous offering – the LG G6, for example, boasts a 3,600mAh unit – but it is larger than the 3,000mAh power pack in the Samsung Galaxy S8, so it’s far from lagging behind.
Battery size isn’t the be-all and end-all though, and it’s good news when it comes to the stuff that matters. The XZ Premium comfortably lasted us a day on a single charge, and we would regularly get into bed with between 15% and 20% of life left after a moderate amount of use.
What does a moderate-use day look like? It’s a couple of hours of Spotify streaming, around 40 minutes of TV shows, multiple calls, messages and social media action, a flurry of emails and web-browsing, and an hour or two of gaming.
We generally took the Xperia XZ Premium off charge at around 6.30am each day, usually plugging it back in between 11pm and midnight.
If you curb the gaming and video usage you’ll get to bed with more than 20% left in the tank – which is a great performance for a modern flagship phone.
There’s no getting away from the fact that you’ll still need to charge the XZ Premium each night, but we never experienced the panic of running out of battery before being able to reach a power source.
A weak point for the Sony Xperia XZ Premium battery came in our 90 minute full HD video test, where we cranked the brightness up to maximum and had various accounts syncing in the background over Wi-Fi.
After the hour and a half of video playback was up the XZ Premium had lost 32% of its battery – a significant hit no doubt caused by the power hungry 4K display.
If you do settle down to watch a 4K HDR movie on the phone, you’ll want to make sure you have a power source close by.
There are always times where you'll find yourself running low – and thankfully the XZ Premium has a few tricks up its sleeve to help you out.
Firstly it supports Quick Charge 3.0, which replenishes the battery four times faster than a standard charger – so if you’re about to head out the door for the night, or have a long commute home, a quick blast before you leave will top you up nicely.
You do need a Quick Charge 3.0-enabled charging block to take advantage of the speedy top-up though.
That’s useful if you’re near a charger, but the Xperia XZ Premium also comes with two power-saving modes to help you get the most from your remaining charge.
Stamina Mode extends battery life by reducing background data and screen brightness, as well as disabling some functions. It’s set to activate when your battery hits 15% by default, but you can manually override this if you want to enable it earlier.
And if you’re really struggling you can always call on Ultra Stamina Mode, which essentially turns your smartphone into a feature phone, restricting you to nine core apps and a simplistic interface to eke out the most time from your last few percent of life.
It’s an extreme option, and one we’d only employ if we desperately needed to keep our phone on and couldn’t get to a charger, but it’s a nice option to have just in case.
Seriously impressive slow motion camera
Solid rear camera captures a lot of detail
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has an excellent camera. It comes with a 19MP Sony-made rear sensor which features HDR, face detection, EIS (electronic image stabilization), predictive phase detection and laser autofocus.
In short, it’s well equipped – and that’s before we get to the real party piece: the super slow motion offering that can capture footage at a staggering 960fps. In comparison, the slow motion modes on the iPhone 7 (and 7 Plus) and Samsung Galaxy S8 (and S8 Plus) record at 240fps.
That means the XZ Premium gives you even slower footage, and if you can capture the right moment in slow motion the results are seriously impressive. Check out our video below to see the results.
There are three different slow motion modes to choose from. The entry-level Slow Motion option records at just 120fps, but gives you the added benefit of applying the slow motion effect after recording your video.
This means you can pinpoint the exact moment you want to slow down after filming, without having get the timing just right when shooting live.
The other two modes, Super Slow (one-shot) and Super Slow Motion, require you to capture your snippet of 960fps footage while recording – you can’t edit the slow motion section of your video afterwards.
Super Slow (one-shot) makes things easy, as all you do is tap the shutter key once and the XZ Premium will capture a five-second clip at 960fps. This does mean you don’t get any normal-speed video either side of your clip, but you’re likely to get a better slow motion result.
The Super Slow Motion mode is the full package. Select it and hit record and you’ll be filming at 720p, but an extra button is included on-screen – tap this at any point while you're recording and the XZ Premium will grab a quick super-slow-motion clip before immediately resuming normal-speed recording.
It can be difficult to time the right moment when in Super Slow Motion mode, so we’d recommend sticking to the one-shot option.
The slow-motion footage is recorded at 720p, so clarity can suffer – especially in low light and indoors, where results are generally grainy. Head outside though, and in good light the Sony Xperia XZ Premium produces the best slow-motion footage of any smartphone on the market.
Moving away from slow motion and back to the camera itself, you get an impressive smartphone snapper which performs well in most scenarios when left on Sony’s default Intelligent Auto mode.
This adapts to the lighting environment you’re in, delivering well-exposed shots, with the laser autofocus ensuring that detail is high and blurring is kept to a minimum.
Moving objects are also handled with ease thanks to Sony’s predictive phase detection, which can follow targets to ensure they're always in focus. We tried this out on our cats, and the XZ Premium was able to keep pace with them as they explored the garden.
Sony is also one of the few manufacturers that still includes a dedicated physical camera button on its high-end phone, and the two-stage key on the XZ Premium allows you to focus your shot by pressing the button half way down, and then fully depressing it to snap an image.
It's a handy inclusion and makes taking pictures easier, as the large size of the Xperia XZ Premium makes hitting the on-screen shutter key tricky if you're using it one-handed. You can also hold the shutter key down at any point to launch the camera app.
If you’re looking for more granular control over your images the Sony Xperia XZ Premium offers up a manual mode, allowing you to fine tune the focus, exposure, white balance and shutter speed.
The focus control is especially useful, and easy to use, allowing you to pin-point your focus – whether it’s in the foreground or the background – with a simple slider on the side of the display.
For those looking for something more fun, you can head to the camera apps section where you’ll find the more sedate 4K video recording and panorama options alongside Sony’s zanier AR Effect – which overlays scenarios such as a volcano and dinosaurs onto your surroundings. It’s a bit silly, but it’s fun to play with.
The images the Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera produces are great. Full of detail and color, although we did find they lacked the same pop as those captured on the Samsung Galaxy S8 – which just edges out the XZ Premium when it comes to point-and-shoot tasks.
Spend some time with the camera on the Sony though, and hone your skills on the super slow motion mode, and you’ll very much enjoy what the Xperia XZ Premium has to offer in the photography department.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a handset jam-packed full of features, and from its impressive 4K display and huge power under the hood to an excellent camera and solid battery life it has all the core ingredients of a top smartphone.
The price is high, and that means it has some truly tough competition, with the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, HTC U11 and iPhone 7 Plus all breathing down its neck, and if you’re looking for a handset which has both style and substance you may find the Xperia XZ Premium a little underwhelming.
It’s by no means ugly, but when you hold it up against its all-metal-and-glass rivals, the chunky bezels and plastic sides don’t quite match up.
The 4K HDR screen is incredible when you find some 4K content to play on it, but for the time being at least there’s still only a handful movies and shows at this resolution.
Unless you’re someone with a passion for 4K, you’ll be more than content with the QHD (2K) screens you get on the rival Android flagships.
Who's it for?
If you’re in the market for a high-end smartphone then the Sony Xperia XZ Premium needs to be on your shortlist. It has everything you’d want when paying top dollar for your tech, with its 4K display and slow motion camera two party pieces you can impress your friends with.
Design and style are a matter of opinion, and while Sony’s more industrial design language doesn’t quite dazzle in the way the Infinity Display of the Galaxy S8 does, it does have a core of fans who enjoy the no-nonsense approach.
If your current phone is a flagship from two years ago or more there are plenty of new features packed into the Xperia XZ Premium to make it a satisfying upgrade.
However, those currently flaunting a flagship from 2016 will see less of an incentive to make the leap, with slightly more incremental upgrades on offer here.
Should I buy it?
If you’re a die-hard Sony fan, the Xperia XZ Premium is the phone you’ve been waiting for. If you fall into this camp, buy it. You won’t regret it.
It delivers on display, camera, power and battery life, making it one of the best flagships around – it's the best Sony smartphone you can lay your hands on.
However, if you’re more manufacturer-agnostic you may want to consider your options at this price point before taking the plunge.
If you do opt for the Xperia XZ Premium you won’t be disappointed, as you get an awful lot of bang for your buck, and we’d really recommend the Super Slow Motion feature – it’s a lot of fun.
The Xperia XZ Premium isn’t the only feature-packed flagship on the market, so here’s a trio of high-end rivals that’ll ensure Sony’s new flag-bearer doesn’t have an easy ride.
Samsung Galaxy S8
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is currently our best phone in the world, and any flagship smartphone will be compared to its 5.8-inch Infinity Display, futuristic design and supremely capable camera.
Head to head, there’s not a lot to choose between the battery life, performance and cameras on these two phones, but the Samsung just edges out Sony when it comes to display and design.
That is, of course, if you’re not a 4K HDR fan – if you are then the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is the phone for you.
The Galaxy S8 still has the Sony beat with a more comprehensive overall package, but the Xperia XZ Premium isn’t far behind.
The LG G6 boasts a larger display than the XZ Premium (5.7-inch vs 5.46-inch), but also a lower resolution, with a 2K offering rather than the Sony's 4K panel.
Its slender bezels mean the G6 is similar in size to the Sony, and it has a more premium finish with an all-metal-and-glass body – no plastic sides in sight here.
It's now quite as powerful under the hood, but round the back you get two cameras. One is a standard 13MP snapper while the other is a 13MP wide-angle lens, allowing you to get more of your scene into the shot.