Sony Xperia XZ Premium: Understated design, overstated performance
By Sharil Abdul Rahman November 3, 2017
- Sony’s ‘Omni Design’ may be dated, but it still looks pretty good
- Only smartphone that still features a physical half-press shutter button
WITH the premium moniker in the name, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium does not live up to expectations – not fully anyway.
Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones in the Malaysian market, where there is a 150% mobile penetration rate, choice is king for consumers.
Looks matter, and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium stands out from the crowd. Not because of its beauty, but due to the old-fashioned lines and curves (or lack thereof) on the body. Even so, the XP Premium hides a sophisticated smartphone in a body that looks like something from a decade ago.
We had a chance to try out the Sony Xperia XZ Premium as our daily driver recently.
Sony has stuck with their design concept for the past few years. Since the original Sony Xperia Z, the ‘Omni-Balance’ design has been used on the subsequent Sony smartphones, and the XZ Premium is no different.
It has a tall forehead and large chin, when other manufacturers are clamouring to extract the most out of their screen real-estate available. Sony did manage to reduce the side bezels, so that helps in keeping the sides thin. The result is a tall phone, that is surprisingly comfortable to hold in the hands.
Sony’s design uniqueness extends to the small details on the phone. For instance, the power button is also the fingerprint scanner. It sits on the right side of the phone, alongside the volume and shutter buttons.
On the left side, the SIM and microSD slot is accessible by a door that can be opened with your finger – negating the need of a pin. Do be warned – every time you open the door, the phone reboots itself.
Thanks to the IP68 rating, the Xperia XZ Premium is both water and dust resistant. This is great for when the heavens suddenly open up or the phone accidentally is dropped into a puddle.
Conversely, the phone is a bit more fragile as Sony used glass for both the front and the back of the phone – some care is required when handling it, lest you find yourself with a cracked smartphone.
A pro of the large chin on the XZ Premium is that it gives a nice location for your thumb to rest while you use the physical shutter button like a normal compact camera.
One great addition that Sony included in the XZ Premium are front-firing stereo speakers. Not many smartphones in the market feature front stereo speakers currently.
The speaker flanks the 5.5-inch, 3840 x 2160 pixels display. Yes, that is a 4K display, and it gives the XZ Premium a high DPI – a whopping 807 dpi, the highest in the market.
It also has some heft in the weight department. At 195g, it is one of the heavier smartphones out there right now.
Sony has chosen the USB Type-C as the data/power port for the XZ Premium, and it can support fast charging as well. You do need to buy the charger separately as Sony did not bundle any fast charger in the box.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 headlines the specs for the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. This puts the phone squarely in the high-end segment, and the performance reflects the power it has on tap. Paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, it should cover just about any need.
Apps run without any lag, and files open in a snap thanks to the processor. Of course, if you need more space, there is microSD support on board, up to 256GB if necessary.
Sony runs Android Nougat on their devices with minimal bloat. There are Sony-specific apps on board, but otherwise you get mostly stock Android experience. Android Oreo 8.0 is coming to the Xperia XZ Premium pretty soon, so it will be gracing the latest OS from Google.
Top performance is the key with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, and it shows in the scores. It has one of the highest Antutu scores we have seen, and this is when compared to other flagships in the market.
Gaming is also more than a possibility with the XZ Premium – it blows everything out of the water. The 3DMark Slingshot Extreme test is the highest-end test on offer, and it scores really well thanks to the Adreno 540 GPU on board.
Running multiple apps will not be a problem with the phone, as the Geekbench scores reflects the power of the processor. It also scores very well in PCMark Work 2.0, so you can expect good things with the Xperia XZ Premium.
Battery is a concern for the XZ Premium, as the 3280mAh looks to be a bit too small when considering it is driving a 4K, HDR enabled display. However, Sony’s battery enhancement and optimisation is good enough that a single charge can last for a whole work day. If needed, plug the phone into a Quick Charge charger, and top up the power in a jiffy.
Sony is well known for their camera sensors. In fact, the majority of smartphone cameras today use a Sony sensor in one way or another. Hence, we can expect good images with the XZ Premium right out of the box.
As stated previously, the Xperia line is the only smartphone today that still features a physical half-press shutter button – just like a real camera. It is a feature that many manufacturers seem to forgot about. Some users may not like it, others welcome the inclusion.
Unlike other manufacturers, Sony has not gone on the dual-camera route. Thus, the 19MP sensor at the back does all the work, while the 13MP sensor on the front does all the selfie photo-taking.
The camera app layout is typical of Sony, with additional features available by swiping around the screen. A function that many may not be immediately evident is the inclusion of a slow-motion recording mode. While this is not something new, Sony’s slow-motion records at 960fps. This is one of the fastest framerates on the market now, and when played-back at 30fps, the footage is truly mind-boggling.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a smartphone that looks a bit dated, but feels like it is ready for next year.
Combining the long-standing Sony pedigree, updated specs and a design that will blend in any boardroom meeting (apart from the bright pink colour option), the phone is a true underappreciated smartphone in Malaysia currently.
At US$809 (RM 3,399), it is not the cheapest available, but it is still a worthy buy for any smartphone aficionado thanks to the holistic feature set it offers.