In the past, Sony has been accused of being slow to offer the very best hardware in its flagship smartphones. The Japanese company aims to rectify that with the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, which is easily the most advanced smartphone Sony’s ever announced.
The Xperia XZ Premium follows in the footsteps of the Xperia Z5 Premium from last year, featuring a mirror finish rear that looks absolutely gorgeous…if you don’t touch it. Like the Z5 Premium, the mirror finish captures and enhances fingerprint stains – and the new black colourway (not pictured here) makes it even worse.
That being said, the black body combined with the mirrored finish back does result in quite a stunning looking device.
And just like other Xperia flagships, the XZ Premium sports sharp edges that – while looking great – makes it quite uncomfortable to hold over long periods of time. They dig in to the palms, which is an unwelcome change over the Z5 Premium’s four curved edges.
The device also feels larger than it should be. For a 5.5-inch smartphone, the top and bottom bezels are too large at a time when phone makers are aggressively shrinking their smartphones’ bezels. Of course, this is very likely to do with the fact that the Xperia XZ Premium sports a 4K HDR display, which I will now get into.
Having forged close relationships with Sony’s many divisions has helped the mobile division absorb the many advanced tech developed by the conglomerate. This is Sony’s second 4K panel, but this time, it’s been enhanced with HDR – a hot feature among 2017 TVs, let alone smartphones.
To demonstrate, Sony placed a Z5 Premium next to the Xperia XZ Premium (or the only two smartphones in the market with 4K displays), and played a looping 4K video that’s played on TVs in retail stores. HDR plays a noticeable difference here: colours are immediately more punchy while not being saturated, but vivid enough to make the Z5’s screen look dull.
On the other hand, just like the Z5 Premium before it, the Xperia XZ Premium dynamically adjusts its resolution to conserve battery. We’re told that for now, only two apps fire up 4K resolutions: Amazon’s Prime Video app (which also supports HDR playback), and the default Gallery app. Developers will presumably be able to adjust their apps to enable 4K; in all other times the XZ Premium defaults to 1080p.
The other part of the Xperia XZ Premium that sound completely over-engineered is the camera. Sony’s included its most technologically advanced camera sensor ever on the Xperia XZ Premium, and interestingly also on the new Xperia XZs, a minor refresh of the Xperia XZ from last year which merely upgrades the sensor.
It’s a brand new camera sensor that Sony calls Motion Eye. Inside is a 19MP sensor with triple autofocus, larger 1.22µm pixels, 5-axis stabilisation, and f/2.0 aperture. What’s more important is that this is the first memory-stacked camera sensor – Sony’s actually placed 1GB of memory directly on the ISP, allowing the sensor to do some impressive things.
First, it lets the sensor “buffer” images the moment the camera app is opened. That way, the sensor is continuously buffering images, before capturing the frame immediately after the shutter button is pressed – useful for fast-moving objects.
The other is even more jaw-dropping: 960fps super slow motion capture. This is four times more than any smartphone camera is capable of today, and Sony’s actually made it super intuitive to capture slow-motion footage. Just tap on the on-screen shutter button to record, and the shutter button turns into a button to capture 960fps bursts. It captures only a brief moment, but in playback the effect is very, very impressive.
What isn’t impressive is availability. Sony may have used MWC 2017 as the stage to announce the most cutting edge Android smartphone we’ve seen so far this year, but this phone won’t be released for another three to four months. During that time, Samsung would have launched – and most likely released – its much-anticipated Galaxy S8, turning whatever advantage Sony may have had into dust.
There is so much to be excited about this phone, and yet it just seems as if Sony rushed the announcement to ensure it had a flagship smartphone to show off at MWC 2017. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium really should have been the show-stealer here at MWC 2017, but it sadly is not.