Sony once enjoyed prominent market share in the phone industry. With the rise of Apple and Samsung though, the company hasn't had much success in the premium segment. Its early phones were acclaimed for offering waterproof body without compromising on the aesthetics. However, consumers grew weary of Sony's 'omnibalance' design language. The worst part is that the Japanese brand refused to change it over the years. Ironically, making water-resistant phones didn't save Sony's smartphone brand from "drowning". Down, but not out, Sony is back with another top-end handset, the Xperia XZ Premium. Let's see if it is worth your money.
Build and aesthetics
Fresh or not, we must agree that Sony's design language is quite good. It has got symmetry and sharp lines. Thanks to its mirror finish, the Xperia XZ Premium is an eye-catcher. The build quality is great too. Be warned though, the phone is incredibly slippery. If you are known for butterfingers, stay away from this phone.
Another thing I didn't like is the flimsy SIM card tray. It is surprising how Sony didn't pay attention to this aspect. It would have been fine on a budget phone, but if you are paying over Rs 55,000, then it is unacceptable. The phone's fingerprint sensor is embedded in the power button. That's a bit odd placement, but you do get used to it in a day or two.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a 4K HDR display. It gets the honors to be the first handset to offer such specs. Now, while it looks great on paper, I don't find any real use of the 4K display on a phone. Except, of course, the VR (Virtual Reality) apps.
I found the colour reproduction quite good. But LCD panels have their technological limitations and are also depended on backlighting, so you don't really get rich colours. Compared to OLED panels on competing phones such as the Galaxy S8, the XZ Premium's screen doesn't impress. I would have happily swopped 4K gimmick for OLED screen with excellent colours.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium ships with Android Nougat. It does feature Sony's UI on top. Thankfully, its launcher is quite responsive in the latest iteration. Like its predecessors, the XZ Premium offers plenty of themes from its stores.
What I liked here is that the Japanese company has decided to go easy on the customisation part. For instance, notification curtain, messaging, or even a dialer, Sony has opted for native Android applications over its own versions.
The Xperia XZ Premium is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. It is no surprise that the mighty processor goes through routine tasks with a breeze. More importantly, it excels in the gaming department. Games such as Modern Combat 4 run without a lag or a drop in the frame-rate.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium sports a 19-megapixel main camera. The photos come out excellent in the daylight. You get the punchy colour tone and plenty of detail. However, the quality suffers in the low-light. It has significant noise and loss of detail. Adding OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) could have made things better. The 13-megapixel secondary camera is quite good. Compared to other phones, it produces sharp and detailed images.
The Xperia XZ Premium offers 4K video recording. However, there's a separate menu for that. Under normal camera settings, you find Full HD at 30fps and HD quality. At this setting, you can shoot slow-motion video at 960fps. With some good framing and timing, you get incredible results using the 960fps mode. Check out some of the photo samples shot by the smartphone's camera.
Sony's Music app comes with plenty of features such as ClearAudio+ and Dynamic normaliser. The DSEE HX works quite well too. For those not in the know, this algorithm extrapolates compressed audio into high-res. Sure, it doesn't sound like proper high-res audio, but improves the quality nonetheless. When paired with decent earphones, the Xperia XZ Premium produces great sound output. The on-board stereo speaker setup, is good for watching YouTube videos. However, don't expect to enjoy music on it.
The phone has some serious network issues. And it is concerning because we reviewed the retail unit purchased in Hyderabad. During the test period, we consistently got weak cellular reception. To get rid of the problem, we tried factory reset option multiple times. But that didn't help. To make sure that it is not a network provider's fault, we used the same SIM with HTC's U11, and that worked without any issues in the same area. We hope that this is not the case with most retail units.
With its 3,230 mAh battery, Sony Xperia XZ Premium lasts really long. On a full charge, the device lasts about 24 to 28 hours along with an average of 4 hours and 30 minutes of screen-on time. This is great performance considering that the phone has a 4K screen.
The Xperia XZ Premium is surely one of the best smartphone from Sony in recent years. It offers a future-proof 4K screen, which is ideal for VR apps. Its multimedia performance is great. In good lighting conditions, the camera is good too. Unfortunately, Sony's best is not good enough to take on the likes of Galaxy S8 and HTC U11. The weak network reception is another area of concern. All said and done, although we think that the XZ Premium is a step in the right direction, we cannot recommend it for Rs 57,000.
Pros: Sturdy build quality; Crisp 4K screen; Excellent slow-mo video recording; Long battery backup.
Cons: Bad signal reception; Poor low-light camera performance; Handset is extremely slippery; Quite a large footprint for a 5.5-inch screen.
—By Chandrakant Isi, MySmartPrice.com