Sony made it a tradition to surprise us every year with impressive new technologies in the field of image and image processing. Sony has made this Mobile World Congress 2017 the venue for three new releases: two mid-range Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra, and a high-end Xperia XZ Premium coming alongside XZ. Featuring a 4K HDR LCD screen and a camera capable of filming at 1000 frames per second, this XZ Premium has seduced a lot of technophiles. Apart from that, the new high-end phone from the Japanese manufacturer also stands out by its performance. It was not thought to see a smartphone equipped with a Snapdragon 835 at the MWC 2017, and yet Sony did by presenting the Xperia XZ Premium.
It will be fair to say that the brand has put forward all its latest innovations in this device. But will this be enough to compete in a high level in this complex market?
The unit is stored in a waterproof premium chassis (IP68) measuring a 7.9 mm thickness. The dimensions of the mobile are very slightly higher than those of the Xperia Z5 Premium. This is explained by a design that has evolved slightly with the arrival of the XZ and the XZ Compact at the end of 2016. But the ratio between the screen and the surface of the mobile is slightly down and falls below 70%.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium does not stand out physically from the other smartphones of the Japanese giant and we quickly find the style of the 2016 Xperia XZ, with its many qualities (rounded edges, nice grip …), but also its defects like the thickness at the top and bottom. On the side, you will also find all the usual keys, as well as the fingerprint sensor contained in the power button.
Since the OmniBalance design is unlikely to attract the average user, this Xperia XZ Premium needs something more to attract attention. Thus, just like its ancestor the Z5 Premium, the device has a Chrome color. But no matter what color you choose, you will find the famous Gorilla Glass 5 coating both on the front and the back of the device. The protection against scratches might be worse than the Gorilla Glass 4, but it will survive better to a fall or a hard hit. The new phablet’s dimensions are of 156 x 77 x 7.9 mm and it weighs 195g.
The XZ Premium can be very slippery and with its reflective back you can never get rid of the traces of your fingerprints. Sony chose a black color and a chrome finish, to offer you a pure and simple mirror. It certainly gives one of the most beautiful effects, but it gets dirty within the first few minutes of use. Choosing a phone case will quickly become your favorite hobby.
On the other hand, the lower and upper sides are rougher, creating a contrast that blends well with the rest of the device. The design remains an interesting part of the device.
As Sony is a specialist in the television market, we are always expecting the best when it comes to the slabs of its smartphones. As for the display, XZ Premium offers us a screen of 5.5 inches, with 3840 × 2160 pixels IPS LCD, for a pixel density of 801 PPI. It is actually Sony’s second smartphone 4K, the first being its high-end phone, the Xperia X5 Premium. Therefore, Sony continues its logic and launches its first smartphone with a screen at the same time Ultra HD and HDR. The screen looks beautiful, and no matter how much you look at it, you will not distinguish a pixel. It allows having a brighter image, with better contrasts and more vivid colors. One can nevertheless hope that Sony will offer in the menus of the phone a setting in order to refine the colorimetry, as is already partly the case on other devices of the brand.
Moreover, the optimization of the front panel is still not an option, with a screen that occupies less than 70% of the space. At the time when LG launches a G6 with a display that operates 82% of the front, Sony is lagging behind, just like Apple and its iPhone under 69%.
With such a screen, Sony necessarily creates a form of curiosity that we had already seen during the announcement of the Z5 Premium. If the spirits were quickly cooled at the time faced with the lack of content, the fact that Amazon decided to take a step towards this type of display with its Prime Video content in 4K HDR makes the XZ idea Premium a bit less obsolete.
The first improvement is to be found inside the mobile. The Xperia XZ Premium is equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, an oct-core whose customized hearts are clocked up to 2.45 GHz. It replaces the Snapdragon 820 of the XZ and the Snapdragon 810 of the Z5 Premium. Under the hood, the Xperia XZ Premium boasts the latest Qualcomm processor, the Snapdragon 835 that will be found in the Galaxy S8. The device also has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal space that can be extended to 2TB with the help of a microSD card. The two predecessors used to have 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage.
This new Qualcomm processor brings a more powerful Internet modem, the Snapdragon X16 LTE, allowing the XZ Premium to achieve a download rate of up to 1 Gbps. This modem is capable of providing speeds worthy of fiber optics. Unfortunately, for the time being, networks do not support such a speed so all this has only a theoretical value. As for the connections, they are the same as those of the Xperia XZ, except for the Bluetooth which upgraded to a 5.0 version. The whole thing works under the interface of Android 7.0 Nougat and Sony overlay.
Sony knows that a model with the 4K screen and a photo application rich in functionality will tend to consume a lot of battery. For this reason, the manufacturer has developed the Smart Stamina function. It analyzes the behavior of the user and sends the data to Xperia Actions. The user then receives tips and tricks to optimize the autonomy. The battery, compatible with Quick Charge 3.0, offers a capacity of 3230 mAh. A load slightly set back from the Xperia Z5 Premium (3430 mAh).
The second major change is to be found on the photography side. The Sony group is an octopus of technology, extending its tentacles in many areas. Over the years it has expanded its specialty and showcased a strong presence in the photo market and designs of the sensors.
On the rear camera, Sony abandons its strategy focused on extreme thinness of the image and resolutions greater than 20 megapixels. The Exmor 23 megapixel sensor is replaced by a new 19 megapixel component, the Exmor IMX400. The sensor measures the same size, but its pixels are larger and promise of better luminosity. It is accompanied by a 25 mm lens, like its predecessor, opening at f / 2.0, a hybrid autofocus with a detection phase, a laser, and an LED flash. The stabilizer is still not optical but remains electronic. This sensor is equipped with a continuous tracking system to take sharp pictures of moving subjects, as well as a slow motion mode up to 960 frames per second in 720p. The particularity of this sensor is to be able to film in 4K at 30 frames per second with such an impeccable slow motion mode. Besides the 19-MP camera, the Xperia XZ Premium takes the webcam of the Xperia XZ: a 13 megapixel sensor with autofocus and lens opening to f / 2.0 as well.
We’ve tested the mobile under different conditions and the results always proved to be really convincing. The images are clear and show the little details and the videos are quite appealing even for the director-wannabes.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium brought up to date through three technologies. The SoC is now the Snapdragon 835, the most powerful solution from Qualcomm, the 19 megapixel photo sensor is Sony’s latest IMX and the screen is an IPS LCD that displays a 4K definition with an HDR support. Some even qualify the device as the powerful beast of 2017 for its pure high-tech buffs.
But do we really need this kind of device? Does it have a special added value or it’s something we’ll get bored with after a month of use? The Xperia XZ Premium is expected to compete with other big brands such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6. Will it be up for the challenge? We actually doubt it but it’s not a crime to hold on to some little hope.