OnePlus claimed its OnePlus 5 will be the first Snapdragon 835-powered smartphone in India, but Sony took that away with the launch of its Xperia XZ Premium. The company's 2017 flagship went on sale in India last week with a price tag of Rs. 59,990, challenging giants like Samsung and Apple, and not just with the price tag.
For almost a month, we had the opportunity to test and review the Xperia XZ Premium, which directly competes with the likes of Galaxy S8 series, iPhone 7 series and LG G6. The biggest question Sony's premium flagship faces is whether it is worth buying.
We try to answer that very question through this review, which entails the performance of the phone, its battery life and of course, the camera. Before we get started, let's point out that the Xperia XZ Premium is a massive departure from all of its predecessors. Even though it has an uncanny resemblance to them, there are some really great features that will leave you stunned and some praise-worthy upgrades to keep you content.
The wow factor
Every smartphone has a USP, which is basically its 'wow factor'. Sony Xperia XZ Premium, being one of the top flagships, has more than one. If we have to pick out one significant element as the phone's highlight, it would be the camera.
Sony has the advantage of using top-notch sensors as it is the largest provider of smartphone camera sensors. But the company hasn't really been able to crack into the best camera smartphone companies like its rivals Samsung and Apple have.
Things may be changing for this Japanese tech titan. We will be discussing the camera features in depth later, but we would like to point out the Xperia XZ Premium's super slow motion video recording feature, which shoots at 960fps. Just to put that into perspective, iPhone 7 Plus shoots at 120fps.
Sony's 19MP Motion Eye camera with 960fps is a boon for photography enthusiasts, and lets you push the limits on what a smartphone camera can do. Forget shooting the videos of a flame or your pet pouncing on its favourite toy, you need to think about what's faster than normal.
Things you thought are difficult to shoot on a smartphone are the kind of ideas you will need to test the Xperia XZ Premium's 960fps slow-motion camera. To give you a few examples, it can be a fly taking off or even capturing a sneeze.
You will need some getting used to shooting in super slow motion in the Xperia XZ Premium. The handset won't fully record a video in 960fps, in fact only a microsecond bit of a video is picked up to make it super slow. You will have to be prompt in capturing what you need and it's just like clicking a photo while shooting a video on the phone.
The magical videos you can produce with the Xperia XZ Premium are quite mind-blowing. Given below are a few samples for you to check out how amazing Xperia XZ Premium's camera truly is.
Yes! The super slow motion camera is worthy of applause, but we'd like to congratulate Sony for finally (finally) fixing the long-standing overheating problem in its Xperia phones. Constant overheating with minimal use of Xperia phones has been a black mark in the company's reputation. That changes with Xperia XZ Premium, which can handle high-GPU games, continuous video shooting and more without getting uncomfortably hot.
By fixing the overheating in the Xperia XZ Premium, the company has ensured that the phone doesn't shut down in the middle of shooting a video.
Design & Display
Sony Xperia XZ Premium looks a lot like its predecessors, but the infinite loop design with Gorilla Glass 5 wrapped around the phone adds a refreshing feel. As for the screen, Xperia XZ Premium is the world's first phone with 4K HDR display and we can see the difference when compared to other 2K smartphones.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium displays well-balanced, natural colours, which are hard to achieve on an average display. It truly complements the photos and videos shot on the phone.
Other than the 960fps, the Xperia XZ Premium supports 4K video shooting, which is remarkable. The rear camera doesn't have dual lenses, but it does quite a fair job when it comes to shooting photographs in challenging conditions. The superior auto mode for shooting stills does all the heavy lifting and all you need to do is frame and shoot.
But you can go pro with the manual mode, which lets you control focus, shutter speed, exposure and white balance. This mode comes in handy while shooting in low light conditions, as the auto mode failed to render the best results at night.
Let the pictures do the talking.
The Snapdragon 835 chipset had a lot to do here. Thanks to Xperia XZ Premium, we had the chance to experience Qualcomm's best processor first hand. And there's little room for disappointment.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium can handle all the heavy tasks with ease. Be it running a high-GPU game like Brothers in Arms, or multi-tasking with tens of apps in the background, Xperia XZ Premium has you covered. The sleek and snappy UI makes everything look like a breeze, while the Snapdragon 835 paired with 4 gigs of RAM does the magic under that fragile-looking, sturdy chassis.
A 3,230mAh battery under that sealed unibody gives you a day's worth of average use. With calls, messages, a little bit of music and navigation, and browsing, we were able to survive a full day and left with 20 percent charge – in time to activate the power saving mode. If you are watching a lot of videos, expect the phone to run out of juice sooner, but it is still impressive compared to other phones at achieving up to 10 hours.
There aren't any complaints with the battery of the phone, which is excellent despite having a 4K display. There's also Quick Charge 3.0 to power up your phone using a USB Type-C port from 0-60 percent in about 40 minutes.
Room for improvement
There's a fingerprint scanner at the side of the phone, integrated within the power/lock button. While it's snappy and accurate, the positioning could be better. If Sony is competing against giants like Samsung and Apple, it better scale up and bring on its A-game. The next logical move is to place the fingerprint scanner under the display, and Sony should really adopt the ever-changing trends of the industry. With the Xperia XZ Premium, we even had some inaccurate readings.
Speaking of adopting change, Sony must find a way to trim its bezels around the display. The overall design of the phone looks old because of its bezels. When brands like Xiaomi can find a way to do away with the bezels entirely, it shouldn't be a major task for a company as big as Sony to do a bit of extra lab-work.
The shiny combination of metal and glass design is quite neat, but the large size of the phone makes it slippery. The back panel also has a glass covering, which makes it a fingerprint magnet and subject to scratches. We experienced the same problem with iPhone 7 Plus, and the only way to overcome that is by using a phone cover, which conceals the beautiful design.
Finally, the selfie camera could use some improvement. Probably the 13MP front snapper with f/2.0 aperture had our hopes high, but Sony could have done a better job. We found smudges on subjects while shooting in a well-lit room. The only time the selfies were up to the mark was under ideal lighting conditions, such as sunlight or a well-lit showroom.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium is for all those fans who have been sceptical to upgrade. This is the best Xperia smartphone ever, complete with a great camera, efficient performance and a reliable battery. The design isn't as great as the Samsung Galaxy S8, but it feels premium. The phone is water- and dust-proof and makes complete sense for those who refuse to take extra care of their phones.