Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Smartphone 4K remains silly, but the phone itself is super

£650
Price when reviewed

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium’s 3,230mAh battery didn’t perform particularly well in our video-playback test, though. In fact, it gave up the ghost just a minute over the ten-hour mark – significantly less impressive than its nearby rivals:battery_life_battery_life_chartbuilder

Anecdotally, however, the XZ Premium is one of the stronger performers we’ve seen, lasting an average of 1d 6hrs 36mins when measured with the GSAM battery monitor over the space of a week. That should do for most people, and we put the blame for the less-than-stellar official test results firmly at the door of a power-hungry display. If your phone lies dormant for most of the day, you’ll be fine.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium: Camera

The phone continues to impress with the camera, which is a 19-megapixel snapper with an aperture of f/2.0 and both phase-detect and laser autofocus. On paper, those are pretty similar specifications to the best in the game, the Google Pixel, and in well-lit conditions Sony’s latest certainly gives the big G a run for its money.[gallery:12]

(Left: Xperia XZ Premium, Right: Google Pixel)

It’s good, but for my money, still not quite there. While the colour is certainly more vibrant on Sony’s snapper, it appears to be oversharpening things, resulting in a little loss of detail.

In low light, things worsen, though, with the oversharpening resulting in very noisy patches with severe grain in darker spots.[gallery:13]

(Left: Xperia XZ Premium, Right: Google Pixel)

Sony has another trick up its sleeve for the Xperia XZ Premium, and that’s ultra-slow-motion video capture at 960 frames per second. And this works brilliantly, provided you’re in a well-lit area.

You can only do it in short bursts, but the opportunities for creativity in the right hands are hugely promising. Here’s a clip my colleague Jon captured while reviewing the handset for our sister site Expert Reviews that features a fidget spinner going flat out:

Genuinely impressive, although hardly a knockout blow for Sony’s rivals.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium: Verdict

[gallery:14]

Let me pin my colours to the mast one more time, just in case I wasn’t clear before: a 4K screen on a phone is silly. It’s innovation for innovation’s sake, rather than practically useful. The human eye can’t tell the difference on such a small screen.

But unlike Sony’s last 4K smartphone outing, I don’t think this disqualifies it from consideration. It’s a marked improvement on the Xperia XZ in other areas, and at £650 it’s expensive, but comparable with other flagships offering similar performance. In other words, you’re no longer paying a premium for a ridiculous feature as you were with the last generation. The LG G6 and the HTC U11 are both £650, too; the Xperia XZ Premium is better than the former and on par with the latter.

But then there’s Samsung.[gallery:10]

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is just £30 more. Or, to put it another way, for an increase of less than 5%, you get a lot more phone. And that’s the kind of price difference that becomes even less visible than the pixels on the Xperia XZ’s screen when comparing monthly contracts.

If only Sony hadn’t wasted its money on a 4K white elephant, eh? It might have able to undercut all its opponents and provide a genuine alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S8 at this end of the market. Maybe next time, guys. But seriously: drop 4K, at least until VR developers consider it an option, okay?

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