Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Fast and feature-rich, but the design needs a refresh

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent
  • $699.99


  • 4K-capable screen
  • Super slow-motion 960fps video
  • Good battery life
  • Good sound quality
  • MicroSD card support


  • Uninspiring design
  • Some disappointing build materials
  • Slow-motion video mode lacks flexibility

The Xperia XZ Premium is Sony's flagship handset for 2017, and it has a suitably premium price of £649 (inc. VAT). This is matched by the HTC U11 and LG G6 launch prices, and is a shade less expensive than the £689 Samsung Galaxy S8.

Sony has thrown everything at this handset, including a 4K screen and an ultra-slow-motion video capability that captures 960 frames per second (fps). Are these features overkill in the hunt for a unique selling point, or do they make the Xperia XZ Premium really special?

The Xperia XZ Premium displays Sony's characteristic blocky design. There's no attempt to emulate the curves of the competition, and the handset looks and feels old fashioned. It almost seems as if Sony's design team is stuck in a rut.


The 5.5-inch Xperia XZ Premium comes in luminous chrome, deepsea black and bronze pink. It runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 chipset and features a 4K-capable screen and a 960fps super-slow-motion mode.

Images: Sony

The colour of my review handset was 'luminous chrome', and it's not the colour I would have chosen -- I prefer 'deepsea black', or even 'bronze pink'. The colour just doesn't look like what I'd expect to see on a premium handset.

Gorilla Glass 5 protects the screen, and the front and back are Sony's signature material -- glass. I really don't like the mirror-like, reflective, fingerprint-grabbing back of the phone, either in appearance or in its somewhat slippery nature.

The top and bottom edges of the phone are made of metal, but the sides are plastic and while the handset is tough -- it's IP65/68 rated for water and dust resistance -- it just doesn't look premium grade. The IP rating signifies that the Xperia XZ Premium is 'dust tight' (IP6x) and protected against both 'low pressure water spray' (IPx5) and 'the effects of continued immersion in water at depths greater than 1m' (IPx8).

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There's a rather odd arrangement for accommodating the SIM and MicroSD card. Removing the caddy on the left edge of the chassis reveals the MicroSD card tray, while the SIM sits in a tiny second caddy that has to be pulled out with a fingernail -- if you're a nail-biter, you'll need help with this. The plastic used to build the caddy doesn't feel too robust either.

I had issues with holding the phone comfortably and using the screen one-handed. Admittedly I've got small hands, but the Xperia XZ Premium's 77mm by 156mm by 7.9mm dimensions just don't nestle well. Moreover, any pocket that can take it will be weighed down to the tune of 191g.


The fingerprint reader is set into the power button, on the right edge of the handset.

Image: Sony

On the upside, Sony has put its fingerprint scanner into the power button, which is inset into the right edge. This is far better ergonomically than having it below the screen, and meant I could easily unlock the phone one-handed.

A significant upside of such a large handset is that it can accommodate a big screen. Or so you'd think. But Sony can't seem to get away from sizeable upper and lower bezels, and even the side bezels are a couple of millimetres wide, so there's no 'edge to edge' feel here. For the record, the Xperia XZ Premium's screen-to-body ratio is 63.4 percent, compared to 84.1 percent for Samsung's Galaxy S8 with its near-bezel-free Infinity Display.

Sony's 5.5-inch screen comes in behind the 5.7-inch LG G6 and the 5.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S8, although it matches the 5.5-inch screen in the HTC U11. What this Triluminos screen does do, though, is deliver a maximum 4K resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels -- that's a massive 807 pixels per inch (ppi) -- the Galaxy S8, by comparison, delivers 570ppi.

Here's a comparison of those other flagship handsets on size, weight and screen specifications:

    Sony Xperia XZ Premium
    156 x 77 x 7.9mm, 191g 5.5-inch screen, 3840 x 2160 pixels, 807ppi

    HTC U11
    153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm, 169g, 5.5-inch screen, 1440 x 2560 pixels, 534ppi

    LG G6
    148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9mm, 163g, 5.7 inch screen, 1440 x 2880 pixels, 564ppi

    Samsung Galaxy G8
    148.9 x 68.1 x 8mm, 155g, 5.8 inch screen, 1440 x 2960 pixels, 570ppi

    In addition to offering a 4K screen, the Xperia XZ Premium also supports HDR video.

    The difference this makes to the viewing experience will depend on how the handset is used. To conserve battery life the phone runs in 1080p mode (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) most of the time, flicking into 4K mode when it needs to show high-resolution content. Many eyes will struggle to see any difference at 4K mode, and in any case, even the much-vaunted VR potential of 4K isn't available in the wild yet. As for HDR video -- that's a rare beast indeed at the moment.

    There is definitely some futureproofing going here, but I'm doubtful whether 4K resolution or HDR support are essential features right now.

    Still, the screen is very good even in standard full-HD mode, delivering impressively sharp and bright image quality. Sony also provides colour gamut, contrast and white balance tools to help users tweak the display to their satisfaction.

    There's a decent 13-megapixel front-facing camera, but the Xperia XZ Premium's photographic claim to fame rests with its main 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera, which can shoot slow-motion video at a class-leading 960fps.

    This is a massive advance on the 240fps slowmo modes of rival handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7. It's made possible by having some RAM dedicated to the camera so that video can be buffered.

    There are three different slowmo options. Capturing at 120fps in 'slow motion' mode allows you to apply slowmo effects in post-capture editing. There's also a 'super slow (one-shot)' mode that captures a short clip of just a few seconds at 960fps within a longer video. Finally, there's a 'super slow motion' that runs at 960fps during normal video capture. In the latter case you need to choose the moment by pressing an on-screen button. One video can have numerous slowmo sections, but it isn't possible to stop slowmo capture at will. Once started, it continues for a set period, producing something like three seconds of super-slow action within a full-speed video.

    It was fun playing with this feature, but the slow periods are too short to really add value to any particular video. There's also an issue with low light conditions, which produce poorer quality video. But that's the same for 19-megapixel still images too, which are at their best outdoors in bright sunlight.

    The camera's memory buffer, incidentally, also supports a feature called Predictive Capture. This kicks in where the camera thinks there's a lot of movement, taking a burst of several images so you can select the best one later.

    The camera button on the right edge of the phone will be familiar to Xperia fans, and it both takes a shot and launches into the camera app from wherever you happen to be. This is great for taking quick snaps. The button's action is a bit spongy, but it's good that the half-depress to focus has its own click point.

    As a flagship handset it will not be a surprise that the Xperia XZ Premium runs on the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, with an Adreno 540 GPU. There is 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, with MicroSD card support available if you need more.

    There's nothing wrong with performance, which is as nippy as you'd expect from a top-flight handset. Sound quality is pretty good too, with a pair of front-facing speakers in the right position not to be muffled by a desk or other surface. Still, I would have liked more volume.

    The 3,230mAh battery easily saw me through a day's use. The provided AC adapter and cable will provide fast charging thanks to Quick Charge 3 support. Oddly, this was not supplied with my review sample, so I had to rely on a standard USB-C charge cable.

    The OS is Android 7.1, to which Sony ads myriad extras ranging from Sony's own PlayStation app and Xperia Lounge to the Kobo e-reader app, Lifelog fitness app, and Amazon Shopping. If you like a vanilla Android experience, this might not be the phone for you.


    Sony has packed the Xperia XZ Premium with features, and its general performance is exemplary. However, the two headliners -- the 4K screen resolution and 960fps super-slow-motion video -- promise more than they actually deliver.

    The design, too, is somewhat lacklustre, and a flagship handset should not have plastic edges or a flimsy SIM caddy. Also, I'm personally no fan of the level of software bloat over the standard Android apps, but others may differ on this.

    Xperia devotees may well be drawn to the XZ Premium, but with pricing on a par with other flagship handsets it will be worth careful research before taking the plunge, including looking further afield to the likes of the new, more affordable, OnePlus 5.

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    Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, audio player, voice recorder, stereo speakers, navigation
    Body Color Deepsea black
    Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
    Type smartphone (Android OS)
    Integrated Components audio player, front-facing camera, navigation, rear-facing camera, stereo speakers, voice recorder
    Navigation A-GPS, BeiDou, GLONASS, GPS
    Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900
    Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
    Phone Form Factor touch
    Service Provider not specified
    Operating System Family Android
    Operating System Android 7.1 Nougat
    SIM Card Type nano SIM
    SIM Card Slot Qty dual-SIM
    Input Device Multi-touch, capacitive
    Phone Features
    Phone Functions Speakerphone, call timer, conference call, flight mode, vibrating alert
    Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, pedometer, digital compass, barometer, magnetometer, gyro sensor, Time of Flight (ToF), geomagnetic sensor, RGBC-IR sensor, Significant motion detector
    Additional Features TTY compatible, DLNA Certified, Text-to-Speech (text recognition), sharing media via DLNA, intelligent typing (SWIFTKEY), intelligent typing (Gesture), Wi-Fi Miracast, Glove mode, Multi Window, X-Reality engine, MIMO technology, Google Voice typing function, Screen mirroring, Clear Audio+, Clear Bass, Dynamic normaliser, Digital Noise Cancelling (DNC), Ultra STAMINA Mode, Live Color LED, Hi-Res Audio, Low power audio playback, Smart backlight control, High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), Wi-Fi Passpoint, S-Force Front surround, Alarm Clock, PS4 Remote Play, Noise suppression, Smart cleaner, Qnovo Adaptive Charging, Battery Care, Smart Lock, Smart Stamina, STAMINA Mode, Screen zooming, Sony BRAVIA TV technology, Automatic Headphone Optimisation (AHO), Virtual Phones Technology (VPT), Xperia Actions, Automatic headset compensation
    Sensors RGBC-IR sensor, Significant motion detector, Time of Flight (ToF), accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, digital compass, geomagnetic sensor, gyro sensor, magnetometer, pedometer, proximity sensor
    Messaging & Internet
    Messaging Services MMS, SMS
    Supported Email Protocols IMAP4, POP3
    Supported Social Networks and Blogs Facebook
    Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, LTE
    Wireless Interface Bluetooth 5.0, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC
    Bluetooth Profiles Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP), Device Identification Profile (DID), General Audio/Video Distribution Profile (GAVDP), Generic Access Profile (GAP), Generic Attribute Profile (GATT), HID Over GATT Profile (HOGP), Hands-Free Profile (HFP), Headset Profile (HSP), Human Interface Device Profile (HID), Leadership Development and Advisory Council (LDAC), Message Access Profile (MAP), Object Push Profile (OPP), Personal Area Networking Profile (PAN), Phonebook Access Profile (PBAP), Serial Port Profile (SPP)
    Manufacturer QUALCOMM
    Processor Core Qty 8-core
    64-bit Architecture Yes
    Technology TRILUMINOS
    Display Resolution 3840 x 2160 pixels
    Color Depth 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
    Display Format 4K
    Diagonal Size 5.5 in
    Diagonal Size (metric) 14 cm
    Smartphone Diagonal Size 5.5 in
    Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 5 (scratch resistant glass)
    Color Support color
    Features Dynamic Contrast Enhancement, Super Vivid mode
    Media Player
    Supported Digital Video Standards MKV, AVI, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, 3GP, H.264, H.263, M4V, TS, WebM, 3G2, VP8, VP9, H.265, 3GPP, 3GPP2
    Supported Digital Audio Standards WAV, WMA, AAC, AIFF, ASF, PCM, Ogg Vorbis, AMR, MP3, FLAC, AAC-LC, XMF, LPCM, AAC +, eAAC+, MKA, MIDI, M4A, apt-X, DSF, DSDIFF, DSD, LDAC, MXMF, AWB, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, MP4, ALAC, OPUS, 3GPP, M4V, AAC-ELD, ADTS, 3GPP2, MPEG 2 TS, WAVE
    Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 540
    RAM 4 GB
    Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDHC, microSDXC - up to 256 GB
    User Memory 49.31 GB
    Digital Camera
    Special Effects Creative effect
    Brand Sony
    Product Line Sony XPERIA
    Model XZ Premium
    Packaged Quantity 1
    CE Input Device
    Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
    Touchscreen Technology capacitive
    Sensors RGBC-IR sensor, Significant motion detector, Time of Flight (ToF), accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, digital compass, geomagnetic sensor, gyro sensor, magnetometer, pedometer, proximity sensor
    Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert
    Additional Features Alarm Clock, Automatic Headphone Optimisation (AHO), Automatic headset compensation, Battery Care, Clear Audio+, Clear Bass, DLNA Certified, Digital Noise Cancelling (DNC), Dynamic normaliser, Glove mode, Google Voice typing function, Hi-Res Audio, High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), Live Color LED, Low power audio playback, MIMO technology, Multi Window, Noise suppression, PS4 Remote Play, Qnovo Adaptive Charging, S-Force Front surround, STAMINA Mode, Screen mirroring, Screen zooming, Smart Lock, Smart Stamina, Smart backlight control, Smart cleaner, Sony BRAVIA TV technology, TTY compatible, Text-to-Speech (text recognition), Ultra STAMINA Mode, Virtual Phones Technology (VPT), Wi-Fi Miracast, Wi-Fi Passpoint, X-Reality engine, Xperia Actions, intelligent typing (Gesture), intelligent typing (SWIFTKEY), sharing media via DLNA
    Android Enterprise Recommended Yes
    Digital Player (Recorder)
    Supported Digital Audio Standards 3GPP, 3GPP2, AAC, AAC-ELD, AAC-LC, ADTS, AIFF, ALAC, AMR, ASF, AWB, DSD, DSDIFF, DSF, FLAC, IMY, LDAC, LPCM, M4A, M4V, MIDI, MKA, MP3, MP4, MPEG 2 TS, MXMF, OPUS, OTA, Ogg Vorbis, PCM, RTTTL, RTX, WAV, WAVE, WMA, XMF, apt-X, eAAC+
    Supported Digital Video Standards 3G2, 3GP, 3GPP, 3GPP2, AVI, H.263, H.264, H.265, M4V, MKV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, TS, VP8, VP9, WebM
    Sound Enhancements 3D surround sound (VPT), Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE HX)
    Installed Size 4 GB
    Flash Memory
    Internal Memory Capacity 64 GB
    Max Supported Size 256 GB
    Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDHC, microSDXC
    User Memory 49.31 GB
    Graphics System
    Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 540
    Rear Camera
    Sensor Size 1/2.3"
    Front-facing Camera
    Sensor Resolution 13 Megapixel
    Lens Aperture f/2.0
    Features Hand Shutter, self-timer
    Front Camera
    Sensor Size 1/3.06"

    Where To Buy


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    Where To Buy

    Sony Xperia XZ Premium (deep sea black)

    Part Number: CNETSony Xperia XZ Premium (2017)