Today, we have two of Sony’s latest premium smartphones go up against one another. In one corner we have the newly-launched Xperia XZ Premium, while in the other, there’s the Xperia XZ from last year. Sure, the Xperia XZ Premium does have newer, faster hardware on paper, but it also costs significantly more than the Xperia XZ, seeing as the older device can be bought these days at a sharp discount to its launch price. In fact, true to its reputation, Sony has priced the Xperia XZ Premium at a whopping $800, which is significantly higher than any of its mainstream competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S8, the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and the LG G6. All things considered, is the Xperia XZ Premium really worth the premium over its predecessor? Let’s find out!
Sony announced the Xperia XZ late last year after having launched a similar device called the Xperia X Performance a few months earlier. The device features the so-called 'Loop Surface' design and has sharp corners with tapered edges. Sony used a custom aluminum alloy called ‘Alkaleido’ for the back panel on the Xperia XZ, giving the device a shiny, metallic finish with a very smooth coating. All in all, it’s an impressive, if understated design that is unmistakably Sony, and while it looks great in isolation, its newer, larger and more expensive successor has it beat when they are compared side-by-side. Meanwhile, when you’re talking about Sony smartphones of recent vintage, the one thing that simply needs to be reiterated is that none of these devices come with the fingerprint scanner in the U.S. market, and the Xperia XZ, unfortunately, is no exception either.
That apart, the device is quite a powerful and feature-rich smartphone in its own right, and features a 5.2-inch IPS LCD Triluminous display protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4. The panel comes with a resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels, giving it a respectable pixel density of 424dpi. The device is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 that comes with an integrated CPU with four custom Kryo cores, two of which run at a maximum frequency of 2.16GHz and two others at 2.15GHz. The SoC also includes an Adreno 530 GPU for all its graphics processing needs. The device ships with 3GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded by a microSD card of up to 256GB in capacity. The Xperia XZ Premium also comes with an IP68 certification, which means just like its friendly rival in today’s comparison, it is also fully waterproof and dust resistant.
Taking a look at the optics on the Xperia XZ, the device uses a rear-facing 23-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 aperture, 24mm focal length, 1/2.3-inch sensor size, electronic image stabilization (EIS) and phase detection with laser auto focus. On the front, there’s a 13-megapixel auto-focus sensor with an f/2.0 aperture, 22mm focal length and 1/3-inch sensor size. While the primary camera can shoot 4K videos at 30 fps and 1080p videos at up to 60fps, the front-facing selfie-cam can only do 1080p videos at 30fps. The device carries a non-removable 2,900mAh battery with support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0, and its long list of sensors include an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a proximity sensor, a barometer, a magnetometer (e-compass) and a color spectrum sensor. The device originally shipped with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but has recently been updated to Android 7.1.1 Nougat. The Xperia XZ measures 146mm in length, 72mm in width and 8.1mm in thickness while weighing in at 161 grams.
The Xperia XZ Premium won the title of the “Best New Smartphone at MWC 2017” at the GSM Alliance Awards earlier this year, and it’s not difficult to see why. The device comes with cutting-edge hardware and striking good looks that make it one of the best smartphones to have been launched this year. We’ll get to the hardware on the Xperia XZ Premium in a while, but let’s just concentrate on its design for a while. It is undoubtedly one of the best-looking smartphones in the market today, and like some of its more recent predecessors, comes with a ‘Loop Surface’ design that is shiny and super-reflective. It has smooth, rounded edges on all sides just like the Xperia XZ, but instead of the Alkaleido metal body on its predecessor, it now has a glass back with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. As for the top and bottom edges, they are made of metal and have diamond-cut chamfered edges, which gives the phone a striking, yet elegant look.
On the front, the Xperia XZ Premium features a 5.46-inch IPS LCD Triluminous display covered with 2.5D curved glass. The panel comes with a 4K pixel resolution (3840 x 2160) and is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Under the hood, the device is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC that comes with the Adreno 540 GPU and a 64-bit CPU with eight custom Kryo 280 cores. While four of them are clocked at a maximum frequency of 2.45GHz, the other four run at a slightly slower 2.19GHz. The device comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded by a microSD card of up to 256GB in capacity. The Xperia XZ Premium is also fully waterproof and dust resistant, and comes with an IP68 certification, which means it can be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes at a stretch without any adverse effects.
Imaging options on the Xperia XZ Premium include a 19-megapixel rear-facing camera with 5-axis electronic image stabilization (EIS), PDAF and laser autofocus along with an LED flash. The camera has an f/2.0 aperture, a 25mm focal length and a 1/2.3″ sensor size, with software features that include geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR and panorama. The camera can record 4K videos at 30fps and 720p ultra slow motion videos at 960fps, although you can only record about 0.15 seconds of real-life action in this mode. The front facing camera is a 13-megapixel sensor that can record 1080p videos at 30fps and, comes with an f/2.0 aperture, a 22mm focal length, a 1/3-inch sensor size and 1.12µm pixel size. Sensors on the Xperia XZ Premium include an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a proximity sensor, a barometer, a magnetometer and a color spectrum sensor. The device carries a non-removable 3,230mAh Li-ion battery with support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0, and comes with Android 7.0 Nougat pre-installed.
Finally, discussions about the Xperia XZ Premium remain incomplete without a word on the fingerprint scanner that is conspicuous by its absence on the U.S. variant. For reasons not yet fully explained by Sony, U.S. versions of the company’s recent smartphones are shipping without the ubiquitous biometric scanner that is widely available even in $100 smartphones these days. Whether that will be a serious impediment towards the device becoming a success remains to be seen, but the Japanese giant will do well to sort out this mess as soon as possible if it truly wants to compete on even terms against the might of Apple and Samsung in the U.S. going forward.
It isn’t really much of a surprise that the Xperia XZ Premium takes this one, but what’s actually unexpected is how much the newer device wins it by, seeing as the Xperia XZ is not yet a year old. While the Xperia XZ received a mixed response from both the media and the general public on its release last year, its successor has received some glowing praise from many quarters, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a solid smartphone with a vibrant 4K display, the fastest processor in the market and quality cameras on both the front and the back, not to mention the super slow motion video recording. Whether all that translates into some much-needed sales for Sony remains to be seen, but the Xperia XZ Premium is certainly a step in the right direction for the Japanese tech giant. Had it not been for the the exorbitant $800 price-tag and the continued absence of the fingerprint scanner in the U.S.-bound units, the device would have no doubt given the Galaxy S8 and the Phone 7 Plus a run for their money. That being said, the device is still a solid contender in its own right, and will hopefully bring some much-needed volumes for Sony this year.