Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Review: The 4K HDR Phone

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By Nick Sutrich July 31, 2018, 10:00am
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Sony's Xperia XZ2 Premium features possibly the finest mobile display ever made.

Sony’s Premium line of smartphones has always brought about some interesting technological achievement, and this year is no different. Sporting the world’s first combination of a 4K display with HDR capabilities, as well as a dual-camera setup capable of recording 4K HDR content, the Xperia XZ2 Premium is an all-in-one package for smartphone camera enthusiasts and HDR video fanatics alike. Do these features warrant the big price jump to $999? Let’s take a look.

Video Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Specs

Claiming the crown as the most expensive flagship phone from Sony yet, the Xperia XZ2 Premium retails for £799/€900/$999 and is bundled with the Xperia Ear Duo wireless headphones, which normally retail for $279 by themselves. The phone is sold in Chrome Black or Chrome Silver, the latter of which is the color we have for review. On the front is the centerpiece of the phone, the Sony Triluminos 4K HDR IPS LCD display, measuring 5.8-inches and sporting a 16:9 aspect ratio and resolution of 3840 x 2160 (759 PPI). Inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, along with 6GB of LPDDR4X RAM, 64GB of UFS internal storage, microSD card support for up to 400GB, and dual-SIM support in the same tray as well.

Above the display is a 13-megapixel camera, whose sensor measures in at 1/3.06-inches, and sits behind an f/2.0 86-degree angle lens. Along the back is a pair of cameras, a first for a Sony flagship, and the main sensor is the same on the Xperia XZ2. That’s a 19-megapixel Sony IMX400 sensor with 1.22-micron sized pixels, whose sensor measures in at 1/2.3-inches, and sits behind an f/1.8 81-degree angle Sony G Lens. That new secondary sensor is a monochrome 12-megapixel sensor, of the same 1/2.3-inch size, but sporting 1.55-micron pixels as a result of its lower megapixel count. This secondary sensor sits behind an f/1.6 81-degree angle Sony G Lens for even further light intake in lower lighting situations. These cameras are capable of recording 4K HDR content.

A brand new AUBE fusion image signal processor joins both camera images together into a single 17-megapixel image. Underneath the IP68 water and dust-resistant glass and metal frame sits a 3,540mAh battery, and a single USB 3.1 Type-C port can utilize Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 for fast charging. Wireless charging is supported via the Qi standard. There is no 3.5mm audio jack, but the phone ships with a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter, as well as the Xperia Ear Duo wireless Bluetooth earbuds. Bluetooth 5.0 and a CAT18 LTE modem power the wireless experience, and a pair of stereo speakers on the front of the device ensure quality sound even if you forget to bring headphones along for the ride. The device measures in at 157mm high, 78mm wide, 10mm at its thickest point, and weighs a hefty 235 grams.

In The Box

Typically what’s in the box wouldn’t call for an entirely different section of the review, but Sony has significantly stepped up its game with included accessories, the highlight of which are the Xperia Ear Duo, a pair of advanced headphones that are completely wireless and typically retail for $279 by themselves. Sony is hoping the inclusion of these expensive headphones, in conjunction with the hardware upgrades of the phone, make the higher price point more palatable. The inclusion of wireless earbuds in the box is significant since the XZ2 Premium does not have a 3.5mm audio jack. Included alongside the Ear Duo is a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter, 5v/1.5a wall charger, USB Type-A to Type-C cable, and a set of warranty manuals and the like.

This is not a review of the Xperia Ear Duo, rather a general overview of their functionality and features from our brief use with them. The design is unlike other headphones on the market, mainly because the Ear Duos transmit sound via bone conduction rather than through a traditional speaker that fits inside of the ear. There are advantages and disadvantages to this design, no doubt, but there are a few takeaways to consider. These are incredibly light at 10 grams, and because they place most of the weight outside the ear and toward the bottom, these are easily some of the most comfortable headphones available on the market today. This is especially the case if you’re looking to wear them for physical activities, like sports or running, as their placement and weight distribution do a better job of keeping them on your ears without slipping off.

Bone conduction sound is quite different from standard sound too, and while some folks may not prefer this sound over traditional methods of audio transmission, as they are extremely light on bass and do better with music that favors mid and upper ranges of sound. The advantage here is that something isn’t sitting inside the ear canal, especially for long periods of time, as this can cause anything from comfort issues to infections, depending on how much sweat is accumulating in the ear. It’s also got a neat touchpad on the larger body of the headphones, which enable simple gestures and easy calling up of Google Assistant, answering phone calls, etc. While they won’t deliver the best sound quality in the world, they do deliver an excellent overall experience, with great battery life, ease of use, and, likely most important in a truly wireless set, a comfortable fit that won’t fall off easily.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Display

One of the biggest selling points and differentiators of the Xperia XZ2 Premium is its 4K HDR display. As it’s a cinematic 4K display, this means the aspect ratio is 16:9 to accompany the resolution. While this makes sense for content, the phone feels shorter and wider than most other phones released in 2018, and as a result, feels a bit older when directly comparing it even to the standard Xperia XZ2. It’s not that 16:9 is a bad aspect ratio, per say, but the additional area for content on taller aspects ratios certainly feels fresher than 16:9 offers, and in the end makes the phone feel a bit fat when compared to any other 2018 flagship, including Sony’s own Xperia XZ2. There’s also the question of the necessity of a 4K display at 5.8-inches. Sporting 759 pixels-per-inch (PPI) density, the display on the Xperia XZ2 Premium is the highest resolution display on any phone released in 2018, sometimes by a significant margin when considering that the average smartphone sits at around 400PPI in 2018.

Typically, this high of a pixel density is more useful for VR content, as anything past 350PPI isn’t normally distinguishable by the human eye in great detail. Sony actually only displays content at 1080p resolution unless the app requests otherwise, which includes all of the phone’s standard user interface (UI) and built-in apps. Apps that specifically call for anything above 1080p including Quad-HD and 4K will be rendered in those resolutions, and 4K videos on streaming services like YouTube will also display in 4K. Since there’s no VR support, the ideal use-case scenario for a 4K resolution panel at this size is certainly missed, but the real magic happens when viewing true 4K content, particularly in HDR.

Sony is still sticking with its Triluminos IPS LCD panels on its mobile phones, and as a result, these panels don’t provide as much “wow factor” as an OLED display would in standard apps. IPS LCDs have traditionally been easier to see in direct sunlight versus OLED panels, but this panel’s sheer resolution ends up cutting down a bit on the actual brightness level, which is about half that of the IPS LCD panel in the LG G7 ThinQ. The pixel persistence rate on the Xperia XZ2 Premium is among the lowest we’ve seen on any mobile IPS LCD panel, and you’ll typically only find a bit of trailing on higher contrast UI elements, with no visible trailing or ghosting within video or gaming content. Colors were oftentimes extremely pleasant and accurate, but every now and then an app would look just a bit off, either upon initial loading or while running. Apps that display in a different color space can tend to have some odd colors on this display, notably Allo’s iconography, which is a sickly shade of yellow on this display.

This game all changes when viewing 4K content, particularly when that content is also HDR content and this display quickly transforms into one of the finest mobile panels ever made in these types of scenarios. Comparing it side-by-side with other 2018 flagships reveals not only how incredibly crisp and detailed the Xperia XZ2 Premium’s display is, but also how color accurate and balanced it can be during HDR playback. Sony has obviously tweaked this panel to look significantly better when viewing HDR content, but this look can be altered slightly in the display settings. It’s stunning to see and really makes the phone shine if you find yourself regularly watching this type of high-resolution content.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Hardware and Build

Sony’s decision to keep a 16:9 aspect ratio on the Xperia XZ2 Premium means that the phone not only sports large top and bottom bezels than the standard Xperia XZ2, but also that it’s 6mm wider than that phone, all while sporting a smaller overall display. At the least, these bezels are much smaller than last year’s Xperia XZ Premium, but they still look out of place in 2018. You’ll immediately notice the wider feeling body when coming from any phone with an 18:9 or taller aspect ratio, and it makes the phone feel rather fat, especially considering it’s not only the heaviest flagship phone in years but also one of the thickest. It still features the unique humped back and camera design of the XZ2, however, so it doesn’t look completely out of place next to the rest of the XZ2 family.

Being wider and heavier, on top of this curved back, makes the device feel overly large, and certainly out of the realm of smartphone design in 2018. While this was a positive thing as a whole for the standard XZ2, which felt different than most 2018 phones without appearing old, the XZ2 Premium looks and feels like an older device in almost every way. Part of the issue is with the color of our review unit, Chrome Silver, which doesn’t complement this design in the way the Chrome Black variant does. Sony pads out the design with a trio of buttons on the right side; a volume rocker up top, the power button in the middle, and camera shutter button at the bottom. The SIM tray remains the same as previous generations and requires no tray eject tool to get the job done.

Being all metal and glass, as well as having a curved back, the Xperia XZ2 Premium is a phone that’s likely going to slip off any surface you place it on, no matter how level you might think that surface is. Then there’s Sony’s interesting placement of the fingerprint scanner, which is about at the midpoint of the phone vertically on the back. On the smaller and thinner Xperia XZ2, I found this fingerprint scanner position to be pretty easy to use, but the new dual-camera module on the Xperia XZ2 Premium means it’s very likely you’ll be pawing the bottom lens more often than you’d like. It only took a day or two for muscle memory to kick in though, and after a week I found I almost never touched the camera sensor on accident when reaching for the fingerprint scanner.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Security, Performance, and Benchmarks

If there is one single thing that Sony phones have always excelled at, it is performance. Despite shipping with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset that all 2018 flagship smartphones have shipped with, the Xperia XZ2 Premium feels faster than most phones without a doubt. Animation times are shortened out of the box, so while the animations don’t look as fancy as some other phones sport, they are faster as a whole, and really help illustrate just how fast Sony’s phones are. As most apps only render in 1080p, performance isn’t degraded because of the 4K panel. 4K content runs flawlessly, and the extra 2GB of RAM helps multi-tasking perform better over the Xperia XZ2. There were countless times where I pulled up an app I hadn’t run in a few days, only to be greeted with an instant load of the app, as it was still stored in memory for quick access.

As was the case with the Xperia XZ2 and Xperia XZ2 Compact, the fingerprint scanner on the back of the Xperia XZ2 Premium functions in all markets. This is a drastic change from all other Sony smartphones with a fingerprint scanner in the US, as Sony’s implementation of the fingerprint scanner forced the company to disable them completely in the US market. Fingerprint scanners still mark one of the safest and fastest ways to biometrically lock your phone and also create an easy, quick way to authenticate for mobile payments and other apps that support signing in with fingerprints. Sony's fingerprint scanner location is certainly a curious design, and resides further down the back than most OEMs opt for. Sony says this is a more ergonomic position, and while I'm not sure I can agree with that, it's certainly not any less ergonomic than most other rear-facing fingerprint scanner positions. It's distinctly possible that folks with larger hands could have an issue, but most people probably won't be bothered beyond the first day or two.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Wireless Connectivity, Sound and Battery Life

Sony's position in the US smartphone market remains an interesting one, as it still doesn't have full certification for VoLTE or VoWiFi (Voice over LTE or WiFi) on carriers like T-Mobile US. Many European networks do feature support and will have both VoLTE and VoWiFi if the carrier allows it. You'll need to check with your carrier ahead of time to ensure compatibility, but it's a bit odd to see this on such a big-name flagship phone in 2018. This same issue occurs on the rest of the Xperia XZ2 family too, so it's not just a weakness of the XZ2 Premium. That being said, all other metrics related to signal strength, speed and coverage are areas where the Xperia XZ2 Premium excels at its job.

Sony’s sound output has long been in the top of the charts for quality, both via the various output options like USB Type-C or Bluetooth, as well as the speakers built into the phone. The speakers on the Xperia XZ2 Premium represent some of the absolute finest speakers you’ll find on any device, bar none. It’s not just the quality that’s excellent either, it’s also the volume. I was able to sit outside on a rather nice day and enjoy some music via the speakers on the phone without feeling like I was missing out significantly on sound quality, or straining my ears to hear the music. This is definitely uncommon in the world of smartphones, even in 2018 where average speaker quality has jumped significantly, and can really come in handy for those that enjoy listening to music or watching videos without having to use headphones.

Sony introduced a brand new type of vibration motor to its phones with the launch of the Xperia XZ2, utilizing the same quality vibration motors found in the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller. These vibration motors allow more subtle vibrations to occur, as well as lend a far higher quality feel to standard vibrations on the phone as well. While many phones’ vibration motors still feel harsh or tinny, the ones on the Xperia XZ2 family all feel super high quality, with deep vibrations that can be adjusted in significant ways. Sony also launched a new concept with these vibration motors, called Dynamic Vibration, that acts as a sort of subwoofer for audio. While music or videos are playing, Dynamic Vibration will turn the vibration motor in a way that mimics the feel of bass from a subwoofer, and while it doesn’t sound any different in the realm of audio, it definitely adds a new feel to the experience.

This is something that won’t please everyone in every situation, but it’s certainly a unique feature that can lend a depth to the experience that’s simply not available on any other phone. Three intensity levels can be selected on the fly by using the volume rockers during any media playback, or dynamic vibration can be turned off entirely, and this is all saved on a per-app basis too. For instance, I turned it off dynamic vibration for Google Play Music, since I don’t typically hold the phone while listening to music, but left it on standard intensity for YouTube since I do normally hold the phone while watching videos.

It’s likely that Dynamic Vibration could have a moderate effect on battery life if left enabled all the time, so it’s certainly something to consider if you’re having trouble getting a full day out of the phone on a single charge. In our testing this never occurred, and battery life was excellent every single day during use without exception. At 3,540mAh, this is a battery that’s larger than average, which is good since the screen can be anywhere from 2 to 4 times higher resolution than any other smartphone on the market. Higher resolution screens typically drain battery faster because the graphics processor has to work harder to keep the experience fast and fluid, but Sony’s decision to keep most content rendered at 1080p (unless otherwise specified, of course) helps average battery significantly, and keeps this in the range of excellent overall battery life.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Software

Just as the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact support Google’s Project Treble, so too does the Xperia XZ2 Premium. Project Treble is Google’s way of helping manufacturers deliver more timely updates to the Android platform by further modularizing the OS, and we’ve seen the fruits of this labor with the Android P beta. While the Xperia XZ2 Premium doesn’t support the Android P beta, it is all but guaranteed to see an official, final Android P (Android 9.0) release in the coming weeks as Google finalizes the code. Sony has traditionally been pretty good about major OS updates, and has frequently been among the first to launch any phone with the latest version of Android, so here’s hoping that the Xperia XZ2’s participation in the Android P beta pays off big time for customers this year.

Outside of this there’s almost nothing new to speak of on the software front. What you’re getting is Sony’s excellent, light Android skin that adds features to the OS without completely changing the look or feel of Google’s designs. It’s definitely got a Sony look and feel within Sony apps, and occasionally in places like the support page, but for the most part Sony’s changes and additions are to add a few features and make things snappier rather than bog things down with features you’ll likely only use once or twice. Sony offers notably better support than most OEMs, taking Google’s route of offering in-app chats and calls for support, as well as a wide range of technical guides and troubleshooting tips. This is all found in the support section of system settings, and is a breath of fresh air when compared to most OEMs, without a doubt.

Sony also offers deep integration with its Playstation line of video game hardware via PS4 Remote Play. A simple setup includes enabling Remote Play on your PS4, and following the few steps on the Xperia XZ2 Premium to connect to your PS4. You’ll then pair a DualShock 4 controller to the phone, which will then act as the way to interact with your PS4 remotely. While Sony recommends and even actively tries to keep PS4 remote connections only happening over WiFi, there are ways to connect over cell networks that might offer a reasonable gameplay experience. Remote play features little to no noticeable latency over networks with a solid connection, and enables true remote control of your PS4 through the phone. It’s an excellent way to play remotely, and while it obviously won’t work everywhere since it needs a good Internet connection, it’s something truly unique and wonderful to have when available.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Camera Hardware and Software

With the Xperia XZ2 Premium, Sony is jumping on the dual-camera bandwagon, but not in the way you would think. The main rear camera is the same 19-megapixel sensor you’ll find on the Xperia XZ2, which as we’ve seen before, is capable of some pretty incredible imagery. The Sony IMX400 packs 1.22-micron sized pixels inside a large 1/2.3” sensor, nestled behind an upgraded f/1.8 81-degree angle lens. It’s capable of 12,800 ISO in video mode and 51,200 ISO in photo mode, something unheard of in the mobile industry when most phones don’t go above 3,000 ISO or so in most cases. Part of the reason Sony allows this is the new second image sensor, which is a 12-megapixel monochrome sensor with much larger 1.55-micron sized pixels, sitting behind an f/1.6 lens. This camera utilizes Sony’s own AUBE image signal processor, which fuses the images together in a way likely similar to Huawei’s method, as the black and white camera is automatically activated in lower light situations to enhanced lower light photography significantly.

This dual camera mode can be manually enabled in manual camera mode via a quick button on the viewfinder. Also new to manual mode is the ability to finally force enable HDR for photos, something that has been missing from Sony’s camera software for some time now. Dual camera mode and HDR options are also available for video recording as well, giving users a quick way to utilize these advanced features when either taking pictures or recording video too, although these two features are only available when recording in 1080p resolution. There are also two new modes to take advantage of the dual camera setup but weren’t available to us during the review period. Bokeh Effect, or probably better known as portrait mode, is something that will ship with the final software, and you’ll also be able to take advantage of the secondary monochrome camera via a separate black & white mode as well. Hopefully we’ll get to test these in the future, but for now, they are simply unavailable.

Predictive capture is a big piece of what makes Sony’s camera software special, as it utilizes the on-sensor DRAM to take a burst of shots before and after you actually press the shutter, and then will present the user with a selection of shots to choose from. This is done in the background, with the selections being made in the gallery after taking a picture, but it adds an extra half a second or so to normal picture taking time because of this feature. Most of the time this results in phenomenal pictures of moving subjects, like kids or pets, but I found it didn’t activate as often, or maybe even at all when the dual camera mode was enabled. This resulted in a few times where darker moving subjects would be blurrier than typically occurs on a Sony smartphone camera.

Sony’s interface is identical to what we’ve experienced on Sony phones for the past few years, but is now faster than ever, even more so than what we just recently reviewed on the Xperia XZ2. Launching the camera is effectively instantaneous, only taking as long as it takes to physically press and hold the dedicated shutter button on the phone, or to double-tap the power button to launch. Switching between modes is as quick as a simple swipe, with instant loading between pages. This is in stark contrast with most phones that use this page-swipe model of mode switching for camera interfaces, which typically take up to one full second to switch between each mode. This speed is extremely important, especially for a user interface that features a design that separates all modes from each other, as it doesn’t introduce the latency typically associated with such designs.

The additional modes section, located all the way to the right in the carousel, still uses separate apps instead of built-in modes for the camera. While we don’t yet know how Sony will arrange its Black & White and Bokeh modes, traditionally Sony has created separate apps for these types of features and placed their icons in this additional modes section. The problems with this design are multifold, as it not only takes several swipes to move over to this fairly obscure mode, but each of these additional modes is, again, a separate app, and requires separate loading and launching from the camera app. This is particularly problematic if launching the camera while the phone is locked, as the phone has to be unlocked to utilize any of the additional modes/apps found in this section.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Camera Results

Low light photography is the biggest change from the XZ2 to the XZ2 Premium, and really from any past Sony flagship phone. The new secondary camera utilizes a monochrome sensor with significantly larger pixels than the main RGB sensor (1.55um vs 1.22um). On top of this, the lens is an f/1.6 grade, which means it sucks in more light than the f/1.8 on the main RGB sensor, and much more than the f/2.0 lens on the Xperia XZ2’s camera. Since this low light mode is automatically activated by default once the light gets below a certain value, users won’t need to activate a special mode just to see this kick in. There is a slight pause when the secondary camera is activated, and after that, the light begins to flow into the viewfinder. Having a live viewfinder is a huge deal, as it makes subjects easier to frame and see during darker situations like this, whereas many other phones will typically just show a black screen during these darker situations.

This is easily the best low-light camera Sony has ever made, and it’s all thanks to that new dual camera module. Dual images are restricted to 17-megapixels in size because of the difference in the megapixel count on the sensors, but this isn’t an issue by any means. In fact, the difference in detail between the single camera at 19-megapixels and the fusion image at 17-megapixels is quite the opposite of what would normally be assumed of a higher resolution image. This difference in even moderate light is noticeable, and in very dark light can be incredible. I ran into enough scenes where the difference wasn’t very big though, but as a rule of thumb, the darker the scene, the bigger the difference you’ll find between single and dual camera modes. There’s a reason the auto mode doesn’t keep this on all the time though; first off, the capture time can be quite a bit slower than the normal capture mode.

Normal capture still features predictive capture, which can appear to delay the shutter by half a second or so, but low light capture can result in a delay of a few seconds between shots in very low light. While it’s not likely that you’re going to take pictures of fast moving objects in low light, it’s still a weakness that’s worth noting. Another interesting issue crops up when the dual camera is enabled and you get too close to an object. The viewfinder will warn you if you’re too close to something (with dual camera manually forced on), as the camera ends up producing a double image in places if you get too close. Since you have to manually force enable this to get it to happen, we won’t dock points, but it’s certainly something worth noting when using manual mode and enabling the secondary camera.

Standard daytime photo quality is generally excellent, with good color accuracy and white balance, as well as some seriously phenomenal detail in most lighting conditions. HDR is still not quite as aggressive as I’d like to see in many situations, and the camera instead tends to favor a higher exposure value to pull out shadow detail, which ends up blowing out highlights quite a bit. This isn’t atypical of Sony cameras, but it was less prominent on the Xperia XZ2 in our testing, which seems a bit strange, but it could be attributed to a mix of the lower f-stop lens, which lets in more light, and possibly the new dual camera setup, which further adds to the light induction.

4K HDR recording was introduced with the Xperia XZ2 with its release just the other month, and that same capability is here as well. At this time, Sony makes the only smartphones capable of recording in 4K HDR out of the box without any modifications or custom software to configure. That’s not to say editing HDR video is easy by any means, as the standard is a bit complicated to say the least, but most videos will look great when viewed on the phone since it has a 4K HDR display to natively show these videos back at their true full potential. Videos can also be uploaded to a supported video sharing site, like YouTube, which will convert the HDR standard over to something viewable on 4K HDR TVs and other HDR10-capable displays. Check out our video review to see some of the native 4K videos in action, and follow the links there to see the comparison videos recorded in HDR.

There’s definitely a palpable difference between SDR and HDR video from the phone in every measure: color accuracy, contrast, dynamic range, everything is just better in HDR mode, as should be expected, but there is a small caveat: HDR is only recorded in 24FPS, while everything else is 30FPS or higher. There’s curiously no support for 4K video at 60FPS either, which seems odd since the camera is able to do 960FPS super slow motion at fullHD 1080p. Image stabilization is also restricted a bit, as 1080p recording is the only quality where Intelligent Stabilization is available, a hybrid of optical image stabilization (OIS) and electronic image stabilization (EIS). 4K recording only offers the option of OIS.

When phones like the OnePlus 6 or HTC U12+ can offer both 4K video at 60FPS with hybrid stabilization, it’s seems a bit odd that Sony doesn’t seem to be able to do either of these features, but it does feature one massively important exclusive that other non-Sony branded phones don’t have: distortion correction. This distortion correction is exclusive to the sensors Sony makes for its own phones, and it can make a huge difference when movement is involved. Movement on most sensors produces an image that looks like it warps a bit, as the electronic stabilization methods typically change the geometry of the frame to account for bounces and jitters. Sony is able to perform a different kind of distortion correction right on the sensor, and this offers an image that’s distortion-free, albeit slightly shakier. This isn’t new to the XZ2 Premium, but it’s something you won’t find on non-Sony branded flagships, and it could be considered more valuable than the hybrid stabilization in some situations.

You’ll also be able to take video using the dual camera method, just like with photography, and like the photography modes, the darker the scene, the bigger the difference is between single and dual camera modes. Once again though, this mode is restricted to 1080p resolution only and is not available when recording in 4K mode. Just as in photo mode, the dual camera mode tends to pump out more detail at 1080p resolution than the single camera can at 4K resolution during darker scenes, but there’s no be-all-end-all solution here, rather you’ll have to switch between 4K video in brighter scenes, and 1080p dual-camera video in darker scenes manually to get the best effect, and it’s here where the true missed opportunity exists.

Sony has been putting some pretty excellent front-facing cameras on its phones lately, especially in 2018, and the XZ2 Premium got an upgrade over the XZ2 in some significant ways. Jumping from 5-megapixels on the XZ2 all the way up to 13-megapixels on the XZ2 Premium, Sony has even packed a better 86-degree angle lens on top too, with a lower f/2.0 rating. The results are as expected, and you’ll find the front-facing camera here is generally excellent, delivering crisp, clean shots with a nice wide-angle lens that captures little additional details around you, or just makes it easier for group shots as a whole. Darker scenes don’t fare much better than the XZ2 though, if at all, and while there is still a front-facing soft flash, it’s a bit too harsh looking. Soft flash works by illuminating the screen instead of a dedicated LED flash, and while it’s super bright and will light up literally any condition, it looks harsher the darker things get.

The Good

Incredible 4K HDR display

Amazing new low light camera

4K HDR recording

High-quality, loud front-facing speakers

Xperia Ear Duo packed in

Excellent performance and multi-tasking

IP68 water and dust resistance

Qi wireless charging

PS4 Remote play

Dynamic vibration system

Project Treble support

The Bad

Heavy and bulky design

Extremely slippery

No VoLTE or VoWiFi on T-Mobile and some other US carriers

No 3.5mm audio jack

Conclusion

Sony's Xperia XZ2 Premium is one of the best performing phones on the market, with an unbelievably good 4K HDR display, ultra-high quality sound output amazing vibration motors, spectacular new cameras, and a refreshed design language. It also comes bundled with the expensive Xperia Ear Duo headphones, which typically retail for $279, adding significant value to the expensive £799/€900/$999 package. It's the price and the size of this device that brings down its other desirable traits the most, and while it's far from being a bad device by any measure, it's not going to be easy to justify this high cost for many folks. If the price isn't a problem, this is easily one of the best phones you'll find in the Summer of 2018, but that's certainly a difficult thing to overlook in the end.

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July 31, 2018, 10:00am
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