Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: a pretty or pointless 4K smartphone?

The XZ Premium has a higher resolution than your TV, but can it beat the S8?

IT Pro Innovation
Price
£542
  • The best resolution we've seen on a smartphone; Unique design; Good camera;
  • 4K smartphones are still fairly redundant; Screen-to-body ratio isn't good; Battery life is disappointing;

With top-shelf components and a mammoth 4K display, Sony's latest smartphone, the Xperia XZ Premium, is aiming squarely for the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the HTC U11.

It follows last year's Xperia Z5 Premium, an offering that also offered a 4K screen, but with few further improvements over the regular Z5. Thankfully, this year's model has more to offer, but can it put up enough of a fight to rival Samsung's superb Galaxy S8?

Design

Unlike many other manufacturers, Sony has been sticking to the same broad design aesthetic for the past few years. The Xperia XZ Premium looks very similar to most of the company's other phones, with smooth, sleek Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back, with rounded sides and flat edges on the top and bottom.

It's a unique and eye-catching look, which helps it to stand out from other devices that have a boring and samey metal unibody. Little touches like the chamfered edges on the top and bottom also give it a real premium feel.

The glass - both front and back - has been treated with an oleophobic coating, which means it's more resistant to picking up fingerprints. It's still glass, so it's going pick up some marks no matter what you do, but it's a lot more resilient to smudges and a lot easier to clean them off.

It's not without its problems, however. The glass body makes it feel a little slippery to hold. This isn't helped by the fact that it's truly vast, so it can be difficult to get a firm grip on it. The XZ Premium shares almost exactly the same dimensions as the iPhone 7 Plus, making it a pocket-stretching behemoth.

At 195g and almost 8mm thick, it's also a pretty chunky beast. It's got large bezels around the screen though, so despite all that surface area, the display is actually smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S8. With more and more manufacturers opting to narrow their bezels as much as possible, the screen-to-body ratio on the XZ Premium feels more than a little outdated.

Display

The Xperia XZ Premium's snazzy 4K HDR screen is one of its largest selling-points, but don't get too excited - having a 4K display on a smartphone isn't nearly as useful as you'd expect.

The first issue is that you're not going to be using it most of the time. The Android OS displays in upscaled 1080p to save battery and processing power rather than natively rendering everything in 4K. Some video apps offer 4K content, but unless you've got a really speedy internet connection, most of the video from apps like Netflix and YouTube will be streamed at lower resolutions anyway.

Even if they did stream at 4K, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference most of the time. Although there is an increase in picture sharpness over 1080p and QHD displays, it's barely perceptible, even in side-by-side comparisons. It's hardly going to improve your experience of viewing images or watching video by any significant amount.

It's still an excellent screen, of course - the 524cd/m2 brightness is retina-scorching, the contrast ratio is excellent and colours appear vibrant, even if the LCD panel isn't quite as rich as its AMOLED rivals. It's wildly unnecessary, but it does look undeniably good.

Read about specs, performance and features on the next page

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