Sony Xperia XZ Premium review

Sony’s 4K smartphone boasts a pixel-packed display and a solid snapper

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Battery life

  • You'll easily get a full day's use from a single charge
  • Quick-charge support and power-saving modes

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium comes with a 3,230mAh non-removable battery packed inside its 7.9mm-thick body.

It’s not the most generous offering – the LG G6, for example, boasts a 3,600mAh unit – but it is larger than the 3,000mAh power pack in the Samsung Galaxy S8, so it’s far from lagging behind.

Battery size isn’t the be-all and end-all though, and it’s good news when it comes to the stuff that matters. The XZ Premium comfortably lasted us a day on a single charge, and we would regularly get into bed with between 15% and 20% of life left after a moderate amount of use. 

What does a moderate-use day look like? It’s a couple of hours of Spotify streaming, around 40 minutes of TV shows, multiple calls, messages and social media action, a flurry of emails and web-browsing, and an hour or two of gaming.

We generally took the Xperia XZ Premium off charge at around 6.30am each day, usually plugging it back in between 11pm and midnight.

If you curb the gaming and video usage you’ll get to bed with more than 20% left in the tank – which is a great performance for a modern flagship phone.

There’s no getting away from the fact that you’ll still need to charge the XZ Premium each night, but we never experienced the panic of running out of battery before being able to reach a power source.

A weak point for the Sony Xperia XZ Premium battery came in our 90 minute full HD video test, where we cranked the brightness up to maximum and had various accounts syncing in the background over Wi-Fi.

After the hour and a half of video playback was up the XZ Premium had lost 32% of its battery – a significant hit no doubt caused by the power hungry 4K display.

If you do settle down to watch a 4K HDR movie on the phone, you’ll want to make sure you have a power source close by.

There are always times where you'll find yourself running low – and thankfully the XZ Premium has a few tricks up its sleeve to help you out.

Firstly it supports Quick Charge 3.0, which replenishes the battery four times faster than a standard charger – so if you’re about to head out the door for the night, or have a long commute home, a quick blast before you leave will top you up nicely.

You do need a Quick Charge 3.0-enabled charging block to take advantage of the speedy top-up though - however one is provided in the box. Just remember to take it with you if you want speedy top ups away from home.

That’s useful if you’re near a charger, but the Xperia XZ Premium also comes with two power-saving modes to help you get the most from your remaining charge.

Stamina Mode extends battery life by reducing background data and screen brightness, as well as disabling some functions. It’s set to activate when your battery hits 15% by default, but you can manually override this if you want to enable it earlier.

And if you’re really struggling you can always call on Ultra Stamina Mode, which essentially turns your smartphone into a feature phone, restricting you to nine core apps and a simplistic interface to eke out the most time from your last few percent of life.

It’s an extreme option, and one we’d only employ if we desperately needed to keep our phone on and couldn’t get to a charger, but it’s a nice option to have just in case.

Camera

  • Seriously impressive slow motion camera
  • Solid rear camera captures a lot of detail

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has an excellent camera. It comes with a 19MP Sony-made rear sensor which features HDR, face detection, EIS (electronic image stabilization), predictive phase detection and laser autofocus.

In short, it’s well equipped – and that’s before we get to the real party piece: the super slow motion offering that can capture footage at a staggering 960fps. In comparison, the slow motion modes on the iPhone 7 (and 7 Plus) and Samsung Galaxy S8 (and S8 Plus) record at 240fps.

That means the XZ Premium gives you even slower footage, and if you can capture the right moment in slow motion the results are seriously impressive. Check out our video below to see the results.

There are three different slow motion modes to choose from. The entry-level Slow Motion option records at just 120fps, but gives you the added benefit of applying the slow motion effect after recording your video. 

This means you can pinpoint the exact moment you want to slow down after filming, without having get the timing just right when shooting live.

The other two modes, Super Slow (one-shot) and Super Slow Motion, require you to capture your snippet of 960fps footage while recording – you can’t edit the slow motion section of your video afterwards.

Super Slow (one-shot) makes things easy, as all you do is tap the shutter key once and the XZ Premium will capture a five-second clip at 960fps. This does mean you don’t get any normal-speed video either side of your clip, but you’re likely to get a better slow motion result.

The Super Slow Motion mode is the full package. Select it and hit record and you’ll be filming at 720p, but an extra button is included on-screen – tap this at any point while you're recording and the XZ Premium will grab a quick super-slow-motion clip before immediately resuming normal-speed recording.

It can be difficult to time the right moment when in Super Slow Motion mode, so we’d recommend sticking to the one-shot option.

The slow-motion footage is recorded at 720p, so clarity can suffer – especially in low light and indoors, where results are generally grainy. Head outside though, and in good light the Sony Xperia XZ Premium produces the best slow-motion footage of any smartphone on the market.

Moving away from slow motion and back to the camera itself, you get an impressive smartphone snapper which performs well in most scenarios when left on Sony’s default Intelligent Auto mode.

This adapts to the lighting environment you’re in, delivering well-exposed shots, with the laser autofocus ensuring that detail is high and blurring is kept to a minimum.

Moving objects are also handled with ease thanks to Sony’s predictive phase detection, which can follow targets to ensure they're always in focus. We tried this out on our cats, and the XZ Premium was able to keep pace with them as they explored the garden.

Sony is also one of the few manufacturers that still includes a dedicated physical camera button on its high-end phone, and the two-stage key on the XZ Premium allows you to focus your shot by pressing the button half way down, and then fully depressing it to snap an image.

It's a handy inclusion and makes taking pictures easier, as the large size of the Xperia XZ Premium makes hitting the on-screen shutter key tricky if you're using it one-handed. You can also hold the shutter key down at any point to launch the camera app.

If you’re looking for more granular control over your images the Sony Xperia XZ Premium offers up a manual mode, allowing you to fine tune the focus, exposure, white balance and shutter speed.

The focus control is especially useful, and easy to use, allowing you to pin-point your focus – whether it’s in the foreground or the background – with a simple slider on the side of the display.

For those looking for something more fun, you can head to the camera apps section where you’ll find the more sedate 4K video recording and panorama options alongside Sony’s zanier AR Effect – which overlays scenarios such as a volcano and dinosaurs onto your surroundings. It’s a bit silly, but it’s fun to play with.

The images the Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera produces are great, and Sony has improved its post-processing here which hampered shots on previous devices. 

Images are full of detail and color, although we did find they lacked the same pop as those captured on the Samsung Galaxy S8 – which just edges out the XZ Premium when it comes to point-and-shoot tasks.

Spend some time with the camera on the Sony though, and hone your skills on the super slow motion mode, and you’ll very much enjoy what the Xperia XZ Premium has to offer in the photography department.

Camera samples

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The Xperia XZ Premium camera captures high levels of details, like the whiskers and fur here
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As a simple point-and-shoot camera the Xperia XZ Premium performs very well
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Sony's Intelligent Auto mode is generally very good at judging scenes, but we'd have preferred the subject not to be in so much shadow here
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You can get up close and personal to grab detailed close-up shots
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Here the camera has done full justice to the vibrant colors in the pub
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Switch to manual mode and you can control the focus point – here we picked out the foreground detail…
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…before switching the focus to the background, which was easy to do using the on-screen slider
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The XZ Premium does a solid job in low light, capturing sufficient detail and color
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Enable the AR (augmented reality) filter in the camera app and you can have some fun