Our Verdict

This chunky number is not our pick of the year’s ultra-high price phones, but the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium does excel at low light video.

For

  • Good low light photos and video
  • Bold, sharp screen
  • Plenty of power

Against

  • Poorly positioned finger scanner
  • Big and heavy
  • Dated screen shape

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium is Sony's most expensive phone of 2018. Like previous 'Premium' phones it has a 4K screen and Sony crams more pixels into 5.8 inches than some TVs do into 50.

A super-sharp screen isn't the main event this time, though. Night photography is.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium has comfortably the best camera used in an Xperia phone to date. It can take almost strangely good night photos considering it does not have optical image stabilization.

However, it still can’t topple the Huawei P20 Pro at night. And the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium is otherwise tricky to recommend. It’s big and heavy without any obvious excuse, and parts of the design are awkward and a little dated.

If you find the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium as part of a low-price deal it’s still a solid buy. Its tech and performance are good. But there are too many better alternatives out there to fully recommend it at full price.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium price and availability

  • Out now in the US, hits UK on August 31
  • Costs $999/£799

Sony announced the Xperia XZ2 Premium in April 2018, before it went on sale at the end of July. It took a little longer to reach the UK, though, with it arriving on August 31.

In the US the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium price is $999, comparable with the iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 9

However, UK buyers get a slightly better deal. At £799 the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium is a little cheaper than all those high-profile rivals. Currently it's not available in Australia.

The wider context is worth considering too, though. Those after a slick phone with high-end specs should also check out the OnePlus 6 ($529, £469) and Huawei P20 (£499, AU$899), which are as powerful but cost significantly less.

Thanks to the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium’s relatively late arrival even the Huawei P20 Pro is now available for less than the Sony.

Key features

  • High-end specs at a high-end price
  • Dual rear cameras
  • Snapdragon 845 chipset

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium is an unusual phone. It’s one of the few 2018 models to use an old-style 16:9 screen rather than an 18:9 one.

This immediately dates the look, and makes it feel far larger than other phones with a similar screen inch count. However, it’s also the only high profile 2018 flagship with a 4K screen. Samsung, Apple and LG don’t make 4K phones at the moment.

It’s a Sony USP. In person, though, its benefits are not particularly dramatic.

The camera is a better draw. This is, remarkably, Sony’s first dual-rear camera phone. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium uses these cameras to great effect too, boosting low light performance.

This phone has almost none of the image quality issues of old Sony Xperia phones. All options at this price are top performers, though, and the XZ2 Premium doesn’t slide ahead of the lot. It just sees Sony phones finally reach where they should be.

Outside of these distinct areas, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium has familiar specs. It uses the Snapdragon 845 chipset, seen in several top Androids of 2018, and a 3,540mAh battery with wireless charging.

Storage comes with a slight sting. You get 64GB. At this price we’d like to see 128GB instead, although as the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium has a microSD card slot this probably shouldn’t put you off buying the phone.

Design

  • 158 x 80 x 11.9mm, 236g
  • Gorilla Glass 5 rear, aluminum sides
  • IP68 water resistance

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium is the stubby, tubby king of Android phones. Sony has ignored several recent design trends, and we end up with something quite different to the rest.

But not in an entirely positive sense.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium doesn’t have an ultra-slim screen surround, and is very wide and thick. 11.9mm at its middle, it heads towards twice the thickness of an iPhone X.

At 80mm wide, it also feels larger than the 76.4mm Galaxy Note 9. Add its hefty 236g weight and the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium starts to look like a mammoth.

There’s no obvious reason either. This phone does not have a gigantic battery or military spec ruggedization. It’s just unusually thick and heavy.

Screen shape is what makes it seem immediately dated. Just about every other phone around the price has an 18:9 or 18.5:9 screen. These displays are longer and taller than the Sony’s, used to fill more of the front with display.

Big borders above and below the screen make the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium look stout. Put the Sony next to the other $1000 phones and re-imagine them as the school kid cast of an 80s adventure film. The Sony definitely plays the part of the ‘fat’ kid.

Still, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium is an immediately eye-catching phone. Its back is a smoothly curved piece of Gorilla Glass 5, the sides shiny, rounded aluminum. It feels expensive, and the curvature of the glass ensures it doesn’t seem as thick as its 11.8mm spec sounds.

Some have complained about how the XZ2 Premium’s smooth glass rear makes it slip all over the place. Maybe our desks are too flat, our hands not smooth enough, but we haven’t found it an issue.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium’s power button and fingerprint scanner placement are odd, though. When the Xperia Z series began in 2013, Sony introduced its ‘OmniBalance’ design. Its core tenet is ‘put stuff in the middle’, expressed in a more flowery manner.

It’s used here, far too literally. The fingerprint sits in the middle of the XZ2 Premium’s back, and it’s far too low. Your finger wants it to be where the camera sits. Making a ‘convenience’ feature like a fingerprint scanner less convenient makes it, you guessed it, worse.

The power button on the side is also a little low, but only by a centimeter, not two inches like the scanner.

Like a lot of past Xperia phones, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium is water resistant. It’s certified to IP65/68, meaning it can handle being submerged in water and pelted with water jets. Sony asks you not to test this, mind:

“You should not put the device completely underwater; or expose it to seawater, salt water, chlorinated water, or liquids such as drinks. Abuse and improper use of device will invalidate warranty,” Sony writes on its website.

There’s also no headphone jack. You get an adaptor in the box, but we’d much rather see a 3.5mm socket.

Sony’s Xperia XZ2 Premium is an awkward phone. It’s big and heavy, and its screen shape belongs in 2016, not 2018. You’ll get used to all its odd design elements, but at this price we don’t think we should have to.

Screen

  • 5.8-inch 3840 x 2160 Triluminos LCD screen
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 4K HDR video support

When you look at the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium’s screen spec, you have to consider more than the numbers. This is a 5.8-inch LCD screen. However, thanks to its 16:9 shape it’s actually as wide as another phone with a display measuring well over six inches.

This is a big-screen phone. Just as we saw when looking at the design, that this screen shape looks dated is a key issue. And it does not make good use of the phone’s footprint. There’s a lot of blank space above and below the display. It doesn’t have a front fingerprint scanner or larger front speakers to excuse the ‘wasted’ space either.

Widescreen moans out of the way, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium’s display is otherwise excellent.

It’s super-vivid, rich and sharp. Pixel density of 765 pixels per inch is almost ridiculous. The Galaxy Note 9 offers 516ppi, and we’re well beyond the point of diminishing returns here. You can’t really even tell whether the phone renders Android at 4K or, like the last Premium phone, drops down to 1080p most of the time.

The most obvious benefit is for VR, as even if the games/apps aren’t rendered at 4K, high pixel density still lowers the ‘screen door’ effect, where you can discern the little gaps between pixels. However, VR remains a niche curiosity for most people.

Like the top Samsung phones, Sony lets you choose how vivid you want the XZ2 Premium screen to look. There’s a ‘Professional’ mode that calibrates to the sRGB gamut, a ‘standard’ mode that offers the slightly punched-up tones most people want and Super-Vivid, which maxes-out the abilities of the Triluminos screen.

The XZ2 Premium also supports HDR. This means you can watch HDR content in apps like YouTube and Netflix.