Having gone out of contract on my mobile phone a month ago it was time to begin the hunt for a new shinny communications gadget. To be honest I was also dying to upgrade away from Microsoft’s Windows Phone (930), yes the Windows Phone hadn’t lived up to expectations.
The timing for the hunt this time round was just about perfect, for once. The Samsung S8 had just been released into an already crowded premium phone market with the likes of LG, Huawei, M2, One2One all having rather sexy top end phones available.
There was one mobile though that caught my eye, the Sony XZ Premium. Released just this month it was hot off the presses and included one of the best cameras on any of the premium phone. Its super slow-motion, 4K image and 4K video capture peaked my interest.
After doing the in-shop inspection of the various phones the decision was clear, the Sony is one cool looking piece of hardware as well-being amongst the most advanced. I can see why it won the ’New Phone of the Year’ award at the Mobile World Conference this year.
Having researched, decided and purchased my new phone it was time to see what this bad boy could do. At this point in time all I could confirm is that it comes in a white box and has the looks of a smooth criminal, but as I have learnt looks can be deceiving.
The XZ Premium sticks faithfully to the XZ style and design that has evolved over the past few years, a black monolithic rectangle with slightly curved edges. Around the office, it was a little hit and miss, with some complaining about the bezel at the top and bottom of the display being way to large, others thought the design was dated while everyone else liked the sleek black design.
While unboxing the phone two characteristics stood out the most; holy hell this is one slippery phone, it is as slippery as the mirror finish is reflective. Then once you power it up most people will be a gasp at the brightness and pop of the display.
Being a premium phone Sony knows they can’t skimp on the hardware, and skimp they have not, in fact the opposite is true, they have anti-skimped.
Under the shiny black bonnet is the brains of the operation, the latest generation Snapdragon 835. An 8 core 2.4Ghz processor that really does put snap into the interface. The 835 is pivotal to the XZ’s performance but it isn’t just the processors speed, it also brings Gigabit LTE to the party. This alone is a game changing feature that delivers instant downloads when connected to a compatible mobile network.
Along with the 835 the XZ Premium features 4GB of RAM and 64GB of flash storage that can be expanded by another 256GB using the MicroSDXC card slot. Gorilla Glass 5 sits up front protecting the display. The camera sensors keeps the premium theme going with a 19MP MotionEye rear camera that includes 4K capture and super slow-motion (960 frames per second). Up front is 13MP sensor for the best looking selfies in the business.
Other features of interest include a fingerprint sensor integrated into the side mounted power on/off button along with a dedicated camera button. Sony have also integrated the High-Resolution Audio technology developed for their top end audio gear to improve audio on the go, especially with lossless formats. If all of that isn’t enough the phone is also fully water resistant.
Size wise the XZ is quite long and wide but rather sexily thin (156 x 77 x 7.9 mm), while the spectacular 5.5 inch Triluminous display (4K) leaves a large border at the top and bottom of the phone but at least there is almost no side bezel.
Android 7.1 Nougat is installed out of the box but unlike Samsung the interface is pretty stripped down, fairly close to a vanilla version of the OS. The look and feel is quite close to the Pixel, probably best described as half way between a Pixel and an S8.
For the full specs please see Sony’s XZ product page here.
The speed of the Gigabit LTE on Telstra’s 4GX network is still making my head spin in disbelief while also generating a little wow grin every time I see it. With 30+ apps to update you’d think it could take a bit of time, how about less than 5 minutes, with most of that time spent doing the actual installs. It took quite a bit of getting used to as some apps download so fast you don’t even see the download progress meter, causing download disbelief. I found myself checking if the app had actually been installed.
The 4K display is just the public face of 4K on the XZ Premium, the more important fact is that the camera and the display are both 4K. Allowing you to work in 4K on the phone safe in the knowledge that every one of the 8 million pixels is being represented on the display, making it free of compression artifacts or image resizing distortion.
Sony’s cameras have always been a mixed bag but they seemed to have fixed many of the niggles. Panorama now works as any good panorama should, hit the button and turn. Night shooting is improved with much better handling of low light thanks to larger pixels. These changes along with its 4K abilities makes the XZ Premium a mighty good photographers assistant or backup quick camera.
To be honest it was super slow motion feature that first caught my eye and made me want to learn more about the XZ Premium. After using the camera for a short while it became obvious that this is a semi-professional quality sensor wrapped in a mirror finish mobile phone. The images are sharp, clear and incredibly bright. Funny enough it’s the 30 cent button that really makes this a compact camera killer though. The little dedicated camera button brings back the two stage image capture; press half-way to focus and get the shot right and then press the rest of the way to take the photo. The button works for me as I find I can take photos with less accidental movement caused by triggering a normal button or tapping a screen.
Sony have included a number of new technologies into the XZ Premium’s image sensor that are firsts for the range. The Motion Eye camera now includes its own memory to speed up capture along with Predictive Capture, Steady Shot stabilization and the super slow motion capture. For a full rundown on the image sensors capabilities check out GSM Arena’s article here.
The 835 processor uses the common 4+4 core design but the 835 uses a new bridge between the cores to allow much better use of all 8 cores at once. Suffice as to say this is one screamer of a processor that delivers instant interaction, I still haven’t been able to cause it to stall or pause.
Keeping the shiny black slab running is a Sony 3230mAh battery, of the non-exploding variety hopefully. When being used sparingly the battery is good for a couple of days, but heavy use such as Ingress or Pokemon-Go will chew the battery in under 8 hours, so no avoiding the external battery pack for the hardcore gamers.
While Gigabit LTE is a thing of beauty you must remember that with great power comes great responsibility. This phone will chew through a GB of data in under an hour, so if you are still on a 1GB limit make it a good hour at least.
As mentioned earlier this is the slipperiest phone I have ever had the good fortune to play with. Luckily for me it fits rather well into the palm of my hand but I can imagine someone with small hands may find the experience like trying to hang on to a wet bar of soap.
The slipperiness of the phone will drive many to encase the XZ in a bulky case for protection purposes. Before doing so please consider all of those Japanese engineers that poured blood sweat and tears into making this such a good-looking phone. Here at Highpants we like to play it risky so the XZ will remain in its naked glory.
So far the entire Highpants crew have all been extremely impressed by the XZ Premium, I’ll even confess that I love the new Xperia. It was very nearly awarded a perfect 10 but we had to take points away as most didn’t like the slippery factor and some people in the office found the design a little dated.
Let me just say that it’s so good to be back in the mobile phone land of the living after being stuck in the zombie apocalypse that is the Windows Phone world. Frankly I couldn’t have planned a better way to make the return, with one of the best smart phones on the market, at the moment anyway.