Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Review
Review indexDesign | Display | Interface | Processor | Camera | Multimedia | Call quality | Battery life | Conclusion
Earlier this year, Sony introduced us to its flagship in the Xperia XZ2, which managed to pique our interest more than its flagships from previous years. However, shortly after its introduction and subsequent release, the company soon announced its bigger brother in the Xperia XZ2 Premium – a behemoth in every regard! From its 4K HDR display, to the ultra low-light capture from its camera, the Xperia XZ2 Premium is a phone on steroids, the stuff we dream about. Everything about this phone appears to be promising, but with a retail price at $999.99, it’s seriously going to need to prove itself in every facet.
Now, as much as the redesign takes a lot of precedence, there are two major glaring characteristics with the phone’s design. The first being how immensely slippery it is when placed on some hard surfaces, to the point that it uncannily will start to slide off edges. We can’t tell you the amount of times it just would slowly start to slide off edges with the most miniscule of slopes, but it does this frequently. Secondly, the finger print sensor’s placement on the back of the phone doesn’t particularly line up to where our finger would naturally lay – so hitting the camera lens with our finger becomes a common occurrence.
Beyond that, the display does produce some modest qualities. With a maximum brightness of 437 nits, it isn’t necessarily the brightest out there, which makes it a little bit challenging to view under direct sunlight. Meanwhile, the 7769K color temperature of the display runs a bit cold – while its color production in the sRGB color chart skews on the saturated side of things. However, these are things that can be easily overlooked the moment you feast your eyes on a 4K HDR video, just because there are few phones that can match its caliber in delivering the intensity when it comes to details and color!
Interface and functionality
Out of the box, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium comes with Android 8.0 Oreo, and on top of it we have Sony's familiar set of modifications. To a great extent, the phone feels identical to previous Xperias, like the Xperia XZ2, and it even has a "stock" feel overall. Quite honestly, there’s nothing radically new or different here with the XZ2 Premium that we haven’t seen already in the standard XZ2.
For example, lifting the phone will automatically display the time and date in a minimalist fashion, as well as pending notifications if you have any. Unlocking the phone from here is an act accompanied by a subtle, yet neat animation before you're taken to your home screen.
Since the 5.8-inch Xperia XZ2 Premium can be tricky to handle, Sony has added a one-handed mode, which is accessed by swiping horizontally across the navigation bar.
Instead of a traditional vibration motor, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium uses a much larger component with a very distinct vibe to it, not unlike that of an iPhone's Taptic Engine. As a result, the phone is easier to feel when it is vibrating in your pocket. But that's far from all.
When we opened a game for the first time, the Xperia XZ2 invited us to try out this new feature called Dynamic Vibration. Basically, the phone shakes with its fancy new vibration motor, providing additional feedback when, let's say, your hero is taking damage or your car bumps into an opponent driver.
Overall, enabling Dynamic Vibration for games makes sense. It can be also turned on while listening to music or watching video, but we wouldn't recommend this, as it doesn't do a good job at complementing the beat of the song playing.
Processor and performance
Being an elite in the space, it’s no shocker here that the Xperia XZ2 Premium is endowed with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC coupled with 6GB of RAM. As expected, the phone runs exceptionally fast and snappy, but beyond that, it’s able to easily handle even the most intense operations you can put a phone through.
Boasting 64GB of internal storage, it’s a modest offering that should suffice for most users, but we would’ve been especially tantilized to see it be greeted with double that capacity. Nevertheless, there’s expansion courtesy of its easy-to-access combination SIM/microSD card slot.
When it comes to the camera app, we have to admit that it’s not the most intuitive one out there. Yes, there are four main modes we can easily cycle through – superior auto, manual, video, and camera apps. However, we feel that the arrangement could’ve been expanded because many of the other modes are hidden within each one. It’s very confusing to tell you the truth, especially when on-screen icons aren’t clearly defined. Still, we’ll give Sony credit for introducing some compelling styles when accessing creative mode, just because it provides us with a real-time view with the effects.
Right off the bat, we’ll agree to say that the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium captures some excellent looking photos. If you’re a shutter bug that relishes on photos rich with detail, you won’t be disappointed by this. Naturally, the best shots are captured under ideal settings when lighting is ample – such in the case with outdoor scenery. If you look at many of the samples, you can see how it captures stunning details with warmer toned colors. The natural bokeh produced by the camera is fantastic in delivering a convincing performance, and that’s despite the lack of a dedicated bokeh mode. That’ll come later on sometime during the 3rd quarter of this year, through a software update.
With low-light being its specialty, the Xperia XZ2 Premium surely does manage to see through the darkness than most phones, but it’s not without any expenses. Standard nighttime shots can still come out pleasing to the eyes, especially when there’s a bit of a light source in the scenery, seeing that graininess is minimalized. However, it’s really unnecessary to attempt capturing photos in complete darkness. Even though it can reveal details that most other phones otherwise can't capture, the result here is an image that’s filled with murky details and bland colors.
Few phones on the market can shoot HDR videos, so it’s something that makes the Xperia XZ2 Premium unique in the space. Before we get into that, let’s talk about its performance in the other areas. As a whole, it records excellent looking videos when capturing in 4K resolution. Not only are details rich and plentiful, colors definitely have a pop to them as well. Our only complaint is that it lacks optical image stabilization! Enabling SteadyShot mode attempts to mitigate heavier movements, but it still comes off unrealistic. Low-light situations obviously present some challenges to the phone, often resulting in softer visuals and bland colors.
As for HDR video capture, it’s an interesting new arsenal that does nicely to even things out in the shot. It does both good and bad depending on the situation. Take for example outdoor settings with plentiful lighting, where the HDR video does what it’s expected to do – tone down the highlights, while boosting shadows. The end result is a video with a more neutral exposure throughout the range, which appears as though the contrast of the entire video has been softened to a degree. Conversely, enabling HDR doesn’t seem to have a positive effect when shooting in low-light situations. While it does again try to neutralize the dynamic range of the shot, the result in our case is a video with less exposure – appearing significantly darker than the standard non-HDR video.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re ecstatic to find HDR video recording available here with the Xperia XZ2 Premium. However, when it comes to being a video-centric device, that’s the only unique perk to using it over other phones.
As mentioned earlier, the Sony Xperia XZ2 has an HDR-capable display. This lets you enjoy both your own HDR videos and HDR content streamed online. YouTube, for instance, will display HDR videos in their full glory. And additionally, it worked with Netflix as well, despite only a handful of TV shows offering support for it.
Generally speaking, the XZ2 Premium handles phone calls relatively well. Through the earpiece, voices have a distinctive tone to them without sounding too artificial. Over on the other end of the line, our callers didn’t have any challenges in discerning us. However, the speakerphone does come off a little bit weak and voices sound a bit distorted – so using it in noisy conditions can be challenging.
On the charging side, however, the XZ2 Premium posts a time of 172 minutes to get it back to full capacity. That may not be the fasting time we’ve recorded, but considering the capacity it’s recharging, it’s not too shabby of a mark. And finally, it’s worth mentioning that the XZ2 Premium does offer the convenience of wireless charging.
Few smartphones offer exclusive features, which is why the Xperia XZ2 Premium is notable in the space. Over on the specs side, it’s every bit of a high-end smartphone, but it goes beyond that by offering exclusives in the form of its 4K HDR display, HDR video recording, and a camera that has remarkable light sensitivity. Adding these features to an already high-end smartphone means that the XZ2 Premium should stand on a pedestal higher than everything else out there – but it doesn’t.
UPDATE: You can now read our Sony Xperia XZ3 Review!