You’ve got to hand it to Sony - there’s no other phone maker out there that can keep up with its constant flow of flagship smartphones.
The Xperia XZ only rocked up in September, but a successor is already hot on its heels.
Only it’s not quite that simple. Think of the XZ Premium as a high-tech half brother, upping the ante on specs (and probably on price, too) but otherwise sticking with Sony’s tried-and-tested phone formula.
That might not sound exhilarating, but underneath the shiny, mirror-like surface, the XZ Premium is as exciting as phones get right now.
XPERIA XZ PREMIUM SCREEN: OOH, AH, HDR
Back in 2015, Sony was the world’s first company to cram a 4K display into a phone. Two years later, and the XZ Premium is the first to do both 4K and HDR.
That’s quite the achievement, squeezing significantly richer colours, much brighter whites and deeper contrast from Sony’s 5.5in display in a way that really makes videos spring to life. To see this tech in a smartphone is seriously impressive.
Combined with the ridiculously high resolution, there’s simply no other smartphone screen out there that’s as detailed as the XZ Premium's. Everything looks impeccably sharp, and images have undeniable clarity.
You’ve got to get close to spot all that detail, though, begging the question of whether you actually need a 4K screen in a phone. Maybe not - there’s not a dramatic difference in most cases. Still, you’ve got to hand it to Sony for making it happen.
Plus, the XZ Premium at least has a better chance of actually putting all those pixels to use then the Z5 Premium did, given that both Amazon and Netflix will be bringing 4K support to their mobile apps later in the year. Both are getting on board with HDR as well, so there should be plenty to watch once you get one of these in your hands.
XPERIA XZ PREMIUM CAMERA: SPEED DEMON
That 4K, HDR screen isn’t the XZ Premium’s only world’s first, either. It’s also packing Sony’s fastest camera sensor yet, a 19MP unit that can record slow motion videos at a staggering 960 frames per second.
Let’s put that number in perspective. Watch a blockbuster at the cinema and it’s probably showing at 24fps. Play a game on your PS4 or Xbox One and it’ll top out at 60fps. Most smartphones can manage 120fps recording now, and a few have managed to hit 240fps, but Sony’s new setup is on a whole other level.
It lets you record video at a staggeringly smooth rate, turning everyday things like rain hitting a puddle into artistic clips that wouldn't look out of place in a Lars Von Trier rollercoaster of the mundane.
Sony stuck some dedicated, high speed memory directly beneath the sensor to let the phone capture such high frame rates in the blink of an eye. It looks mighty impressive in action, and matches the speeds you'd find in a dedicated DSLR camera.
Not bad at all for something that slides into your pocket.
The rest of the spec ain’t half bad, either. 19 megapixels over a 1/2.3” sensor should be able to capture huge amounts of detail in each shot, and Sony reckons a 19% bump in the size of each pixel will give the XZ Premium an edge in low-light shooting too. Throw in some improvements to noise reduction and motion detection, for even faster focusing when snapping fast-moving subjects, and it should be able to hold its own against the rest of the smartphone world.
I say “should”, because right now the XZ Premium isn’t ready. The software on the sample I tried was buggy, and I wasn’t allowed to use its camera functions. We’ll have to wait until a more in-depth hands on (or a full review) to see how it performs away from Sony’s controlled setups.