I have the Sony Xperia XZ Premium and Xperia XZs review loan units at the same time, giving me the perfect opportunity to compare these two smartphones and share my experience here.
Here are the stark differences between the 2 models:
Larger and Heavier: XZ Premium is 5.5-inch 4K Ultra HD HDR vs. 5.2-inch Full HD on XZs. It weighs 191g with 3230 mAh battery vs. 161g on 2900 mAh.
Faster: XZ Premium uses Snapdragon 835 and UFS internal memory while XZs runs on Snapdragon 820 and slower eMMC internal memory.
Design Materials: XZ Premium sports Corning Gorilla Glass 5 front and back, gloss-coated plastic on the sides and aluminium at the top and bottom. XZs features ALKALEIDO metal back with matt finish.
Data Speed: XZ Premium supports LTE Cat 16 vs. LTE Cat 11 on XZs.
USB Speed: XZ Premium supports 5Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1 speed.
Similarities are aplenty:
Both are fitted with the same front and rear camera sensors, 5-axis stabilization, 4K recording, and 960fps video.
The images produced from both smartphones are also similar.
The images are pleasing and well-balanced as premium smartphones, though nothing outstanding. Exposure metering is reliable, and remains challenged by wide dynamic range scenes. The sensor still does not capture fine details like leaves on background nor shadows, like most premium smartphones. HDR effect under Manual shooting mode does not create exaggerated outcomes.
Low light shots are relatively clean at the expense of details. At close inspection, images appear blotty.
The 13MP front camera shoots natural selfies, while the soft skin effect is not exaggerated.
Audio Processor and Quality
Both supports Hi-Res Audio (LPCM, FLAC, ALAC, DSD), DSEE HX, LDAC, Clear Audio+, front-facing stereo speakers. Audio quality for both wired and wireless is detailed, transparent and precise. Upon closer listen, the XZ Premium is slightly more transparent at the treble response, while the XZs is more balanced against the mids. The XZs compares closely to the NWZ-A15 High-Res Walkman that I own.
Both features Sony TRILUMINOS Display and X-Reality, sRGB 138% spectrum. They do not look as saturated as Samsung Galaxy S8. 4K display resolution is an overkill, if you ask me. The screen size is too small to really notice any significant quality compared to a lower resolution display. I select Professional mode which uses sRGB colour gamut for authentic colour appearance.
Both are rated IP65/68, which means they handle well under humidity and water.
Dual SIM and MicroSD Hybrid Slot
Both supports dual SIM, but one SIM slot shares with microSD card slot, so you can’t have all 3 at the same time. The SIM slots can be pried open with fingernails, no need pin.
Super Slow Motion 960fps
Every smartphone needs at least a feature or two to distinguish itself from the competition and garner consumer interest. The latest Sony Xperia XZs and XZ Premium have just the feature that makes it unique.
With the Xperia XZs and XZ Premium, Sony brings the super slow-motion feature on the RX100 series to the smartphones. Although it can only capture a fraction of a second in each trigger, it contains almost 6 seconds of slow-motion footage. In comparison, the RX100 V can shoot up to 6 seconds of super slow-motion 1000fps footages.
However, the Xperia smartphones make it up by allowing me to trigger multiple sessions of the slow-motion capture within the same video session. I just need a gap of 2 seconds before I can fire another 960fps capture. I thought this is better than the RX100.
But one could not ask for more on this first-generation super slow-motion capability on a smartphone. I am sure it can only get better in years to come.
Meanwhile, like many other bloggers, reviewers and consumers, I am playing with this ultimate slow-motion capture to appreciate the finer things in life that passes by too fast to be noticed.
As the name suggests, the camera will auto-detect and capture three additional images prior to the actually trigger of the shutter. It can be rather useful, though given the unpredictable nature of whether this feature will be initiated, I would say it is a case of luck.
I am impressed with the intelligent charging and estimated remaining battery indicator. The Qnovo Adaptive Charging and Battery Care features adjust charging current to maximise lifespan, so for instance, it will do trickle overnight charging instead of enabling fast charging. After a few days of usage pattern, the smartphone knows the battery will drain higher during lunch and dinner hours, and plots an accurate prediction. It will prompt the estimated remaining time. During days where I use the phone less, the battery drain is quite low, lasting me the entire work day comfortably. This shows the background apps do not drain the battery much. During days of my normal usage pattern, the phone drains normally. For the XZ Premium, this is pretty impressive being a 4K display.
On the other hand, some apps could easily heat up the phones, like the camera app. It even warrants the phone popping up warning messages that the app may close if the phone overheats. I also encountered an isolated incident where I was doing FHD video recording with the XZs. The video lost a lot frames and the phone overheated, resulting in the app auto-closing.
Media Naming and Storage
For years, Sony has stuck to the traditional image file naming convention of “DSC” followed by sequential number, instead of date-time, which I prefer, as it prevents filename duplication. Since I am reviewing both XZ Premium and XZs, images shot with both smartphones start with “DSC_0001.JPG”.
Also, Xperia saves the files captured in Predictive Capture and Slow Motion Video as separate folders. As a result, I have to comb through multiple folders to make sure I back them up completely. This is the same for other Sony digital imaging products.
Like the Xperia predecessors, the fingerprint is on the power button, which makes unlocking a breeze. Just use the finger to press the power button normally, and it will turn on the display and unlock at the same time. This also means no accidental unlocks even when my finger touches the fingerprint sensor without pressing the power button.
When the finger is a little damp, like after I wash my hands, the fingerprint sensor fails to recognise. The XZs and XZ Premium are probably more sensitive to moisture because the sensors are smaller compared to other smartphones.
Putting aside specs comparison, both smartphones offer rather dissimilar user experience due to the different form factor.
The Xperia XZs has a smooth metallic back which feels cool on my hand. The Xperia XZ Premium has Gorilla Glass 5 back and rounder sides. Which is better depends on your preference. The mirror finishing makes the XZ Premium outstanding while the metal back of XZs is less prone to fingerprints and cracks. The glass surfaces of XZ Premium are treated with oleophobic coating resulting in better management of oil stains. A few swipes with the finger will make the glass free from grease marks.
It is interesting to note that Sony does not have consistency when it comes to placement of volume buttons. The Xperia XZs has the volume buttons placed in between the power button and the camera button, which is a rather awkward position for adjusting volume. The placement do make sense from the camera usage point of view, as the volume buttons act as zoom buttons in camera mode. I was just wondering about the lack of consistency.
Another interesting interaction is that the NFC sensor is next to the front camera, so I had to turn the phone the other way to scan. This is a workaround to the metal back, where NFC signals do not work optimally.
The Xperia XZ Premium initially overwhelmed me with its size, as I transitioned from XZs. But after a while, I got the hang of handling it. The oleophobic coating on both front and rear glass panels makes the XZ Premium feel smooth without grease build-up. For me, the size is manageable, but might be a little large for ladies. While XZ Premium runs on a faster processor, it doesn’t feel blazingly fast. Both smartphones run on identical OS and contains the same apps and functions.
Which One Do I Prefer?
On paper, the Xperia XZs looks adequate because of its metal back which requires lower maintenance, smaller form factor that is easier on the hand, and price that is more palatable.
But after trying out the Xperia XZ Premium, I find that the phone feels solid with little chance of slipping off my hands (compared to Samsung S8), the slightly larger size is still manageable for my hands. The rear glass is surprisingly easier to maintain because of the oleophobic coating and scratches are less visible given the reflective design. Conversely, the XZs metal body on the review unit has started to show visible stains.
The XZs has all the features on the XZ Premium, and should be equally considered for consumers on a slightly tight budget. Despite running on a newer Snapdragon processor, the XZ Premium does not run any much faster. Hence, the choice between the two comes down to 3 factors: price, size, design material.
Given my mixed experience with the Xperia Z5, the Xperia XZs and XZ Premium are both way better. At least this time, I did not feel any inadequacies with these 2 new smartphones. The super slow-motion video recording is a killer feature which I find fascinating to use, although there aren’t a lot of scenarios that look intriguing under 960fps. The front-facing stereo speakers deliver good sound output without sounding too harsh. The battery life is normal for my kind of usage, while background apps drain is well-managed. The audio processor is inherited from Sony’s Walkman series, so you are assured of Hi-Res quality audio.
Sony has not optimised the screen-to-body ratio, so the phones remain handful. Some users like to have roomy bezels so that they can hold the phones without touching the screen, and I have to agree. So if you want a compact phone with large screen, then Xperia is not for you. But if you want a traditional form factor phone without curved screen or elongated displays, coupled with fun camera apps and great audio, then it’s worth considering the Xperia XZs or XZ Premium.
Sony Xperia XZs retails for S$898. Official product website.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium retails for S$1098. Official product website.
Looking for Xperia below S$400, head to my Xperia XA1 review.