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Hands On with the Sony XZ Premium

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Feb 27, 2017, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Best of MWC
Sony XZ Premium

Sony's luscious new phone is to die for. The 4K HDR screen is the best display you've ever seen on a mobile device and Sony wrapped it up in a serene metal-and-glass package. We spent a few moments looking at what might be Sony's finest-ever smartphone.

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Sony is back with another 4K phone. You may recall the company first showed off a 4K display on the Xperia 5 back in September 2015. Then, it was a ridiculous gesture; now, it's a promise of the future. Many phones have quad HD displays and the leap to 4K isn't too far off. Where the Xperia 5 4K with a bit of an experiment, the Xperia XZ Premium is a real-world result.

Like most Sony phones, the XZ Premium is absurdly large. Truly awful bezels stretch above and below the screen, elongating the footprint of the phone and giving it an awkward look. I've never cared for this style, but Sony appears to be sticking with it for the time being.

XZ Premium  

The XZ Premium has a metal frame and high-quality glass on the back and the front. The rear panel is nearly as luscious as the display with its inky black glass. You can get lost staring at your own reflection in that mirror-like sheen. It is fitted tightly into the frame, as is the display side.

Sony positions the keys on the right edge of the phone. The screen lock button is a bit on the small side, but it has a good profile. Action is excellent. The volume toggle is thin and narrow, and yet still easy to find and use. A large hatch protects the SIM card and memory card slots on the left edge. The 3.5mm headset jack is on top and the USB-C port is on the bottom.

The screen is staggeringly beautiful. Sony had some 4K HDR content on hand and it looks beyond impressive. I simply can't say enough about it. The HDR really helps with contrast and shows the blackest blacks and whitest whites. It's really something to behold. The resolution is mind-boggling on a screen that small. It's crazy bright. Colors are probably pushed a bit, but I'm not complaining.

The XZ Premium has lots of fancy software on board, much of it centering on the audio, video, and photography experiences. For example, the phone carries over Sony's TriLuminos and X-Realiy Engine for color and clarity, and it uses high-definition Dolby software to ensure the best-possible sounding music.

The 23-megapixel takes advantage of a new camera chip from Sony that can take super slow motion pictures, as well as incredible burst shots — far faster than any other camera on the market. It is able to do this by baking a RAM module into the sensor itself. The RAM module acts as a waiting area for images where they sit before being offloaded from the sensor to the phone's ISP and eventually storage. Sony improved its auto-focus features and gave the phone the ability to record pix before you press the button (like the HTC One did years ago).

Of course the Sony XZ Premium runs Android 7 Nougat. Who knows how much it will cost. Sony didn't say. I'd be surprised if the price isn't close to $1,000.

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