Sony Xperia XZ1 vs XZ Premium vs XZ: Which Sony flagship is best?

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Our Sony Xperia XZ1 vs Xperia XZ Premium vs Xperia XZ comparison shows how the latest Sony flagship phone stacks up to the manufacturer’s best mobiles thus far, so you know which packs the superior camera tech, performance and media chops.

Sony’s Xperia XZ flagship is fast approaching its first birthday and remains a great handset, although it’s now been pushed into the shadows somewhat by the arrival of two new premium handsets. First we had the Xperia XZ Premium, the first mobile to serve up a mighty 4K HDR-ready display. And now Sony has launched a fresh new Xperia XZ1, boasting new camera features and updating the XZ’s specs to bring it up to date.

So how do these Sony phones actually compare and should Xperia XZ owners now consider an upgrade to a newer blower? Here’s our full Xperia XZ1 vs Xperia XZ vs Xperia XZ Premium comparison review, to show you which handset is best for you.

Read next: How does the Xperia XZ1 compare with the XZ1 Compact?

Sony Xperia XZ1 vs Xperia XZ Premium vs Xperia XZ: Specs

Phone Xperia XZ Xperia XZ1 Xperia XZ Premium
Screen size 5.2-inches 5.2-inches 5.5-inches
Screen resolution Full HD Full HD 4K Ultra HD
Water resistant? Yes Yes Yes
Fingerprint sensor? Yes Yes Yes
OS Android Nougat Android Nougat Android Nougat
Processor Snapdragon 820 Snapdragon 835 Snapdragon 835
Memory 3GB 4GB 4GB
Storage 32GB 64GB 64GB
MicroSD? Yes Yes Yes
Rear camera 23-megapixel 19-megapixel 19-megapixel

Sony Xperia XZ1 vs Xperia XZ Premium vs Xperia XZ: Design

Line up these three phones side-by-side and you’ll quickly notice that they all sport that distinctive Sony look and feel, although they’re also quite different when it comes to the detailing and sizing.

The original Xperia XZ and the new XZ1 sport an almost identical finish. These handsets both serve up a 5.2-inch display, complete with quite chunky bezels above and below the display. One-handed use is reasonably comfortable thanks to Sony’s Loop design, which offers up pleasingly curved edges that fit the palm well.

That alkaleido metal finish on the XZ is unfortunately quite prone to scratching, which so far seems to be bettered by the new XZ1’s unibody metal frame. Of course, only extensive testing will reveal if this new flagship is really more hardy.

If you’re after a bigger blower, the Xperia XZ Premium is the one for you. This beefy handset boosts the screen size to 5.5-inches and as a result it’s a bit more of a handful, although those same comfortably curved edges help with grip. Gone is the matte metal surfacing too, replaced by a glossy reflective surface. This is tough as old boots, repelling scratches and scuffs with ease, although on the flip side it’s also a total fingerprint magnet. This issue is particularly noticeable on the Chrome model, so you might want to check out the more subtle Deepsea Black model instead.

All three phones here are water resistant, so can survive a dunking in a metre of water for around half an hour. You also get a responsive fingerprint sensor mounted on the edge in each case, for quickly and securely unlocking your Sony phone.

Sony Xperia XZ1 vs Xperia XZ Premium vs Xperia XZ: Screen and media

As Sony is well invested in display tech, it’s no surprise that their flagship mobiles offer up gorgeous displays.

The Xperia XZ is the most basic media machine here, with its ‘bog-standard’ 5.2-inch Full HD IPS panel. Although many other flagships serve up Quad HD screens, this 1920×180 pixel resolution does a fine job when watching movies and keeps photos and everything else looking nice and crisp. You can boost the colour vibrancy with Sony’s Super Vivid mode and there’s image enhancement for video playback too.

Sony’s new Xperia XZ1 is a step up, retaining that Full HD resolution while adding HDR video support. This gives you a wider, more natural colour gamut as well as brilliant contrast levels, for supported content. Amazon Prime Video and Netflix will both offer HDR video to stream at release.

As well as boasting a bigger screen than the other Sony phones, the XZ Premium provides the ultimate mobile viewing experience with full 4K HDR playback. That means supremely crisp image reproduction along with improved contrast levels and colour reproduction.

All three Xperia phones in this comparison also pay close attention to audio quality, and rightly so. You get built-in Hi-Res audio support, which is great news for true audiophiles, while the DSEE-HX engine can boost the quality of compressed tracks to make them sound noticeably better.

You also get microSD memory card expandability in all three cases, for carrying around a huge media collection.

Sony Xperia XZ1 vs Xperia XZ Premium vs Xperia XZ: Performance and battery life

When it comes to performance, the Xperia XZ once again falls to the bottom of the pile, as you might expect. After all, it’s a full year old now, which means older specs.

Thankfully the phone still provides a smooth everyday experience thanks to its quite powerful Snapdragon 820 processor, backed by 3GB of RAM. You can run the latest games and enjoy those stunning visuals with no kind of slowdown to ruin the experience. And now that the XZ has updated to Android Nougat, you can even work on two apps side-by-side at the same time. Check out our long-term Xperia XZ review for all you need to know.

However, the Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ Premium both offer up Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 processor. This offers not only a bump in terms of smooth running, but also energy efficiency and peak download speeds (now up to a theoretical 1Gbps). That last one will especially benefit Premium owners, who might wish to stream or download a 4K-resolution movie on the go.

Read next: Snapdragon 835 vs Snapdragon 820, what’s the difference?

As for battery life, we’re yet to fully test the Xperia XZ1 although we’re expecting a full day of use per charge from the 2700mAh cell. That’s what we get from the other Sony phones here.

Sony Xperia XZ1 vs Xperia XZ Premium vs Xperia XZ: Cameras

When it comes to optics, the Xperia XZ1 and XZ Premium again prove a big upgrade over last year’s Xperia XZ.

Don’t get us wrong of course, we’re still big fans of the Xperia XZ’s 23-megapixel tri-sensor camera, which can capture detail-packed snaps at any time of day. Sony’s rather brilliant Superior Auto mode just gets better and better, offering a stress-free way to shoot gorgeous snaps with no photography knowledge whatsoever. And if you fancy yourself as a sharp shooter, you can employ the manual controls to capture a very specific kind of shot.

The Xperia XZ can record Full HD or 4K resolution video, with decent image stabilisation and strong results across a range of conditions. Check out our full Sony Xperia XZ camera review for all you need to know.

Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium introduced the new Motion Eye camera, which drops the megapixel count to 19, yet offers some improved shooting chops. Moving subjects are cleanly captured thanks to the 0.2-second latency and the Premium’s ability to automatically take multiple photos when it detects any kind of motion. You also get a bigger sensor than that found on the standard XZ, which translates to better low light photo capture, while the image stabilisation is simply world-class, even when shooting 4K video.

Of course, the most impressive new camera feature found on the Premium model is Sony’s Super Slow Motion tool. When shooting a Full HD video, you can tap an on-screen button to capture a super-quick burst of 960 frames-per-second footage. The results are seriously stunning.

Check out our in-depth Xperia XZ Premium camera review for samples and more on the Motion Eye shooter.

The new XZ1 offers an almost identical camera experience to the XZ Premium, with a couple of new features and modes thrown in.

You once again have a 19-megapixel snapper that can shoot up to 4K resolution video, with Superior Auto mode and Steady Shot image stabilisation. However, you now also get an effective smile capture mode which snaps your subject when they hit ‘peak smile’, as well as a funky 3D capture app to scan in an accurate representation of any face or object. Both of these features will come to the XZ Premium when it’s updated to Oreo.

One feature exclusive to the XZ1 is the all-new autofocus burst mode. This allows you to capture up to 100 photos in 10 seconds, with autofocus tracking your subject throughout.

Check out our in-depth Xperia XZ1 camera preview for all you need to know about this shooter.