Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review: Display


Sony Mobile is weak these years, but as an international brand that influences generations of people, the latest Sony flagship smartphone is still attracting lot attention. The 4K HDR display screen is the most attracting feature of this Xperia XZ Premium.

Sony had adopted 5.5-inch 4k IPS display screen from Xperia Z5. Although lots people are considering that 4K resolution on smartphone is too high to be distinguished from human eyes, resolution is becoming an important factor for VR applications. Nowadays, VR image quality is badly influenced by relative low smartphone display resolution, wide pixel pitch and OLED sub-pixel array. Xperia XZ Premium reaches a resolution as high as 800 PPI, which is the highest among smartphones. We looked at the screed under a microscope and it revealed the same sub-pixel array and pixel pitch with Xperia Z5, which is much more density than the popular FHD or QHD displays, so we are expecting the VR performance of this smartphone.

Xperia XZ Premium also supports HDR, which is short for High-Dynamic Range. HDR is a tendency for videos whether on TVs or in Cinema. HDR technology is able to increase dynamic range over SDR (Standard Dynamic Rage), and replay texture in extreme highlights and shadows that SDR cannot reproduce, providing better color and luminance quality. However, only a few videos supports HDR, and such a small screen cannot be that significant like a TV or a cinema. If you have related video resources, such as Amazon or Netflix, you will have a better video experience than that on PC.

Xperia XZ Premium also adopts the TRILUMINOS Display technology that was first adooted on Sony TVs. This technology can largely enhance the color gamut displayed. Some experienced readers are concerned about the color accuracy as the Xperia Z3 we reviewed was not that good. However, Sony provides sRGB mode and color balance in default settings to accommodate different requirements. As usual, the quantitative results are tested by SpectralCal Calman, but the HDR and Triluminos screen enhancement are for videos, we will not test these two modes.

Display Mode Normal Mode Vivid Mode sRGB Mode
Max Brightness 415 415 430
Grayscale (Gamma 2.2) 2.18 2.7 2.24
Average Color Temperature K 8094 8300 7842
Average Luminance Error, Delta E 7.01 8.65 5.61
Display Mode Normal Mode Vivid Mode sRGB Mode
Color Gamut (sRGB) 127.0% 140.77% 96.06%
Average Color Error 5.06 9.91 4.32
Max Color Error 10.89 23.06 7.89
  • Max Screen Brightness (cd/m2 or nits): The maximum brightness one screen could reach, without considering glass quality, algorithm or dynamic adjusting. Over 500 cd/m2 can be used under strong light, below 400 cd/m2 will be to use.
    Gamma 2.2: Gamma value is the key factor in contrast display. Our eyes do not perceive light the way cameras do. Under sRGB, if the gamma value is 2.2, the tonal range is just what human eyes receive. Lower than 2.2, the contrast will go down, otherwise, it will go up. Except the gamma value, we have to see form the picture if the red, green and blue curve overlap, if not, different color contrast will be different. The value between 2.1 to 2.3 is qualified for display, while if the value is below 2 or over 2.4, the contrast will be lower or higher than standard.
    Average Color of White: The average color temperature in degrees, D65 with 6500 K is the standard color of White for most Consumer Content and needed for accurate color reproduction of all images. Higher than 6500K will tend to be cold, otherwise will be warm.
    Color difference: A measurement used to indicate how much a color deviates from standard. The higher the E, the more inaccurate the color. This is because the human eye is only capable of detecting color difference at certain thresholds. It is hard to detect if average E is below 5, less than average 3 E and less than 5 E is excellent, the smaller the E is, the better the color is. Between 5 to 10 E is detectable, over 10E is significantly detectable.
    Color Gamut(sRGB): The specific range of colors that one device is able to display. Our test is based on sRGB. If wide-gamut device is tested, Adobe RGB or NTSC gamut will be noted for reference. Display with over 90% will be enough for everyday use, higher than a certain percentage will not affect using experience significantly. However, photo playback requires precisely range, 10bit video requires wider gamut.
    Restricted by our devices, we will not test the viewing angle. On average, more than 30 would bring over 50% brightness loss.

The Xperia XZ Premium has vivid colors in video playback, but the luminance error and color error are also higher than other smartphones. Also, the GAMMA under vivid mode reaches as high as 2.7, makes it not suitable for picture viewing. The sRGB mode still not ideal in color accuracy. But the color balance gives us a chance to adjust the color displayed.

Comparision XZP sRGB Mode Manual Balanced Galaxy S8 Galaxy S8+ Pixel XL sRGB Mate 9 Pro iPhone 7 Plus
Brightness cd/m2 358 396 399 401 365 525
Grayscale (Gamma 2.2) 2.22 2.27 2.29 2.18 2.05 2.21
Average Color Temperature K 6669 6276 6324 6348 6702 6794
Average Luminance Error 2.91 2.27 2.29 2.58 2.59 2.36
Comparision Comparision XZP sRGB Mode Manual Balanced Galaxy S8 Galaxy S8+ Pixel XL sRGB Mate 9 Pro iPhone 7 Plus
Color Gamut(sRGB) 95.55% 96.2% 98.99% 98.41% 130.41% 101.45%
Average Color Error 2.14 3.43 3.01 1.44 4.58 1.69
Largest Color Error 3.69 6.66 5.05 4.48 7.37 3.08

After we manually adjusted the color balance, Xperia XZ Premium becomes much better in color accuracy and luminance error. However, just like Google Pixel's dynamic loss in sRGB mode, Xperia XZ Premium also losses its saturation after we adjust. It is not that bright and vivid in warm colors like red and orange when compared with iPhones, but it is the best among Sony cell phones we ever reviewed.

When using outdoors, the key factor is luminance, not pixel density. Although XZP has the highest resolution, its max luminance is lower than Samsung, Apple or LG flagships. So it is not that easy to use under sunlight, and a little trouble when shooting. Xperia ZX Premium has a more dedicate image quality when running mobile VR applications, but restricted by mobile SoC performance and IPS lagging, the VR quality is not upgraded a lot.

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