MWC 2017: Sony launches slow-mo Xperia XZ Premium phone

Sony’s latest smartphone is capable of filming smooth slow-motion footage at four times the rate possible on Apple and Samsung’s top-end models.

The Xperia XZ Premium captures video at up to 960 frames per second (fps).

The achievement was made possible by a new type of image sensor that has built-in memory of its own.

Sony’s smartphone market share is small, but it usually makes its sensors available to rivals about six to 12 months after they debut.

Apple, Samsung, LG and Xiaomi are among those to have used its technology in recent handsets.

The new phone was unveiled alongside several lower specification devices on the first day of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.

“Despite this being one of the best devices at MWC, I don’t see it changing Sony’s fortunes,” commented Francisco Jeronimo, from the market research firm IDC.

“If you go through Sony’s financial statements you can see it now makes more money from selling phone cameras to its competitors than selling its own smartphones, which is quite remarkable

“So, its phones are a way to show off its capabilities, and the new camera is outstanding – not just the slow-mo but also the picture quality.”

Sony shipped about half as many smartphones in 2016 as the previous year and has about 1% share of the market, according to IDC, putting it in 17th place.


More from MWC 2017:

Nokia 3310 mobile phone resurrected

Samsung unveils tablets but no phones

LG G6 phone is made for split-screen apps

Huawei P10 has smarter selfie camera

Google brings Assistant to more Android phones

Blackberry revives classic keyboard phone


Sony calls the new technology Motion Eye.

It uses a three-layer stacked sensor fitted with one gigabit of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM). Doing so lets the component temporarily store a rapid burst of video data locally before it is transferred to other memory components, which takes more time.

When the firm first announced the sensor earlier this month it said it was capable of 1,000 fps in 1080p “full high definition”.

However, on the Xperia XZ Premium it has been restricted to slightly fewer frames per second at 720p resolution.

In practice, users can only capture 0.18 seconds of footage at this speed, which produces six seconds of video when played back.

But they can do so in the middle of filming normal footage to create a slow-down-and-speed-back-up effect. The challenge is to press the button at the right moment.

“It’s only a very brief amount of time and you’ve got to be really on the ball to use it effectively,” commented Tim Coulling from the Canalys tech consultancy.

“But it’s a great feature.”

The built-in DRAM memory also lets users record action that happened a second before they pressed the record button.

This buffer function is intended to help them avoid missed moments, but only works if the device detects motion, which triggers the facility.

Other unusual features include:

  • a 5.5in (14cm) 4K resolution display that has four times as many pixels as 1080p equivalents. It also plays back Amazon Prime Video content in high dynamic range. HDR delivers more vibrant images that reveal extra detail compared to traditional footage
  • the choice of a mirrored body. This allows the back of the device to be used to help put on make-up or put in contact lenses. However, it also attracts fingerprint marks

Smart projector

Analysts were less positive about another of the Japanese firm’s announcements.

Sony confirmed its Xperia Touch projector would go on sale later “this Spring”.

The Android-powered device was first teased at last year’s MWC.

The machine uses ultrashort-throw projection technology to display apps on a nearby wall or table. The resulting 720p image can be configured to be between 23in to 80in (58.4cm to 203.2cm) in size.

Built-in sensors let the surface used act like a large touchscreen.

Sony says it expects families to “huddle” around the image when using it, and showed the BBC a multiplayer game where several players interacted with graphics projected onto a table at once.

The machine is designed to be used while connected to a power source, but can work for up to an hour unplugged.

A potential problem, however, is its price: Sony plans to charge €1,499 ($1,584; £1,269) when it goes on sale in Europe and Japan.

“I think Sony should be applauded for being bold enough to push into a new category, but unfortunately it’s out of reach to all but the most affluent gadget addicts,” commented Ben Wood from CCS Insight.

Mr Jeronimo was more harsh in his criticism.

“It’s a huge mistake,” he said.

“If Sony combined a projector with a device like the Amazon Echo or Google Home for a third of the price, that would be a very interesting.

“But asking for more than $1,500 – there’s no way they will sell them.”

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Sony Xperia XZ Premium hands-on review

MWC 2017 means new flagship phones and Sony is no exception. You might still be waiting for the Xperia Z6 but you might want to let that go and get to know the new Xperia XZ Premium. Here’s our Sony Xperia XZ Premium hands-on review. See also: Best phone 2017.

It might be less than six months since Sony launched the original Xperia XZ but we have a new one already. Whether you want to call it the second-generation model or not is up to you, but the XZ Premium is the firm’s new flagship smartphone for 2017. The firm also announced the XZs in Barcelona but this smaller and more mid-range model won’t be coming to Europe.

A key thing we don’t know at the moment is the Xperia XZ Premium price but we can tell you that it will arrive in ‘Spring’. The XZ launched at £539 so you can expect this phone to be more expensive, quite possibly over £600.

Note: The Xperia XZ Premium we saw ahead of MWC didn’t have final working software so we’re limited on what we can say.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Design and build

Like the Z5 range, the XZ Premium is a bigger version of the XZ which some higher specs (see below). It uses a similar ‘Loop Surface’ design which aims to mimic a seamless tube of glass. The main thing is is the very rounded side which feel nice and we also like the bevelled metal top and bottom.

As if it makes any difference, the phone is a tiny 0.2mm thinner at 7.9mm but is a fair amount heavier at 195g – this is mainly due to a larger screen and bigger battery which might be a trade-off you’re fine with.

The XZ Premium is IP68 rated like many previous Sony phones which is necessary to compete with rival flagships and does include a 3.5mm headphone jack which is becoming less common.

Xperia XZ Premium design

Xperia XZ Premium design

Sony has decided, quite literally to mirror, the style of the Z5 Premium. Both colour options, Deepsea Black and Luminous Chrome, are highly reflective and get grubby as soon as you pick the device up. It’s shame there isn’t a matt version for those who aren’t keen on this look – in our experience with the Z5 Premium, that’s a lot of people.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium review: Specs and features

One of the main things the XZ Premium borrows from the Z5 Premium is the large 5.5in screen with a 4K resolution. That means the device is bigger than the original as mentioned earlier. In our review of the Z5 Premium we concluded that you don’t really need a 4K screen on a phone, but the XZ Premium has an additional feature that might tempt you.

It supports 4K HDR like many TVs and lends technology from Sony’s Bravia range. Sony says HDR provides better colour, contrast and detail. However, you’ll only be able to take advantage of this with selected titles on Amazon Prime Video like The Grand Tour and The Man in the High Castle.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium 4K HDR screen

Sony Xperia XZ Premium 4K HDR screen

While the screen is certainly brighter and more colourful compared to the Z5 Premium, the display when utilising HDR can look a little bit over the top because of the intense colours. (note that it’s difficult to capture the difference in a photography).

Despite rumours of Qualcomm’s latest chip being reserved for the Samsung Galaxy S8, Sony has put it inside the Xperia XZ Premium. The Snapdragon 835 uses a 10nm process and should offer better performance and battery life. We haven’t been able to use the phone enough to comment on either yet but Sony only goes as far as to say ‘reliable all day battery life’.

It’s good to 64GB of storage as standard and Sony continues to offer a Micro-SD card slot so you can add more. The XZ Premium comes with a healthy 4GB of RAM.

Plenty of specs from its predecessor remain including the fingerprint scanner, USB-C (now v3.1), NFC, Bluetooth 4.2. The larger device means the battery capacity is higher at 3230mAh – not quite as big as the Z5 Premium though.

Xperia XZ Premium Motion Eye camera

Xperia XZ Premium Motion Eye camera

It’s the camera that Sony is really pushing here, aside from the 4K HDR screen. The resolution has dropped to 19Mp but the firm has some interesting innovations here in what it calls the ‘Motion Eye’ camera.

You might be surprised that the resolution has dropped but pixels are 19 percent larger compared to the XZ so that will help in low light. The XZ Premium is the world’s first phone to offer super slow motion video at a whopping 960fps. We tried this on the XZs and the effect is pretty spectacular but it can’t record for long so timing it right is extremely difficult.

Another handy feature is predictive capture where the phone detects motion and takes four photos before you’ve even hit the shutter button. We haven’t been able to try this yet and while it sounds great, we wonder how quickly it will fill the storage because of things like people getting into position for a photo etc.

We’ll put it through its paces when we get a final sample. The front camera remains at 13Mp with an f/2 aperture and 22mm lens.

There’s not much we can say about software at the moment but the entire 2017 range including the XZ Premium will come with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box with Sony’s usual interface. We do know it will support PS4 Remote Play like previous phones.

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How to watch Sony MWC 2017 live stream | Sony press conference live stream

How to watch Sony MWC 2017 live stream | Sony press conference live stream

As MWC gets underway in Barcelona this weekend, many smartphone manufacturers are vying for the headlines. Sony is one of them, and we expect several new Xperia handsets. Here’s how to watch the Sony MWC 2017 live stream – Sony press conference live coverage.

Sony is launching new Xperia smartphones at MWC. Here’s how to tune in and watch live online


By

Each year at MWC we normally see new Sony Xperia smartphones, and this year does not appear to be any different. Sony has sent out invitations to its annual MWC press conference in Barcelona, Spain that will take place at 8.30am CET on Monday 27 February – that’s 7.30am UK time. 

You’ll also like:
LG G6 live coverage
Huawei P10 and Huawei Watch 2 live coverage
Nokia Android phones live coverage
Moto G5 & Moto G5 Plus live coverage
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 & TabPro S2 live coverage
What to expect at MWC 2017

How to watch Sony MWC 2017 live stream

Watch Sony’s latest Xperia phones launch below. We think we will see the new Xperia X2, an upper mid-range successor to the Xperia X

Therefore it’s reasonable to also expect the follow up to the slightly lower spec Xperia XA, which had an edge to edge display.

See also: Sony Xperia X2 release date, price, specification rumours.

What to expect from Sony at MWC 2017: Sony Xperia X2

As said, we expect Sony to announce a successor to the Xperia X, given that phone was unveiled at MWC 2016. Sony loves a six-month cycle, tick-tocking between different lines of smartphone. Therefore we don’t think we’ll see a flagship device at MWC – that will likely be saved for IFA 2017, a year on from the release of the Xperia XZ

What to expect from Sony at MWC 2017: More Xperia smartphones

We go into more detail in our article here, but we also think there will be more handsets – perhaps even five overall! Hopefully not as that will be overkill (and we won’t get any sleep trying to cover it all) but more phones is better than new phones.

Check out our full Sony Xperia rumours here, and bookmark this page for Monday 27 February.

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Lenovo Tab 4

Android tablets have been waning since the surge in popularity of 2-in-1s, but Lenovo’s Tab 4 series of tablets are an indication that there’s still life in the sector yet.

With an 8 and 10-inch model, these two slates don’t look to set the world alight with breakneck speeds or an insane sales proposition. But these could fill the void in the low to midrange of tablets that’s currently dominated by Amazon and its Fire tablets.

Each running Android Nougat, stocked with adequate specs to chew through most apps and games, as well as a surprisingly premium design language makes the Tab 4 8 and Tab 4 10 ones to look out for – especially since they are launching for as low as $109 (about £87, AU$141) and $149 (about £119, AU$193) respectively.

Design

Designed primarily as a tablet for kids, the Tab 4 range is strikingly good-looking. Coated with glass on both sides, it looks as if it can do just as well in the hands of just about anyone looking for a palm-friendly slate. 

Each is trimmed in plastic, featuring all of the necessary buttons to make operating the volume and powering on and off simple. We were especially surprised to find that a few of the tablets in the range feature a fingerprint sensor. The Tab 4 8 Plus has one embedded directly into the side-mounted power button, while the 10 Plus has one located on the front, much in the way that many smartphones do.

Other desireable traits have made their way to the Tab 4 series, like USB-C connectivity, dual speakers with Dolby Atmos support, a microSD slot and quite a large battery in each. 

Compared to the Amazon Fire HD 8, there’s no contest: Lenovo’s new tablets simply look and feel better in the hand.

Performance

After a brief time testing, we can confidently say that the performance output in these tablets will be sufficient for most. Of course, it does depend on your usual work (or play) load. 

Each size has a plain and “Plus” option. The perks for opting for the Plus have almost entirely to do with specs and thankfully do not alter the design of the tablets, aside from the fingerprint sensors.

The Tab 4 8 and 10 feature a Qualcomm MSM8917 quad-core processor, a 1280 x 800 display, 2GB of RAM. And the Plus varieties amp things up to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, like the Moto G5 Plus, a 1920 x 1200 screen, as well as 3GB and 4GB configurations.

What’s really nice to see is that each and every tablet in the range comes preloaded with Android Nougat. This feature alone will see these devices being more competent than most at multitasking and saving battery with its enhanced Doze mode that analyzes battery usage patterns to improve its performance.

Lenovo is also angling the 10-inch tablet as a productivity device. Heck, it even has a “Productivity Mode” that turns the operating system into something that looks more like Chrome OS than Nougat. To utilize this, the company offers a keyboard that nestles the tablet, then auto-pairs with it via Bluetooth.

In terms of battery capacity, each Tab 4 8 has a 4850mAh cell inside and the Tab 4 10 has a whopping 7000mAh battery. Either tablet you’re interested in, you’re getting a truly massive amount of battery here.

Early verdict

As stated before, the specs may not completely blow the door open compared to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, though these certainly serve a purpose in the tablet market.

The Tab 4 tablet series is a confident stroke of engineering prowess that certainly sticks out from the crowd and its low price point only helps its case.

It’s not too common anymore that you can find a feature-packed tablet that’s well-built, let alone four variations of said tablet. As such, we really look forward to testing these slates more in-depth for the full review closer to their May release.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2017 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar’s world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.

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Lenovo's Yoga 720 brings a bit of game with discrete GTX 1050 graphics

Lenovo’s Yoga 720 belongs to a new breed of mainstream laptops that pay respect to PC gaming, e-sports, and Twitch streaming. Users who may not want an official gaming laptop (such as Lenovo’s own Legion) may still want some extra GPU power, and the Yoga 720 can bring it with optional, discrete Nvidia GTX1050 graphics—the mobile part, not the desktop part. Granted, you won’t find it at the base model’s $1,099 price, but that would be too much to ask. 

Announced Monday at Mobile World Congress and shipping in April, the Yoga 720 remains true to its flagship roots by offering a strong selection of features for its size. Your CPU choices go up to Intel 7th-generation Kaby Lake, and you can get up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Storage options encompass traditional HDDs up to 1TB or SSDs up to 512GB. 

lenovo yoga 720 15 inch keyboard detail Melissa Riofrio

The Lenovo Yoga 720 has a full-size keyboard as well as a fingerprint reader for Windows 10 authentication.

The 15.6-inch IPS display has a resolution of up to 4K Ultra HD (3840×2160). While that incredible crispness is tempting, you may not want to run it on that resolution all the time, as it uses more battery life. Lenovo estimates the Yoga 720 will last up to 8 hours at UHD, but up to 9 hours if you drop to FHD (1920×1080). 

Connectivity stays on trend with USB 3.1 Type C and Thunderbolt (using the Intel controller). You also get active pen support and a fingerprint reader for easy Windows 10 authentication. In an early briefing, Lenovo told us that product managers consciously chose that mode of authentication because users were familiar with it through smartphone use. It’s also cheaper and easier to integrate a fingerprint reader than to shoehorn Intel’s RealSense camera (for facial recognition) into a slim-bezeled unit. 

lenovo yoga 720 15 inch right side ports Melissa Riofrio

The Lenovo Yoga 720 offers a USB-C port with Thunderbolt as well as the older USB-A for legacy devices.

Of course, the Yoga 720 also offers the fun of using the laptop in clamshell, tent, or view modes simply by rotating its two halves around its 360-degree hinge. I wouldn’t recommend using this 4.4-pound machine as a tablet unless you could rest it on a table or your lap, but it’s a very nice option to have, especially in cramped quarters such as a commuter train or airplane. As the flagship Yoga product, the 720 promises great flexibliity, and now, with the discrete graphics option, great power. 

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Samsung's Next Gear VR HMD Includes A Tracked Controller

Samsung is firing back at Google’s Daydream VR system. The electronics company revealed that its third-generation consumer-grade VR HMD features a tracked controller. Google just lost its biggest advantage.

During Samsung’s presentation at Mobile World Congress 2017, the Korean electronics giant announced the Samsung Gear VR with Controller, which, as you probably guessed, includes a motion controller like the one that Google provides with the Daydream View HMD.

The Gear VR controller features buttons for home, back, and volume control. It also includes a clickable trackpad like the one found on the HTC Vive controllers, as well as a trigger on the back. Samsung loaded the controller with an accelerometer, gyrometer, and magnetic sensors to offer limited motion control. When not in use, the Gear VR controller fits into a strap inside the headset so you don’t lose it.

“At Samsung, we are focused on setting and exceeding the standard for VR experiences, making them even more accessible and delivering the highest in quality,” said Younghee Lee, Executive Vice President of Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics. “The Gear VR with Controller expands our VR ecosystem to help consumers get more engaged and immersed in VR content – whether it’s games or videos.”

The Gear VR controller opens possibilities for VR games and interactions that were previously not possible on Oculus’s mobile VR platform, such as first person shooters and interactions in which you grab items in the virtual world. The controller should also simplify navigating Oculus Home.

Oculus said many developers are already working with the controller, so there will be content built to suit it on the release date. The small selection of developers with early access to the controller SDK are developing more than 70 titles, and several of them will launch alongside the new HMD. Oculus plans to release the Gear VR Controller SDK to all developers in “a few weeks,” so expect that list to expand soon. Oculus also confirmed that Samsung’s controller is compatible with all 550+ existing Gear VR titles.

We haven’t seen the new Gear VR in person yet, but the image Samsung provided suggests the company deleted the overhead strap from the previous headset. The loops for the strap on the rear and top of the headset are absent in the image–although that could be photoshop trickery. The overhead strap is one of the Gear VR’s primary advantages over the competition. It would be silly for Samsung to remove that feature.   

Samsung said the Gear VR with Controller is compatible with the same list of phones as the previous version, which includes the Galaxy S7 and S6 series smartphones and the Galaxy Note 5. Just like the previous iteration, the new Gear VR includes an adapter to switch the headset’s USB interface from micro USB to USB Type-C.

Samsung did not reveal the price of the headset or when it will hit the market.

  Samsung Gear VR with Controller   Controller
Dimension / Weight 207.8 x 122.5 x 98.6mm / 345g Dimension / Weight 108.1 x 48.1 x 38.2mm / 64.3g
Optical Lens Φ42, FOV 101º x6.25 Control & Function Touchpad (Clickable), Trigger, Home Key, Back Key, Volume Key
Sensor Accelerometer, Gyrometer, Proximity Sensor Accelerometer, Gyrometer, Magnetic
Compatibility Galaxy S7, S7 edge, Note5, S6 edge+, S6, S6 edge Battery AAA Battery * 2ea (1000mAh, average 2 hours of daily use will last for 40 days)

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Best iPad apps 2017: Download these essential apps now 

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