Is a 4K Smartphone Overkill? Sony Xperia Z5, Z5 Premium and Z5 Compact Hands On

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Sony had the most novel smartphone at IFA 2015, as it revealed the first with a 4K resolution: the 5.5-inch Xperia Z5 Premium phablet. The 3820 x 2160 pixel resolution results in an incredible density of 806 pixels per inch, which unprecedented on any type of display, not just a smartphone or a phablet.

The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium as a 4K display.

The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium as a 4K display.

Along with this Android handset, Sony also debuted a new increment of its flagship model, the 5.2-inch Xperia Z5, complete with a Full HD IPS display, and the 4.6-inch Xperia Z5 Compact, with an HD resolution. All three devices sport identical hardware, including a Qualcomm octa-core Snapdragon 810 and Adreno 430 graphics. The two larger models have 3GB of RAM, while the compact model has 2GB.

All three Android handsets have a new 23-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel selfie camera, front stereo speakers, STAMINA Power Saving mode, a glass body and a built-in fingerprint reader in the side Power key.

The first thing that caught our attention was that 4K display. The sharpness is unprecedented. Individual pixels cannot be spotted with the naked eye at this resolution, but you also can’t do that with Full HD (1920 x 1080) displays at this size. So the logical thing to ask is, what’s the point of 4K resolution, which also eats at the battery and strains the processor?

Well, there’s definitely a noticeable difference between the 4K and Full HD displays of the same size. We can say that much.

The Sony Xperia Z5 is a more standard flagship Android smartphone.

The Sony Xperia Z5 is a more standard flagship Android smartphone.

But it’s ultimately overkill, and better imaging sharpness at this size is not a reasonable argument to purchase the Xperia Z5 Premium. Clearly, Sony aims at specific screen applications, like VR glasses or gaming. It has to. There are too many issues this resolution presents. For example, many apps and online mobile content are not adjusted for it. In fact, Sony uses an upscaling procedure for YouTube videos, which is an additional burden for the hardware.

This is why Xperia Z5 Premium should be seen as Sony’s demonstration of power and a way to regain attention to its flagship Android models.

The ‘regular’ Sony Xperia Z5 has been upgraded from the Xperia Z3 (as well as Z3+ and Z3 Compact). The display’s sharpness, color saturation, brightness and contrast have finally been addressed (these were issues with the device) and can be compared to the rest of the 2015 flagship handsets. What is more, pleasant tonal balance make the Xperia Z5’s screen suitable for everyday work.

The device (still) has a fantastic design with flat keys on the side. The Power key no longer sticks out, but is elongated and flatter, and doubles as a fingerprint reader. Despite its square design, the glass body and aluminum edges with slightly sanded points make the Xperia Z5 feel natural when held in hand, and premium.

We also tried the new 23-megapixel camera. It’s hard to reach a precise conclusion on imaging quality with the lightning conditions at the show, which Sony seems to have adjusted for testing such phones, but clearly this is a decent camera, and could be a major selling point. In addition, Sony has taken the advantage of a new hybrid autofocus technology, and the Xperia Z5 units focus with exceptional speed.

We also toyed with Xperia Z5 Compact. This will be one of the few compact smartphones on the market with flagship hardware. Its reasonable display and relatively large 2700mAh battery could make it a multi-day performer.

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