- Great design and finish
- Above average battery life
- Outstanding chipset
- Good camera
- 4k display impressive in some instances
- 4k display limited to multimedia
- It’s a fingerprint magnet
- Some display colors off by default
Quick TakeThe Sony Z5 Premium is basically a Sony Z5 with a largely unnecessary 4k display. Since the Z5 is cheaper, we say go with that unless you're a developer or absolutely need to have the best of the best.
The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium sports similar specs as the other phones in the Z5 line, but it has one that sets it apart from every other smartphone on the market: a 4K display.
The three Z5s are virtually identical otherwise. The Sony Z5 Premium, Z5, and Z5 Compact are based on Qualcomm’s octacore Snapdragon 810 processor and ship with Android OS 5.1.1 (Lollipop). The Premium has a larger battery and a high-range finish, however, which shows Sony’s emphasis on making this a super-premium smartphone.
Yes, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is a 4K smartphone with a display that features UHD (ultra-high definition) resolution, which consists of 2160 x 3840 pixels. This means it has approximately 8.3 million pixels, which is 4x as many found on a Full HD screen (1080 x 1920), and twice as much as QHD (quad high definition), formerly the highest smartphone display resolution. All of this results in a staggering density of 806 pixels per inch.
Now for the 4K caveat: When users look at their phones from approximately the same distance as they would flip through magazines or read a book, it’s nearly impossible to spot the difference between 4K and QHD in terms of image quality. Even compared to Full HD, the difference is only evident when it comes to native 4K content (media created in 4K, not something shot at a lower resolutions and “upscaled” after the fact), and even then it boils down to cleaner image textures, and not visible details.
This is expected, given that many imaging experts believe average human eye cannot perceive density greater than 350 ppi from an average viewing distance.
So 4K is overkill, right? Not quite. VR technology can certainly benefit from it. Looking at the Gear VR, a Samsung smartphone sits just inches from the eyes, and individual pixels are visible. This mars the VR effect. A 4K resolution would go a long way to improving the experience of VR headsets. Sony will likely reveal its own commercial VR products at CES 2016, and releasing 4K on smartphones prior to this event is a logical and necessary move, even if its targeted primarily at app developers.
The Z5 Premium’s user interface and most of the applications are rendered in Full HD resolution and then upscaled to 4K on the display. While there were initial concerns about how this would affect the imaging, it is clear that the upscaling works well.
The Z5 Premium has the same exceptional IPS display as the other Z5 phones. That means great contrast with rather dark black tones and very bright whites, which is also exceptionally sustainable and features a wide viewing angle. The phone cuts through direct sunlight with ease, especially on the maximum brightness. Sony has a few tiny issues with color interpretation, but Sony offer manual color calibration for those looking to tweak things.
The average user will surely be pleased with the Xperia Z5 Premium’s display, but will only enjoy “true 4K” resolution with videos and photographs, either native or upscaled. Unfortunately, the Premium’s web browser does not support this resolution.
Build & Design
Apart from the screen resolution, Sony tried to justify the ‘Premium’ name with an exceptional finish. The device comes in gold, black, or chrome. All three have a metallic effect on the back, but glass covers the whole rear surface, making it seem like a mirror, especially on the chrome version.
It looks great, and is definitely expensive, but the build materials have an adverse effect. It is impossible to hold the Xperia Z5 Premium and not cover it in fingerprints.
The handset has Sony’s recognizable squared design, with slightly rounded corners. The edges are metal, except the corners, which are made of a metallic-colored plastic to protect against drops. The body comes with the IP68 certificate, meaning the phone is waterproof up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes, as well as dustproof.
The front includes the logo and selfie-camera above the screen bezel, with the capacitive keys relegated to the display. Speaker perforations are well hidden along the upper and lower edge of the phone’s front surface. The back includes the 23-megapixel camera lens with a LED flash, as well as Sony, Xperia and NFC logos.
The left side holds the microSD and nano-SIM card slots, covered with a protective flap, while the right side includes the power key with the fingerprint reader, the volume rocker and a special 2-step camera key. The lower side has a phone neck lanyard, as well as the microUSB slot, covered with a waterproof layer.
The upper side has the audio jack, which is protected in the same fashion, as well as a secondary microphone. Weighing 180 grams (6.35 ounces), this is one of the heaviest 5.5-inch phones, but its dimensions (6.08 x 2.98 x 0.31 in.) are average for a 5.5-inch device.