Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: Is the world ready for a 4K phone?
Almost everything about this phone is perfect
- First smartphone in the world with a 4K screen
- Stereo front firing speakers
- Top-tier computing innards
- 23MP primary camera
- Finger scanner
- Water and dust resistant
- Commendable battery life
- Tired design
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
A single hand holds 8.3 million pixels. This is what makes the Xperia Z5 Premium, the recent flagship from Sony, one of a kind.
Understanding the feat requires a quick study of the television market. Full HD televisions have 2.07 million pixels with screens as large as 55-inches. Sony’s smartphone has four times as many and its screen measures 5.5-inches.
Crammed into every inch is 801 pixels — almost twice as many as Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus. Packing more pixels closer together paves the way for photos, videos and games that are clearer. Hold the Z5 Premium close and you cannot see the individual blocks that make up an image.
Sony is the first company in the world to take the emerging 4K television technology and plant it into a smartphone. Debate surrounds the validity of 4K technology; how will ordinary content look on the pixel-rich screen and what will happen to the phone’s battery life?
Many of the display technologies found in the Z5 Premium hail from Sony’s television department. The lineage between this smartphone and the company’s $12,000 flagship television are undeniable. Both have deep black displays, Sony’s proprietary suite of imaging technologies and upscaling engines.
The problem with 4K televisions has to do with the lack of content supporting the standard. Most manufacturers try to improve the quality of the content available by using upscaling engines, but like rubber bands that have been stretched too far, the resulting image often looks as though it is tearing on a large enough screen.
None of this happens on the Xperia Z5 Premium. The size of its 5.5-inch screen is too small for any artifacts to be visible once the upscaling engine has done its work. Ordinary high definition movies and games appear organic, as though they were 4K by design, and then there’s the time you load the Z5 Premium’s microSD card with a 4K movie.
TimeScapes is a 9.7GB movie recorded in the same 3840x2160 resolution as the smartphone's display. Watching it on the smartphone brings about a sense of appreciation for what Sony has accomplished. It’s as though you’re staring at a high quality photo, only better, because a backlight imbues it with a gentle glow.
All that is left is the matter of battery life. Screens demand the most from a smartphone’s battery, and increasing the resolution makes them more energy intensive. Sony’s response to this quandary involves increasing the battery’s capacity and refining the smartphone’s economy.
Integrated into the Z5 Premium is a large 3430 milliamp-hour battery. During our seven days of testing, with the energy saving mode enabled, the Xperia Z5 Premium averaged more than a day’s charge at 26 hours. Watching a 4K movie with the brightness amped to max would deplete the battery much quicker, but the Z5 Premium can be used as an ordinary smartphone throughout the course of a day — easily.
And this is the prevalent theme of Sony’s flagship: it is a cutting edge smartphone seemingly free from compromise.
The camera is case and point. The Z5 Premium adorns a brand new 23 megapixel camera fluent in 4K video recording. Autofocusing happens in 0.03 seconds, and although digital imaging stabilisation is used when recording videos, it’s incredibly effective at ironing out bumps.
This is the same camera found in Z5 and the Z5 Compact and it can compete against the best from Samsung and Apple, only unlike those phones, it doesn’t deface the smartphone’s design because it rests flush on its back.
Sony’s take on the camera is divisive. Take a photo using any smartphone in the Z5 range and it’ll capture the scene as it is. Dark scenes are not artificially lightened, whereas some rivals, think the LG G4 and iPhone 6s, will manipulate photos to make them picturesque. The difference between the resulting photos is noticeable. Neither is technically better than the other; it all boils down to individual taste.
Powering the smartphone is a Snapdragon 810 chipset with two quad-core CPUs, one running at 2.0GHz and another at 1.5GHz. Shared between it and an Adreno 430 GPU is 3GB of RAM, while the smartphone’s 32GB of internal storage can be expanded with microSD cards up to 2TB in size.
This configuration is among the most powerful, with 3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited benchmarking test awarding a top score of 26,929, which is behind only Apple’s iPhone 6s, and ahead of Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and HTC One (M9).
The smartphone supports Cat6 LTE networks with a theoretical maximum download speeds of 300Mbps. Popping in a Telstra SIM and running a speedtest in our North Sydney office returned maximum download speeds of 62Mbps and upload speeds of 22Mbps. Downloading a 1-gigabyte file at this rate would take 2 minutes and 18 seconds.
Buying an Xperia branded phone comes with certain guarantees and one of them has to do with its tough credentials. The Z5 Premium has earned IP65/68 ratings, which certify it is resistant to dust and that it can withstand water up to 150cm deep for thirty minutes. These certifications are guidelines; an indication of what Xperia smartphones can do under controlled conditions.
The real value of a water resistant phone is it affords peace of mind. There’s no need to worry about raindrops, spills or wet hands. Wash it clean, dry it up and it’s good to go.
Sony’s Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact are better smartphones for having water resistant credentials, but the Z5 Premium is not. Sony’s Xperia range has all modelled the same design language since the original Z, launched in 2013, because in order for them to be waterproof, they need to be hermetically sealed.
There’s nothing wrong with the design of the Xperia Z5 Premium other than it is pushing three years old. Good design matters. It is the one thing that allows technology to appeal to human emotions.
This is the first Sony smartphone which Samsung, HTC, LG and Apple are chasing. It is the first smartphone in the world to take young 4K technology and implant it, practically, into a phone. This is Sony’s moment, the company has arrived, and its impact has been discounted by making the Z5 Premium look little different to some of Sony’s cheapest phones.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Lexar® Portable SSD
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Acer Swift 7
Huawei Mate 9
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Google Daydream VR headset
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Surface Pro 4
Dell XPS 13 laptop
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
- 2 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 3 Fetch TV Mighty review: Better than Foxtel
- 4 Fetch TV Mini review: Make your TV a smart TV
- 5 Panasonic Viera DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review
Latest News Articles
- Android's next destination: Untethered VR headsets with Snapdragon 835
- MWC 17: What's coming, what's not, and what we really want to see
- Xiaomi planning second version of its revolutionary Mi Mix ‘bezel-less’ phone
- Apple smartphones outsold Samsung's in Q4
- Apple joins Wireless Power Consortium, charging up iPhone 8 rumor
PCW Evaluation Team
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
- Horizon Zero Dawn review
- How to quit Pokemon Go (or to start enjoying it again)
- Japan's pop culture, anime-friendly, J-Pop shrine, Kanda Myojin
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- TPChange and Communications CoordinatorQLD
- CCIT Procurement OfficerNSW
- CCSenior Networks Specialist - DNS PlatformVIC
- TPAPS6/EL1 Database Modelling SpecialistACT
- TPAnalyst Programmer (Adabas)SA
- FTMid-Level Software Engineer x 2 - Adelaide Based (PV, NV2 or NV1 required)VIC
- FTMicrosoft ProgrammerSA
- CCSenior Technical SpecialistNSW
- TPPerformance Test Analyst - Perth BasedQLD
- CCSalesforce - Functional Analyst (BA)NSW
- FTSenior Business AnalystSA
- FTInfrastructure Business AnalystNSW
- FTSolutions Software DeveloperVIC
- FTClient Delivery ManagerSA
- CCFirewall EngineerNSW
- FTPMO Coordinator-Permanent Opportunity-Education/Government Background EssentialNSW
- CCSenior Systems EngineerNSW
- CCSAP/ Nakisa Implementation ConsultantQLD
- CCDesktop Engineer l WollongongNSW
- FTSnr SOC Security Coordinator - Perm - North Ryde areaNSW
- CCSharepoint Business AnalystACT
- FTWeb Developer/ReportsNSW
- TPCrystal Reports DeveloperSA
- FTSenior Software Engineer x 2 - Adelaide Based (PV, NV2 or NV1 required)WA
- FTSenior Software EngineerVIC