Meet the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. Sony’s smartphone lineup is known for a couple of things that make it popular: incredible cameras and waterproof durability. And it’s safe to say that both of those boxes are checked here. But this time around, Sony added a new category: stupidly high resolution. The Z5 Premium packs the first 4K display on a smartphone, but is it all worth the hype?
Alongside the Z5 Premium, Sony launched the Z5 and Z5 Compact, both of which are excellent smartphones in their own rights, but admittedly, I’ve been much more interested in the Premium model. Don’t underestimate the rest of Sony’s lineup here as they are all fantastic smartphones, but in most categories they are just as good so this video will cover the bases. In terms of design, we have the typical Xperia look. Slightly modified this time around, but basically the same tired design. Metal frame with glass on the front and back.
For me it’s all about that display and what kind of impact it makes on performance, usability, and battery life. For that reason, we’re going to ditch the Z5 and Compact model and focus on the Premium. Check out our Z5 Premium review video below:
Specifications and hardware
As for specifications, Sony’s Xperia Z5 Premium sports a 5.5-inch IPS display with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 which is good for a mind-blowing 801 pixels per inch. WTF. It’s packing a Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 3430 mAh non-removable battery, and 32GB of internal storage with Micro SD card expansion up to 200GB.
First off, let’s get this out of the way: you won’t notice a big difference with this display when compared to a Quad-HD phone. Maybe under a magnifying glass, but nothing that will make a difference in the real world. Don’t believe me? Here’s the Xperia Z5 Premium next to the Nexus 6P. Can you see the difference? The Z5 Premium’s entire user interface is simply upscaled to match the panel’s resolution. The UI is rendered at 1080p. The 4K panel is only fully utilized when it’s needed for things like high-res photos and video.
Now you may think of this as a fault, but it’s actually a blessing. You see, if Sony rendered everything in 4K, you might as well kiss performance and battery life goodbye. The 4K marketing aspect of this phone is a bit gimmicky since it’s unlikely that you’ll ever use the pixels to their fullest, but it’s still a pretty cool feature to drool over and your high-res photos and video will look pretty great. Either way, 4K is cool and the display looks great, but don’t hold your breath for a fully 4K rendered smartphone anytime soon, unless there’s a sacrifice in performance or battery life.
Speaking of performance, this phone is pretty much butter, but to be honest that’s not very surprising for a 2015 flagship these days. It’s running Lollipop with Sony’s mostly plain skin and a few extra features. Performance isn’t an issue, so really there’s not much else to say here.
Real quick, let’s talk about the Z5’s fingerprint sensor. It’s located in the lock button, which I think is pretty genius. When you unlock the phone with the button, it recognizes your fingerprint and you’re in. It’s not the fastest fingerprint scanner I’ve seen on a smartphone this year, but at least the setup process is quick and easy, and it’s definitely one of the best implementations I’ve seen. It’s also available across all of the Z5 smartphones.
Sony knows cameras. The Z5 Premium is packing a 5.1 megapixel front facing camera and a 23-megapixel camera, and I’ve been really enjoying it. Camera performance isn’t the best I’ve seen, but it’s definitely in the top five. It’s a solid shooter all around, but instead of just talking about it all, I’ll leave a gallery below so you can check out the full resolution photos for yourself.
As for battery life, thanks to the dynamic resolutions I explained earlier battery life is pretty normal. Not fantastic, but average. I was able to get an average 4.5 hours of screen on time. Again, not revolutionary, but given the pixels packed here, I was happy. It never made it the 2 days that Sony promised, but I could see that possible with a very light user maybe.
So here’s the deal, the Z5 Premium is a great phone, but don’t buy it for the 4K display. It’s not worth the premium. It’s another solid 2015 smartphone, but it’s not really special enough to be memorable. I love the pixels here, and the camera is nice, but again it’s not worth the hype for me. I’m happy someone took the step into the UHD territory, but now that it’s here I’m surprisingly not that excited.