Last November Sony released what we can only hope is the last of the Z series line of Xperia smartphones, the Z5 Premium.
The Japanese major launched the Z5, the Z5 Compact alongside its latest super flagship. For the most part, the Z5 Premium has the same build style as its younger, less showy siblings. Major differences at first glance show us a slightly bigger 5.5-inch screen and the extremely glossy finish it retained as compared to the more matte finish across the rest of the range.
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium: Beautiful body
If you’re familiar with Sony’s last few flagships, then you already know about its OmniBalance design concept. As mentioned earlier, the device flaunts a 5.5-inch display, with all buttons placed on the right side of the phone, dual-sim card and microSD slots on the left, headphone jack on top and an open cap microUSB slot at the bottom.
The reflective glass back can be a distraction sometimes, and is definitely a major fingerprint magnet (constant polishing is required) but the Z5 Premium is still a gorgeous phone to hold and look at.
We got the black version – in my opinion, the nicest looking – to try out. While the chrome version might appeal to certain people, this one is truly captivating, with the only noticeable accents being the silver ring around the camera, the logos and the power button on the side.
The Z5 Premium has retained the camera button on the right side, which is fantastic. However, the volume buttons could have shifted to the left since the phone does fit nicely in the hand and they could have been easily reached there. The power button comes with an integrated fingerprint sensor, which in itself is quite fast and highly responsive. It’s also very easily accessible since it’s on the power button. The only downside is that it doesn’t work when the screen is asleep, requiring an extra button push in our oh-so-busy lives.
On the back sits the 23MP primary shooter, the flash and a giant “teeth check” mirror. Stereo speakers and mic are on the front, along with the secondary selfie 5MP camera.
A bonus is that this beauty is also waterproof, so accidentally spilling something on it can be shrugged off and your swearing can be saved for more deserving purposes.
4K super-sharp display
Sony has been touting the screen of the Z5 Premium as the first 4K screen on a smartphone and the brand isn’t wrong. The UHD display is drop-dead gorgeous and its only drawback is the lack of content to test the screen with. Measured at 3,840×2,160 pixels with a whopping 806 PPI pixel density is something that just hasn’t been seen on any other mobile device, tablets included. Technology-wise, it is an amazing leap forward, but in practice, because it’s still on a smaller screen, the changes are barely visible in comparison to other HD screen smartphones.
This doesn’t mean that one can’t be awed by the sheer brilliance of watching something in UHD on this display. From whatever videos we’ve seen on the Z5 Premium, it clearly has the sharpest and nicest screen to watch them on. Hands down.
The main issue with having a 4K screen on a mobile device is the lack of content that is available to view on it. Sure, there are streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix that provide ultra HD content, but most of these aren’t compatible with mobile phones and that’s where you realise the Z5 Premium comes up short. This, however, is temporary since there is new content released almost daily around the world in so many different formats, it’s hard to keep count anymore. So there is that glimmer of hope that you won’t just be using that screen to see incredibly clear emojis for long.
One upside is Upscale (heh).
Upscaling is a feature native to the Z5 Premium and essentially makes everything you look at just a little nicer to look at. It automatically does this when it detects the right content is present on the phone.
All in all, the screen is a showstopper. Bragging rights for its 4K screen are well deserved by Sony on this matter and they can keep the hat on for a while.
Big battery, big drain
Don’t be fooled by the claim that the battery lasts for two days at a stretch without a charge. It depending on how many connections are open, number of apps running in the background and general screen usage.
Sure, at 3,430mAh, the unremovable battery has a massive capacity in comparison to its siblings. The numbers are big, but competitors with smaller batteries last longer and perform better at the same usage.
There are ways to conserve battery power: dimming the screen, turning on Ultra Stamina, Stamina Mode or Low Battery modes. But the massive screen and the insane number of pixels on it that have to be powered up whenever it turns on have to be taken into consideration. Given these stats, the battery life is still above average in my opinion, but not really a two-day contender yet.
The Z5 Premium is powered by the Snapdragon 810, has a 64-bit processor and is supported by an Adreno 430 GPU. The RAM on the phone is at 3GB. With that Premium tag, it would have been cool to see a few improved numbers, but it’s mostly on par with sister phones the Z5 and the Z5 Compact.
Internal memory is capped at 32GB but there is an expandable microSD slot.
Overall, system performance is quite good and everything operates smoothly without noticeable delays or lag. The software optimisation on the phone is excellent and not sluggish when compared to its predecessors. There are minor heat issues, but nothing extreme and no app crashes.
As with its siblings, the Z5 Premium comes with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box with a bevy of custom Sony additions on top. The additions are light and easy to use, unlike the Sonys of old, where you would be hard-pressed to discern any sort of operating system under all that bloatware. The regular apps are seamlessly integrated with Sony’s native launcher and custom apps.
PlayStation users are taken care of as well, with PS4 controller compatibility and integration with PSN accounts to track purchases and news on the PlayStation Network. Also bundled in are the Xperia Lounge, Trackid and a couple of photo and video apps.
Another nice feature Sony added a few models back was the Small Apps collection, which is brought back here. These are a few key floating essential apps such as a calculator, browser, and screen capture. They’re a little more than glorified widgets, and personally, I found them useful at times.
Good news for fans is that the Marshmallow update is already in development, and users can expect it soon.
All phones in the Z5 series have the same camera, so there aren’t any Premium additions on this device. There is the 23MP main rear shooter and the 5MP front facing camera.
The main camera is a powerhouse of a mobile shooter but it sometimes come up a bit short in front of its competitors. This one is equipped with an Exmor RS Sensor that has one of the fastest autofocuses we’ve ever seen. Official numbers put it somewhere around 0.03 seconds.
The new camera app that comes with the Z5 Premium is clean and efficient to use. The best part of the camera is the shutter button: half press to focus and full to shoot. It’s a feature not present in most other flagship models and makes a hell of a difference while taking a shot.
For video recording, the phone does a pretty good job with its 4K recording capabilities. Sure, the lack of image stabilisation can create shaky videos, but the overall quality is gorgeous.
Colour, image and video clarity on the device are crisp to look at and nothing short of great. When the Upscale feature kicks in, it’s an added bonus. The device snaps some pretty decent low-light images as well.
While most companies have started including optical image stabilisation in all their flagships, Sony has something called SteadyShot. It’s the software equivalent of the same and while it does a decent job, it’s not on par with competition offering a dedicated hardware solution.
Hopefully, Sony will include this and more in the next flagship and truly live up to its claimed title as the “world’s best camera on a smartphone”.
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium: TLDR
While the Z5 Premium isn’t a bad smartphone by any standard, it’s not that much different from the regular Z5, unless you have stashes of 4K content lying around to watch.
Overall, the phone, while pretty good to look at and use, isn’t a game changer. It’s mostly a marketing gimmick backed by some improvements in technology and overshadowed by a big price tag. There isn’t a desperate want for this phone unless you absolutely need a waterproof 5.5-inch 4K display and a travel mirror everywhere you go. You can stick with the sibling.
– Excellent-looking device
– Great camera
– Integrated fingerprint scanner
– Above-average battery life
– Waterproof build
– Last, but not the least, the 4K screen
|– Lack of content for that gorgeous 4K display
– Volume buttons on the right side
– Very expensive
– Fingerprints quite visible on glossy back