Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review

Introduction


Let it be known that 2015 is the year when we saw the first-ever commercially available smartphone with a 4K display. That's a 2160 x 3840-pixel resolution crammed in a 5.5-inch screen. Of course, as you probably know, the smartphone in question belongs to Sony's flagship Xperia Z line and is called the Xperia Z5 Premium.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
At first sight, the device looks like an inflated version of the Xperia Z5, only with a larger battery and an extra-super-insanely-crisp display. But does it really deserve its "Premium" moniker and can it stand on its own two feet in the harsh battleground of high-end phablets? Let's find out!

Design

When bigger is not better

We often speak fondly of Sony's bold rectangular design – an elegant shape, with stark angles that manages to strike the balance between sense and beauty. It has worked great for the Xperia Z line so far, the Compact models included, but if we are to be honest, it looks a bit iffy with the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium.

Naturally, the increased size of the Premium's screen demands a larger _phone_ body, and large dimensions do not go well with the good old rectangle. We can see how keeping an uniform look between the 2015 Xperia Z handsets helps to define the brand, but in our experience with the Xperia Z5 Premium, we found the phone's ergonomics to be sub-par. It would've definitely benefited from smaller bezels and softer corners in the back to make it easier on the palm.

On its back, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium does not have the matte Frosted Glass that adorns the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact, but a glossy, mirror-like finish. Described in one word – it's shiny! Place the _phone_ screen-down on the bar, and everyone is going to know that you have something special there. But give us six words to describe it and we'll say it's an insane fingerprint magnet susceptible to scratching. And yes, we've complained about fingerprint smudges on devices before, but they are somewhat easy to live with when they're not too visible. Having a reflective surface will show all that grease your palm leaves on the device in its full glory.

On to the buttons, we have the new fingerprint-reading power key located on the right. It sits flush with the phone's frame, so looking for it by touch and pressing it is not the best of experience. As a biometric scanner, it's fairly fast and pretty consistent. However, if you choose to place a case on the phone to battle the smudges and potential scratches to the back, the power button becomes even harder to access, and the scanner becomes less accurate, as the skin on your finger gets deformed when you try to press through the case's opening.

The volume rocker is placed in an unorthodox manner as well, as it sits below the power button. This is a rather uncomfortable position, as it demands that we either adjust our grip to set the volume, or learn to use our ring finger for the task. In terms of feedback, it feels a bit spongy, but generally stable with a reassuring click behind it.

Of course, the Xperia Z5 Premium also rocks a dedicated two-step camera key. It doubles as a camera shortcut – just press and hold, no matter what state the phone is in, and the camera app will open. As far as use goes, we preferred not to rely on it, as it's a bit hard to press and would sometimes cause us to shake the device just as we are trying to take a snap.

 

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Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
6.08 x 2.99 x 0.31 inches
154.4 x 76 x 7.8 mm
6.35 oz (180 g)

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium

Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
6.03 x 3 x 0.3 inches
153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm
6.03 oz (171 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

LG V10
LG V10
6.28 x 3.12 x 0.34 inches
159.6 x 79.3 x 8.6 mm
6.77 oz (192 g)

LG V10

Apple iPhone 6s Plus
Apple iPhone 6s Plus
6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches
158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
6.77 oz (192 g)

Apple iPhone 6s Plus


Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review

Display

Did we mention this thing has 8.3 million pixels?

Yes, let's get right to addressing the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium's most defining feature – the phone rocks a 5.5-inch 4K (a.k.a. Ultra HD) display. This means it is capable of reproducing images at a resolution of up to 2160 x 3840 pixels. The way we worded this is no accident – fact is that, for most of the time you use it, the phone will actually keep the display in a 1080 x 1920 resolution. And there is good reason behind that – running at 4K all the time will put the device's processor and battery in constant stress, severely reducing performance and battery life. That, and the fact that Android 5.1 Lollipop, together with most apps, currently don't support the resolution. Android 6 Marshmallow does support 4K, and Sony has confirmed that an update to the new OS is coming for the Xperia Z5 line, but we doubt that the downscaling will be removed. Right now, the drawbacks of having such an extreme resolution on a 5.5-inch screen at all times far outweigh the benefits.

So, how does one bask in the glory of 4K? Sony's proprietary Album and Video apps will open images and videos in 4K automatically. The extra-high resolution is also supported by Netflix and YouTube. And that's pretty much it – the screen does have nearly 8.3 million pixels, but as of this writing, these are the only four apps that actually make the most of them.

Of course, the question that must be on everyone's mind by now is "How noticeable is the difference?". And the answer is – not much. We ran a few tests with the screen, we squinted, we stared, and we compared with different phones and different pictures. This is the best way we can describe the experience – in normal viewing conditions, the extra details provided by the extreme resolution cannot be seen, but can be perceived. By this, we mean that the images look slightly sharper, not necessarily more detailed.

As mentioned, most of the time, the Xperia Z5 Premium's resolution is downscaled to 1080 x 1920 pixels. This still gives us a rather crisp density of 400 pixels per inch. Rest assured that you will have no trouble reading tiny text or enjoying visual content in apps.

In terms of color reproduction, Sony continues its tradition of shipping devices with a really cold display, and then giving us the option to fine-tune it with three RGB sliders in the phone's settings. The cold white point aside, colors tend to miss their targets consistently and easily go in oversaturation territory. On paper, the measurements, which can be seen below, may seem terrible, but we've found that the Z5 Premium's screen offers a very vivid, eye-pleasing picture, with only its reds sometimes bordering on being aggressive and unpleasant to the eye.

Out of the three Z5s, the Premium has the lowest maximum brightness, measuring at 593 nits, which is still pretty bright. We took it out on a sunny day and used the phone with the sun's reflection blasting straight into the screen and found that we had no issue reading what's on the display. The minimum it would go to is 4 nits, which is not the best for night-time reading, but will not cause you to melt if you need to check your chat notifications late at night.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 593
(Excellent)
5
(Excellent)
1:1407
(Excellent)
7018
(Good)
2.19
2.32
(Good)
2.76
(Good)
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 593
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1290
(Excellent)
9734
(Poor)
2.69
5.41
(Average)
9.32
(Poor)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 470
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6722
(Excellent)
2.09
1.32
(Excellent)
1.94
(Excellent)
LG V10 457
(Good)
4
(Excellent)
1:1556
(Excellent)
7877
(Average)
2.35
4.06
(Average)
6.57
(Average)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 60.4%
50%
unmeasurable
5.7%
2.4%
281.1%
128.9%
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 84.7%
80%
89.2%
1%
11.9%
15.1%
46%
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 86.7%
87.5%
82.6%
4.8%
4.5%
5.9%
7.5%
LG V10 88%
75%
90.6%
3.2%
14.5%
3.9%
3.5%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review

Introduction


Let it be known that 2015 is the year when we saw the first-ever commercially available smartphone with a 4K display. That's a 2160 x 3840-pixel resolution crammed in a 5.5-inch screen. Of course, as you probably know, the smartphone in question belongs to Sony's flagship Xperia Z line and is called the Xperia Z5 Premium.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
At first sight, the device looks like an inflated version of the Xperia Z5, only with a larger battery and an extra-super-insanely-crisp display. But does it really deserve its "Premium" moniker and can it stand on its own two feet in the harsh battleground of high-end phablets? Let's find out!

Design

When bigger is not better

We often speak fondly of Sony's bold rectangular design – an elegant shape, with stark angles that manages to strike the balance between sense and beauty. It has worked great for the Xperia Z line so far, the Compact models included, but if we are to be honest, it looks a bit iffy with the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium.

Naturally, the increased size of the Premium's screen demands a larger phone body, and large dimensions do not go well with the good old rectangle. We can see how keeping an uniform look between the 2015 Xperia Z handsets helps to define the brand, but in our experience with the Xperia Z5 Premium, we found the phone's ergonomics to be sub-par. It would've definitely benefited from smaller bezels and softer corners in the back to make it easier on the palm.

On its back, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium does not have the matte Frosted Glass that adorns the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact, but a glossy, mirror-like finish. Described in one word – it's shiny! Place the phone screen-down on the bar, and everyone is going to know that you have something special there. But give us six words to describe it and we'll say it's an insane fingerprint magnet susceptible to scratching. And yes, we've complained about fingerprint smudges on devices before, but they are somewhat easy to live with when they're not too visible. Having a reflective surface will show all that grease your palm leaves on the device in its full glory.

On to the buttons, we have the new fingerprint-reading power key located on the right. It sits flush with the phone's frame, so looking for it by touch and pressing it is not the best of experience. As a biometric scanner, it's fairly fast and pretty consistent. However, if you choose to place a case on the phone to battle the smudges and potential scratches to the back, the power button becomes even harder to access, and the scanner becomes less accurate, as the skin on your finger gets deformed when you try to press through the case's opening.

The volume rocker is placed in an unorthodox manner as well, as it sits below the power button. This is a rather uncomfortable position, as it demands that we either adjust our grip to set the volume, or learn to use our ring finger for the task. In terms of feedback, it feels a bit spongy, but generally stable with a reassuring click behind it.

Of course, the Xperia Z5 Premium also rocks a dedicated two-step camera key. It doubles as a camera shortcut – just press and hold, no matter what state the phone is in, and the camera app will open. As far as use goes, we preferred not to rely on it, as it's a bit hard to press and would sometimes cause us to shake the device just as we are trying to take a snap.


Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
6.08 x 2.99 x 0.31 inches
154.4 x 76 x 7.8 mm
6.35 oz (180 g)

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium

Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
6.03 x 3 x 0.3 inches
153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm
6.03 oz (171 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

LG V10
LG V10
6.28 x 3.12 x 0.34 inches
159.6 x 79.3 x 8.6 mm
6.77 oz (192 g)

LG V10

Apple iPhone 6s Plus
Apple iPhone 6s Plus
6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches
158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
6.77 oz (192 g)

Apple iPhone 6s Plus


Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review

Display

Did we mention this thing has 8.3 million pixels?

Yes, let's get right to addressing the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium's most defining feature – the phone rocks a 5.5-inch 4K (a.k.a. Ultra HD) display. This means it is capable of reproducing images at a resolution of up to 2160 x 3840 pixels. The way we worded this is no accident – fact is that, for most of the time you use it, the phone will actually keep the display in a 1080 x 1920 resolution. And there is good reason behind that – running at 4K all the time will put the device's processor and battery in constant stress, severely reducing performance and battery life. That, and the fact that Android 5.1 Lollipop, together with most apps, currently don't support the resolution. Android 6 Marshmallow does support 4K, and Sony has confirmed that an update to the new OS is coming for the Xperia Z5 line, but we doubt that the downscaling will be removed. Right now, the drawbacks of having such an extreme resolution on a 5.5-inch screen at all times far outweigh the benefits.

So, how does one bask in the glory of 4K? Sony's proprietary Album and Video apps will open images and videos in 4K automatically. The extra-high resolution is also supported by Netflix and YouTube. And that's pretty much it – the screen does have nearly 8.3 million pixels, but as of this writing, these are the only four apps that actually make the most of them.

Of course, the question that must be on everyone's mind by now is "How noticeable is the difference?". And the answer is – not much. We ran a few tests with the screen, we squinted, we stared, and we compared with different phones and different pictures. This is the best way we can describe the experience – in normal viewing conditions, the extra details provided by the extreme resolution cannot be seen, but can be perceived. By this, we mean that the images look slightly sharper, not necessarily more detailed.

As mentioned, most of the time, the Xperia Z5 Premium's resolution is downscaled to 1080 x 1920 pixels. This still gives us a rather crisp density of 400 pixels per inch. Rest assured that you will have no trouble reading tiny text or enjoying visual content in apps.

In terms of color reproduction, Sony continues its tradition of shipping devices with a really cold display, and then giving us the option to fine-tune it with three RGB sliders in the phone's settings. The cold white point aside, colors tend to miss their targets consistently and easily go in oversaturation territory. On paper, the measurements, which can be seen below, may seem terrible, but we've found that the Z5 Premium's screen offers a very vivid, eye-pleasing picture, with only its reds sometimes bordering on being aggressive and unpleasant to the eye.

Out of the three Z5s, the Premium has the lowest maximum brightness, measuring at 593 nits, which is still pretty bright. We took it out on a sunny day and used the phone with the sun's reflection blasting straight into the screen and found that we had no issue reading what's on the display. The minimum it would go to is 4 nits, which is not the best for night-time reading, but will not cause you to melt if you need to check your chat notifications late at night.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 593
(Excellent)
5
(Excellent)
1:1407
(Excellent)
7018
(Good)
2.19
2.32
(Good)
2.76
(Good)
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 593
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1290
(Excellent)
9734
(Poor)
2.69
5.41
(Average)
9.32
(Poor)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 470
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6722
(Excellent)
2.09
1.32
(Excellent)
1.94
(Excellent)
LG V10 457
(Good)
4
(Excellent)
1:1556
(Excellent)
7877
(Average)
2.35
4.06
(Average)
6.57
(Average)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 60.4%
50%
unmeasurable
5.7%
2.4%
281.1%
128.9%
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 84.7%
80%
89.2%
1%
11.9%
15.1%
46%
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 86.7%
87.5%
82.6%
4.8%
4.5%
5.9%
7.5%
LG V10 88%
75%
90.6%
3.2%
14.5%
3.9%
3.5%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Interface and functionality

Not treading any new grounds

Sony's light interface has remained mostly unchanged for quite a while now. Users who have operated an Xperia device in recent years will feel right at home, and those that have had experience with vanilla Android will be quick to get to grips with it. But if you've used a competitor's phone in the last couple of years, you may feel like the Xperia interface needs a slight facelift and a re-tuning of some of its features.

The UI covers all the basics – it's light, mostly snappy (we'll get to that in the next section), and it doesn't have a myriad of settings and sub-menus that the user can get lost browsing through. Everything is to-the-point, well explained, and placed where it should be. Sure, you will find a heap of Sony's own apps, which many may deem as “bloat”, but the user is free to uninstall or at least disable them, without needing to resort to root wizardry. We can't complain here.

One would've also hoped that Sony would make slight tweaks to the software in respect to the larger 5.5-inch screen. Having split-screen functionality is a pretty common theme among premium range phablets nowadays, but the Xperia Z5 Premium continues to rely on the so-called “Small Apps” – apps that launch exclusively in a floating window, above the rest of the UI. The issue with these is that the user has to go out of their way to download them specifically from the Play Store, or manually convert a widget into one such Small App. Additionally, there is no one-handed mode to be found, and while that's not a huge problem with the Xperia Z5, we definitely found ourselves missing it with the Z5 Premium.

The workflow with the phone also strikes us as somewhat dated – it doesn't seem like Sony has taken any cues from the competition or spent a thought on how to improve upon the day-to-day user experience. The things we are talking about are mostly trivial – adding apps from the app drawer to the home screen takes a swipe more than it should; pressing backspace after a wrongly swipe-typed word doesn't erase the whole word; the Videos and Music apps will not greet you with a list of your albums, but will instead present you with a “Recently Played” or“Recently Added” view; the “tap to wake” function doesn't read the phone's proximity sensor to prevent accidental wakes and this has actually caused us to unwillingly activate the flashlight and Airplane mode while the device was in our pockets. It's all in the little things, but when they add up, it feels like the user experience as a whole is not up to par with other flagships.

System performance

Does this phone have the hiccups?

The Xperia Z5 Premium packs Qualcomm's flagship SoC under its hood – the Snapdragon 810. Outfitted with 3 GB of RAM and running a fairly light interface, downscaled to 1080 x 1920 as we talked about, the phone is quick to respond to touch, fast to scroll, and isn't quick to kill off background apps, so switching around and doing different tasks on the device in one run feels smooth and uninhibited. We generally felt like we could throw whatever we wish at the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium and have it play it like a champ. The hardcore and graphic-intensive Vainglory, the more laid-back Hearthstone, or the super-colorful Angry birds – all these games ran pleasingly smooth. Of course, as mentioned, the phone didn't draw them in super-fine 4K resolution, so we weren't treated to sharper graphics than the ones we get on other 1080p phablets.

There are, however, some slight tears and hiccups during use, which just plain annoyed us. For example, during an active chat in Facebook's Messenger, each time you receive a message, the phone would fully freeze until it draws the other party's avatar and text. Granted, this lasts less than a second, but if you happen to be typing during that time as well, your text and keyboard feedback will be frozen for the period. Tapping on a name from your contacts to initiate a call will also be followed by a second's worth of lag – just enough for one to start wondering “Did I tap it? Should I tap again? Let's try, oh no, wait – it started dialing.”

The Xperia Z5 Premium comes with 32 GB of internal storage and 3 GB of RAM – just like the Xperia Z5. Considering that the software that the phone comes with already takes about 10 GB of the storage, we can't help but wonder – why didn't Sony throw in 64 GB of memory with the phone that the company itself labeled “Premium”? Sure, we are given the option to expand it via microSD, but internal storage is always better and faster. Adding an extra GB of RAM would've been nice for future-proofing, too, especially since the competition is already doing it.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 67207
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 58664
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 52189
LG V10 46905.33
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 2532
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 2220
LG V10 2216
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 5476
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 3946
LG V10 3571.33
Sunspider
Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 677.7
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 218.2
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 688.8
LG V10 1047.16
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 37
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 59
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 52
LG V10 25
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 15
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 38.4
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 18
LG V10 5.7
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 1765
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 2032
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 1443
LG V10 1148.33
Geekbench 3 single-core
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 1431
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 2526
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 1324
LG V10 870
Geekbench 3 multi-core
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 4717
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 4404
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 4390
LG V10 3361.33
View all


Camera

The camera a 4K smartphone deserves is not the one it has right now

The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium has a 23 MP sensor in its main camera and uses a combination of contrast- and phase-detection to achieve super-fast focusing speeds — as fast as 0.03 seconds to lock in. The camera doesn't have optical image stabilization, but employs software algorithms to smooth out videos. Sounds like a great shooter on paper, but is it really?

On the software side, we enjoyed taking snaps with the phone's Superior Auto mode. It's capable of reading a lot of different scenes and adjusting its settings appropriately. You will know when the phone has recognized a specific scenario by an icon in the lower-right corner of the viewfinder — we've seen it cycle through “Backlight”, “Movement”, “Night”, and even “Food”. Unfortunately, we couldn't enjoy the experience fully, as there was an ever-present shutter lag every time we took a photo. While not deal-breaking, this certainly detracted from the “flagship feel” we look for in high-end smartphone cameras.


As always with Sony's flagships, there is a large number of shooting modes. Some are nice to have and well executed — Timeshift (slow motion), for example — while others are questionable at best — AR effect, which litters your picture with a selection of absurdly-looking 3D images, comes to mind. We are also a bit baffled by the existence of a Manual mode that doesn't seem to offer much freedom – it has a selection of scenes, an HDR switch (uncomfortably tucked away in a sub-menu), and gives us the ability to choose between a few different, locked-in white balance settings. Curiously, when in Superior Auto, note the word “auto”, we have access to a slider that lets us fine-tune the color temperature of the shot.

On to image quality – we can say we expected better. The images are definitely above average and can most certainly be enjoyed when viewed without zooming. However, when compared to the high-class snappers of the competition, the Z5 Premium is just not on par. Details tend to get digitized and blurred out pretty easily, and the pictures often end up slightly colder-looking than in reality. Aligning a shot that has both bright and dark areas is a hit-and-miss ordeal, as sometimes the highlights will get burned, or the shadows will end up being too dark (photos 14 and 15 are good examples). Turning HDR mode on will help, but just a little (as seen in photos 12 and 13 HDR).

During the night, the camera starts to struggle. Even minor twitches while taking a picture will result in a blurry image – probably something that could've been remedied with the inclusion of optical image stabilization. Light sources easily get overexposed and blurred, while objects in the dark remain nigh-indistinguishable (check out samples 26, 27, 28).

The front camera is nothing to write home about, either. It will produce passable selfies and is good enough for video chat, but don't expect detailed, or color-accurate pictures from it.


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Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 1.6
1.9
485
285
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 2.1
2.7
842
No data
LG V10 2.7
3.9
557
453
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 3.3
3.3
No data
No data
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As far as video goes, the camera's issues with detail bleed into the clips as well. Thankfully, you won't be zooming in video playback as much, but a harshness in the finer details within a shot can still be seen. The software stabilization works great and eliminates those hand shivers really well. We also like the audio of the captured clips – the phone is pretty good at canceling unwanted noise, all the while recording voices and sounds with a nice, thick depth to them.


Multimedia


Needless to say, a 5.5” 4K Ultra HD display lends itself well for visual media consumption. Granted, we had to set the RGB sliders in the phone's settings to taste, as it was a bit too blue for our eyes to enjoy. However, once one does that, the Xperia Z5 Premium's screen is pure eyecandy.

The sound, however, definitely didn't meet our expectations. Sure, the phone has dual front-firing stereo speakers, but they are, unfortunately, quite weak. The sound also lacks depth and is, in general, very “phone-like”. There is an equalizer in settings, which we liked operating, but it will only go down to 400 Hz, so we couldn't dial in some meaty lows to try and boost the grunt. And yes, there is a “Sub Bass” slider, but that one didn't seem to affect the speakers at all.



Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 0.986
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 0.609
LG V10 0.52
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 0.36
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 69.1
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 70.7
LG V10 69
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 73
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Call quality


Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Voice calling with the Xperia Z5 Premium is a pleasurable experience. The earpiece delivers loud and detailed voices, with only minor amounts of digitalization. We had no issue understanding the other party, even out on loud streets. Our callers were treated to a similar quality, with out voices coming through loud, articulate, and clear.

Battery life

Two-day battery life is achievable

The Xperia Z5 Premium packs a generously large 3,430 mAh battery. Add to that the 1080 x 1920 resolution that the phone runs most of the time and we came in expecting a pretty impressive battery life. We weren't disappointed.

With an average use of some chatting, some email checking, a call here and there, and the walk we took to make some sample shots, the phone was able to last from 2 PM on day 0 to 11 AM on day 2, when it was down to 10% and we plugged it in for charging. We didn't even hit Low Power Mode, which disables almost everything and dims the screen, so that you can still have an active phone line for as long as possible. This is no small thanks to Sony's STAMINA Mode, which is pretty efficient at conserving power and working in sync with the software on the device. Friendly reminder, though – STAMINA Mode will mercilessly block apps you haven't whitelisted when the phone is in standby, so do add your most essential chats and emails in the “Apps active in standby” sub-menu in the STAMINA Mode settings.

Battery Benchmarks

Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
LG V10 65
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 81
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 131
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 165
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Conclusion


Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Review
Thus far, we strayed away from discussing whether or not 4K on a smartphone's display is a good idea, and for a reason. It all boils down to two arguments – on one side, one can say that it's overkill, the improvement in details is barely noticeable, if at all, and it's all a marketing gimmick; on the other, it can be said that sticking 8.3 million pixels in a 5.5-inch display is an amazing technological feat and we should be tipping our hats to Sony. In other words, we're in a déjà vu situation, reminding us of the debates we had when QHD (1440 x 2560) screens started becoming mainstream last year.

Us? We'd say that we would've preferred it if the “Premium” in Sony Xperia Z5 Premium stood for a better camera, better-sounding speakers, wireless charging, more storage, and better-polished software – all features that could have contributed to a superior experience. While we do appreciate the wizardry that it takes to put a 2160 x 3840 display on a smartphone, we can't say it enhanced our day-to-day experience with the device in a noticeable way. Especially considering the fact that it will only work to its full potential when using a handful of apps.

4K aside, judging the phone as your expensive, top-tier phablet, we'd have to say we are a bit underwhelmed. The Xperia Z5 Premium has the same high price tag as its fierce competitors, but strikes us as just an OK smartphone. Its software needs a rehash to make the user experience feel fresh and modern. Its camera may be quick to focus, but a noticeable shutter lag negates this and picture quality is below the class average. The form factor doesn't translate too well to the big size, all the while Sony have done nothing with the UI to capitalize on the larger screen.

On the good side, battery life is excellent, call quality is great, and the interface is mostly snappy and clean, not to mention that the handset is water-resistant. And the camera as a whole gets the job done if you are just a casual photographer. In fact, if Sony managed to remedy the small user experience issues that are littered throughout the interface with the promised Marshmallow update, the Xperia Z5 Premium might stand a better chance against its rivals. At the moment, if you are not a devout Sony fan, we'd recommend you take a look at Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 or LG's V10 and see if they would suit your phablet needs better.

Software version of review unit: 32.0.A.6.115

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