Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: Premium Definition

Premium Definition

GSMArena team, 25 November, 2015.

Display

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is the first smartphone to feature a 4K display or UHD as it's also known. To be more specific it utilizes a 5.5" IPS panel of 2160 x 3840 pixel resolution. The resulting pixel density of 806ppi is well above anything we've seen on a smartphone or even a tablet for that matter.

4K is another name for UHD resolution or 2160 x 3840 pixels. That's an awful lot of pixels - something along the lines of 8.3 million of them. Phones so far had only been able to go as high as 1440 x 2560 pixels (3.7 million pixels). And Sony's own Xperia line has never gone higher than 1080 x 1920 pixels (2 million). So with this phone, we're essentially rocking twice or even four times the usual number of pixels on the screen. An insane jump in resolution, right?

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review

The screen in the Xperia Z5 Premium is the first of its kind in a smartphone. It's an amazing engineering feat and it's surely a challenge for any sort of a mobile hardware to pump out so many pixels to the screen.

Sony made it possible by putting a 4K panel inside the Z5 Premium but rendering mostly everything in 1080p resolution. Yes, it's a concept that you may find a bit hard to grasp at first. The 4K panel the phone utilizes only reveals its benefits when you check out high-res images and video on it (it works with online video too).

When we approached the phone for a detailed test, we had quite high expectations. We expected to see an image that's infinitely better than what we had seen before. Long story short, that was hardly the case.

It turned out the screen worked just as advertised but the benefits of the higher resolution over say, a 5.5-inch QHD screen, are not readily noticeable with our bare eyes. We did notice an improvement over a 5.5-inch 1080p screen once the 4K high resolution mode kicked in but it was mostly in the way that textures looked smoother, rather than with higher detail.

What we did appreciate however is the fact that at no point did we notice any downsides to the upscaling from 1080p to 4K of the regular interface elements or the apps that don't run in 4K. You shouldn't have any concerns about the picture quality and sharpness when the 4K mode is not used.

In fact, the upscaling is so good, that there is no easy way to tell when the 4K mode has kicked in. The effect is hardly perceivable with bare eyes and the switch is instantaneous unlike what other reviewers would have you believe, so what we did is we hooked up the phone to the Android SDK and we inspected its events log just to keep track of the turning on and off of the high resolution mode.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review

It turned out that the Xperia Z5 Premium automatically changes the resolution output once proper content is detected. This means that if you open a high-res image with a proper app such as any gallery or image editor, you would be seeing it in the screen's native 4K resolution. The default gallery works this way for sure.

The default video player, as well as the popular MX Player, which we tried, receive the native resolution upgrade as soon as you load up any video higher than 1080p.

The YouTube app is also allowed to use the screen in its native 4K resolution even though the app settings only offer streaming video resolution of up to 1080p.

If there is a game that supports 4K resolution, we couldn't find one. The same goes for the few Google Cardboard style VR apps we downloaded for testing. The few games we tried all ran in 1080p.

Interestingly, the web browser didn't utilize the high resolution mode either.

So yes, the screen is indeed a 4K one and it's indeed capable of showing all those 8M+ pixels. It's just that you can hardly tell the difference over a phone with a QHD screen.

Nevertheless, Sony deservedly gets all the 4K screen bragging rights and there is no way anyone's taking those from them. We also think that handling the high resolution mode this way is an excellent balance of user experience, performance and battery life.

Besides the 4K side of things, we also subjected the Xperia Z5 Premium screen to our usual battery of tests and measurements. The maximum brightness of the screen (566nits) turned out quite in line with what we got from the regular Xperia Z5 (583nits) though this one wouldn't go anything higher than that in Auto mode even in bright environment. The level of blacks is similar as well, which works out to a similarly average contrast ratio (966:1) as the Z5's (986:1).

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia Z5 compact 0.10 106 1060 0.65 680 1053
Sony Xperia Z5 0.10 90 900 0.59 583 986
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 0.08 78 963 0.59 566 966
Sony Xperia Z3+ - - - 0.68 789 1158
Samsung Galaxy S6 0 208 0 363
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ 0.00 172 - 410
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 0.10 150 1563 0.43 590 1382
OnePlus Two 0.16 180 1139 0.30 399 1334
LG G Flex2 0.00 152 0.00 398
HTC One M9 0.15 175 1180 0.44 534 1221
Meizu Pro 5 0 102 0 321


In terms of sunlight legibility, the Z5 Premium is again, pretty comparable to its Z5 sibling. Both get decent scores, but there is still a lot of room for improvement left. It's all down to the relatively high reflectivity of their screens.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
    4.615
  • Samsung Galaxy E7
    4.485
  • HTC One A9
    4.274
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    4.09
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    4.033
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • OnePlus X
    3.983
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 outdoor
    3.879
  • Samsung Galaxy A8
    3.859
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    3.799
  • Apple iPhone 6s
    3.783
  • Meizu Pro 5
    3.781
  • Vivo X5Pro
    3.706
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Oppo R5
    3.678
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Nokia Lumia 735
    3.547
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3.543
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
    3.53
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Oppo R7 Plus
    3.499
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • vivo X5Max
    3.472
  • LG G Flex2
    3.465
  • YotaPhone 2
    3.453
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3.422
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Meizu MX5
    3.416
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Active
    3.406
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Oppo R7
    3.32
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    3.222
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • LG Nexus 5X
    3.092
  • Huawei Mate S
    3.073
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
    3.065
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Lenovo S90 Sisley
    2.892
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    2.876
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    2.824
  • HTC Desire Eye
    2.815
  • Gionee Elife S5.1
    2.812
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Sony Xperia Z5 compact
    2.784
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    2.765
  • LG V10
    2.744
  • Sony Xperia M5
    2.69
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Xiaomi Mi 4i
    2.641
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2.618
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2.595
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2.574
  • Microsoft Lumia 640
    2.563
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
    2.525
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
    2.503
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • vivo Xshot
    2.465
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro
    2.416
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • Huawei Honor 7
    2.406
  • ZUK Z1 by Lenovo
    2.382
  • HTC Desire 820
    2.372
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Meizu MX4
    2.366
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Meizu m1 note
    2.362
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • HTC One M9
    2.334
  • LG G4
    2.317
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • HTC One E9+
    2.305
  • HTC One (M8) for Windows
    2.291
  • Oppo R1x
    2.281
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Sony Xperia C5 Ultra
    2.253
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • Sony Xperia C4 Dual
    2.235
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Huawei P8
    2.196
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Oppo N3
    2.181
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 2
    2.166
  • OnePlus Two
    2.165
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML
    2.149
  • LG Aka
    2.145
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia C3 Dual
    2.12
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Huawei P8lite
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Moto G 3rd gen max manual
    2.026
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2.024
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • Sony Xperia E4g
    1.972
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Lenovo Vibe X2
    1.952
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1.943
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
    1.935
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • ZTE Blade S6
    1.927
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • HTC Butterfly 2
    1.905
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • Meizu m2 note
    1.892
  • BlackBerry Leap
    1.892
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    1.887
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • ZTE Nubia Z9 mini
    1.759
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1.735
  • Acer Liquid Jade S
    1.734
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • Asus Zenfone Selfie
    1.68
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen)
    1.675
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    1.659
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Microsoft Lumia 532
    1.615
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Microsoft Lumia 435
    1.598
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    1.507
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Sony Xperia E4
    1.467
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Microsoft Lumia 535
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • HTC Desire 510
    1.34
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

Much like on the Xperia Z5, color rendering without image enhancements is off to a higher extent than we're used to see lately (Avg deltaE 7.1 for the primary colors plus black and white), but it's the white to blame as it has a relatively high bluish tint (deltaE 14.6). Still, you would certainly have a hard time noticing a color cast without a reference.

Color accuracy of course takes an extra hit when you turn on the screen image enhancements such as the X Reality for mobile mode but not as much on the Xperia Z5 (Avg deltaE 7.2 in the Z5 Premium) but the representation of the whites remains unchanged in this mode. The maximum brightness however is reduced in this mode - down to about a maximum of 535 nits.

As usual, display colors are a matter of personal taste and perception so if you don't need calibrated color output, you will probably be quite happy with the default settings of the Xperia Z5 Premium display.

You can fine tune the display color rendering to an extent as Sony gives you fine grain sliders for adjusting the Red, Green and Blue channel saturation, but the UI is far from user friendly and unlikely to produce any meaningful results without a reference point sitting side by side with the display. Even worse, as soon as you start fiddling with those sliders, the maximum brightness will take a hit. They also don't allow lowering of the saturation of each channel, but only an increase, which is the opposite of what we would try to do with this screen if we're after calibrated color accuracy.

Battery life

The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is powered by a beefy 3,430 mAh battery, sealed-in, as expected. It scored an overall endurance rating of 66 hours, which is above average and certainly impressive, having in mind there is a 8M+ pixels on this screen to light up.

The Xperia Z5 Premium definitely did alright in our call and web tests, but it did average on the video test and standby.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review

An endurance rating of 66 hours is still above average and it means that the Z5 Premium should be more than happy to offer that many hours of our test pattern usage - one hour of browsing, video playback and calls a day respectively and the rest - standby.

Such usage pattern is of course entirely artificial, but we've established it so our battery results are comparable across devices. And if it doesn't quite fit your bill, you can easily hop on to our battery life chart and adjust the pattern to your liking for an even more comprehensive comparison.

Connectivity

Sony is offering the Z5 Premium in both a single SIM and dual SIM variant, just like the Z5. The handset offers quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE/HSDPA support. LTE is enabled and Sony has multiple regional models to make sure the Xperia Z5 will work with the most widespread 4G networks at Cat.6 speeds.

Local connectivity features dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and Wi-Fi Direct. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.1 with A2DP. Satellite navigation is also a given, with GPS and GLONASS or Beidou (market dependent) support.

The Xperia Z5 Premium also has an FM radio with RDS.

The phone doesn't offer an IR port, but it does come with NFC.

There is a microUSB 2.0 port for charging and data connections and now, and since the Z3+, it no longer needs to be covered by a flap to stay water protected. Media transfer mode is supported for accessing the phone's built-in memory and microSD card over the USB cable.

USB host functionality is present, but requires a little more work than simply plugging in a device with an USB OTG adapter. There is a special menu under Xperia Connectivity in the settings that allows you to "discover" a plugged USB device. It still works as expected, but it requires the extra legwork.

Being part of the premium "Z" line has a few other features to mention, like the MHL 3 TV-out support. You can also output your phone's screen wirelessly via the Miracast protocol or Sony's Xperia Connectivity Throw option.

The app also lets you share your media over DLNA by creating a media server, as well as connect to a PlayStation DUALSHOCK 3 (or 4) wireless controller.

Last, but not least, the Z5 Premium offers advanced active noise cancelling when paired with a supported handset like the Sony MDR-NC750.

Reader comments

where can i buy this phone and am from kenya

Have you tried "SoundAbout"? (that's the name on the GP Store.) Personally, though, I just resorted to using good Bluetooth earphones and headphones - I got an Aukey Latitude (EP-B40) for super cheap and a Sony MDR-ZX770BN (noise canceling headp...

guys the headphone jack issue is because of its headphone. I used to use my own headphone for two years and it was ok. then it broke and I switched to the one sony provided with the phone (MH750), after a week or two, it messed up with the head...