Sony Xperia Z5 Premium – Screen
Pretty much every Sony Xperia Z5 Premium feature pales in comparison to the screen in terms of its presence on the spec sheet.
Like “4K” TVs, the phone’s actual resolution is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, known as UHD. It’s just a smidgen less wide than the DCI 4K standard used in cinemas. Anyone getting too worked up about the difference should probably relax and find a new hobby, however.
This resolution stretched across the Sony Xperia Z5’s 5 inches of screen results in an incredible pixel density of 806ppi. That’s just over double the pixel density of the iPhone 6S Plus, with four times the number of pixels across the whole screen.
It’s an amazing feat – but sadly, it’s also largely pointless. The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium actually renders at only 1080p 99% of the time, more-or-less doubling up on pixels as a 4K TV does when displaying 1080p content. True 4K images are reserved for displaying photos and 4K video.
It’s also worth examining the real limits here. For example, you can’t play YouTube’s huge wealth of 4K films because the app identifies the display as 1080p. YouTube, Netflix and so on aren’t primed to recognise when a phone is simply hiding its real resolution.
Playing 4K videos with the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is possible, but accessing them will be trickier than usual. It’s also a little amusing to note that when you’re flicking around the phone’s interface, its resolution is lower than that of the LG G4 or Samsung Galaxy S6. Phones that are generally available for hundreds of pounds less right now.
If you were hoping for 4K gaming, and 4K video streaming, then think again. It also means that there’s no benefit when using a VR app and Google Cardboard headset, for example. This is sad, since VR is pretty much the best excuse for such a high pixel density screen. If you’ve not tried it yet, even QHD phones look a little blocky when used with a VR headset.
So while the 4K aspect of the Xperia Z5 Premium’s screen is disappointing, elsewhere it performs well. This is a very vibrant-looking display; colours look vivid and intense without showing any signs of the oversaturation evident on the original Nexus 6, for example.
It really pops, helped by the good contrast and black level – for an LCD screen, at any rate. There’s no option to tone down the colours to get an sRGB-standard look similar to the Nexus 6P or top Samsung handsets, but you can tweak the white balance.
It isn’t the most user-friendly of interfaces, but it’s worth having a play. Like other Xperia handsets, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium tends to lean towards being a little blue/cool in order to achieve an impression of higher brightness. A warm look is totally possible if that’s what you prefer.
OLED rivals such as the Edge+ and Nexus 6P seem to offer slightly better visibility outdoors. However, once you get over the virtually impact-less 4K resolution, you’ll discover that the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium really does have a decent screen.
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium – Software and Performance
The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium runs Android 5.1 Lollipop with the same custom interface used in the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact. The look is quite different to vanilla Android, but primarily because it doesn’t use the “white piece of paper” background style adopted by Google with Lollipop.
Sony style and apps are laid on pretty thick, but actually, it isn’t that invasive a UI. It doesn’t add too many ground-level functions, maintaining a fairly simple approach. For example, you won’t find whole new interface elements such as the HTC One M9’s BlinkFeed here.
Coming from the Nexus 6P, the Sony UI seems a little dated. However, with a few days’ use you’ll soon become familiar – as with all the better custom Android interfaces.
What may not find favour is the wealth of extra apps installed here. Perhaps the most important are Sony’s media apps, which let you download films and music. However, there’s nothing here that can’t be handled by Google’s own services, or any number of third-party alternatives.
The one part that is worth paying a little more attention to is Remote Play. This lets you wirelessly stream games from a PS4 to the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium using your home Wi-Fi network. It’s a great feature, although I expect that only around 5% of Xperia Z owners will actually use it with any regularity.
PS4 games aren’t exactly a dream to play on a phone screen, but you can hook up a DualShock 4 controller, making them far more appealing. Sony even makes a frame that attaches controller to phone – it’s been around for while, but should work just fine with the Premium.
While I don’t believe the software extras warrant picking the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium over a rival, its performance is very good.
It doesn’t benefit from the performance improvements brought by Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is pretty much lag-free.
Since reviewing the Xperia Z5, Sony also seems to have made an effort to resolve the overheating issue that I found so prevalent. I’ve had pretty much no trouble with the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium overheating. Sure, it becomes warm under pressure, but not when handling very light tasks.
Powering the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is the same hardware at the heart of the smaller Z5s. It uses a Snapdragon 810 CPU, an octa-core processor that’s been both widely used and reviled in 2015.
With the overheating issue under control, the Snapdragon 810 seems just fine in this phone – and it has plenty of power. All games ran without issue at their settings maxed, and in Geekbench 3, the Xperia Z5 Premium scored a solid 4,464 points.
The Xperia Z5 Premium’s performance is essentially on a par with the Xperia Z5. The difference between it and top-scoring phones such as the Galaxy S6/Note 4 is largely academic. I did notice that at times the Geekbench 3 result was a lot lower, suggesting that clever throttling of the CPU is being used to reduce overheating. It perhaps isn’t an ideal solution, but it works.
It won’t be all that long until the next generation of chipsets starts appearing, though. After all, even at the time of this review being published, we’re probably only three months or so away from the Samsung Galaxy S7’s announcement. However, the Premium’s performance won’t age too quickly.
Its solid speed is no doubt helped by the phone’s use of 1080p resolution for much of the time.