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Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: A 4K let-down with massive battery drain

It’s very fast, has a 4K display, but the Xperia Z5 Premium’s 4K display consumes a lot of battery

Back in September 2015, Sony was the first manufacturer to release a 4K smartphone. One would have thought that Samsung, LG or Motorola would have released it before Sony, as they all moved to a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. Instead, Sony made the leap from 1080p in the Xperia Z5 to a 4K display in the Xperia Z5 Premium.

Despite its name, the Z5 Premium has more in common with the ill-fated Xperia Z3+ than the rest of the Z5 range. This is partly down to the design, where the company decided to opt for a glossy back, over frosted glass – giving the phone a mirror-like finish. In fact, the chrome model was so reflective that you could easily use it to fix your hair or do your morning make-up on the train.

This mirror-like effect is more subtle on the other colour choices, but it makes little difference when none are as easy to grip as the standard Z5. This also makes it a complete fingerprint magnet, which distracts you from its ‘premium’ status.

It should be noted that this review was conducted when the phone was priced at £600, but it can now be found for under £420. Its 4K resolution was also not fully supported in Android nor in apps, but this has been fixed, making it easier to recommend the phone for those lookign to invest in a 4K smartphone.

^ The Chrome version of the Z5 Premium has a full mirror finish, but the gold and black models aren’t quite so reflective

It does, however, use the same flush fingerprint sensor as the rest of the Z5 family. It’s a shame Sony had to get rid of its round, machined-finish power button in the process, as the fingerprint sensor doesn’t provide nearly as much tactile feedback when you press it down to turn the screen on to unlock the phone, but it is one of the best-placed fingerprint sensors I’ve seen so far. It’s also very quick, taking little more than a second to unlock it once you’ve pressed the power button.

4K Display

Of course, the main attraction is that 3,840 x 2,160 resolution display, which across 5.5in gives the Z5 Premium an insanely high pixel density of 806 pixels-per-inch. That’s more than twice as sharp as the iPhone 6S Plus and 1.5x as sharp as the LG G4, both of which have 5.5in, but only resolutions of 1,920 x 1,080 and 2,560 x 1,440 respectively.

When I first reviewed the phone, it was incapable of rendering apps at 4K and instead used a standard 1,920 x 1,080 resolution for everything outside of Sony’s Album and Movie apps. This was due to Android 5.1.1 not fully supporting 4K.

Thankfully, Android Nougat, which is a free update for Z5 Premium users and fully supports 4K. This means your phone will now render everything in 4K – making a huge difference to the overall look of the display

It should be noted that you can see the difference between 4K and 1080p, but you do have to hold the phone rather close to your face to appreciate it. Viewing it from a normal viewing distance, and the crisp detail becomes significantly harder to pick out. It’s hardly the most compelling reason to shell out £600, but Sony hopes it will at least provide a bit of future-proofing in the device for when app developers (and Android) eventually catch up.

Battery Life

Sony’s chief reason for rendering at 1,080p is to help preserve the phone’s battery life, as, understandably, rendering at 4K all the time would tear through the 3,430mAh battery in no time at all. It doesn’t seem to have done a particularly great job, though, as the Z5 Premium lasted a pitiful 9h 38m in our continuous video playback test. This is the worst result I’ve seen across the Z5 family, with the Z5 lasting 11h 29m and the Z5 Compact managing an even more impressive 13h 21m. It’s also pretty poor compared to other phablets, as other handsets with batteries of this size have all lasted well into double figures.

Image quality

Display quality doesn’t quite measure up to the normal Z5 either. While its 97.6% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut means it still has one of the best IPS displays around, its accuracy levels are just a fraction below the Z5’s. When I compared them side-by-side for example, the Z5 Premium had a noticeably cooler overall colour temperature compared to the Z5, which meant that warmer colours didn’t look quite as rich or punchy.

The Z5 Premium’s screen also isn’t as bright as the Z5’s, as I only measured a peak brightness level of 455.25cd/m2 compared to the Z5’s massive 684.25cd/m2. As a result, whites also weren’t nearly as clean and pure on the Z5 Premium as they were on its little brother, which also had a knock-on effect on its overall colour vibrancy. It’s not all bad news, though, as the Z5 Premium’s contrast ratio of 1,255:1 and black level of 0.36cd/m2 beats both of its smaller siblings, leading to deeper blacks and more detailed images.


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