Sony’s back, and it’s back with great aplomb. The company has brought us an entire Xperia Z5 family of smartphones ranging from the Xperia Z5 Compact for small pockets to the 5.5-inch Xperia Z5 Premium with the industry’s first 4K display in a production smartphone.
We get it, a launch of that magnitude couldn’t wait until IFA actually kicked off and Sony scheduled their own dedicated event today. Not that the insane 806ppi of the Premium wouldn’t have been enough to pierce through all the clamor at the show and draw most of the attention, even more so now that Samsung’s phablets have already been announced.
Sony did need the good publicity only a truly new feature could bring and now they have it. The company has been an easy target for critics with its twice-a-year flagship update cycle. It’s been the ideal mix of few improvements over the previous generation on the one hand and buyers, disappointed that their brand new device becomes last generation in only a few months, on the other.
In fact, the regular Sony Xperia Z5 may still suffer from the same stigma – after all, the Z3+ was announced in May and save for the new camera (which in itself may be worth the upgrade, we don’t know yet) and fingerprint sensor, it’s essentially the same smartphone.
The Compacts have had a more fortunate fate, largely because they only accompany the odd-numbered flagships (the Z3+ doesn’t count). That, and the fact that there’s really no other truly high-end big-name small-sized flagship in existence.
But the Z5 Premium is a whole new breed. Sony hadn’t had a proper high-end phablet since the Xperia Z Ultra more than two years ago, but it’s hard to call the Z5 Premium a successor. Next to the monstrous 6.4-inch Z Ultra, the Z5 Premium looks dwarfish.
It’s not size Sony went for this time, it’s resolution, and 2160p on a 5.5-inch diagonal is nothing short of astonishing. But why, you may ask, and you’d be right. Because we can, Sony would answer. We are, however, inclined to speculate that such a pixel density has some VR application planned for its near future.
Sony Xperia Z5 / Xperia Z5 Compact / Xperia Z5 Premium shared specs at a glance
- Android 5.1 Lollipop with Xperia UI on top
- IP65/IP68 certified – dust and water proof up to 1.5 meter and 30 minutes
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset with 2 GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 plus 1.5 GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 processor, Adreno 430 GPU
- 23MP camera, 24mm-equiv. f/2.0 lens, LED flash, dedicated hardware shutter key
- 2160p video recording, SteadyShot with Intelligent Active Mode
- 5MP, 25mm-equiv., front-facing camera with 1080p video recording, SteadyShot with Intelligent Active Mode
- Up to 32GB of built-in storage, expandable via the microSD card slot by up to 200GB
- Cat. 6 LTE (up to 300Mbps); Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Wi-Fi Direct; Bluetooth 4.1 with apt-X and Sony LDAC wireless High-Res Audio codec, GPS/GLONASS/Beidou receiver, Stereo FM with RDS; USB On-The-Go
- Active in-call noise cancellation with a secondary microphone
- Digital music noise cancellation available with certain Sony headsets
- Front-facing stereo speakers
- STAMINA Power Saving Mode, up to two-day battery life promised for all three
- Stylish dual glass-panel design
- Qualcomm Quick charge certified, no wireless charging built-in
- Capless USB port design in waterproof phones
- Side-mounted fingerprint sensor in the power button
Sony Xperia Z5
- 5.2″ FullHD (1920 x 1080 pixels) IPS LCD display with 428ppi
- 3GB of RAM
- 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm, 154g
- 2,900mAh battery
- Also available as a Dual SIM version
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
- 4.6″ HD (1280 x 720 pixels) IPS LCD display with 323ppi
- 2GB of RAM
- 2,700mAh battery
- 127 x 65 x 8.9 mm, 138g
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
- 5.5″ UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels) IPS LCD display with 806ppi (!)
- 3GB of RAM
- 3,430mAh battery
- 154.4 x 75.8 x 7.8 mm, 180g
- Also available as a Dual SIM version
With nigh identical hardware, the three smartphones have the display size to set them apart and consequently physical dimensions, of course. We’d also expect them to perform rather differently in the graphics department as there’s a 9 times abyss between the number of pixels that need to be rendered on the Premium, compared to the Compact. The Compact should also be the battery king by a long stretch, going solely by the numbers.
Being the lucky folks that we are, we got the chance to spend some time with the brand new Xperia Z5 bunch. It’s way too early for conclusions, but we’re ready to share some initial impressions, starting on the next page with the vanilla Xperia Z5.
Sony Xperia Z5 hands-on
The Sony Xperia Z5 seems to be the least impressive of the lineup. After all, we’ve seen it a few times over, only bearing different names – much like a Nickelback song. That would be an unfair assumption, though.
Immediately recognizable as an Xperia, the Z5 has one notable difference from the established design constraints. The absentee is the iconic circular power button, now replaced by an elongated rounded rectangle.
Fingerprint recognition is a must for any flagship in this day and age, and we’re no longer surprised to find it in mid-rangers either. Sony was trailing a generation behind in this respect and had to catch up, but where to stick a sensor when you don’t have a hardware home button and the glass back prevents you from using a rear-mounted solution?
What you do is you rework the OmniBalance power button and put it to another good use. Naturally, you can setup your left index finger too, for when you grab the Xperia with your other hand.
Speaking of OmniBalance, that concept is headed for well-deserved retirement. The new design philosophy is dubbed Sense of unity, but we’d require some more convincing to call it entirely new at this point, but Sony reps assure us we’re going to see the real difference in design in 2016. Power button aside, the Z5 is largely the same device as the Z3+, all the way down to the lanyard eyelet (a feature, precious to some, but bordering extinction, mind you).
The dual-glass design is here to stay, but Sony has spiced it up by giving the back cover a frosted effect. It’s a huge stride in the right direction, as the older models were a nightmare to keep clean. Impossible, quite frankly. The new back cover no longer looks like a fingerprint mess.
The two slabs of unspecified-make “Chemical tempered glass” are held together by an aluminum frame, now with the Xperia logo etched on the side. It has a fine-grained finish to match the back, with just the right amount of sparkle. Sony is persisting with the bumper corners, and though some of us aren’t fans, there’s probably sound reasoning behind their existence.
The principal control layout won’t surprise anyone, though it’s gotten a questionable tweak. While the power button/fingerprint reader is where you’d expect it to be, the volume rocker sits quite low on the right side and requires a somewhat unnatural finger orientation to access. The two-stage shutter button, which is another of the more exclusive features, is in its customary position.
Sony was proud to go capless with the microUSB port on the Z3+ and the Z5 doesn’t take any backward steps here. The SIM/microSD card slot does have a plastic cap though, but how many times do you pop that one open, compared to using the microUSB for charging?
Of course, the IP68 certification for protection against dust and water ingress remains. You can be sure we would have been vocal, had it not been.
Interestingly, the Xperia Z5 measures exactly the same as the Z3, while the Z3+ inbetweener was a good 0.4mm thinner. We would point the finger at the fingerprint sensor, which needed more room on the side.
What it cannot explain is why the Z5 weighs 154g. That’s a whole 10g more than the Z3+, but also 2g heavier than the non-plus Z3. All that while bringing battery capacity further down to 2,900mAh. Intriguing battery tests await us.
Sony has always had unorthodox color options to complement the obligatory white and (graphite) black.
This time around the Xperia Z5 can be had in gold and green, as opposed to the predecessor’s copper and aqua green (light blue, really).
Color options for the Xperia Z5
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact hands-on
If battery life is a top priority, the Z5 Compact appears a lot more promising, at least on paper. Smaller 4.6-inch display with 720p resolution and a 2,700mAh cell sure looks like a winner, provided Snapdragon 810 doesn’t completely botch things up.
One thing we need to get off our chests – the Xperia Z5 Compact looks thick, really thick. Obviously, Sony had to fit in the same hardware into a much smaller footprint, hence the device had to grow in the third dimension, but at 8.9mm it’s 0.3mm thicker than the already chunky Z3 Compact. It’s just that the nearly 9 millimeters don’t particularly scream high-end.
That said, the thickness is not really an issue when holding the Compact. It’s the small-sized flagship it has always been since Sony established the niche with the Z1 Compact, a niche where the Japanese are yet to see serious competition. And unlike the downward trend with the big bro, the Compact has actually gotten a bump in battery capacity. To sum it all up, we’re just fine with the compromises being made.
The frame surrounding the Z5 Compact is made of polycarbonate. That explains why Sony could make it continuous, instead of having the unsightly corner bulges, present on both other models.
There’s the same fingerprint reader on the right side, and due to the overall dimensions of the smartphone, it’s even easier to use. You just have a lot more substance to rest your thumb on.
The boxy Z5 Compact handles really well. It’s a breath of fresh air in a world where the bulk of smartphones exceed 5 inches in diagonal and the push for thinness often sacrifices usability. It’s hard to find fault with the Compact from the standpoint of single-handed use. Except maybe the volume rocker, which is again positioned pretty low, but is also somewhat short on top of that.
The obvious downside of the small form factor is, well, you get less screen estate. You’re more likely to see the Compact next to someone’s ear, rather than in their hands with eyes staring at the display, and that’s cool, there are still those who haven’t abandoned voice calls for constant texting.
Not that the display is bad, on the contrary. It’s really bright and despite the contrast compression when viewed from the sides, remains clearly legible. Colors are more than a bit on the cold side, though.
The Xperia Z5 Compact will be available in white and black, but also yellow and coral so you can have a really fresh-looking mini flagship.
Color options for the Xperia Z5 Compact
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium hands-on
In comes the true star of the show, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. This 5.5-inch smartphone boasts the industry’s first mass-produced panel with 4K resolution, or UltraHD, or 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, just so we’re clear.
We’re not sure how to feel about the name. It’s understandable that Sony wanted to distance itself from the growing crowd of Plus-es, but Premium? The sentence “Any man who must say, “I am the king” is no true king.” comes to mind. And also, the regular Z5 and the Compact are not premium enough, is that it?
With the rant out of the way, we must say that for all its exclusivity, the black-clad version sure looks pretty unassuming. At first glance it could be any other Xperia Z-series model, present or old. Once you look up close, you realize it’s an odd blend between the materials of the Z3+ (not the Z5) and the detailing of the Z5. Then, of course, scaled up to accommodate the larger screen.
The Z5 Premium actually has the reflective glass back of the predecessor, instead of the frosted panel of its brethren. The frame is the stainless steel one of the Z3+ too, when the one on the Z5 is made of aluminum. A sense of wonder creeps in if the Premium might have been developed to launch parallel to the Z3+, but unforeseen circumstances or marketing decisions postponed it until now.
The appearance can be described as inconspicuous only when talking about the black version though. The Chrome and Gold ones are a whole different story. Proper hip-hop superstar material, the exotic colored Premiums are not for those looking to go unnoticed.
The chrome version reflects about 95% percent as much light as your everyday household mirror, our entirely non-scientific naked-eye tests revealed. As you could have guessed, it’s entirely impossible to be kept clean unless you store it in a glass display box, which you won’t.
The Xperia Z5 Premium measures 154.4 x 75.8 x 7.8mm, coincidentally that’s the exact same footprint as the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+. True, Samsung has squeezed in a 5.7-inch display, but the dual-edge trickery makes direct comparison impossible.
In practice the Z5 Premium has reasonably thin side bezels with some more meat top and bottom – as we already said, the typical Xperia proportions. You get the same capless microUSB port, the same capped card slot and the same corner inserts on its metal frame.
The fingerprint sensor is also on board, midway on the right, but did we mention the low position of the volume rocker before?
Handling this one is a two-hand affair most of the time, though you can just as easily unlock and dial your better half with one hand, while pushing the cart with the other.
It’s hard to find a word to describe how sharp the display of the Xperia Z5 Premium is. We went with “insane” in the intro and that pretty much sums it up. It has otherwise mostly the same properties as the rest of the bunch, though it’s not as bright.
Sony quotes 700 nits for the Z5 and their numbers mostly checked out when we tested the Z3+, so we have every reason to believe the 500 nits the company advertises for the Z5 Premium are the real deal. It’s not too shabby, and certainly a respectable feat given the pioneering nature of the 4K panel.
Speaking of resolution, Sony talked about upscaling content to make it look better on your pixel-rich screen. Since 4K footage is only a smidgen more mainstream than hoverboards right now, the Premium will do the heavy lifting of upscaling FullHD YouTube videos and whatnot to 4K. While it all sounds great, displaying detail that wasn’t originally recorded should always be taken with a due dose of skepticism.
All-new 23MP camera
Four generations of flagships and the respective Compacts (where there were ones) have used the same 20.7MP sensor, but that is no more. The Xperia Z5 series introduces an all new Sony sensor to its top-shelf devices, one that we’ve been told will be used exclusively by company. It is then not the same, found in the Moto X Style and Play.
While the smartphones’ camera is advertised as 23MP this 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS imager actually has a million or two extra effective pixels. It’s what’s become known as a multi-aspect sensor – its physical diagonal is larger than the image circle covered by the lens, thus its extreme corners are never used. Instead, depending on the selected ratio, a respective crop of the sensor is being utilized.
When shooting in 16:9 aspect, the images come out at 5,984 x 3,366 pixels, or 20.1MP. The more squarish 4:3 ratio gives you the headline 23MP (22.8MP, actually), with precise dimensions of 5,520 x 4,140 pixels. So the actual effective area of the sensor is no less than 5,984 x 4,140 pixels, or 24.8MP.
A 24mm-equivalent wide angle lens sits in front of the imager and offers truly wide coverage, which would lend well to landscape photography. A 5x Clear Image Zoom feature aims to produce detailed, albeit lower-res 8MP images, through analyzing adjacent pixels and using the patterns discovered. As always, we’re skeptical of features that claim to create data, which wasn’t there in the first place but Sony engineers are really proud with what they’ve achieved (previous phones allegedly allowed only 3x digital zoom).
The lens aperture is a reasonably bright f/2.0 and when that isn’t enough, there’s an LED flash to help.
Sony claims to have produced the fastest hybrid autofocus mechanism in a smartphone camera, going down to 0.03s, when the blinking of an eye takes a lengthy 0.1 to 0.4 seconds. That’s the case when the system can gather accurate distance information and the phase detection mechanism can lock focus in a single precise step.
When the reliability of the distance information is lower, the lens is brought to the general vicinity of accurate focus, where contrast-detection kicks in and scans the now narrowed focusing range to acquire precise focus. Worst case scenario – there’s no distance info and the entire focusing range from close-up to infinity must be examined with contrast detection.
The camera app has been thoroughly redesigned. Most notably, you can now switch camera modes with a simple swipe motion, iPhone style. The 8MP limit when using Superior Auto is gone and you can now shoot full resolution 23MP images, or 20MP, should you opt for the 16:9 aspect. You can see the new app in action in the brief video we prepped for you.
Sony has provided a few camera samples from the Xperia Z5 for us to marvel at, viewable below.
We also got to shoot some of our own typical subject matter. It has to be stressed once again that these are pre-production prototype units we’ve been dealing with, so the output will most probably change with final software and hardware. Nevertheless, we’re quite happy with the detail-rich results.
Video recording goes up to 2160p/30fps, not that anything lower was to be expected. Sony has partnered its proprietary SteadyShot technology with Intelligent Active mode. It uses the gyro sensor and a pair of magnets to control the position of the lens, but that’s already been done on the Z3+.
The news here is the added position sensor, which makes the entire operation a closed-loop system. In this case the system receives feedback whether the efforts it makes are doing the job required, and if not, it re-adjusts accordingly. Compare that to an open-loop system, where based on the initial information the actuator does a single action and assumes that it’s successful, without getting feedback.
It all sounds great, but we’ll be testing that later in our detailed review.
Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
Sony has adopted a novel fingerprint sensor on the side of all three phones. It works with partial prints, obviously, but you also don’t need to cover the entire pad – about 2/3 will suffice. It performed flawlessly in terms of recognition and unlocked on the first try throughout the time we spent with the devices. That’s only a few hours though, and it’s unclear how it will react in tricky conditions – sweaty/dirty fingers or under water.
What we’re not fans of, is the fact that you need to wake the smartphone up, before it can take a reading. You can’t just place your finger on the button and have it unlock the phone directly like you can on the OnePlus 2. It could be a battery endurance consideration, perhaps an always-on sensor would take too big of a toll. In all fairness, both Apple and Samsung’s implementations follows the same press-then-scan logic.
Another niggle is that with the power button/fingerprint sensor recessed into the frame, it’s quite difficult to press. We’d reckon that it’s an issue related to our pre-production hardware as both our Z5 Premium and Z5 Compact fare better that the plain Z5 in this respect with a more solid clicking action.
All three smartphones are powered by the same Snapdragon 810 chipset. We can already hear the comments section complain why it’s not the new 820 or the 808. One possible explanation is that the 808 comes with an inferior GPU that would have choked on the 4K resolution of the Premium, while the 820 is, for all we know, simply not ready for mass release.
It is what it is, and the S810 is Qualcomm’s reigning high-end solution and the obvious choice for a flagship (or an entire family of three).
While we did have all three with us, the state of the Premium’s software was such that it didn’t allows to run any benchmarks. As for the other two, just keep in mind we’re tested pre-production units running non-final software. The performance may (or, likely, will) change by the time the devices are ready to hit the shelves. Also, the phones rejected to install some of the usual benchmarks, so here’s what we managed to run.
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
- OnePlus 21942
- Xperia Z5 Compact (pre-production)1904
- Xperia Z5 (pre-production)1851
- Samsung Galaxy S61769
- ZTE Axon Pro1565
- HTC One M91526
- Sony Xperia Z3+ final1410
- Sony Xperia Z3 Compact1167
- Meizu MX51163
- Sony Xperia Z31109
Higher is better
- Samsung Galaxy S627169
- Xperia Z5 (pre-production)24886
- Xperia Z5 Compact (pre-production)23458
- ZTE Axon Pro22928
- OnePlus 221937
- Sony Xperia Z3+ final20767
- HTC One M919848
- Sony Xperia Z312637
- Sony Xperia Z3 Compact12080
- Meizu MX510403
GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)
Higher is better
- Xperia Z5 Compact (pre-production)25
- ZTE Axon Pro25
- Samsung Galaxy S624
- Xperia Z5 (pre-production)24
- HTC One M923
- OnePlus 222
- Sony Xperia Z3+ final21
- LG G4 (final)15
- Sony Xperia Z312
- Sony Xperia Z3 Compact11.8
- Meizu MX510
GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)
Higher is better
- Xperia Z5 Compact (pre-production)35
- Sony Xperia Z3 Compact25.4
- Xperia Z5 (pre-production)25
- HTC One M924
- OnePlus 222
- Sony Xperia Z3+ final21
- ZTE Axon Pro15
- Samsung Galaxy S614
- Sony Xperia Z312.7
- Meizu MX59.5
- LG G4 (final)9.4
Both smartphones exhibit great overall performance, as indicated by the all-round Basemark OS II benchmark. The graphics department posts great numbers too, nearly up there with the Samsung Galaxy S6 in Basemark X.
GFXBench also places the Z5s towards the top of the crop. The Z5 Compact breezes through the onscreen Manhattan test with a 35fps score, favored by its 720p resolution – after all it’s the only device with an HD screen, powered by the S810 and Adreno 430. Yes, we know that subjecting the Premium to this, would have a lot more fun, but tough luck this time.
Alongside the Xperia Z5 range, Sony announced a number of accessories to complement the high-end smartphones. For starters, there are flip cover cases to fit each of the three devices, which come in the respective colors and feature a window to display the clock and notifications.
A built-in NFC connection inside the case allows it to communicate with the device. This activates the case window interface and also offers you to download a theme matching the color of your case of choice.
A minor gripe is that, the displays being LCD, they need to be lit up entirely whereas AMOLEDs could save some mAhs when kept in such a case and used mostly for voice calls.
Additionally, the cases don’t seem overly keen to stay closed and have a tendency to flap around. The units we got to fiddle with were prototypes too, so who knows, the commercially available ones might be superior.
A high-end headset model was presented as well, and in some markets it will be part of the bundle that comes with the smartphones.
The Sony MDR-NC750 supports Hi Res Audio and active noise cancellation.
The first is a broad set of standards for audio encoding and playback, which relies on a higher sampling rate (24bit/96kHz or 24bit/192kHz), compared to the 16bit/44.1kHz of the CD. The end-result is, well, higher sound quality. Notable examples of file formats that can handleHi Res Audio are .WAV, .FLAC, and ALAC.
Active noise cancellation comes courtesy of a mic in each earbud, which captures ambient noise, sends it to the smartphone, the built-in software analyzes it and then sends back to your ears the music you’re listening to, accompanied by sound waves that cancel out the sound waves of the environment. More or less.
Then comes the Bluetooth headset SBH54. Easily paired via NFC, the bundle consists of the clip-on amplifier/battery/remote control piece and a pair of headphones.
An unpleasant rumor made the news earlier this year that Sony may be selling its smartphone division in a bid to cut losses. It was later denied by Sony Mobile CEO, him reportedly saying that they “will never ever sell or exit from the current mobile business”.
Well, if you ever needed confirmation on that statement, it couldn’t come in a more unequivocal manner than the launch of the Xperia Z5 family. Introducing a new, custom camera sensor, ticking the fingerprint checkbox, updating the looks and moving into a new large-screen flagship product category – all these moves are signs that Sony is keeping up with the times.
It is, however, the Xperia Z5 Premium that speaks loud and bold for Sony and puts the company back on the innovators’ list. And before the nay-sayers jump up with their “who needs more than 1080p” mantra, let’s have in mind that Sony may actually be on to something we’re too short-sighted to spot at this point.
Of course, vision and imagination are all nice things, but there’s also practical considerations to have in mind, and most of those we cannot yet assess.
Yes, Sony promises two-day battery life on all three of the Xperia Z5s, but whose two days are those? Is the troubled Snapdragon 810 chipset the one that could happily churn out upwards of 8MP screen resolution to feed that gorgeous Premium display? Can the new camera actually deliver on the promise of better images, or should we say, is the processing up to the sensor’s standards this time around?
We’ll need a lot more testing to answer all of these questions, but we’ll most certainly take care of those, come review time.
Source : GSMARENA