Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: Beautiful, expensive, pointless

£577
Price when reviewed

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: That 4k screen

Here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the 4K screen. All 8,294,400 pixels of it… well, in certain apps anyway.

More on that in a moment. First up, how is it as a screen? Well, it’s an IPS LCD number, and first impressions are that the quality is excellent, and the numbers back that up. It hits a maximum brightness of 545cd/m2, which is good, but dimmer than the Z5, which hits 684cd/m2. It also trails the Z5 on percentage of the sRGB gamut covered: 97.6% to the Z5’s 99.4%.

I don’t want to split hairs here, because both are very good scores indeed, but it’s surprising that the premium version of a product should trail the “inferior” model on any metric at all, let alone the screen, which is the one clear difference between the two. Though in its defence, the Z5 Premium does win on two metrics here: the black level is lower (0.36cd/m2 to the Z5’s 0.54cd/m2) and the contrast is greater, weighing in at 1,255:1 compared to the Z5’s 1,078:1.

The key difference between the Z5 and Z5 Premium, however, is the 0.3in of extra screen, and the obscenely high resolution it’s capable of displaying. To put this into perspective, the television in your house likely doesn’t push the same number of pixels the Z5 premium does, unless you’re at the very cutting edge of technology.

Now, on a 40in screen, the more pixels the better, especially as you sit a comfortable distance from a television. For a 5.5in screen to need that many pixels… well, let’s just say I’m not convinced it’s necessary. In short, there comes a point when our eyes can’t tell the difference between pixel densities, unless you’re looking under a microscope. That isn’t most people’s regular use case, I think we can agree.

For a phone held around 10 to 12in from the face, where does that point come? Well, Apple argued it comes at the 300ppi point when it announced the first Retina Display on the iPhone 4. Others say it could be closer to 500ppi, if you have particularly good eyesight. Anything higher, and you’re in “magic beans” territory.

A reminder at this point, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium delivers an absolute resolution of 806ppi.

So, how does it do? Well, that’s surprisingly hard to test, because there are only two apps that put the screen into 4K mode: Sony’s own Video and Photo apps. Everything else displays in good old 1080p, and even Sony admits that YouTube and Netflix don’t support 4K streaming to mobiles, instead stating they’ll be upscaled to the same level of detail. That’s a wonderful claim, but it’s also conveniently hard to substantiate, given what we know about the human eye.

So, you can watch the bundled 4K videos, which all look rather splendid in their eye-popping, colourful, sharp glory in the Sony app. “This is great,” you think. “I could get into this.” Then you download a free video app, such as MX Player, watch the same video and realise it also looks eye-popping, colourful and sharp, despite the fact it’s locked to 1080p. Video captured in 4K and 1080p has the same impact, and you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference, were it not for the 4K stamp in the video selection menu – a hint that your extra £130 is about to be rewarded, so watch closely.

What I’m trying to say is that you might be able to see a difference – or think you can – but it’s infinitesimally small to the average pair of peepers. There’s certainly not £130’s worth of difference. The only real justification for 4K on a phone screen is virtual reality, when all those extra pixels will create more realistic scenes. But – and this is a big but – you still need the VR apps to support 4K, while Sony has no known plans to create a headset to take advantage.

 

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium specifications

Processor

Octacore (quad 2GHz and quad 1.5GHz), Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 

RAM

3GB

Screen size

5.5in

Screen resolution

2,160 x 3,840, 806ppi

Screen type

IPS

Front camera

5.1MP

Rear camera

23MP (f/2, phase detect autofocus, OIS)

Flash

LED

GPS

Yes

Compass

Yes

Storage

32GB

Memory card slot 

MicroSD

Wi-Fi

802.11ac

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.1, A2DP, apt-X

NFC

Yes

Wireless data

4G

Size (WDH)

76 x 7.8 x 154mm

Weight

180g

Operating system

Android 5.1.1 Lollipop

Battery size

3,430mAh

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