The new Sony Xperia Z5 family of devices is here and it consists of three phones: the 5.5-inch Sony Xperia Z5 Premium with a 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160-pixel) display, the more conservatively sized 5.2-inch Xperia Z5, and finally, the 'mini' Xperia Z5 Compact with its 4.6-inch 720p display.
All three phones share a common design language, all run on the top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 system chip, and all come equipped with a fingerprint scanner tucked neatly in the side-positioned fingerprint scanner.
It's time to take a deeper dive at their specs to understand what the new phones are all about.
The design language in the new Xperia Z5 series is one of evolution rather than revolution, but it is still a noticeable change from what we've had earlier in the Xperia Z3 Plus and Z3: the new phones have square sides and feel a bit blockier, and there are also new color options with the usual set of interesting color choices by Sony.
Sony design, evolved.
The frame of the phones is made out of metal, so it definitely feels sturdy, while on both the front and back, the devices feature a glass construction. This definitely gives the three a very premium and stylish look, but do keep in mind that they catch fingerprint easily - something that's more noticeable on the darker color version than the brighter ones.
In terms of buttons, you have on-screen navigation keys for Android, while all the physical buttons are located on the right hand side: the lock/power key with a fingerprint scanner in it is slightly above the center, while the volume rocker is somewhat strangely (and a bit inconveniently) located near the bottom of the right side. At the very bottom you have a two-way camera shutter key that is clicky and has a nice tactile feel to it. You can also long hold the shutter key to start the camera app, which is a neat shortcut to have.
In terms of actual size and dimensions, we have put all three alongside for your viewing convenience, and we have also included the always-talked-about iPhone 6, in case you want to know how the new Sony phones compare with it.
Finally, do keep in mind that all three Xperia Z5s are fully IP68 certified, meaning that they are protected from water and dust, which means that the phone could be submerged shortly in fresh water (don't use it in the open ocean or sea) and can survive rain without fear, but it's not a good idea to use it to shoot for prolonger periods under water.
The main difference between the three new Xperia Z5s is their screen size: 5.5 inches on the Z5 Premium, 5.2 inches on the Z5, and 4.6 inches on the Z5 Compact.
4K is one big marketing term
Sony's big highlight, however, is something else: the Xperia Z5 Premium's 4K display. It's a true Ultra HD 5.5-inch display and this means that you get a whopping 8.3 million pixels in a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, resulting in pixel density of the whopping 800ppi+. That is an admirable engineering achievement and all, but at first sight we found it hard to find any immediately noticeable improvement in sharpments when comparing the 4K Z5 Premium with its 1080p sibling, the 5.2" Xperia Z5. You need to look from very up close to see those differences. In fact, all three devices look sufficiently sharp as to not see pixelization, even the Xperia Z5 Compact with its resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels on a 4.6" display.
As much as Sony makes 4K a big story, we were actually more curious to see what's going on with color accuracy. The last couple of generation of Sony phones (and the Xperia Z3 in particular) had a screen that was noticeably bluish in a way that most cheap knock-offs from China usually are, and that definitely ruins a lot of the pleasant colors we want to see. True, there were some options for screen junkies to fiddle with RGB levels and get it a bit more balanced, but it wasn't something that the average user would be able to fix.
We're happy to see that in the Xperia Z5 series Sony no longer calibrated the screens to appear blue, and in fact we have colors that look much more balanced with the white point being a more neutral, 'pure' white tonality.
Then, there is Sony's X-Reality technology, a fancy marketing term for a crazy color overlay that seems to go nuts with sharpening, adjusting contrast and do some other tweaks to color quality that would distort the image quality and result in some often unrealistically overblown colors. Luckily, that's an option that you can turn off in the settings.
Processor and Memory
The new Xperia Z5 takes a risky bet on Qualcomm's top-range Snapdragon 810 (MSM8994) octa-core, 64-bit system chip. This is the second version of this chip, a version that is said to bring huge improvements to heat management and the one that does not suffer from overheating issues.
We haven't had the time to test this obsessively and we did notice that the phone still gets fairly warm in the camera app, but it's not the same scorching hot temperature that has been the issue in the recent past, so there are some improvements on this front.
RAM is 3GB and that should be more than enough for a phone with no RAM management issues (hello, Samsung!), and that's what we have in the Xperia Z5 Premium and Z5, while the smaller Z5 Compact makes do with 2GB of RAM.
Another high-end phone with expandable storage!
Gamers are taken care of the Adreno 430 GPU that comes with the Snapdragon 810 SoC. We have seen this GPU in other devices including the HTC One M9, and it does seem to handle itself well with even the most intense games, so nothing to worry about here.
Internal storage is set at the plentiful 32GB on all three devices and all of them support expandable storage via microSD cards of up to 200GB (yes, those are now available, but at $200 apiece, you might want to stick with up to 128 gigs of microSD storage).
Apart from the design and new fingerprint scanner, the big news around the Xperia Z5 family is the new type of camera included on the devices. Sony makes the jump up from the 20-megapixel unit used so far to a 23-megapixel camera on the Z5 series. This is indeed a lot of pixels, but do keep in mind that the Z5 family also comes with one of the largest camera sensors ever used on a mobile phone: 1/2.3 inches. The sensor is naturally of the Exmor RS type and features backside illumination (BSI).
When it comes to the front camera, it comes equipped with some impressive superpowers: ISO sensitivity can go as high as 12,800, something quite unprecedented in the phone world outside of Sony's devices. Sony has also bundled in a lot more phase-detection pixels on the sensor and it's improved Hybrid focus detection system is allegedly the fastest in the world, locking focus in merely 0.03 seconds. Interestingly, the camera interface on the new Xperia Z5 is largely unchained, sticking to the old Sony traditions with various camera modes.
The main camera is also capable of recording 4K video that you can now watch in native resolution on the Xperia Z5 Premium (4K recording is available on all three Z5s). The camera does get warmer when recording 4K video, but it's not scorching hot and the camera won't shut down after the 10 minute mark - you can keep on recording for quite a while after that (do keep in mind that 4K videos come in large sizes, though).
Up front, all three Z5s use a 5-megapixel camera for your urgent selfie need and everything in this regard is self-explanatory including the ubiquitous 'beautify' mode.
It's interesting to see that all three Xperia Z5 phones come with different thickness. The reasons for this are various, but one particularly interesting one is battery size. To understand how each compares in its class, let's first mention the actual battery capacities:
5.5" Xperia Z5 Premium: 3430mAh (more than the average probably due to the 4K screen, the LG G4, for instance, comes with a 3,000mAh battery, which seems to be the norm in this size)
5.2" Xperia Z5: 2900mAh (more than average, for instance the 5.2" Huawei P8 features a 2680mAh battery)
4.6" Xperia Z5 Compact: 2700mAh (way above the average, the 4.7" iPhone 6, for instance, features a 1810mAh battery)
Up to two days of battery life
Judging from these numbers, it's clear that Sony has some big aspirations in the battery life department. It's worth pointing out that all the earlier Xperia Z series of phones have ranked at the top of our battery rankings, so we can hope to have the same excellent longevity. How much would be the real-life usage? Well, we'd place an educated guess that you can expect a full day out of the 4K Z5 Premium (more testing required), and we can also safely assume that with lighter usage the Z5 and Z5 Compact should last up to two full days.
QuickCharge 2.0 is naturally supported on all three phones.
All in all, the Xperia Z5 trio of new phones is a solid upgrade over the existing phones: it is a slight evolution in terms of design, but one that saves the phones from the boredom of the all-same design, and in terms of features the phones are pretty much bulletproof with their top-tier Snapdragon 810 system chips and zippy custom skins on top of Android.
There are a few questions that are yet to be answered, though: the first one is about camera quality, as Sony phones have always had good cameras that are never on par with the best ones in the iPhones and Galaxies of today. The second one is about pricing: the Z5 Premium will be priced at the high-end of the spectrum, on par with the iPhone 6 Plus pricing, while the Z5 will match the iPhone 6, and the Z5 Compact is on the same price tier as the iPhone 5s. At the same time, we have a huge trove of phones from China that are running smoothly and offer good battery life, screen quality and camera performance - all at much more affordable prices.
Fact remains, though, that on their own, the Xperia Z5 series is future proof and the first 4K screen might be enough of a marketing pull to get new customers in. While we're not sold on the 4K marketing, we still find enough reasons to like the new Xperia Z5 trio.