By Gerard Ramos / Lifestyle & Entertainment Editor
THERE is no getting around it: a review of the most premium iteration of Sony’s flagship trifecta of smartphones, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium (what else are you going to call it?), will invariably begin with that 5.5-inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen.
True, the Xperia Z5 Premium is hardly the first flagship smartphone packing a display with such generous real estate, a size that has actually become the norm for top-tier models. The iPhone 6s Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6+, LG G4, Lenovo Vibe Z2, Asus Zenfone 2 Deluxe… all pack a 5.5-inch screen that gets the job done, some better than others.
However, the 5.5-inch display Sony has shoehorned into the Xperia Z5 Premium does more than just get the job done. The global consumer electronics giant has packed in so many pixels into that display that the Xperia Z5 Premium boasts of more than twice the number pixels than either the iPhone 6s Plus or the Samsung Galaxy S6+: a 401 ppi pixel density for the competition and a whopping 806 ppi pixel density for Sony’s new hotness, all those pixels resulting in the world’s first-ever smartphone with an ultra high definition, 4K screen.
And what a display. We have been able to get our mitts on the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium and play with it for a couple of weeks now, and still we often catch ourselves staring at the near-borderless display intermittently just because—it demands your eyeballs as images, either still or moving, are displayed with such richness and crispness and depth, your attention held hostage in the same way that coming upon a massive ultra HD TV displaying 4K content would.
Of course, you might ask what is the point in cramming that many pixels in a smartphone display, especially given that the amount of 4K content available from the various streaming services is sparse at best (and with the punishingly slow speeds of so-called long-term evolution connections around these parts, why would you even want to stream a movie or a TV show on your smartphone?). A cynic will be inclined to say that this is nothing more than a gimmick, a silly attempt by Sony to earn bragging rights in being the company to first put an ultra HD display in a smartphone.
Then again, most top-tier smartphones now feature cameras that can shoot in 4K, as does Sony’s range of Xperia Z devices beginning with the Z2, and thus with the Xperia Z5 Premium, you can show off your home movies in all their ultra HD glory straight from the phone. Moreover, consumers should regard this as Sony future-proofing its premium flagship for that time when streaming entertainment content would have achieved more efficiency.
Speaking of shooters, Sony—which supplies the cameras found in Apple’s and Samsung’s top-end smartphones—has also upped the pixel count as far as the camera it has packed into the Xperia Z5 Premium, from the 20.7 megapixel (MP) snapper of the Z3 to the 23 MP of its latest greatness. It is not just the megapixel count that Sony is talking up with its new Xperia Z5 range; there’s also crazy-fast autofocus (just 0.03 seconds, according to the company), lossless digital zoom and improved stabilization to yield better shots even in low light conditions. Let’s just say the company’s confidence is in its shooter is well-deserved: not only does the snapper yield pictures impressive in their sharpness and vibrancy, but it also locks onto the image wickedly fast. The front-facing 5.1 MP shooter is similarly impressive and can also capture images in high-dynamic range.
If there is a bummer in the Xperia Z5 Premium’s imaging features, it is in the post-processing of the images, which can take a couple of seconds or four. It seems the company recognizes as much, as an update to the built-in Camera app—which would bump it from v1.0 to v2.0—is forthcoming for its Xperia Z5 phones.
The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium runs on Android OS v5.1.1 (Lollipop) and, yes, there’s an upgrade path to v6.0 (Marshmallow), powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 quad-core processor, 3GB RAM (trust us when we tell you to accept nothing less than that amount of RAM in a top-tier smartphone if you want and value a smooth and thoroughly enjoyable experience), and 32 gigabytes of user memory. Moreover, unlike Apple and Samsung with their flagships, Sony continues to include a microSD slot that allows the user to complement the built-in storage by as much as 200GB.
There is little changed with the sublime OmniBalance aesthetic that Sony has embraced for its Xperia smartphones, but it does introduce a fingerprint scanner that has been embedded on the power/sleep button—and the sensor performs so impeccably that we’ve had little occasion to key in our PIN to unlock the phone. Also notable is the fact that the company has moved the volume rocker from above the power button to below it, which from our use proves to be a more ergonomic sweet spot.
Another thing that consumers will love is the hefty 3430 milliampere-hour battery that Sony has shoehorned into the Xperia Z5 Premium, which the company claims will power the phone for two days of typical use. Needless to say, what is typical usage for us is most likely different from the next guy’s, but in our case (editing a story or two; intermittent Web browsing, social-media work and e-mail on LTE; watching an episode or two of the final series of Downton Abbey; random snaps of the day; the usual stream of phone calls and flurry of messages; frustrating shots at Monster Dash and Plants vs. Zombies) we were able to get a day and a half with Stamina Mode turned when our battery usage hit 50 percent after a full charge.
There is plenty more to gush about the latest and most premium of the premium smartphones in Sony’s portfolio (high-resolution audio, water- and dust-resistance in an exceptional build, fast charging), and you can know more about the best Android smartphone in 2015 at goo.gl/c7O4Di. The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium—which comes in black, gold and chrome variants—will be available in Sony stores and authorized resellers this December. Currently, the company is holding until November 22 a preorder promotion which throws in such freebies as Style Cover Window case and a quick charger.