Hands On With the Sony Xperia Z5
REPORTING FROM BERLIN—Sony’s new Xperia Z5 stands as the company’s most advanced smartphone in terms of its camera functions, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s getting two siblings, one of which boasts a full 4K screen; we tried them out here at IFA.
The Xperia Z5 has the signature Xperia stark, flat design. While Samsung has been favoring curves, the Xperia Z5 is a slim metal-and-glass box with only slightly curved edges along sharp, flat sides. The simple design is surprisingly rugged, with an IP68 rating that can shrug off spills and dunks. Of course, Sony wasn’t letting people try this out with the phones on display in its booth.
Like recent Apple and Samsung phones, the Xperia Z5 incorporates a fingerprint sensor in its body for security. Unlike Apple and Samsung, Sony put the sensor (and the power button) on the right edge of the phone instead of just below the screen.
The most notable advancements are in the Xperia Z5’s camera. According to Sony, the phone’s camera features a hybrid autofocus that can get a focus lock in just 0.03 seconds. I waved the phone around and shot off a few randomly timed pictures at subjects that were different distances away, and the camera really did seem to capture them in a fraction of a second.
The image-stabilization system also appeared to get clear results, and a halfhearted wave of a snapshot over a book in a glass case caught the larger text of the book without blurring. To really see how the Xperia Z5’s camera performs, we’ll have to get it into the lab for full testing. However, I got some impressive results in the few minutes I had with it on the show floor.
Like the Xperia Z3, the Z5 supports Sony’s HiRes Audio for lossless music playback similar to the company’s Walkman media players, and features a 5.3-inch Sony Triluminos 1080p display. The Z5 bumps up the power with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core CPU, over the Z3’s Snapdragon 801 CPU.
Besides the Z5, Sony introduced the Xperia Z5 Compact and Z5 Premium. The Z5 Compact is a smaller smartphone with a 4.6-inch 720p screen and 2GB of RAM instead of the Z5’s 3GB, but otherwise has the exact same feature set as the larger phone. Still, 720p is hard to swallow even on a 4.6-inch screen these days, with 2,560-by-1,440 screens the norm for high-end phones, and even the regular Z5’s 1080p display seeming to lag behind.
However, the Z5 Premium might make up for the resolution issues on its counterparts. It physically appears identical to the Xperia Z5, but its 5.5-inch screen is a full ultra high-definition (UHD or 4K) display with 3,840-by-2,160 resolution. It stands out as the first smartphone we’ve seen yet with a 4K screen, shooting well past the resolutions offered by the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6 Plus.
We got a few minutes with an Xperia Z5 Premium, and it’s surprisingly odd. The thing about an 801ppi screen is that the pixels are smaller than the limits of human vision. The phone didn’t have an Internet connection, so I couldn’t check things like Web pages, where the high-resolution screen might really help at rendering very small text sizes. Text looked sharp, but no sharper than, say, on the Samsung Galaxy S6. I was most impressed by how Sony managed to keep the Z5 Premium’s hyper-dense screen so bright, and by the phone’s shockingly mirrored back: when I looked at the back of the phone, I was looking at a distorted reflection of myself.
The Sony Xperia Z5 definitely looks like an attractive phone, and its camera tricks are promising. However, the Z5 Premium is the real standout. We’ll give all three phones a closer look once we can get them in into PC Labs for full review.
The Z5 and Z5 Compact will be available globally in October, and the Z5 Premium is scheduled to ship in November.