Review: Sony Xperia Z5 vs Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
By Winnie Lee December 21, 2015
IT looks like Sony is making its presence felt in the smartphone arena. With its expertise in audio and imaging, it does not take much for the brand to get it right.
Sony typically does not flood the market with its phones, and this allows it to take its time to focus on coming up with even better ones.
With the newest Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Premium, it is clear that it has got two very keen contenders in the smartphone race.
Both share several features, as the model names suggest, but with a price difference of just about S$100 – the Z5 costs S$998, the Z5 Premium costs S$1098 [S$1 = US$0.70] – which model is the better choice?
At first glance, both the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Premium are typically Sony and remind one of their predecessors.
While most smartphones in the market tend to have more curves, Sony is out to show that the rectangular shape and squared-off edges of its long-running Xperia Z line continue to stand the test of time.
This is what makes the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Premium unique and instantly recognisable, standing out from the crowd in a minimalist sort of way.
Both sport metal frames: The Xperia Z5 comes in matte finish, while the Xperia Z5 Premium is more shiny and glossy. The Xperia logo is subtly embossed at the bottom left of both phones.
To keep with the more premium look, the Z5 Premium’s back is also glossy, but highly prone to fingerprints. We very much prefer the Z5 in this respect, with its frosted glass back that resists fingerprints.
However, the frosted back does feel more slippery as compared to the Z5 Premium’s glossy back, and one must handle the standard Z5 with more care.
The design that Sony calls a ‘continuous plate form’ is almost perfect except for the slightly higher front bezel, as compared with the back. This means the frame edges are slightly sharper than what we would prefer, depending on how you handle it.
We do wish it was more flushed, though we did not find it that great an issue as compared with the tendency of the phone to warm up.
Sony says that the phones are waterproof. We would rather use the phrase ‘water-resistant,’ as the word ‘waterproof’ suggests that it does not allow any fluid to pass through.
However, it is only so for fresh water no deeper than 1.5m and not for longer than 30 minutes. All ports have to be firmly closed too – with the open USB and headphone ports, how ‘waterproof’ can this be?
The new fingerprint sensor power button is suitably located at the middle of the right side of the devices, and it is easy to switch them on or off using the thumb or pointer finger.
One gripe is the location of the volume button, which is below the power button, just above the camera button. It feels awkward and we would prefer that the volume button is located further up.
Also, it is not easy to take screen shots one-handed with the usual press of the power and volume down buttons. Perhaps understanding this awkwardness, Sony has introduced two other ways to capture screen shots.
The first way is to tap on the square task switching button to launch a taskbar at the bottom. Tap the icon that looks like a photo crop tool and a ‘capture screen’ box overlay will appear on the top left-hand corner of the screen.
This box can be moved around the screen, and will not appear in the resulting screen shot.
Tap the box and the image will appear in a basic editor if you want to make some tweaks.
The second way is to simply use the power button. Hold it down until a box appears, and there is an option to capture a screenshot.
It is less cumbersome than having to press two physical buttons simultaneously. There’s also a ‘record screen’ option, where you can take videos of what is happening on screen.
The Xperia Z5 features a 2900mAh battery while Xperia Z5 Premium features a higher capacity 3430mAh battery that can last up to two days.
Both the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Premium are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor and runs on the Android 5.1.1 Lollipop operating system, which is upgradable to 6.0 (Marshmallow).
We have no qualms with the Android Lollipop – we feel it runs perfectly fine and seamlessly.
However, we do have an issue with how easily the processor causes the phone to warm up. Just 10 to 15 minutes of photo-taking, and we could feel the phone heating up. Playing with various camera effects also caused the phone to warm up easily.
It is interesting that some of the effects had a pop-up message to warn about this issue.
The Xperia Z5 sports a 5.2in Triluminos display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. We find that images displayed are sharp and vivid enough for our daily use.
The Xperia Z5 Premium is touted as the world’s first 4K smartphone with a 5.5in 4K Triluminos display with a resolution of 2160 x 3840 pixels.
However, the 4K capability is only evident when viewing photos or watching videos. It ‘upscales’ the photos and videos already in the phone to 4K quality, without any change to the original image.
To capture videos in 4K and save them at a 8MP quality, one has to turn to camera effects to do so, on both phone models.
Both phones feature Sony’s brand new 23MP 1/2.3 Exmor RSTM sensor and F2.0 G Lens and with it, the brand promises the fastest autofocus at 0.03 seconds.
Together with a 5x zoom, focused quick action shots can be taken easily – either when touching to focus, or when autofocusing.
The Superior Auto mode is a key feature of most Sony cameras. It is designed to automatically detect the scene and changing the necessary settings to achieve the best image. Brightness adjustment and colour correction can be done in this mode.
There is also the Manual mode. In Sony’s case, configuration is limited to setting the exposure, ISO, white balance and turning HDR on or off.
Separately, there is also a scene option where you can choose a variety of scenes for the camera to automatically configure various settings. Such scenes include landscape, gourmet, beach and even fireworks. Using this scene option turns off the manual option mentioned above.
We like some of the other 11 camera effects. The AR effect works on the back camera and allows you to superimpose certain scenes such as Dinosaur, Fairy Tale, Dive and Masquerade on to the scene in front of you.
This is fun but does cause the phones to heat up quite a bit.
We also like the Style Portrait effect, which automatically applies styles to selfies.
So yes, it is one of those selfie beautification applications that are so essential these days, with a little bit more. You can take a black and white selfie with red lips, or enhance that tan, or even add bubbles and face paint.
The Creative effect (pic below), which allows you to add artistic effects, hints at the tendency of the camera to heat up. The meter is useful in adjusting the intensity of the artistic effects.
As mentioned before, Android Lollipop runs quite smoothly, and its quick response is quite impressive.
There are also a couple of pre-loaded apps that we like. There is a Movie Creator, which collates your photos and videos taken for the month into a movie. It saves the hassle of manually editing and putting them together yourself.
Lifelog is an activity tracker app that keeps track of daily activities, from surfing the web to what apps you are using, even to how long you have spent on the phone or on social media. It also allows the tracking of how much physical activities you have done.
It is a good way of understanding how much time one spends on any particular activity, and if there is one activity you spend too much time on, you will be able to make necessary adjustments.
The Sketch app (pic below) is also fun, and it is nice that one can easily exercise one’s creativity on the go, and save it. It is simple to use, but it is not just for kids. Even adults can use it to destress and scribble away.
Being from the same family, the Sony Xperia Z5 and Sony Xperia Z5 Premium are extremely similar. They differ in terms of size, the glossiness of the frame and back and the display.
For us, we think that the Xperia Z5 is good enough, and that the 4K display of the Xperia Z5 Premium comes in handy only when displaying photos and videos.
We also prefer the no-fingerprint matte design.
However, if you have an extra S$100 to burn and would like to have a larger 4K display with a glossy form factor, then go for the Xperia Z5 Premium.
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