Phones

A display to behold on Sony Xperia Z5 Premium

The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium's 4K feature kicks in only when you're streaming or playing video, and the device up-converts the resolution to 4K.
The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium's 4K feature kicks in only when you're streaming or playing video, and the device up-converts the resolution to 4K.PHOTO: SONY

4K screen offers better detail and sense of depth; camera upgraded to 23MP

No one can accuse Sony of not trying. Sure, the Japanese company has stuck to the same rectangular, block-shape design with its phones the past few years, but it was the first to slap in a 20.7-megapixel camera when others were still dabbling in single-digit megapixel numbers.

Last September, Sony once again jumped ahead by bringing out a 4K smartphone while others are still happy with a quad high-definition display. And while a part of me questions the usefulness of a 4K display in a phone, there is no denying its great beauty.

This ultra-high-definition screen is found in the Z5 Premium, in the form of a 5.5-inch screen that has a resolution of 2,160 x 3,840 pixels.

Having more pixels on the screen means greater detail, but not in the way you would expect.

While you probably cannot count the number of petals on a flower in the background, such a screen allows you to better discern the shadows made by the flower, and get a better sense of depth. Shadow details are sharper, and the overall scene is not as flat looking.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,098

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Octa-core (Quad-core 1.5 GHz and Quad-core 2 GHz)

    DISPLAY: 5.5-inch IPS LCD, 2,160 x 3,840 pixels (806 PPI pixel density)

    CAMERA: (Rear) 23MP, f/2.0, 24mm, phase detection autofocus, LED flash; (Front) 5.1 MP, f/2.4, 1080p

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)

    MEMORY: 32 GB (microSD expandable up to 200GB), 3 GB RAM

    BATTERY: Non-removable 3,430 mAh

  • RATING

  • PERFORMANCE: 4

    DESIGN: 3

    FEATURES: 5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4

    BATTERY LIFE: 3

    OVERALL: 4

But there is a catch. As the operating system is not yet running in native 4K mode, things like app icons continue to be displayed in a lower resolution. The 4K feature kicks in only when you're streaming or playing video, and the device up-converts the resolution to 4K.

With regular high-definition content, I saw better image definition. I also found the edges of images less jagged when I zoomed in. This was evident with text, and it meant that my eyes were less strained than usual when I read.

Ironically, where the 4K screen does not work is in displaying actual 4K content. If you select 4K YouTube videos, the app will offer only video quality options of up to 1,080. When you stream from Net- flix, the content service will not recognise the phone as being 4K capable, and so it will not offer 4K content through the phone.

The upscaling also works best when screen brightness is turned up, and this puts a strain on the battery life.

Sony has upgraded the camera here to a 23MP one and the image quality is amazing. There is a slight shutter lag, though, and the lack of optical image stabilisation means you have to take more care when snapping action shots.

Long-time Android fans will appreciate the fact that Sony has stuck with a microSD card for expanding the device's storage. The interface on Sony's Android devices has remained unchanged.

Like the other phone-makers, Sony has introduced a fingerprint reader on the device but, instead of making it accessible at the front, it is integrated with the power button and located on the right edge of the device.

Right-handed users will not have a problem accessing this feature using their thumb, but left-handed users will have to work a little harder to unlock this oversized device.

The waterproof design has also made a return, and since Samsung dropped this feature on its flagship devices, the Xperia Z5 series remain as the only flagship devices that are waterproof and dustproof.

There is a slight hiccup, though, as Sony no longer recommends submerging the device underwater, and improper use will invalidate the warranty.

Having killed other "waterproof" devices before, I decided early on never to dunk a waterproof device in water. Sony is just stating the obvious, but the Z5 Premium still works in the shower and in the rain.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2016, with the headline 'A display to behold on Sony Xperia Z5 Premium'. Print Edition | Subscribe