It was inevitable — eventually, some device manufacturer was bound to create a smartphone with a 4k display. Sony detailed their brand new Xperia Z5 this week at IFA 2015, and it’s coming in three models — Compact, regular, and Premium — with the latter earning the somewhat dubious distinction of having the first 4k smartphone display.
A 4k smartphone display is little more than a marketing gimmick — here’s an illustrative press conference anecdote from our friend Raymond Wong, which sums up the situation pretty well. That high of a resolution on that small of a display is nearly indistinguishable from a 1080p display at any distance save for right up against your nose. The drum that usually gets beat here is that 4k on smartphones is ideal for virtual reality, when the screen really is right up against your nose. While I suppose you could use this phone with Google Cardboard or its ilk, Sony didn’t mention VR during the Xperia Z5 presentation, so it’s hard to point to VR as an intended selling point for the device. Meanwhile, the regular and Compact versions of the phone come with more reasonable 1920 x 1080 and 1280 x 720 displays, respectively, and will feature Sony’s Triluminos display technology like the Premium.
Questionable display decisions aside, the Xperia Z5 looks like a great smartphone, due in most part to a very impressive camera. This is where Sony excels, so it’s no surprise that their own smartphone’s camera appears to be more capable than any other on the market. It has a 1/2.3 23 MP Exmor RS sensor capable of handling both phase detection and contrast at the same time, allowing for auto-focus as fast as 0.03 seconds, which is best in class. That’s great for taking action shots, but the Xperia Z5’s camera should excel in all situations that are usually tough on smartphone cameras, including low-light conditions and landscapes, the latter thanks to 5x optical zoom. Video can be taken in 4k and is improved by Sony’s latest optical image stabilization technology. On the other side, each phone will have a 5 MP Sony Exmor R sensor that can take 1080p video.
The three Xperia Z5 models will all come in different sizes — 4.6″, 5.2″, and 5.5″ for the Compact, regular, and Premium, respectively. Only the Premium is getting the 4k display, but all three will get the full suite of camera features that Sony showed off at their press conference this week. Otherwise, the three phones are mostly the same. They all run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC, which includes an octa-core processor and Adreno 430 graphics. The regular and Premium phones will have 3 GB of RAM, while the Compact will be limited to just 2 GB. All three will run Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box. From small to large, battery size is 2,700 mAh, 2,900 mAh, and 3,430 mAh, which should translate into up to two days of battery life for each phone, according to Sony. If you do need a quick battery boost, Qualcomm Quick Charge technology can give you a few hours of charge with just a few minutes of charging, but you’ll need the certified wall charger for that (which we imagine will come with the phone).
All three phones come with 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, DLNA, NFC, aGPS, and MHL 3.0 connectivity. Dual band Wi-Fi is included with the regular and Premium Z5 phones, but not the Compact, which will just have single band. All three also have a fingerprint sensor. Both the Premium and regular phones will be available in dual SIM models, but not the Compact. Like with previous Xperia phones, you’ll also be able to stream PlayStation 4 games to your phone using PS4 Remote Play.
Sony is also using their hi-res audio technology in the new phones, which takes a shot at repairing compressed music files like mp3s, restoring them to something close to what they originally sounded like. It’s also designed to get the most out of uncompressed sound files, although you’ll need both those uncompressed files and a quality set of headphones to really enjoy the benefits.
The Xperia Z5 has a metal and glass construction and, like previous models, is waterproof and dust proof as long as the ports are sealed. The Compact, regular, and Premium phones weigh 134 grams, 154 grams, and 180 grams, respectively. The regular phone will be the thinnest at 7.3 mm, with the Premium coming in at 7.8 mm and the Compact the bulkiest at 8.9 mm.
The big question that remains is price. The Xperia Z5, in all its forms, is an impressive flagship phone up there with anything Samsung, HTC, and others have created, with the camera a step above. It just depends on what the 4k display will do to the price — if it’s still in line with other flagship phones, then it makes no difference. If the 4k display jacks up the price of the Premium significantly, though, we have a hard time seeing how it would be worth paying up when the regular Z5 looks just as good.
We should have that question answered soon. Sony says the Z5 and Z5 Compact will launch in October, with the Premium coming in November. We’ll have to wait for carrier confirmation before learning about pricing, most likely, but we do know that all three will come with 32 GB of storage backed by a MicroSD card slot that supports up to 200 GB. The Z5 will come in black, white, gold, and green, while the Compact will come in black, white, yellow, and coral. When the Premium drops, it’ll come in chrome, black, and gold.