Sony made big news overnight here at the IFA tech show in Berlin. Its new 5.2-inch (1080p) Xperia Z5 and 4.6-inch (720p) Z5 Compact smartphones replace Z3 devices as the flagship, but that’s to be expected. What wasn’t expected was the announcement of the world’s first 4K screen smartphone, Sony’s new 5.5-inch Xperia Z5 Premium. Its 5.5-inch (3840x2160; 806-ppi) display packs double the pixel density of the iPhone 6 Plus (401-ppi).
The new Xperia trio share new design touches, familiar but evolved. The Xperia brand is engraved into the aluminium frame. The power button on the side now doubles as a finger print reader for quick and intuitive unlocking (up to five fingers can be registered so it’ll works no matter how you pick up your phone).
Gone is the magnetic charging port, but so too the annoying flap on the micro USB port. The new Z5 family maintains an IP65/68 waterproof and dust protection rating –- handy if you’re adventurous, have kids, or just clumsy.
There’s now a slightly raised lip around the edge of the frosted hardened glass backing to avoid the device slipping off smooth surfaces. This also helps protects the glass some. On the back is where you’ll also find the improved 23MP camera (up from 21.7MP) — with new 1/2.3 Exmor RS for mobile sensor with F2.0 G Lens and LED flash all made possible through collaboration between Sony Mobile and Sony’s Alpha camera division.
Powerful Camera Features
To help you more clearly capture split-second moments, Sony has given the Z5 range what it claims is the world’s fastest smartphone autofocus. Just 0.03 seconds using hybrid auto-focus.
Combining phase detection and contrast detection is not new in and of itself, but Sony has used its camera know-how to put it all on a single chip for speed and power benefis. Sony says its 192 points of hybrid auto-focus means you’ll experience the same speed no matter where you touch in the frame. (Other setups typically use phase detection in the centre of the frame while relying on slower contrast focus towards the edges).
I got the chance to see the Xperia tested in low-light situations, and seriously, the results were crazy. It’s not often you see the iPhone 6 get its arse kicked so cleanly when it comes to the camera. The Exmor RS sensor in the Xperia Z5s support up to 12,800 ISO. Sony has also made big strides in image stabilisation (digital steady shot) and digital zoom. The combination of the larger image sensor and Sony’s software provide remarkably clear digital zoom to get you 5x closer to the action, without losing too much image quality. Definitely an improvement.
For selfies, all three models feature a 5MP forward-facing camera with 25mm wide-angle lens.
The camera tech inside your phone remains an important battle ground. An interesting side note: Asus just announced a new 'ZoomFone' with 0.02 laser auto-focus, 3x optical zoom camera and optical image stabilisation. Problem being, we’ve yet to really see Asus ‘fones’ hit Australia.
Each of the new Xperia Z5 models is powered by the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, have 32GB storage (plus microSD slot supporting up to 200GB cards) and run Android 5.1. (The Z5 compact gets scaled back to 2GB RAM instead of 3GB). The new Xperias are all 4G LTE-advanced Category 6 capable, and being Xperia devices, support PlayStation 4 Remote Play.
While the Xperia Z5 comes in green, gold, graphite black and white — the Z5 Compact adds additional colour choices like yellow and (pinkish) coral. Meanwhile, the Xperia Z5 Premium goes full bling with metallic gold and chrome backing. Thankfully, the result is more eye-catching and stylish than unnecessarily garish.
I use a Galaxy Note Edge as my daily driver, so the 5.5-inch (154g) chrome Z5 Premium would actually be my personal pick of the new Z5 crop, despite being the definition of finger print-prone.
It’s also worth noting that, as with Bravia TVs, Sony’s upscaling 4K technology makes even non 4K content look great on the Xperia Z5’s screen. Sony’s Triluminous and X Reality Pro tech also help.
Sony claims all the new Xperia Z5 models can last up to 2 days betweeen charges – even the Z5 Premium. That’s because it packs a 3430mAh battery compared to the Z5 Compact's 2700mAh and the Z5's 2900mAh cell. The new Z5 trio also support quick charge and high-res audio. Unique to Australia, the Z5 Premium will also ship with in-ear digital noise-cancelling headphones (pictured below).
Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact will launch globally from October 2015, and Xperia Z5 Premium from November 2015. Local pricing and availability details for Australia will follow in the coming weeks. Full specs here.
There’s a sense at here in Berlin that Sony just got super serious about smartphones. That’s a good thing given the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ hit Australia on Friday September 4 and Apple has its iPhone event scheduled for September 9 in San Francisco. More choice is always a good thing.
Danny Allen travelled to IFA 2015 as a guest of Sony.