Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: Astonishing resolution results in an astonishing price

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium performance chart

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
Sony Xperia Z5


3DMark Score (Ice Storm Unlimited)
Geekbench 3 Score (Single-Core)
Geekbench 3 Score (Multi-Core)


Longer bars indicate better performance

Against rival Android phones, it stacks up reasonably well. It's roughly on par with the LG G4 (2,981 on Geekbench 3 multi-core), although it's below the Galaxy S6 (4,608).

Scores aside, the phone is extremely capable. It's swift, with no noticeable lag when navigating around the interface. Apps load quickly and even sliding down the settings menu has the smooth action that tells of a potent chip. Gaming is well within this phone's capabilities, with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Asphalt 8 playing very well. There's very little you can throw at this phone to slow it down.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Call quality was decent too, with clear voices heard on both ends, and background noise was kept to a minimum. The speakerphone was reasonably loud too. I tested the phone on the Vodafone network in west London at 9 p.m. -- your own results will vary depending on network, location and time of day.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium data speeds (unlocked on Vodafone UK)

4G LTE download rate 4.84Mbps
4G LTE upload rate 3.54Mbps
CNET mobile site load 3.5 seconds
CNET desktop site load 4 seconds
Temple Run 2 app download (44.68MB) 3 minutes


  • 23-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera
  • 4K video recording

The camera has had a decent boost from the previous Xperia Z3, with a new 23-megapixel sensor. I took it for a spin around Britain's capital and found it can take some great shots.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It's captured this view over west London very well. The bright blue sky is kept well under control, while still maintaining plenty of detail in the shadowy buildings on the right.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

You can see the same here too: a well-controlled, rich blue sky, with clearly-visible shadows on the building, not to mention a tonne of detail from the high-resolution sensor.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This autumnal scene isn't too bad, although the colours are a touch cold and the bright sky has been blown out quite a lot above the trees.

iPhone 6S Plus camera comparison (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The same shot taken on the iPhone 6S Plus looks better, with warmer, richer leaves on the ground, and a more controlled blue sky peeking through the branches above.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

These leaves are sharp and well exposed, but again, the Z5 Premium has automatically selected a very cold white balance, which spoils the look.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Take the time to manually change the white balance in the settings though, and you can make up for the camera's inconsistent choices. The warmer colours make for a much more attractive shot.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There's good detail in the shadows here, but the sky behind the Shard has been washed out.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium camera test, with HDR (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There's a "backlight correction" mode -- which most other phones would call HDR -- which helps keep highlights under control. It's done a good job here, even if it has had the knock-on effect of slightly reducing overall contrast.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium low-light camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

In indoor, low-light conditions, the Z5 Premium put in a good effort. This shot is bright, and the fine details on the objects haven't been too muddied by image noise.

iPhone 6S Plus low-light camera comparison (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The iPhone 6S Plus's attempt at the same scene is good too. It's not as bright, but it does have less image noise, resulting in sharper edges. Both phones have their good and bad points in low light.

The rear camera can shoot video in 4K resolution. Footage plays back smoothly and it's generally well-exposed, although the iPhone 6S Plus achieves richer colours in video. On the front is a 5-megapixel camera which will snap some good selfies outside in the sunlight, but suffers from image noise in low-light situations.

Battery life

  • 3,430mAh battery
  • Non-removable

Powering a huge screen with such an astonishing resolution is no easy task for a battery and indeed it does take its toll. If you play high-action games or watch videos with the brightness set to max, you'll watch the battery ebb away pretty quickly. If you like to watch episodes of your favourite TV show on the bus in the morning, and keep powering up the screen to check email throughout the day, you'll want to give it a quick charge in the afternoon if you want any power left at the end of the night to call a cab home after the pub.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

If you're more cautious, you can easily get a day of use. It holds its charge quite well in standby mode, so simply slumbering untouched in your jeans won't drain the juice. Even with moderate use -- music or podcasts on your commute, a bit of light texting, calling and emailing throughout the day and snapping a few shots of that beautiful sunset as you leave the office -- you should have some power left when you go to bed. As with all smartphones though, you'll want to give it a full charge every night.


The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is worthy of its name. It does everything you'd want of a top-end phone, but I'm not calling it a triumph. Though crowbarring 4K resolution into a screen sounds impressive on paper, in reality it doesn't really make any difference except to the price. This phone costs significantly more than the Galaxy S6 Edge, yet it's the Edge that has really pushed the boat out with a stunning new design. Sony's design looks dated and repetitive in comparison.

Both the Edge and LG's G4 also pack higher-than-HD displays which are beautifully crisp with more pixels than your eyes will probably appreciate. You'll get great cameras and loads of power on both those phones too. What separates the Z5 Premium from its competition, then, is its waterproof capabilities, which is certainly worth having -- particularly if you're clumsy around drinks, baths and other bodies of water -- but I don't think that feature alone justifies such a big price increase.

If you're after a high performance Android phone that you can safely use in the rain and you can stomach the price, it's worth checking out in the flesh. Personally though, there's no reason I would choose to spend more money on the Z5 Premium when I can get a gorgeous, powerful phone with a stunning screen and awesome camera in the form of the Galaxy S6 Edge -- with enough left over for a posh dinner.

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