On Wednesday night Sony unveiled its latest family of Xperia smartphones to the world, the Z5 range. Yesterday we were treated to a bit of face-time with the family and Sony gave us a detailed rundown of what we can expect from the Z5, Z5 Premium and the Z5 Compact.
A few interesting things became clear during the keynote, but before we get into that, here’s everything you need to know about them to satisfy that inquisitive mind of yours.
The base model of the family, the Z5, features a 5.2-inch Full HD Triluminos display powered by Sony’s X-Reality engine. The X-Reality engine upscales your image to make it look nicer to your eye, meaning that even if you aren’t streaming video in HD, it will look better than the 480p the video says you’re watching it at.
Staying in the front you get a 5MP camera, which we feel could have been slightly better given that this is a brand new phone boasting the supposed latest in camera technology.
Moving to the back of the Z5 you’ll find the 23MP main camera that uses the same technology found in Sony’s Alpha DSLR snappers. With this technology backing it up you get super-fast autofocus, which Sony claims can focus on your photo subject in 0.03 seconds.
We do also need to mention that although the Z5 doesn’t feature a 4K screen as the Z5 Premium does, its camera sensor can capture video at 4K resolution.
All the new Z5 smartphones claim to last two days on a single charge, and yesterday Sony went a step further to claim a 45 minute charge could juice the phones enough to last the average user a full day.
On the inside there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB RAM and 32GB of eMMC to store all your stuff. Fear not, Sony has not abandoned the SD card slot: the Z5 can accommodate a microSD card up to 200GB in size, great for storing all those super-sized images which you’ll no doubt accumulate.
Sony has also kept the phone waterproof. Strangely, we were warned that even though the phones are waterproof, you still shouldn’t attempt to charge them underwater. Er, thanks Sony, what would we do without you?
Great connectivity is what we have come to expect from Sony’s phones, and so the entire Z5 range supports LTE (and slower) networks. You also get near field communications (NFC), Bluetooth and b/g/n/ac Wifi to connect your phone to your life.
As for how the phone looks and feels, Sony has done a fantastic job: the expertly-tooled body feels sturdy and your hand surrounds it so naturally you’ll hardly notice you’re carrying it.
The unlock button has been designed to work regardless of whether you are left or right handed, and though it wasn’t set up for fingerprint unlocking during our demo we can see just how well the new feature will work, no matter what hand you use.
The camera is fine, we’re not going to say it’s amazing until we get a chance to test it out properly, but we’re happy to report there was very little noise in the photos we took on the day and the resulting images were crisp, clear and vibrant.
Overall, the brief demo got us very excited to get our grubby mitts on it and put it through its paces.
While there are differences between the phones in the Z5 range, they really are small.
The Z5 Premium packs the much-talked-about 4K screen, the Z5 has a 1080p screen, and the Compact sports a 720p display. And is also smaller, of course, and only has 2GB of RAM versus the Z5 and Z5 Premium’s 3GB. Otherwise, they all use the same processor and an identical version of Android, 5.1.1.
We used the Compact to listen to music where we tested the DSEE-HX audio setting, a feature that’s standard across the family, which upscales your audio. We tested it with a 192kbps audio file with the setting off and the sound was bad, and although we initially thought this was the phone it was quite clearly the file, as once the setting was switched on we noticed a definite improvement in sound quality.
Both phones feel nice and fit your hand comfortably. I personally prefer the smaller screen and more compact design, but after using the Z5 and the Z5 Compact I really couldn’t tell any real differences between the two apart from physical size.
You can immediately see the difference in screen resolution compared to the base model Z5 but other than that the experience was smooth and user-friendly. The phone doesn’t feel as premium as the Z5 but for a phone that is meant to compete with other “mini” phones it does perform better than most.
Right, now to the flagship, the Z5 Premium. This is where Sony threw down the gauntlet, and showed us all just how much tech can be crammed into one phone. Are you ready?
Go back and read the Z5 and Z5 Compact sections again, because other than a 5.5-inch 4K screen there is no significant difference between the Z5, the Z5 Compact and the Z5 Premium.
This consistency within the Z5 family is part of Sony’s new vision of no compromise across the range and a similar experience for all users regardless of which Z5 they own. So why then, if the phones are all so similar, would you spend more money on the flagship Z5 Premium?
The simple answer is that everybody is different. Some people don’t want a 5.5-inch behemoth sticking out of their back pocket and some people do. The point Sony is clearly trying to make is that its ecosystem is the ecosystem you want to be in, because it offers something for everyone.
Blu-ray players, smartphones, tablets, notebooks, televisions, monitors and even gaming consoles dot the Sony landscape making your experience with the brand more consistent. If you’re in the ecosystem that is. And therein lies the problem with the approach Sony is taking.
You see, buying into an ecosystem if you aren’t already in it isn’t always easy for people, especially if they’re already loyal to a particular brand. What Sony is pitching is that your phone will connect to other Sony electronics, which is great if you already own a range of Sony products. Our question is if you don’t, is this enough to tempt you to switch?
Some people will inevitably do just that but let’s face facts: the local and global economies aren’t particularly stable at the moment, and spending top dollar on a new phone is pretty far down most people’s list of priorities as for many buying food and just paying bills every month pose a challenge.
Consumers would rather buy a different phone that meets their needs (and budget) than buy into a whole new ecosystem that they may, ultimately, have mixed feelings about.
We’re being a bit hyper-critical here, but the fact of the matter is that no matter how great Sony’s phone is and how much its people tout the benefits of 4K, it won’t really help Sony’s long-suffering mobile business if people aren’t already buying its products.
We suggest waiting for our reviews, and others of course, before putting your money down for a smartphone that, though consistent, may just be a missed shot.
[Image – Sony]