Sony's new Xperia Z5 Premium aims to wow with 4K screen, 23-megapixel camera

The smartphone will start shipping in November

Sony is hoping the Xperia Z5 Premium’s 4K screen and 23-megapixel camera are a winning combination as it looks for a way to turn around its ailing smartphone fortunes.

It showed the Xperia Z5 Premium along with the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact at an event in Berlin on Wednesday.

Because the Z5 Premium won’t go on sale until November, Sony had to come up with something special to differentiate it from high-end smartphones running Android that went on sale seven months or more prior. In the end, the company decided to go for a 4K screen.

Smartphones with 4K screens have been rumored for some time, but Sony is the first to introduce one. The Z5 Premium has a 5.5-inch screen with 2160 x 3840 pixels. That will, at least on paper, help separate in from competing products with 1440 x 2560 pixel screens.

How the higher resolution affects battery life remains to be seen. The Z5 has a 3430 mAh battery, which is larger than on competing products. On the downside, the battery can’t be replaced. There is support for quick charging, but no wireless charging, according to Sony’s spec sheet.

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Sony's Xperia Z5 Premium smartphone on show at the IFA trade fair in Berlin on September 2, 2015.

In addition to the screen, Sony is banking on its camera know-how to convince users to choose the Z5 Premium. The main camera has a 23-megapixel sensor, up from 20.7 megapixels on Sony’s existing top models. Sony also promises a fast autofocus and better image quality when shooting in low-light conditions.

However, it faces some stiff competition here. Samsung and LG have taken Android camera quality to the next level with the Galaxy S6, Galaxy Note 5 and the G4, which have 16-megapixel and 13-megapixel sensors.

Another thing that differentiates the Z5 Premium from the competition, but unfortunately not in a good way, is the weight. The smartphone weighs 180 grams, which is a bit more than already heavy devices with 5.5-inch screens such as the OnePlus 2 and the iPhone 6 Plus.

The phone has a similar design to its previous phones with a glass back and a metal frame.

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Sony's Xperia Z5 smartphone on show at IFA in Berlin on September 2, 2015.

The rest of the waterproof Z5 Premium’s specifications don’t do much to separate the device from smartphones launched throughout the year. It has a Snapdragon 810 processor and a 5-megapixel front camera. There is 3GB of RAM, 32GB of integrated flash memory, and a microSD card slot for additional storage. The power button on the side contains a fingerprint sensor.

The smartphone was rumored to have the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 under the hood, but that processor is still only available in small volumes to Sony and Qualcomm’s other partners. Smartphones powered by the processor won’t arrive until the first half of next year.

This mix of old and new and a November arrival date make the Z5 Premium a somewhat compromised alternative. Anyone who owns a smartphone that’s so good they haven’t already upgraded should consider waiting until next year when phones containing the Snapdragon 820 and other new components promise even greater performance.

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Sony didn’t name a price for the Z5 Premium, but said it would reflect the premium quality of the smartphone, which doesn’t sound cheap. The company used the same terms to describe what its other two newcomers – the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact—will cost.

They share many of the same ingredients as the Z5 Premium, including processor, storage and camera resolutions.

The screen sizes and resolutions are the main differences. The Z5 has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and the Z5 Compact a 4.6-inch screen with 720 x 1280 pixels. They will become available in October around the world.

The launch of the Xperia Z5 family so close to the arrival of the similarly equipped Xperia Z4/Z3+ smartphones makes Sony seem a little desperate. But at least it’s a sign the company isn’t ready to give up on the smartphone market just yet.

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