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Sony Xperia Z5 Premium: Re-review for 2016

We re-review the Xperia Z5 Premium in 2016, a year after Sony’s mighty 5.5-inch mobile was first released. Is the world’s first 4K smartphone still a worthy purchase? Here’s our long term review of the Premium and comparison to the latest large-screened Android phones.

The Xperia Z-Series looks to be dead and buried these days, with Sony concentrating on its shiny new X-Series phones instead. Which means that the Xperia Z5 Premium is renowned not just for its industry-first 4K screen, but also as one of the very last Z-Series handsets.

That Ultra HD display was understandably the focus of attention, but the Xperia Z5 Premium was far from a one trick pony. Sony’s smart camera tech and nippy performance made for a quality premium mobile, and a solid user experience.

Sadly the Xperia Z5 Premium hasn’t dropped much in price over the past year. Many retailers still ask for the full 550 pounds, although if you shop around you can find it for closer to 450. So is it worth the cash a year after release, or has it been eclipsed by the barrage of 5.5-inch phones launched in 2016?

Sony Xperia Z5 long-term review: Design

The Z5 Premium was one of the biggest mobiles of last year, packing a mighty 5.5-inch screen. It’s quite a handful, with a chunky and hefty 180g frame that’s bulkier than most 5.5-inchers from 2016. The likes of the OnePlus 3 and Huawei P9 Plus have managed to squash the same size of screen into slimmer, easier-to-clutch designs, making the Premium look even more chunky.

Still, the Z5 Premium is a smart and attractive mobile, very easy on the eye. The metal edging lends it a reassuringly solid finish, giving way to a glossy rear that thankfully doesn’t get too scuffed or greasy (or at least hides the grease prints quite well).

Unlike Sony’s big blower of 2016, the Xperia XA Ultra, the Xperia Z5 Premium is fully water resistant. You can kick back in the bath with a movie, with no worry about the phone slipping out of your grasp. It’s still a rare feature for phones, especially at this size; the Galaxy S7 Edge is the only other waterproof 5.5-incher we've played with recently.

Your SIM and microSD cards are kept hidden away beneath a side flap, while the USB port remains open, so you don’t have to fiddle around when it comes time to charge.

Sony Xperia Z5 long-term review: Screen and media

One of the biggest selling points of the Xperia Z5 Premium is of course it's 4K resolution screen, which supports playback of Ultra HD movies and video.

Now that we’re finally getting 4K content pushed out on streaming services such as Netflix, the Z5 Premium’s screen makes a lot more sense. It’s still a crazy extravagance on a mobile device, but there’s no denying that UHD shows and films look bloody lovely on this spacious screen.

Along with gorgeously crisp images, the Z5 Premium pumps out punchy colours (especially with Super Vivid mode active). Wide viewing angles and a strong maximum brightness mean that visibility is never an issue either, even when watching a movie with a partner.

Still, plenty of rivals such as the OnePlus 3 and Samsung's Galaxy A7 also pack a large, sharp, vibrant screen, often for less cash. You don’t get the same supremely crisp resolution, but they’re more than fine for enjoying your favourite show on the go.

Check out our Xperia Z5 Premium screen review for a closer look.

The Z5 Premium also boasts quite powerful speakers which blast out reasonably clear audio at a respectable volume. And if you want to carry around a good-sized media collection, the 32GB of storage (which seems quite miserly compared with 64GB rivals) can be easily expanded with a microSD memory card.

Sony Xperia Z5 long-term review: Performance and battery life

Sony has updated the Xperia Z5 Premium to Android Marshmallow in the past year, and thankfully it runs perfectly well. The Snapdragon 810 processor, backed by 3GB of RAM, can still handle the latest games without a single stutter. And unlike this year’s Xperia X phones, the Premium can run two apps side-by-side using the Small Apps feature.

Of course, this year’s big-screen blowers usually beat the Z5 Premium in benchmark tests, including the OnePlus 3 (which packs a Snapdragon 820 chipset and a massive 6GB of RAM). And while the Premium is still a dependable handset right now, it’ll likely show signs of ageing before younger rivals.

Battery life is another area where the Z5 Premium falls to the competition. The battery hasn’t shown any signs of growing old and losing charge, but we can just about get a day of use before the phone dies. Meanwhile the likes of the OnePlus 3 and Huawei P9 can go for around 36 hours before they need a battery boost.

Sony Xperia Z5 long-term review: Cameras

The Z5 Premium doesn’t just pump out gorgeous images, it can also capture them with the dependable 23-megapixel camera.

Sony’s optics have been boosted in 2016 with the introduction of 5-axis image stabilisation (a feature found on the Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact) and laser-guided autofocus. However, the Z5 Premium still takes detail-packed, attractive photos across a range of conditions, even without those features.

With Sony’s Superior Auto mode, you can simply point and shoot and generally expect attractive results. In low light the Z5 Premium isn’t a match for the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note 7. But in well-lit conditions, the super-fast autofocus works its wonders without any need for manual input.

And of course you can also shoot 4K video, something not possible on the likes of the Galaxy A7.

For full photo and video samples, check out our Xperia Z5 Premium camera review.

Sony Xperia Z5 long-term review: Verdict

One year on, the Xperia Z5 Premium is still a solid user experience. Media fans will get a kick out of that 4K UHD display, which isn’t completely pointless now that streaming services offer Ultra HD content. Of course, it’s still an extravagance, and one that will cost you a fair bit of cash.

Sony’s excellent optics are still dependable, but this mighty mobile is being overtaken by other big-screen rivals such as the OnePlus 3 and Galaxy A7 when it comes to battery life and performance. And given that those handsets are cheaper than the Premium, it’s tough to recommend Sony’s blower, as much as we like it.

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