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Xperia Z5 Premium vs. Xperia Z5 vs. Xperia Z5 Compact: Which Sony phone is right for you?

Sony’s Xperia Z5 trio were our top picks in the smartphone category at IFA this year, largely because it was impossible to choose between them. The Z5 Premium boasts the first 4K screen in a smartphone, the Z5 is a solid all-rounder, and the Z5 Compact offers cutting edge specs in a smaller package. The three-pronged approach came as a surprise, but Sony needs to do something to reverse its ailing smartphone fortunes.

Related: Can you use Xperia phones underwater? We dive into Sony’s waterproof retraction

Sadly, there’s still no word on a U.S. release, but the Z5 family is starting to roll out elsewhere, and there’s plenty to recommend it. All three phones feature the new, conveniently placed, fingerprint scanner in the power button on the side, they each have a lightning fast 23-megapixel camera, and there’s plenty of power under the hood.

As closely related as these phones are, there are still some important differences worth exploring. If you’re having trouble choosing, then this Xperia Z5 Premium vs. Xperia Z5 vs. Xperia Z5 Compact comparison is the place to be.

Xperia Z5 Premium

Premium Thumb

Xperia Z5

Xperia Z5 Premium Thumb

Xperia Z5 Compact

Compact Thumb

Size 154.4 x 75.8 x 7.8 mm  (6.08 x 2.98 x 0.31 in) 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm  (5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 in) 127 x 65 x 8.9 mm (5.0 x 2.56 x 0.35 in)
Weight 180 g (6.35 oz) 154 g (5.43 oz) 138 g (4.87 oz)
Screen 5.5-inch IPS LCD 5.2-inch IPS LCD 4.6-inch IPS LCD
Resolution 3,840 x 2,160 pixels (806 ppi) 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (428 ppi) 1,280 x 720 pixels (323 ppi)
OS Android 5.1.1 Lollipop Android 5.1.1 Lollipop Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
Storage 32GB 32GB 32GB
SD Card Slot Yes (up to 200GB) Yes (up to 200GB) Yes (up to 200GB)
NFC support Yes Yes Yes
Processor Snapdragon 810 octa-core 2 + 1.5 GHz Snapdragon 810 octa-core 2 + 1.5 GHz Snapdragon 810 octa-core 2 + 1.5 GHz
RAM 3GB 3GB 2GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G, LTE, HSPA+ Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+ Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+
Camera Front 5.1MP, Rear 23MP Front 5.1MP, Rear 23MP Front 5.1MP, Rear 23MP
Video 2160p 4K UHD 2160p 4K UHD 2160p 4K UHD
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.1 Yes, version 4.1 Yes, version 4.1
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes Yes
Water Resistant Yes, IP68 Yes, IP68 Yes, IP68
Battery 3,430mAh 2,900mAh 2,700mAh
Charger Micro USB Micro USB Micro USB
Quick Charging Yes Yes Yes
Wireless Charging No No No
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store
Ave. Price £630 ($953) Unlocked £550 ($832) Unlocked £430 ($650) Unlocked
Color offerings Chrome, Black, Gold White, Graphite Black, Gold, Green White, Graphite Black, Yellow, Coral
Availability Nov. in U.K. (U.S. Unknown) Oct. in U.K. (U.S. Unknown) Oct. in U.K. (U.S. Unknown)
DT Review Hands On Hands On Hands On

Power

All three of Sony’s smartphones are fast and slick when it comes to performance. That’s because each of them has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 chip inside. It’s an octa-core processor comprised of the 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 and the 2GHz quad-core Cortex-A57. They also sport the same Adreno 430 graphics processor. The only difference crops up when you look at the RAM, which falls from 3GB to 2GB in the Compact.

Related: Read our hands on with the Xperia Z5 Premium

In terms of sheer speed, you might reasonably expect the Compact to be the fastest of the lot because it has far fewer pixels to push on the smaller 720p resolution screen. But you might also expect it to be the weakest multitasker because of the reduced RAM. In reality it’s very hard to discern any difference. The Sony UI on top of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop is minimal, and all three phones are responsive and stutter-free.

Winner: Tie

Design

Is your Xperia Z5 choice a simple case of small, medium, or large? There’s a bit more to it than that, but the most obvious thing that sets the Z5 family apart is the size. The design language is the same throughout, so they share the nifty new, lozenge-shaped fingerprint sensor in the power button on the right spine.

The Compact sticks out the most because the surround is plastic instead of rounded metal. It’s also the chubbiest of the three, something which is accentuated by its diminutive size. The Premium really just feels like a slightly larger Z5.

Related: Read our hands on with the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact

All of them have a frosted glass back with the camera lens at the top left, but they are being offered in different colors. Most striking is the Chrome finish on the Premium, because it makes the back look like a mirror. It could come in handy if you want to check your hair, but you’ll need to carry a cloth if you want to make sure it isn’t covered in smudged fingerprints all the time.

Winner: Tie

Display

The displays are another major divergence. The Premium boasts the world’s first 4K display in a smartphone, though it is apparently only employed when you are viewing images or video with a high enough resolution to take advantage of all those pixels. That helps to keep the power demands down, but it also means you’ll effectively be looking at 1080p most of the time. It looks great, but you only really get a hint of the extra pixels when you look at the same image side by side with the Z5 or another phone with a lower-resolution display.

Related: Sony reveals the Xperia Z5 Premium’s secret: It only shows 4K when you actually need it

The Z5 display is standard 1080p, and a touch smaller at 5.2 inches to the Premium’s 5.5 inches. The Compact has a 4.6-inch display with a 720p resolution. It’s obviously the least sharp of the bunch, but, once again, you’d be hard pressed to tell on a screen this size. It still looks good, and the pixel density is high enough at 323 ppi. The Z5’s display is 428 ppi and the Premium’s is a staggering 806 ppi. To give another point of comparison, the new iPhone 6S has a 326 ppi display.

Winner: Xperia Z5 Premium

Camera

Sony made a big deal out of the 23-megapixel main camera taht adorns each Xperia Z5 model. It claims the autofocus is faster than anything else out there. It certainly feels very speedy indeed, and you can zoom in on shots after capturing them without the usual pixelation. You can also capture 4K video, apprently without the overheating issues that plagued earlier Xperia Z releases.

Each of the Z5’s also has a 5.1-megapixel front-facing camera. There’s nothing between them on the camera front.

Winner: Tie

Battery

One area where Sony has really worked hard over the last couple of years is battery life. The Xperia Z range is supposed to offer a couple of days between charges, and you can expect that kind of battery life from all three of these phones, even though they have completely different capacities.

Related: Read our hands on with the Xperia Z5

What really accounts for the differences in battery sizes is the displays. The concern is that the 4K display in the Premium will be a power hog, but it does also have a much bigger capacity battery at 3,430mAh, compared to the 2,900mAh battery in the Z5. By only employing 4K some of the time, in theory, the Premium can go the distance. We checked the battery life in our hands on, and it looks like it will live up to the promise, but we’ll need more time with it to confirm that. To give another point of comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has a 5.7-inch display with a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution and the battery is rated at 3,000mAh.

Winner: TBA

Unique features

The fingerprint sensor placement is very smart, because you can unlock your Z5 one-handed as you pick it up. It’s fast, and it feels natural to use your thumb if you’re right handed. It’s exactly the same in each Z5.

The Xperia Z5 family is also water resistant, with an IP68 rating, which means all three phones can be immersed in fresh water at depths of up to 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes at a time. Sony has recommended that you don’t actually use it underwater, though. It’s a feature that might save you if your phone makes an accidental splash, rather than something that enables underwater photography. Once again, there’s no difference between the three.

Winner: Tie

Availability and price

The Xperia Z5 and the Z5 Compact are rolling out in many countries, including the U.K. this month (October). The Z5 Premium is set for a November release. Unfortunately, there’s no word on any U.S. release or carrier support as yet.

Pricing is inevitably a big divider for these phones, though Sony has already reduced the prices before launch. The Premium will cost you £630 unlocked ($953), the Z5 will cost £550 ($832), and the Compact will cost £430 ($650). These direct conversions to dollar prices probably won’t stand up. Realistically, if and when the Xperia Z5 phones land Stateside, the prices are likely to be a bit lower than this, and carriers will probably offer a standard $200 on two-year contract deal.

Winner: TBA

Conclusion

If you prefer a smaller phone, then the Z5 Compact is an obvious choice. It’s refreshing to see a manufacturer releasing a smaller phone without removing the cutting edge features. The Z5 Compact has the same processor, camera, and fingerprint sensor as its bigger brethren. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another smartphone this size that can compete with it on specs.

For people choosing between the Z5 and Z5 Premium, it’s a little tougher. Is it worth splashing out the extra $100 or so to snag a 4K display? If you plan to shoot a lot of 4K video and watch it on your phone, or you have access to 4K streaming content, then maybe you’ll want to opt for the Premium. Even without the 4K, you might want the extra screen real estate. There’s really no other reason to choose between them.

There’s no doubt that the Xperia Z5 family are the best smartphones Sony has ever made, and the three models will each appeal to different people. Fingers crossed a U.S. carrier picks them up.