The Good The Sony Xperia Z5 looks good, has great power, its camera can take some great shots, and it won’t die when you spill your drink.
The Bad Only minor updates to its predecessor mean it lacks the excitement of competitors. Its waterproofing no longer allows you to fully immerse yourself, meaning that it cannot be used for underwater photography.
The Bottom Line Even with the high-end features of the high-end phone, the Sony Xperia Z5 adds a bit more to its predecessor to make it an exciting option for competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge.
The flagship Sony Xperia Z5 is filled with many of the highest technologies we expect from a high-end phone. It has a full-screen display, power output and a soft 23MP camera. Mix it up with a minimalist, waterproof design, and you’ve got yourself a phone of the year, right?
Well, not really. Over the last year, the landscape of mobile phones has changed dramatically when Samsung has truly shaken things up with the Galaxy S6 Edge. Completely changing it flagship tube with metal and glass curve Samsung has been able to introduce some enthusiasm into its products. LG meanwhile did a curved phone and wrapped my devices really leather .
On the contrary, Sony is making little effort to push the boat into its upgrade. The Xperia Z5 is a great deal of viewing last year Xperia Z3 , with an identical display, soft custom key features, and a similar design. That may be fine in itself, but the Z3 was just an upgrade of the Z2 before it, which by itself was not a big jump over the Z1. What’s more, both Samsung and LG also feature their flagship ultra-high-definition displays – something you won’t find on the Z5. If you want, you’ll have to pay a little more money for 4K Xperia Z5 Premium .
It’s not something the Z5 does wrong: It looks perfect, and it has a solid line of specifications. But its £ 549 puts it right in the elite category, directly against the Galaxy S6 Edge. At this “fine” price, it simply does not reduce it. That should be awesome, and next to the Edge, the Z5 is not a phone I would call “awesome”.
The Xperia Z5 is now available in the UK for £ 549, and is subscribed in Australia starting at $ 999. It costs $ 600, unlocked in the US; sales start on February 7, 2016.
Even a cursory glance at the Z5 is enough to notice that he is from the same family as the Z3 and Z2. It stores glass front and back, with a metallic edge and a minimal Sony brand. Still, it shows a few small changes: the rear glass panel is frozen, which I personally like more than the glossy panel of the previous model.
The metal edges are now flat rather than rounded, giving the phone a blocking look and feel. The metal edges also protrude slightly from the glass back, making the Z5 feel a bit sharp when I held it. Whether it’s a deliberate move or not, I can’t say, but it gives the phone an unclear feel. At 7.3mm thick, it is a sensitive fluff than some of its rivals, too.
Another change to the new model is the power button on the side. Sony has replaced the almost iconic button dock in the long flat. It’s not just a cosmetic change – now the power button functions as a fingerprint reader, and Sony has included it in their phones for the first time.
I find its lateral position comfortable to use, because where I hold it in my right hand, my thumb naturally sits. However, the left-wing among you may find it less convenient. If it’s lying flat on the desk, it’s easier to just enter your PIN – what’s less of a problem iPhone’s front mounted fingerprint scanner. It’s fast-tuning and accurate, rarely failing to recognize my prints.
While I like the extraordinary, minimalistic approach that Sony takes in its phone design, the Z5 is, as I said, a lot of an upgrade of what we’ve seen before, not a complete overhaul. It also doesn’t look as gorgeous as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. The personal benefits, no doubt, will play a lot here, so I recommend going to the store before you think.
The Sony website states that the Xperia Z5, like its predecessor, has an IP68 waterproofing level, which technically states (again, on Sony’s own website) that it sinks into the water more than 1 meter deep for 30 minutes. However, the thin font on a specific product page for the Z5 suggests that it should not be submerged, unlike the Z3 and Z2, which were both marketed as submarines.
All this time, Sony has pretty much underestimated the value of waterproofing in its marketing materials for the phone. While the Z2 and Z3 showed immersion in water and taking pictures of people in swimming pools, the Z5 was shown only in the rain – not completely underwater.
I asked Sony to clarify, and a company spokesman explained, “The latest changes to the guides we provide to our customers are designed to better illustrate the best ways to protect your devices for everyday use. We report the necessary precautions and specific Security Rating Options sign-in to help customers protect their smartphones and tablets in accordance with the applicable warranty we provide, and we have also recently updated our marketing visuals to better protect your smart use ashyh devices. ” Well then.
This means that this phone is not for underwater use. Instead, its waterproofing is designed to protect against accidentally spilled drinks and to allow you to call in the rain. You may be able to survive the drop in the toilet, but do not continue to dip it in your pint to show yourself to your mates in the pub. If underwater photography is your thing, you’ll need to look at durable compact cameras that can withstand full immersion into the ocean for long periods of time.
- Full HD resolution (1,920×1,080 pixels)
The Z5’s display hasn’t really changed much from the old Xperia Z3. At 5.2 inches, it is the same size and has the same resolution in full HD (1,920×1,080-pixels), giving it the same pixel density. It is sharp, with fine text and crisp images. Even though the display looks perfectly crisp, I would like to see a higher resolution panel. Both the Galaxy S6 and LG G4 (both of which can be purchased for less than the Z5) have ultra-HD screens, so Sony doesn’t do much to keep up with its competitors. This is the Z5 Premium, which packs a 4K display and an even higher price tag.
Sony boasts that the display uses many of the same technologies it throws at TVs – the ridiculous word “Trivia” is Z5 marketing material – which is a skewed way of saying “it looks good”. In his honor, it is. The black level is deep, resulting in rich colors with good contrast. You can also adjust the color and brightness settings if there are fewer.
It’s a great screen for watching your photos, games or watching Netflix at home, but it’s not too bright a way to make outdoor use a little more difficult. Even in the gloomy Sussex sky, I found the screen a bit dim for reading, so those who are fortunate enough to live in the ever-sunny climate can struggle here.
- Android 5.1 Lollipop
- Sony User Interface
The Z5 comes with Android 5.1 Lollipop on board, which is the latest version of Google software now available. Android 6.0 Marshmallow recently debuted in the new Google Nexus line of phones, but since the Z5 was launched back in September, I can’t expect it to have it on board anymore.
In its official blog, Sony confirmed that the Z5, along with the Z5 Compact and Z5 Premium, would receive an update to Marshmallow, though it did not provide any timing instructions (I asked Sony for more information). However, I wouldn’t expect it to be out soon, but Sony has been slow to upgrade its phones – even flagships – to the latest Android versions. Don’t buy the Z5 if you’re desperate to be one of the first to play Marshmallow. Of course, I will update this review when we hear any updates on Marshmallow updates.
One of the reasons Sony takes so much time to update its phones is that it highly tweaks the Android interface. When a new version of Android comes out, engineers have to work hard to apply the skin to the software. Plus, every version of Android needs a whole new approach.
Sony’s skin is not too bad, so don’t rush it. It looks neat, easy to learn, and some features, such as the ability to quickly place application icons in the application tray in most used or alphabetical order, are more intuitive than some of its competitors.
There are quite a few pre-loaded apps that clutter things up, but you can accidentally uninstall most of them. I recommend completely clearing any unnecessary apps and home screen widgets before doing anything with your new phone.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Core Processor
- 3GB RAM
The Z5 engine is a Qualcomm 810 octane chip, backed up by 3GB of RAM. This is a strong piece of silicon, but this chip has had problems with overheating in the past. Most of all – on Sony’s own Xperia Z3 +, which, as I have found, regularly uses closed programs due to elevated core temperatures.
Whether it’s software setup or just chip power suppression, Sony kept the 810 under control of the Z5, as I didn’t find any problems with the phone overheating. Of course, it gets warm to the touch on the top of the phone (where the processor sits), but it didn’t get as uncomfortably hot as the Z3 + and never made the programs close. While shooting 4K videos, I was warned that the camera app could close if it got too hot, but even after five minutes of shooting, it worked fine.
This is of course a powerful chip as the Z5 is very smooth to use. There are no unpleasant delays when navigating through the Android interface, with applications and menus quickly downloading. Games are also handled by aplomb with Angry Birds 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas plays at high frame rates.
According to the Geekbench 3 test, it received a multicore score of 2926, which put it alongside the LG G4 (2 981), although this was a significant step up from the Samsung Galaxy S6 (4,608). On the 3D Mark Ice Storm: Unlimited Graphic Test, the Z5 scored 26,885, well above the Galaxy S6 (20,778), LG G4 (18,611) and Galaxy S6 Edge + (24,737). Then the Z5 is an extremely powerful device that has more than enough juice to handle whatever you want to throw at it.
Sony has made a number of changes to the Z5 to improve it over the Z3. For one, its 1 / 2.3 “sensor now delivers a whopping 23 megapixels. The resulting images are very large, accommodate 5,520×4,140 pixels and file sizes, with most images making up about 8-10 MB of full image permissions.
The extra resolution gives you some flexibility to digitally zoom a scene or crop the image after shooting without losing too much detail. The images themselves are no sharper than most phones, and actually suffer from compression artifacts when viewed close-up.
This full-screen view of the country fence looks good, with lots of details to see what’s going on.
However, zoom in and small details on trees and fences are lost, so the scene looks almost like a watercolor painting rather than a photograph. You can easily crop the pictures and still have a good look on Facebook, but the extra resolution here did not lead to clear details.
However, the camera is capable of taking some really nice shots. This colorful street scene has a great balance of exposure with good contrast.
The colors of these flowers and berries are rich and vibrant, and the exposure is again in control.
These shots of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the windmill are bright, with natural colors. There is a lot of detail to make the scenes look full-screen, but when you zoom in, the details are pretty fuzzy again.
The Z5 made a bright frame here, despite the low lighting of the scene. The colors are also accurate, but the image is noisy, making the details on the petals very fuzzy when zoomed. For comparison, the same picture on the iPhone 6S Plus is brighter to the touch and less affected by image noise.
The camera uses a focus method called phase detection, which is more common on more valuable DSLRs. This actually means that the Z5 focuses very quickly. I was noticeably faster at fixing than on the Z3 +, though, whether it could win the LG G4, which also focuses extremely fast, I can’t say. It’s also true, which means it’s a good camera for snapshots.
The camera was able to quickly capture me as I jumped gracefully through the frame. As the phone remained stationary, my movement came out blurred in the image.
The camera interface is quite easy to use when the camera is loading the simplest smart auto mode when you press and hold the shutter button. It automatically selects the best settings for the shot, but it’s easy to switch to manual mode if you want to control white balance and exposure.
You can also take advantage of various other modes, such as panorama, or even put a dinosaur on stage with augmented reality.
The Xperia Z5’s power is a 2,900 mAh battery, which is a touch smaller than a Z3 (3,100 mAh) battery, though Sony still thinks you can squeeze it out for up to two days. This is great praise, and not one that is particularly real.
In our two battery life tests, the Z5 lasted 9 hours 36 minutes 9 hours 49 minutes – just below the 12.4 hours of the Galaxy S6 and well below the 16 hours of the Motorola Moto X Play. However, our jog test is pretty tough, so the daily battery life will depend on how demanding your phone is.
In fact, it holds up well in standby mode, so if you usually listen to some music during your morning commute, leaving it mostly intact at work, then enjoy the podcast on the way home, you don’t have to struggle to get a Z5 day. However, if you spend most of the day on the screen sending and receiving messages, broadcasting music and games, you are likely to find some juice that runs out in the evening. You will need to be very careful about using your phone if you expect to get two days of battery life from Sony.
The Sony Xperia Z5 is not a bad phone anyway, it just doesn’t do much to stand out any more. Its blocky design remains too similar to past generations to really cause much excitement, and its display and processor have hardly changed from its predecessor. The fact that Sony no longer allows it to swim means that the device has also lost one major feature that consistently distinguishes the Z Series phones from its competitors – the ability to take underwater photos.
Although it works well, it has enough power for intense games, and its camera can take some great shots. It’s a decent phone overall, but it lacks the real wow factor I expect to see on the new flagship. At a time when Android’s flagship competitor for Android was redesigning its flagship with a stunning glass curve and metallic design, it just didn’t really cut it. This year, Sony needed to pull out all the stops, and the Z5 just didn’t have it.
Then I look forward to the Xperia Z5 Premium. Its larger, 4K display may not be necessary for everyday tasks, but it is at least something to get carried away with. If you already have an Xperia Z3, the Z5 doesn’t offer enough to warrant an upgrade. I would definitely recommend waiting for the Z5 Premium to check, but I would also suggest looking at the Galaxy S6 Edge or LG G4 leather – both of which are available for less than the Z5 and have a long list of high end features.
Want to save even more money? Motorola’s Moto X Play It has a full-screen display, a waterproof design and a 23MP camera. It also runs on vanilla Android, and it has a much lower price tag at £ 279. In Australia, the phone is exclusive to Vodafone, which costs $ 5 a month for a plan of $ 40 for two years, with a minimum cost of $ 1,080. There are no scheduled launches in the US yet, but it’s priced at around $ 435. Although it doesn’t have the same raw power as the Z5, it’s almost half that.