Unlike most companies, Sony has been launching two flagship smartphones a year since 2013. Last year’s Xperia Z3 was a fantastic device, which we ranked among the best Android handsets of 2014, but its update – Xperia Z3+ – fell short of expectations due to overheating issues.
A few months after release of Xperia Z3+, Sony is out with another top-end model – Xperia Z5. Does it fix everything wrong with the predecessor? Is it worth Rs 52,990? Should you choose it over stalwarts like iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S6? We find out in our Sony Xperia Z5 review…
With Xperia Z5, Sony retains the design that it introduced three years ago, but there are a lot of changes. The first thing you notice is that the glass back panel has a different finish: frosted glass, allowing Sony to retain glass as the material of construction, but with fewer fingerprints on the rear casing.
Sony Xperia Z5’s edges are flat, instead of rounded like its siblings’. The corners are covered with nylon to avoid chipping of the metal when it falls.
The Omnibalance design is still present, but the round Power button has given way to an elliptical one. The reason? Xperia Z5 is the first Sony smartphone to feature a fingerprint sensor, which the company has integrated into the Power button. This is different from what most manufacturers have gone for till now – separate power button and fingerprint sensor.
The fingerprint sensor does not come into action unless you press it one, similar to the setup used by Apple, Samsung etc. The accuracy rate of the Sony Xperia Z5’s fingerprint scanner was around 75-80%, which is a slight letdown from the highly accurate sensors of Nexus 5X and 6P.
Sony Xperia Z5 is IP68 certified, so you can dunk it in water (up to 1 meter) for half an hour and it will survive without any damage. Better still is the new capless design, which makes sure that the microUSB port and earphone jack remain protected under water without the inconvenient caps.
At 7.3mm, Xperia Z5 is neither the thinnest Sony Z-series model nor the slimmest top-end smartphone. Nevertheless, it feels pretty solid in the hand, courtesy the metal body and 154-gram weight.
Sony Xperia Z5 may be a top-end model, but it is not the best Sony has to offer (that honour goes to Xperia Z5 Premium). You get only a Full HD (1080x1920p) screen with Xperia Z5, when most rivals offer 2K (1440x2560p) panels. You also get the Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, and microSD expansion up to 200GB. For imaging, a 23MP sensor does duty on the back, while the front is manned by a 5.1MP camera. A 2,900mAh battery keeps the ship running.
The Indian nversion supports two 4G-enabled sim cards.
Sony Xperia Z5 has a 5.2-inch display with Full HD resolution; on paper it may seem lacking, but in real life you will notice no pixelation. However, the contrast levels on the new Sony smartphone are not great and the colours lack the punch. You can fix this somewhat in Settings (there are two modes to change the colour saturation).
Features like double-tap to wake up screen, glove mode, white balance adjustment, and personalization of toggle buttons are baked into Xperia Z5.
If you have used a Sony smartphone in the past couple of years, you would feel right at home with Xperia Z5. The software used by the company has remained pretty much the same over the last few years. This time, it’s based on Android 5.1.1 and introduces a small change in the app drawer: the hamburger menu on the left is gone. The UI has become cleaner and a little more intuitive with its removal.
With a pedometer built-in and the preloaded LifeLog app, Sony Xperia Z5 can keep track of the steps you have walked in a day. However, to use more features of the app (like heart rate and stress monitors), you need to buy Sony’s SmartBand 2.
Of course, Sony continues to bombard the users with preloaded apps, such as Clean Master, AVG Protection, Jive, File Commander etc. It doesn’t seem Sony is doing away with the bloatware any time soon.
The most notable change in Sony Xperia Z5 compared to its predecessor is the absence of any heating problem. While Xperia Z3+ shut down several times during the review period, we faced no such issue with the new Sony handset. It was only while playing resource-intensive games and recording 4K videos for a long period that the smartphone got a little warm.
In terms of performance, Xperia Z5 packs a punch, delivering a consistently smooth performance during the review period. It took care of everything we threw its way, from casual apps to power-hungry games, with ease. But the thing is: so does every other top-end smartphone. There is very little differentiation in the market nowadays, and Sony has not been able to make this smartphone stand out in that regard. Of course, the water- and dust-resistant body gives it a slight edge over many models out there.
In terms of battery life, Sony Xperia Z5 does pretty well. We were able to eke out nearly two days of juice on moderate usage and slightly over a day of life with heavy use. The phone supports fast-charging, which goes from naught to 60% in approximately 30 minutes; however, the next 40% take up to an hour.
As a multimedia device, Sony Xperia Z5 performs pretty well too. The dual stereo speakers (located above and below the screen) deliver high-fidelity sound that does not distort at high volumes. Couple the audio with the 5.2-inch display and Sony Xperia Z5 becomes a decent multimedia device.
Sony uses a 23MP camera with 5X zoom, f/2.0 aperture, and phase detection autofocus in Xperia Z5. The camera captures images at 8MP resolution by default, but you can change it to 20MP or 23MP as well. Its phase detection technology enables the camera to focus on the object in just 0.3 seconds, Sony says; we found that the camera is pretty fast to focus, but it’s difficult to judge if it is faster than LG G4, which is among the fastest we have seen yet.
In terms of quality, Sony Xperia Z5 delivers images that capture a lot of detail, but a few shots we took exhibited fraying at the edges. Indoor photos showed a little more noise than we like, while lowlight shots are well-lit. Images taken with the zoom turned on lacked details, which is surprising for a camera of this configuration.
Nevertheless, we found the Sony Xperia Z5 camera to be among the best we have used recently, with great contrast and exposure.
Below are a few images taken by the Xperia Z5:
And here’s one taken using the 5.1MP front camera:
Sony Xperia Z5 is a good smartphone by all measures, offering a decent display, great battery life, smooth performance, good camera, and quality audio in a package that is not too big for the hands. However, the price tag of Rs 52,990 can be its bane, considering several smartphones offer similar features and performance at a lower price.
Overall, Sony has fixed the issues that Xperia Z3+ suffered from with this update, and if your heart is set on it, you will have no troubles using the device. Otherwise, there are many cheaper-yet-capable devices to check out, such as Google Nexus 5X and Samsung Galaxy S6 edge.