Sony Xperia Z5 Review – Sony devices have always come thick and fast. After all, the original Z was only released in March 2013 and since then we’ve seen the Xperia Z1, Xperia Z2, Z3 and Z3+ (aka the Z4). However, the relentless pace of releases hasn’t always been matched by an equal pace of significant innovation. Sony’s approach has been one of evolution rather than revolution and at first glance it seems the same applies to the Z5.
You’d be hard pressed to tell the Z5 apart from its predecessor. It uses the same omnibalance design language, retains the stereo speaker positioning (which also is very similar to the Z2) and even has virtually the same dimensions, although it’s actually 0.4mm thicker than the Z3+. Look carefully and you’ll spot the main visual changes: the small, round power button has changed to a lozenge shape, the volume buttons have moved from the top of the right-hand side to the bottom, the back panel is now frosted glass and there are two new hues available for the device in gold and green to complement the graphite black and white that now has a silver back.
As a flagship device with a flagship price, the Z5 ticks all of the right boxes on the specification sheet. An octa-core Snapdragon 810 features, 3GB RAM and 32GB storage (with microSD expansion) are included and Android 5.1.1 is on board out of the box with a Marshmallow upgrade already confirmed by Sony. If you’re concerned about the Snapdragon 810 processor and the notorious heat it generates, you’re right to be as on the Z3+ it was a real problem. Thankfully for the Z5, Sony has utilised heat-pipe technology in the design (hence the relocation of the power buttons) together with improved software tuning to try to avoid this problem. While the device does still get warm, it doesn’t get uncomfortably hot so this is a significant improvement. Most importantly, unlike on the Z3+, it doesn’t force software to shutdown during normal use. When recording 4K video, the Z3+ would get unbearably hot, but the Z5 is still perfectly usable.
Sony is a company that has many business units, one of which is its imaging sensor division. This highly successful business, that produces sensors for almost all market-leading smartphones, has led many to question in the past why Sony phones haven’t packed the very latest camera technology. Finally, Sony has put this right on the Z5, including an excellent 23MP sensor, improved software, 0.03 second hybrid autofocus and SteadyShot software image stabilisation (no hardware OIS is included). The result is a camera that delivers both in technical benchmarks and in real use. Pictures are excellent, beating even the best Android cameras found on the LG G4 and Galaxy S6. Sony has finally tweaked its software so that the intelligent auto mode can operate both at full resolution or the default 8MP setting. Due to the high resolution of the sensor, the Z5 offers an effective five times lossless zoom in its standard mode, something that works exceptionally well. Our only camera complaint is that the app itself can sometimes take three or four seconds to open – something we hope Sony will fix in a future software update.
The new lozenge shaped power button is found on the right-hand side of the device and now houses a fingerprint sensor. It unlocks in an instant, is extremely reliable and is the most intuitive of the various implementations.
These changes aside, it’s business as usual for a Sony device, which is a good thing. The device is responsive, smooth and the software build is true to Google’s Android vision while still adding Sony’s tweaks and improvements. The Z5 has a full-HD screen, opting not to use QHD for performance and battery reasons and in our opinion the device is no poorer for doing so. Sony also has a 5.5-inch 4K screened Premium model to follow later for pixel fans!
We’re not sure how long Sony can continue with its strategy of releasing devices with subtle tweaks and incremental specification improvements, but in the Z5 Sony has got it absolutely right. It’s a great device featuring all the best that Android has to offer today.
- The Z5 is great for both casual snappers and more expert photographers with excellent auto features and full control
- If your device is ever in danger of getting wet through work or play, then the Z5 is the device for you
- It’s disappointing to see Sony yet again neglect to include wireless charging. Maybe on the Z6?
- The Z5 is priced well above some other flagships both on contract and particularly on SIM-free deals
Sony Xperia Z5 Specifications
- Operating system . Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
- Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 2.0GHz octa-core
- Memory 32GB storage / 3GB RAM
- Dimensions 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm
- Weight 154g
- Display size 5.2-inch
- Display resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels (428 ppi)
- Front camera 23MP
- Rear camera 5MP
- Connectivity 4G LTE Cat 6, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
- Expansion slot microSD up to 200GB