Sony Xperia Z5 review: A tough premium device
The Xperia Z5 combines an eye-catching design with a robust exterior.
Sony's Xperia range hasn't had quite the style cachet of handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy range or Apple's popular iPhone, but that hasn't stopped the Japanese handset maker from continuing to produce solid quality Xperia devices that have often been best in class.
Here are the core specifications for the Sony Xperia Z5:
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 810|
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Upsides: Why you’d want the Sony Xperia Z5
- Unique look: Sony's Xperia range is meant to be evocative of the company's TV panels, which gives them a look that's quite distinct from competitor devices. That's totally an aesthetic call, but if you want something that doesn't look like everyone else's Galaxy or iPhone device, it's a solid option
- Power button doubles as fingerprint scanner: Previous Xperia generations used a small nub-style power button that jutted out poorly from the side of the phone. The Xperia Z5 instead uses a large flat power button. It's not just a prettier option, but also a more functional one, as the button is also the fingerprint scanner. Once you've enrolled a digit, the pause between powering up and authenticating with the Xperia Z5 is very small indeed.
- Excellent camera quality: The Xperia Z5's 23MP camera can, in the right conditions deliver excellent snapshots, as well as up to 4K video, although that'll burn through your storage remarkably quickly.
- Waterproofing: Sony's the sole big brand name Android manufacturer in the general consumer space still offering a premium device with IP-rated waterproofing built in. Sony's a little careful with its language here, as while the IP68 rating on the Xperia Z5 should allow it to operate for up to 30 minutes under fresh water, it doesn't advise that you take it underwater for, say, photography duties. That aside, however, the Xperia Z5's waterproofing works very well if you do splash it accidentally, or even deliberately. We ran the Xperia Z5 under a cold tap for a few minutes while watching a film on it, and it didn't complain at all.
- Fair battery life: The Xperia Z5 features Sony’s Ultra Stamina mode feature, which disables everything save basic messaging and text features. If you’ve pined for the old days of week-long battery life it could appeal. In more regular usage, here’s how the Xperia Z5 compares using Geekbench’s battery test with screen dimming enabled:
Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 8:24:10 5041 Apple iPhone 6S Plus 7:48:10 4681 Samsung Galaxy S6 6:51:30 4115 Google Nexus 5X 7:14:20 4062 Google Nexus 6P 6:39:20 3754 Sony Xperia Z5 5:41:30 3414 Apple iPhone 6s 3:52:10 2321
Downsides: Why you might not want the Sony Xperia Z5
- Glitchy software: Sony's Xperia Z5 runs on Android 5.1, but with Sony's own Xperia Home launcher on top. It's not terribly obtrusive, but there were instances during testing when it did affect performance, especially from the camera. To be fair, during our test period Sony did issue some software updates that helped alleviate some of these issues. Still, the Xperia Z5 tested towards the bottom of the current premium pack when it came to benchmarking time:
Handset Geekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better) Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 1492 4893 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge 1324 4626 Google Nexus 6P 1251 4597 Samsung Galaxy S6 1347 4569 Apple iPhone 6S 2540 4410 Apple iPhone 6S Plus 2491 4391 Sony Xperia Z5 1358 4134 Google Nexus 5X 1188 3198
- Heat issues: Plenty of metal body phones have temperature issues when you push them hard, and sadly the Xperia Z5 is no exception. If you're watching a lot of video or pushing apps hard, you can expect the top back half of the Xperia Z5 to warm up noticeably. Even Sony's aware of this, it seems, as it warns that the camera app will shut down in certain modes if it gets too warm.
- Annoying SIM/microSD card slot: It's a plus that the Xperia Z5 can take microSD expansion, as very few of 2015's premium handsets support expandable memory. The issue here is that Sony hides the microSD and SIM card tray under a single flap, and they lay on a thin plastic sliver for insertion. Doing so is very fiddly indeed, which means that if you do swap out SIMs or storage regularly, you'll struggle to do so.
- Odd button placement: The Xperia Z5's camera shutter button and volume buttons sit below the power button, which is an unusual design choice that takes some getting used to, and can sometimes lead to you adjusting the volume inadvertently when holding it in one hand.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
The Xperia Z5 is a solid premium smartphone choice, best suited for those who don’t like the style choices that Samsung or Apple make for their particular devices. The onboard camera is notably good (when it isn’t being glitchy) if crisp snaps matter to you.
At an RRP of $999, the Xperia Z5 actually sits somewhat low in the premium smartphone space, making the two most obvious comparable devices the Google Nexus 5X and LG’s G4 handset.
Where can I get it?
The Sony Xperia Z5 is available from a wide variety of carriers on contract, or outright for $999. To find the best deal for you, including whether you’re better off buying outright or going on contract, check out our comprehensive mobile phone comparison tool.