Sony Xperia Z5 Review

Introduction


Unlike some of its competitors (cough-Samsung-cough-LG), Sony isn't used to flooding the market with products. It likes to take its time and come up with just a few handsets each year: one or two budget phones here, a couple of mid-rangers there, and, if it's a new James Bond movie kind of year – a heavy-hitting flagship for enthusiasts.

Well, what do you know! Agent 007 is back, and so is Sony with a brand new flagship: the Xperia Z5.

Sony Xperia Z5 Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Review
At first glance, the Z5 is typical Sony – a logical continuation of the company's long-running Xperia Z line. However, is this really the Sony we've been looking for? Are the values of the company, and the characteristic traits of its products alive and well in the Xperia Z5? Is it an example of a thought-out, polished Android smartphone, or is it too little, too late?

We've waited long enough for the Z5, and now, it's time to see if Sony really has something to serve that's not already on the table.

Design

Timeless design with compromised execution.

Certain forms, certain shapes, cannot go out of fashion. And in that line of thought, the Sony Xperia Z5's rectangular shape continues to stand the test of time. It's strict, classy… and different. Very few are the handsets that dare go fully rectangular, and for that reason, the Xperia Z5's shape continues to be recognizable, unique even.

The proportions of the front are almost right, but the upper bezel is ever so slightly higher than the bottom one, so its look is not exactly perfectly balanced. And while that slight imperfection in the appearance may not prove to break the deal for most, the dangerously sharp edges of the Z5's frame probably will. As soon as you hold Sony's latest creation in hand, an unexpected and unprovoked sensation of a sharp object scratching against your skin will take you by surprise. Holding the Xperia Z5 is not a pleasant thing to do unless you put a case on it, so we can't help but wonder how Sony let such an obvious design flaw slip past.

The back panel is now made of what Sony calls “frosted glass”. It's basically glass with a matte finish to it, instead of the typical glossy one. It feels very similar to the glass track pad of a MacBook. Its advantage is that it picks up almost no fingerprints, so it always looks relatively clean. Unfortunately, it's also extremely slippery (unlike glossy glass), making us feel unsure if we prefer it that way.

The peculiarities never end with the Xperia Z5's design. If you take a closer look at the images, you'll notice the weird positioning of the volume keys, which are below (not above) the power key on the right hand side. This position doesn't make the buttons any easier to reach or use. In fact, it made them more inconvenient for us. One the plus side, Sony is keeping the two-step camera shutter key, and this one works very well.

And while we're on the topic of buttons – the power key is now also a fingerprint scanner. When it comes to speed and accuracy, it's pretty decent, but its positioning and impact on the seamlessness of the user experience are less than ideal. The button itself doesn't protrude from the surface, and doesn't click reassuringly enough, which is to say it could be designed better.

 

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Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia Z5
Sony Xperia Z5
5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 inches
146 x 72 x 7.3 mm
5.43 oz (154 g)

Sony Xperia Z5

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 inches
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Samsung Galaxy S6

LG G4
LG G4
5.86 x 3 x 0.39 inches
148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8 mm
5.47 oz (155 g)

LG G4

Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone 6s
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Apple iPhone 6s


Sony Xperia Z5 Review

Display

An extraordinarily bright display with so-so color balance.

5.2 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels, IPS LCD... Sony has to be congratulated for not playing the specs game and sticking with this resolution, because in no way is the Xperia Z5's screen harder to read, in comparison to the 1440 x 2560 screens out there.

Color balance and accuracy, on the other hand, are areas where Sony should have tried a bit harder. The screen has a significant blue tint, taking some of the life away from images. It's not too bad, though, plus Sony is kind enough to let us adjust display color balance from the settings, meaning there's a way to get a more natural-toned image.

Outdoor visibility is excellent with the Sony Xperia Z5. The handset achieves maximum brightness of about 670 nits, which is enough to outshine almost any other _phone_ of that caliber. Meanwhile, the lowest brightness point is at 4 nits, which makes the screen comfortable for bedtime reading.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Sony Xperia Z5 672
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1256
(Excellent)
7688
(Average)
2.62
3.79
(Good)
6.19
(Average)
Samsung Galaxy S6 563
(Excellent)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6584
(Excellent)
2.11
2.02
(Good)
2.94
(Good)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
LG G4 454
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
1:1930
(Excellent)
8031
(Poor)
2.24
4.36
(Average)
7.28
(Average)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S6 56.1%
50%
unmeasurable
0.7%
1.9%
193.1%
216%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
Sony Xperia Z5 83.9%
75%
82.1%
17.7%
1.1%
2.6%
28.4%
LG G4 86.8%
50%
90.3%
5.4%
0.9%
7.3%
28.6%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Sony Xperia Z5 Review

Introduction


Unlike some of its competitors (cough-Samsung-cough-LG), Sony isn't used to flooding the market with products. It likes to take its time and come up with just a few handsets each year: one or two budget phones here, a couple of mid-rangers there, and, if it's a new James Bond movie kind of year – a heavy-hitting flagship for enthusiasts.

Well, what do you know! Agent 007 is back, and so is Sony with a brand new flagship: the Xperia Z5.

Sony Xperia Z5 Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Review
Sony Xperia Z5 Review
At first glance, the Z5 is typical Sony – a logical continuation of the company's long-running Xperia Z line. However, is this really the Sony we've been looking for? Are the values of the company, and the characteristic traits of its products alive and well in the Xperia Z5? Is it an example of a thought-out, polished Android smartphone, or is it too little, too late?

We've waited long enough for the Z5, and now, it's time to see if Sony really has something to serve that's not already on the table.

Design

Timeless design with compromised execution.

Certain forms, certain shapes, cannot go out of fashion. And in that line of thought, the Sony Xperia Z5's rectangular shape continues to stand the test of time. It's strict, classy… and different. Very few are the handsets that dare go fully rectangular, and for that reason, the Xperia Z5's shape continues to be recognizable, unique even.

The proportions of the front are almost right, but the upper bezel is ever so slightly higher than the bottom one, so its look is not exactly perfectly balanced. And while that slight imperfection in the appearance may not prove to break the deal for most, the dangerously sharp edges of the Z5's frame probably will. As soon as you hold Sony's latest creation in hand, an unexpected and unprovoked sensation of a sharp object scratching against your skin will take you by surprise. Holding the Xperia Z5 is not a pleasant thing to do unless you put a case on it, so we can't help but wonder how Sony let such an obvious design flaw slip past.

The back panel is now made of what Sony calls “frosted glass”. It's basically glass with a matte finish to it, instead of the typical glossy one. It feels very similar to the glass track pad of a MacBook. Its advantage is that it picks up almost no fingerprints, so it always looks relatively clean. Unfortunately, it's also extremely slippery (unlike glossy glass), making us feel unsure if we prefer it that way.

The peculiarities never end with the Xperia Z5's design. If you take a closer look at the images, you'll notice the weird positioning of the volume keys, which are below (not above) the power key on the right hand side. This position doesn't make the buttons any easier to reach or use. In fact, it made them more inconvenient for us. One the plus side, Sony is keeping the two-step camera shutter key, and this one works very well.

And while we're on the topic of buttons – the power key is now also a fingerprint scanner. When it comes to speed and accuracy, it's pretty decent, but its positioning and impact on the seamlessness of the user experience are less than ideal. The button itself doesn't protrude from the surface, and doesn't click reassuringly enough, which is to say it could be designed better.


Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia Z5
Sony Xperia Z5
5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 inches
146 x 72 x 7.3 mm
5.43 oz (154 g)

Sony Xperia Z5

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 inches
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Samsung Galaxy S6

LG G4
LG G4
5.86 x 3 x 0.39 inches
148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8 mm
5.47 oz (155 g)

LG G4

Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone 6s
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Apple iPhone 6s


Sony Xperia Z5 Review

Display

An extraordinarily bright display with so-so color balance.

5.2 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels, IPS LCD... Sony has to be congratulated for not playing the specs game and sticking with this resolution, because in no way is the Xperia Z5's screen harder to read, in comparison to the 1440 x 2560 screens out there.

Color balance and accuracy, on the other hand, are areas where Sony should have tried a bit harder. The screen has a significant blue tint, taking some of the life away from images. It's not too bad, though, plus Sony is kind enough to let us adjust display color balance from the settings, meaning there's a way to get a more natural-toned image.

Outdoor visibility is excellent with the Sony Xperia Z5. The handset achieves maximum brightness of about 670 nits, which is enough to outshine almost any other _phone_ of that caliber. Meanwhile, the lowest brightness point is at 4 nits, which makes the screen comfortable for bedtime reading.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Sony Xperia Z5 672
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1256
(Excellent)
7688
(Average)
2.62
3.79
(Good)
6.19
(Average)
Samsung Galaxy S6 563
(Excellent)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6584
(Excellent)
2.11
2.02
(Good)
2.94
(Good)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
LG G4 454
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
1:1930
(Excellent)
8031
(Poor)
2.24
4.36
(Average)
7.28
(Average)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S6 56.1%
50%
unmeasurable
0.7%
1.9%
193.1%
216%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
Sony Xperia Z5 83.9%
75%
82.1%
17.7%
1.1%
2.6%
28.4%
LG G4 86.8%
50%
90.3%
5.4%
0.9%
7.3%
28.6%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Interface and functionality

The Xperia Z5 has a likable user interface, but it needs more work.

Sony has one of the more likable takes on Android, but unlike the timeless appearance of the phone, its software interface is starting to feel a bit tired. It could really use some fresh, new colors to give it a more contemporary look.

Android 5's “Material Design” mantra is fully realized within the Xperia Z5's apps, and while it's probably a smart idea to not stray too far away from Google's fold, we have to say the user interface appears to be quite inefficient. Many of the built-in apps, along with third-party ones like Facebook, leave little space for the actual content, while the rest of the screen space is taken up by overly large title bars and on-screen buttons. The impression that more could be done with so much screen lingers throughout the UI.

As far as app functionality goes, the Sony Xperia Z5 doesn't surprise in any way. In fact, the overall experience and functionality are largely the same as on previous Xperia Z phones. Some things do manage to stand out, though. For some reason, Sony has thought that it'd be fun to launch a phone without an app for note-taking. And when a flagship comes with no notes app, but does have one for “sketching” with your fingers, it should really count as a red flag. There are many things a manufacturer can easily omit from its base package to make it cleaner, and the notes app is not one of them.

Besides that, the automatic brightness control appeared to be overly sensitive at times, while some random freezes brought up questions about the level of reliability. Meanwhile, we happened to miss considerably more events like calls and notifications with the Z5 than usual, for no apparent reason.

Still, there's a notification LED above the display, which helps with catching those missed events. It's a feature we enjoy having, though we can't figure out why, during charging, the light turns green when the battery reaches 90%. Shouldn't it only do so at 100%?

The good news is that, as usual, Sony's custom Android UI feels nicely coherent and relatively straightforward, with few elements that may feel out of place. We'd have said it's really well-designed, if it wasn't for the considerable amount of unused screen space.

System performance


Unlike some other manufacturers which preferred to go the Snapdragon 808 route this year, mostly due to power efficiency concerns, Sony decided not to skimp on performance and equip the Xperia Z5 with the Snapdragon 810 SoC. Considering the resolution has been kept at 1080 x 1920, this kind of decision makes sense.

Thankfully, system performance is top-notch most of the time. There are certain occasions where it does take a little longer for the handset to react, but those instances are quite rare. More often than not, the interface moves at a satisfying, steady pace.

Having Snapdragon 810 means that there's also access to high-performance 3D gaming with little to no compromise, which isn't exactly the situation with Snapdragon 808 (especially when paired to a 1440 x 2560 screen resolution).

There's only one memory configuration: 32 GB, which should be sufficient for most users. However, if you need more, you'll be glad to know there's a microSD card slot in the mix.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 59075
Samsung Galaxy S6 58382
Sony Xperia Z5 51012.33
LG G4 50330
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S6 2237
Sony Xperia Z5 1667.33
LG G4 2369
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S6 5751
Sony Xperia Z5 4301.66
LG G4 3948
Sunspider
Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6s 217.7
Samsung Galaxy S6 354.5
Sony Xperia Z5 675.3
LG G4 730.2
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 59.1
Samsung Galaxy S6 37
Sony Xperia Z5 53
LG G4 25
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 56.1
Samsung Galaxy S6 16
Sony Xperia Z5 18.3
LG G4 9.4
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 2139
Samsung Galaxy S6 1767
Sony Xperia Z5 1575
LG G4 1549
Geekbench 3 single-core
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 2539
Samsung Galaxy S6 1440
Sony Xperia Z5 1318.6
LG G4 1112
Geekbench 3 multi-core
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 4421
Samsung Galaxy S6 5127
Sony Xperia Z5 4167.3
LG G4 3559
View all


Camera

The epitome of why specs don't always matter much.

Typical Sony, the Xperia Z5 aims to be more than your average smartphone in the camera department. Aside from a strong specs sheet in the form of a 23 MP sensor with size of 1 / 2.3”, the G Lens camera in the Z5 boasts the fastest auto-focus in a smartphone, with speed of just 0.3 seconds. As Sony says, that's faster than the blink of a human eye! Well, it goes on to partly deny its own claim by citing the range of 0.1 – 0.4 seconds as the common speed of human blinking, but hey, who cares about the details.

As always, Sony's camera application comes with a simple mode: Superior auto, as well as a manual one that lets the user tweak the white balance and exposure. It's a consumer-centric approach – there's quite a bit of flexibility with it, but nothing extreme like manual focus or shutter speed adjustments. Additionally, there are some more or less alternative modes like Timeshift video (slow-motion), Creative effect (camera with filters), and the absurd AR effect, which can render a range of unsightly 3D scenes over whatever it is that you're photographing.


Images from the Xperia Z5's camera are not particularly inspiring. They tend to be markedly noisy, hazy, and generally undefined. Detail level is surprisingly low. Zooming into the image reveals intense digitalization. White balance, meanwhile, tends to be all over the place. More often than not, images will come out slightly colder than in reality, but in other occasions, the camera may also throw too much red in there – depends on the situation. Dynamic scenes are handled quite poorly. When in auto mode, the phone should automatically engage the HDR mode when needed, but even then, not enough is being done to make the scene tolerable – highlights remain overexposed, and shadows stay overly dark.


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Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 1.7
1.9
485
293
Samsung Galaxy S6 2.2
2.4
No data
No data
LG G4 2.7
3.9
357
311
Sony Xperia Z5 3
3
No data
No data
View all

The front-facing camera doesn't do much better than its rear-facing neighbor. Its resolution is 5 MP, but the quality is rather low. Details are smudgy, the whole images look hazy and undefined, while colors are once again not what they ought to be. All in all, it's a disappointment.

1920 x 1080 video recording is of rather poor quality. Similarly to how the pictures are handled, detail level is remarkably low, while colors appear somewhat dull. The footage looks much better in 4K, at least as far as details go. However, like most other Android phones, the Xperia Z5 still can't do unlimited 4K recordings, due to temperature reasons. Strangely, the 4K mode has no stabilization activated by default, resulting in quite a bit of jerkiness. We'd strongly recommend that you enable SteadyShot from the settings. On the plus side, the nasty jello effect that tends to plague so many Android smartphones isn't that apparent here. And, the audio that's picked up by the microphone is loud and clear.


Multimedia


The 5.2” display is good enough for video watching. Sure, it has that cold tone to it, but you can fix that using the color balance setting. What's more, the Sony Xperia Z5 is water- and dust-resistant (IP68), which means that entertainment can follow you in the bathroom or at places that may otherwise prove risky for your phone.

Similarly to its predecessor, the Z5 has front-facing stereo speakers, which is good. However, their sound quality is quite mediocre, which is bad. Having a duo of speakers positioned in the leftmost and rightmost edges of the phone (when in landscape) does make for a better, more immersive audio scene, than having a single speaker on one side, but the poor sound quality in the case of the Z5 doesn't let us truly enjoy the experience.



Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 0.986
LG G4 0.764
Samsung Galaxy S6 0.54
Sony Xperia Z5 0.35
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 69.6
LG G4 79
Samsung Galaxy S6 73.7
Sony Xperia Z5 73
View all


Battery life


Sony Xperia Z5 Review
The Xperia Z5 doesn't disappoint in the battery life department. The handset's 2900 mAh battery easily lasts a day and a half with moderate usage, plus it has an amazing stand-by time – it loses almost no percentage points during the night.

Our battery life test discharged the Z5's juice pack in 7 hours and 7 minutes, which is an average result, but in in reality, when we factor in the great stand-by time, we think the phone holds up pretty well.

0-100% charging time is 2 hours 36 minutes, so compared to some of its rivals in the high-end Android space, the Xperia Z5 is really taking its sweet time filling the tank up.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 8h 15 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy S6 7h 14 min (Good)
Sony Xperia Z5 7h 7 min (Good)
LG G4 6h 6 min (Average)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6s 150
Samsung Galaxy S6 78
Sony Xperia Z5 156
LG G4 127
View all

Conclusion


We wanted to like the Xperia Z5, but Sony isn't making it easy for us. This otherwise good-looking phone doesn't feel quite right in the hand. The software experience moves at a satisfying pace, but comes with a bunch of issues and imperfections that don't quite suit its price point. The new camera may be fast to focus, but its quality is weaker than expected. At the end of the day, there seem to be few reasons to go with this phone, aside from the fact that it's Sony, and it's water-resistant; neither of which are that high up in our priorities.

Sony hasn't been particularly ambitious in mobile lately, that's not a secret. And with the Xperia Z5, the company is showing us this isn't changing anytime soon. The Z5 gives off the impression that it's been built to merely keep Sony in line with the times, in case it eventually decides to invest itself more significantly in smartphones. Until that day comes, though, Sony's flagship will remain outplayed by most of its rivals.

Software version of the reviewed unit: Android 5.1.1 | Build: 32.0.A.6.152



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