Just when we thought that Sony had done away with launching two flagships in a year, the Japanese company has gone ahead and done just that. It was only in July that we tested the Xperia Z3+ and it is not even five months since and we have two new flagships from Sony - the Xperia Z5 and the 4K display sporting Xperia Z5 Premium. So let us see if the Xperia Z5 is the flagship that will take care of the Xperia Z3+’s shortcomings and will this stand out amongst the sea of competitors.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
Sony has gone ahead with the same design for its 2015 flagships that we have been accustomed to being seeing for the last many years. Sure there’s nothing wrong with the rectangular design, but Sony could have been more innovative instead of just adding on an engraved Xperia logo on the left hand side. The Xperia Z5 has ditched the glossy glass back and instead you get one with frosted glass which has an elegant matte appearance. We got the golden coloured variant for testing. The Xperia Z5 is slightly thicker and heavier than the Xperia Z3+. Also, the phone has sharp top edges where the display meets the metal frame.
The Sony Xperia Z5 comes with a rectangular power button which is a departure from the circular buttons we have been used to seeing on Sony flagships. The rectangular button also houses the fingerprint scanner which is flush with the side edge, hence giving less tactility than the volume rocker and camera shutter buttons located below. On the left hand side you have the cap which houses the dual nano SIM card slot and the microSD card slot. Reaching the SIM card slot will require either long nails or a pair of tweezers. This is the first phone where the fingerprint scanner is located in the side edges. Edge corners are neatly rounded.
The phone fits well in the hand and still comes with the water and dust proof chops that has been a feature of Sony flagship phones. But unlike the Xperia Z3+, the Xperia Z5 cannot be immersed in water.
Here again it is pretty much a similar story. The Xperia Z5 houses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset having a octa-core processor and Adreno 430 GPU paired with 3GB of RAM and having 32GB storage. You have an option to expand the storage to up to 200GB using a microSD card. There is the same 5.2-inch full HD display with scratch-resistant glass and oleophobic coating. The Xperia Z5 takes in two nano SIM cards which support 4G LTE bands.
The thing where the Xperia Z5 differs from the Xperia Z3+ apart from the power-button-as-finger-print-scanner addition, is on the camera front. The Xperia Z5 uses a 23MP rear camera sensor which is a bump up from the 20.7MP sensor seen on the Xperia Z3+. Sony says that the hybrid AF on the camera gives fast focussing speed, which we shall check in the camera section below. Also the Xperia Z5 sports a 2900mAh battery as opposed to 2930mAh seen on the Xperia Z3+. Rest of the things are identical.
Just like most Sony phones we have seen in the past, the Xperia Z3+ also comes with the Xperia skin on the Android 5.0.2 OS. The Xperia skin has a typical look and like always, Sony tries again to push out its custom media widgets by default. Proprietary apps such as Album, Video, Whats New, Lifelog, PlayStation, Xperia Care, Sony Live are complemented with other known ones such as LinkedIn, Kobo Books, AVG Protection and game bundles.
An interesting addition to the proprietary apps is the Movie Creator app, which makes short films after you have shot a certain number of photographs/videos. Quite a fun app when you are on a vacation. Long holding onto the home screen will pull up the features such as widgets, wallpapers, themes and other home page settings.
When it comes to Sony Xperia flagship phones, the first thing we test out is how hot the phone runs. The Xperia Z3+ disappointed when it came to heat control and completely marred the experience of what could have been a really good overall package. The Xperia Z5 has employed copper heat pipes to dissipate the heat generated. This has certainly brought down the heating issue and although the Z5 does get warm when playing heavy games or using the video camera for full HD or 4K recording, we noticed that unlike the Xperia Z3+ the heat did not linger. Also we rarely got any prompts telling us that the phone is overheating and apps may shut down, a problem that was quite common with the Xperia Z3+.
In terms of call quality, there was no issue, with the earpiece speaker being loud enough. The Xperia skin adds on a lot of bloatware to the device, but thankfully you can uninstall apps which you have no use for. Sony has got rid of the left most home screen inside the app drawer and instead you now get a drop down just beside the search icon. Multi-tasking is smooth on the phone and we did not notice any random app shut down due to heating or slowdown. The phone is speedy for most tasks.
Finger print scanner works fast and only when we had moisture on the thumb or on the power button, did it not work. The placement of the finger print scanner on the right hand edge is quite natural for right handed users as the thumb generally rests in that region when you hold the phone. Left handed users may find that annoying and you will need to unlock via the pattern when the phone is resting on a table. While playing heavy games such as Modern Combat 5, Asphalt 8: Airborne we did not notice any stuttering. The Snapdragon 810 paired with 3GB of RAM is more than enough to handle anything you throw at the phone with elan.
Sony employs the same 5.2-inch full HD display that we had seen on the Xperia Z3+ which gives a pixel density of 424 ppi. When seen under direct light or under your rooms light directly facing the display, you do notice the touchscreen’s fine grid-like patterns on the display. Not that it affects the performance, but just something that is quite evident. Sunlight legibility is quite good.
The viewing angles on the IPS LCD display are really good and the adaptive brightness works well but sometimes it tends to over-brighten the dark regions on the display. Despite being an LCD panel, it is able to handle black levels well. It is a great display to watch movies or play games on. Dive deep inside the Display settings and you get options such as having X-reality or Super Vivid mode for viewing images and videos; smart backlight control; white balance adjustment and so on.
Sony houses a 23MP sensor on the rear camera along with a 5.1MP front-facing camera. The camera has been bumped up from the 20.7MP sensor that was seen on the Xperia Z3+. Sony has also employed phase-detect auto-focus mechanism with the Xperia Z5 which certainly speeds up focus acquisition as compared to the Xperia Z3+. The camera user interface hasn’t changed much from the previous phones, although we did notice a Sticker mode in addition to the standard Superior auto, Manual, AR effect, 4K video modes and so on.
Image quality has been a strong point of Sony smartphones, and the Xperia Z5 does not disappoint on that front. Daylight images were full of details and were sharp. If you are shooting on 23MP resolution expect image size to hover between 7MB to 10MB per image. Also if you zoom in 100% you will notice some amount of dithering around edges. Sony claims that this camera offers 5x digital zoom with sharp output; we would disagree with the sharp output part. Of course, the 5520 x 4140 pixel resolution does give you a large canvas to play around with when cropping (after the fact) or zooming in (while composing) does result in a loss of detail. The phone does heat up when you are using camera features such as AR effect, Background defocus and so on, but unlike the Xperia Z3+ we did not get any overheating warning. The background defocus feature is a hit and a miss affair though.
Please note: Click on the images to see the high resolution uncompressed images
Shooting in low light does give good images to share online and you will notice noise only on viewing the image at its full resolution. Noise though present is well controlled and we did not notice any chroma noise unless it was a heavy shadow region. The focussing speed does take a hit. The image quality in low light is nowhere close to what we got with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+.
The higher megapixel count on the Sony Xperia Z5 hasn’t helped to a great degree in terms of image quality from the 20.7MP sensor that was there before. In fact in some images we noticed aggressive noise control. But focussing speeds have surely improved. The video quality, specially with the video stabilisation turned on, is really good as you get a shake-free video even when shooting while walking. In fact it is one of the best we have seen on a smartphone. You can shoot at 4K resolution as well and it is great for casual family videos.
Battery Life: 8/10
Sony Xperia Z5 houses a non-removable 2900mAh Li-ion battery. This is slightly lower than that seen on the Xperia Z3+. But considering Sony has kept the display resolution similar and used the same chipset, with relatively better heat management, the drop in capacity does not affect the Z5 much. In fact, on a regular day of usage, we could easily manage to get over a day’s worth of battery life. PC Mark for Android gives around 7 hours 31 mins on screen time. Apart from this you can also activate the Stamina modes on the Xperia Z5 to stretch the battery life.
Verdict and Price in India
Reviewing the Sony Xperia Z5 was like a deja vu. Just four months ago we had reviewed the Xperia Z3+ and for the Xperia Z5, we have pretty much the same things to say, except for two additional points - there has been a significant improvement in heat management by Sony flagship phone standards and the presence of the fingerprint scanner. Not that the phone doesn’t heat up, but it never becomes as hot as the Xperia Z3+. Camera performance, battery life and overall user experience is as good as one expects from a flagship. So does that make the Xperia Z5 a no-brainer when it comes to flagship phone purchases? Well, not really.
For starters, Sony is offering the Xperia Z5 at Rs 52,990, which although a lower launch price than what the Xperia Z3+ had launched at, still does not justify the premium when you have better performers in the same or lesser price bracket. This also explaing the fact that online retailers are already selling the phone around Rs 48,000, within a month of launch. The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ is available for Rs 54,000 is a better overall performer in all departments. Samsung Galaxy S6 is selling for around Rs 38,000. We are currently testing the Google Nexus 6P which is proving to be a good daily driver as well and that is selling from Rs 39,990. If you want make massive savings, the OnePlus 2 at Rs 24,999 is another option worth considering. And so on. Moreover, the Xperia Z3+ is now selling under Rs 40,000 which is still a good deal, if you can deal with a hot phone.
We are not saying that the Sony Xperia Z5 is a bad phone, far from it. But in a market where competition is experimenting with different designs, bringing significant upgrades over previous generation flagships, the Xperia Z5 does fall short but demands the same kind of premium. Go for this phone only if you are sold on Sony’s brand image. For everyone else, there are lot of compelling options in the market.
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