- Above average 23-megapixel camera
- Modern waterproof body
- Fluid performance
- Above average battery
- Low display to size ratio
- Uncalibrated color on the screen
- Average screen brightness
While a few quibbles can be made about the Sony Xperia Z5’s color calibration and display-to-size ratio, it's undoubtedly an impressive flagship Android smartphone.
Sony hopes that the Xperia Z5 marks a new start for their flagship smartphone series, and one that will challenge the top phones. After all, not only has Sony failed to make more than a dent in the market, its naming conventions have been muddled with Sony skipping the Z4, which was predecessed by the Z3+.
There are three Z5s in total: the Z5, the Z5 Compact, and the Z5 Premium. The Z5 Compact has similar specs as the regular Z5 but in a smaller body, while the Premium has what Sony claims is the world’s first a 4K smartphone display. This review focuses on the standard Xperia Z5, which, at least on paper, offers everything a top-range handset should deliver. Well, everything with some limits.
The Sony Xperia Z5 features a 5.2-inch full HD display in a body with recognizable design. It’s waterproof, with an IP68 certificate, and sports an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 along with 3GB of RAM. The Z5 ships with Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) and an unobtrusive Xperia launcher.
Its 23-megapixel camera is definitely a highlight, what with the recent market focus on camera quality. Given Sony’s imaging prowess, this high resolution camera certainly looks good on paper. On top of that, the Sony Xperia Z5 has a few other aces up its sleeve.
Build & Design
Sony uses a minimalist design with the Z5, and one that is similar to the other phones in the Xperia line. The curvature from previous models is gone as the Z5 is very square, which gives it a serious and modern appearance. The phone has a matte glass rear cover that looks like metal, but is far more resilient to scratches. The edges are metal, except for the corners, which are made of polycarbonate –a solid plastic, which helps to cushion the phone if it’s dropped.
To help with screen protection, the rim is slightly elevated compared to the surface of the display and the rear cover. Some users may find this frustrating as it’s not common with smartphones that are typically flat on the display surface. But this solution makes the device feel better in hand.
The Z5 measures 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm (5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 inches) with a mass of 154 grams (5.43 oz), which is quite a lot for a 5.2-inch phone. Wide bezels lead to a low display-to-surface ratio of 69.6 percent. Clearly, Sony believes the display has become more important than elegant dimensions or weight for most users. However, there is still room for improvement here.
Looking at the front of the Z5 there is a barely visible speaker perforation under the display, along the lower side of the phone, but this space is almost a centimeter wide. The same perforation is also featured above the display; where the sensors, logo and the 5.1-megapixel selfie-camera are located. The upper side of the device reveals an audio-jack with a water-resistant coating and a tiny secondary microphone, while the lower side holds the neck lanyard loop (an odd detail for such a large device) and a microUSB slot with a water-resistant coating. This means that Xperia Z5 is Sony’s first certified waterproof device without rubbery port covers.
There is a rubber cover on the left side with a slot for nanoSIM and microSD card under it (there’s no way to waterproof a card slot without a cover). The right side includes the Power key with a built-in fingerprint scanner. A very slim volume rocker is situated under it, which is elevated a millimeter compared to the phone’s side. The 2-step camera key is located slightly lower and has the same look.
The Z5 features a 5.2-inch IPS screen with ‘just’ full HD resolution. This is a well-thought decision, given that such a resolution and size result in a pixel density of 428 ppi, which provides crystal clear imaging. Those who insist on even greater pixel density can find it with the 4K Xperia Z5 Premium, but the Xperia Z5’s screen offers a solid display with a reasonable resolution for average users. Leave the 4K for devs and VR enthusiasts.
With the Z5 Sony has built in many of its engineering achievements: Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2, Triluminos technology and X-Reality engines. All this results in the best possible contrast, with black tones that are darker than any tones offered by the current competition. On the other hand, white tones are still a bit dirty. This doesn’t impact real-world contrast and visibility of the screen, as the display offers wide viewing angles and can be comfortably used when exposed to direct sunlight.
Still, the contrast shift to ‘the dark side’ can at times cause a feeling of insufficient screen brightness, or it can wash out colder tones. However the warmer part of the spectrum looks very saturated and emphasized; games look particularly appealing.
Keeping all of this in mind, Sony has enabled the X-Reality engine, which expands the dynamic color range and can be toggled on or off. So you can manually balance the red, green and blue tones through the display settings in order attain your preferred color scheme. There is no other device that offers such detailed control over display colors, which is a plus for Sony. The only down side is that you will probably want to adjust these settings manually since the cooler tones aren’t perfect.