Sony Xperia Z5 review

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Sony Xperia Z5
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
549
inc VAT (SIM-free)

The Xperia Z5 is expensive, but it has the best LCD display around, superb performance and a top-class design

Specifications

Processor: Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, Screen Size: 5.2in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 23 megapixels, Storage (free): 32GB (22.5GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 146x72x7.3mm, Weight: 154g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1

James Bond would never be seen with a three-month-old smartphone, so the Xperia Z5, the latest in Sony's line of water and dust-proof flagship Z handsets, has arrived just in time for Spectre. If you're wondering what happened to the Z4, don't worry; while it was known as the Z4 in Japan, everywhere else it was called the Xperia Z3+.

While its arrival casts a shadow over anyone that only recently bought a Z3+, the Z5 is once again very similar to almost every other Z phone that's gone before it. It still has a 5.2in Full HD IPS screen and the same octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor as the Z3+. This is no bad thing, though, as the Z3+'s display is one of the best LCD panels I've seen, and its excellent performance was second only to Samsung's Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

From phablets with love: check out the 4K Xperia Z5 Premium

Instead, the biggest changes are the new camera sensor, the first time a Z series phone has had one since the Z1, and a super slim fingerprint sensor Sony has integrated directly into the power button on the side of the phone. The Z5 also has a gorgeous updated design, with a frosted glass finish on the rear of the handset that effectively banishes those messy fingerprint marks.

Design and New Features

The Xperia Z5 isn't quite as slim as the Xperia Z3+, but it's certainly the more attractive handset. Its reinforced corners now have the same slightly pearlescent finish as the main aluminium frame, and the combination of frosted glass rear and subtle rim round the edge of the phone provide an unprecedented amount of grip.

Sony Xperia Z5 hands on vs Sony Xperia Z3+ power button

^ Out with the old round power button (as seen above on the black Xperia Z3+) and in with the new flat fingerprint sensor

All this helps to inspire a much higher level of confidence in using the Z5, as the Z3+ felt like it was constantly about to fall out of my hand during daily use. I'm a big fan of the engraved Xperia logo on the bottom corner of the Z5 as well, as it not only makes it stand out from the rest of Sony's smartphone line-up, but it also adds a bit of prestige to the handset that previous Sony phones have lacked.

The smartphone who loved me: the Z5 will also be joined by the Xperia Z5 Compact

Sony's capless Micro USB port makes a welcome return from the Z3+, allowing you to safely place the phone in up to a metre of fresh water for 30 minutes, without fiddling with a plastic cover first. The microSD card slot is still hidden behind a flap, but this is fine considering you don’t need to access it every day. The Z5 supports up to 200GB microSD cards, which can provide a significant boost to the 32GB of integrated storage.

Sony Xperia Z5 Xperia logo

^ All three Z5 smartphones have an Xperia engraving in one corner, adding a subtle touch of class to each handset

Sony's fingerprint sensor is another smart addition, and it's arguably one of the most sensibly-placed sensors I've seen outside of the iPhone 6s. It's much more convenient than fishing around the back of the handset like the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P and Honor 7, for example. It supports multiple fingerprints, too, letting you unlock the phone regardless of which hand you pick it up with.

You have to wake the phone from sleep before the sensor will unlock it, but unlike other handsets having the sensor on the power button means your finger is already in the right spot. It's quick to unlock, but the small sensor area means it's more prone to getting it wrong sometimes; there were numerous occasions where it didn't recognise my fingerprint because it wasn't in exactly the right spot. Still, it's a small complaint overall, and it worked well often enough for it not to be a huge problem. 

Sony Xperia Z5 SIM card slot

^ The Micro SIM and microSD card slots are hidden behind the Z5's plastic flap

Display

The Z5's 5.2in, 1,920x1,080 resolution display is one of Sony's best yet, as our colour calibrator showed it was displaying a massive 99.4% of the sRGB colour gamut. This is an even higher percentage than the near-perfect Z3+, which covered 98.5%, and the original Z3, which covered 97%, making it the most accurate LCD display I've ever tested on a flagship smartphone.

It's a shame Sony hasn't yet made the jump to a 2,560x1,440 resolution panel to compete with LG and Samsung, but Full HD still offers plenty of definition on a 5.2in screen, and I'd much rather sacrifice pixel density for such rich and vibrant colours. Likewise, the screen's dazzlingly high brightness of 684.25cd/m2 really make colours pop out of the screen, delivering possibly the purest whites I've ever seen. Admittedly, this does rather murder the screen's black levels, as our reading of 0.54cd/m2 can attest, but this is to be somewhat expected on such a bright display, and text still looked incredibly stark and punchy when browsing the web. Contrast was excellent, too, even if its ratio of 1,078:1 doesn't rank among the highest scores I've seen from other flagships.

Sony Xperia Z5 hands on white

Of course, keeping the phone on maximum brightness for long periods of time will drain the 2,900mAh battery incredibly quickly, but it should be able to last all day if you keep the brightness in check. When set to 170cd/m2, the Z5 lasted 11h 29m in our continuous video playback test. While it's not quite as long as I was hoping, this is still pretty reasonable compared to other flagships; it's only 30 minutes short of the LG G4, and it beats the HTC One M9 by a good two hours. However, the Galaxy S6 still leads the pack at 13h 37m.

The Z5 does support fast charging, though, with Sony claiming that you'll be able to get five and a half hours of use from just ten minutes using a QuickCharge 2.0-comaptible charger, so it should be easy to top-up if it's getting a little low. It also has various energy saving modes to help you eke out the battery even further, if you don't mind compromising mobile data speeds and performance.  Continues on Page 2

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