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Sony Xperia Z5 Review: A Serious Flagship Contender

Sony Xperia Z5

Sony Xperia Z5 Review

The new Xperia trifecta composed of the Z5, Z5 Compact, and the Z5 Premium, is Sony’s latest attempt to grab more market share from other smartphone manufacturers. On paper the strategy looks solid as each handset is very different from one another and can appeal to their own respective target markets, potentially increasing the size of the net that Sony can cast. We’ll be reviewing all three devices but for today we’d like to share with you guys our full review of the middle child of this family, the Sony Xperia Z5.

Let’s quickly go over the specifications.

Sony Xperia Z5 specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 5.2-inch full HD display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 32GB of expandable storage
  • 23-megapixel rear camera, 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS sensor, f/2.0 aperture, phase detection AF
  • 5-megapixel front camera with Exmor R sensor
  • Single SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS,
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • 2900mAh battery
  • SRP: Php35,990

As you can see it can go toe-to-toe with all the other flagships offered by other manufacturers. At this point it will really boil down to the hardware design, core features capability, software optimization, future updates, and the Sony ecosystem of devices. We will tackle all of those in this review.

Hardware: Classic Sony Omnibalance Design Philosophy

Sony Xperia Z5 j

As expected, Sony stuck to their “Omnibalance” design philosophy for the entire range. We have the metal and dual glass set-up with the thin solid rectangular shape.

Unless you’re well-versed in gadgets, it’s actually difficult to to distinguish the Z1, Z2, Z3, Z3+, and the Z5. To tech bloggers it’s probably easier but for your average everyday consumer probably won’t be able to tell or see the differences. So what changed?

Sony Xperia Z5 i

To Sony fans the glaring change is the power button. Gone is the trademark power button sticking out on the side of the device. Instead we now have a recessed button covered in plastic that’s actually a bit hard to press down on, hehe (yeah we’re missing the previous implementation). By the way, Sony took a page out of the playbook of LG by implementing the double tap to wake feature since the Xperia Z2 and we now have it as well on the Xperia Z5. You can bypass the Power Button by just tapping twice quickly in your screen to wake the phone up.

A very nice addition that was added in previous Xperia models that you still have with the Z5 is the dedicated camera shutter button. This makes it so much easier to fire up the camera and to take shots, especially since the camera of the Xperia Z5 is one of the major highlights of the device. They removed the tray covering the microUSB port (it’s still water resistant despite that) but there’s still a tray door covering the nano SIM card and micro SD card slots.

One thing we didn’t quite like is the location of the volume rocker. They put it at the lower right side of the device. It’s not where you would intuitively reach for if you want to adjust the volume of your phone. This was actually quite a sore point since we use our phone heavily as a music player, hehe. Suffice to say it took us a while to get used to it.

Sony Xperia Z5 k

In the hand, the Xperia Z5 felt better compared to the Z1 and the Z2. However the Xperia Z3 was more comfortable and didn’t bite into the flesh of our palm as much. It’s not a major issue but if you’re used to the curved edges of other flagships you’ll probably need some adjustment time.

Display: One of Best that Sony has Ever Shipped on a Smartphone

Best display Sony has ever shipped on a smartphone
Best display Sony has ever shipped on a smartphone

One of our major concerns with Sony Xperia smartphones in the past was the display quality. They look great but the brightness levels aren’t at par with other devices. We always ended up struggling to read what’s on our phone when under direct sunlight. The great news is that this issue no longer persists with the 5.2-inch Full HD display of the Xperia Z5. Aside from the 4K display of the Z5 Premium, the Xperia Z5’s display is arguably the best Sony has ever shipped.

We had no issues with viewing angles. We also had no problems with brightness. Color reproduction and saturation was spot on. It’s more balanced and neutral compared to how Samsung does theirs but it’s more cooler on the eyes.

If Sony finally knocked the display out of the park with the Z5 one can only imagine how awesome the display would be for the Z5 Premium! We definitely can’t wait to get our hands on that one.

Performance: Beastly Flagship Levels

COC pa more!
COC pa more!

When it came to performance the Sony Xperia Z5 did not disappoint. On paper it scored over 50,000 on the usual Antutu Benchmark Test. In real life usage, everything was fast, fluid, and seamless. Android has definitely come of age and the smoothness is very comparable already to what you get with the iPhone 6S.

We ran the Xperia Z5 through a variety of games ranging from your usual casual titles like Clash of Clans and Neko Atsume, to more graphics intensive ones like NBA 2K15, Bard’s Tale, Marvel: Future Fight, and Mortal Kombat X. We’re happy to report that we were able to happily play all of those games without any lags or delays.

Screen Record: Launch Your YouTube Career
One cool feature that Sony installed is “Screen Record”. It’s a pretty nifty feature if you want to record and upload videos of you playing games such as Clash of Clans. You can launch your YouTube career via the Xperia Z5 if you’re going to focus on mobile games, hehe.

Sony Xperia Z5 a

Sony’s Custom Software and Core Services
Among all the Android software variations offered by the top Android manufacturers, our favourite has always been Sony’s take on it. It’s not as bloated as what you get with the likes of Samsung or LG so it’s pretty close to stock Android. Design wise it’s modern, minimalist, and it doesn’t scream loudly like Samsung. If it ain’t your cup of tea though it’s always easy to change by downloading and firing up a third-party launcher.

Speaking of software, the Xperia Z5 still ships with Android 5.1 Lollipop and not the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Sony hasn’t announced any target date for the rollout of the latest update but we’re hoping it will be soon especially since other flagships are already gearing for their updates.

Guys pa-follow naman sa Twitter! @carloople
Guys pa-follow naman sa Twitter! @carloople and @unboxph

For core services such as messaging and calls we didn’t encounter any issues (call quality was very clear).

One good thing that was noticed was that the built-in 3G/4G antennae on the Xperia Z5 was superior compared to that on the iPhone 6S. On our iPhone 6S data would regularly get cut and it would take us forever to get a connection again unless we restart the phone. We had a more consistent data connection on the Xperia Z5 even if we had and used the same telco postpaid line.

However Sony’s WiFi antennae is still a few steps behind Samsung’s and Apple’s. We would only get one bar of WiFi signal in our room compared to the others regularly getting 2-3. This has always been an issue for Sony and hopefully they fix this with their next flagship just so we don’t have to keep pointing it out every time we review a phone from Sony.

Primary Camera: Best-in-Class

Sony Xperia Z5 d

Another major selling point of the Xperia Z5 is it’s camera. It’s without a doubt of the best in the market and it can easily go toe-to-toe with the camera capabilities of the iPhone 6S or the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

In clear lighting conditions the Xperia Z5 captured a lot of details and the color reproduction was just spot-on. We really didn’t have to do any post-editing anymore.

Decent light indoor shot
Decent light indoor shot
Indoor shot with harsh light on subject
Indoor shot with harsh light on subject
Photo of what we see outside of our balcony in our condo
Photo of what we see outside of our balcony in our condo

Even if you zoom in and your subjects are a bit far, the results can still turn out to be good. Here are a few sample shots.

Zoomed in. Still pretty good considering how far we were from the subjects.
Zoomed in. Still pretty good considering how far we were from the subjects.
One more. Hehe. Kakakilig no? :P
One more. Hehe. Kakakilig no? :P

In low lighting conditions you’ll already start to see noise but it’s still miles better compared to what you would get with the cameras on smartphones in the sub Php20,000 price range.

Beautiful
Beautiful

Secondary Camera: Best-in-Class
We were also impressed with the quality of the photos we got with the front-facing camera of the phone. The 5MP shooter was able to deliver even if the lighting conditions weren’t optimal (low or with harsh backlight). Sample shots below.

Selfie with good light
Selfie with good light
Selfie with not-so-good light
Selfie with not-so-good light

As far as cameras go for flagship smartphones, Sony has one of the best with the Xperia Z5.

>>> Click here if you want to see more sample shots

Battery Life: Slightly Lower than the Z3+

Part of Sony’s advertising campaign for the Z5 is that it rocks 48 hours of battery life. This is partially true. We actually reached 2 days without charging when we used the battery management modes (called Stamina Mode). However without Stamina Mode it’s your typical battery life that you get from Android flagships. It can get you through the day but you’ll need to charge mid-day to top it up if you’re a heavy user like us.

Verdict: A Serious Flagship Contender Worth Considering

Sony Xperia Z5 b

If you’re a Sony fan, you’ll love the Xperia Z5. You get a smooth Android experience, a gorgeous 5.2-inch display, and a fantastic set of cameras (front and rear). It also is still water resistant and they kept the omnibalance design style. If you’re still rocking your Z1 or Z2, this would make for a great upgrade. If you’re using the Z3+ though we recommend that you go for the Z5 Premium instead.

Compared to the other flagships, the Xperia Z5’s elegant and timeless design, expandable storage, water resistance, and very capable camera capabilities makes it a serious contender. There’s not much difference in the performance since almost all Android flagships are specced out like crazy. It really boils down to the more subjective features such as the design, ecosystem, and what the brand stands for.

The Sony Xperia Z5 is now available in the Philippines with an SRP of Php35,990.

Carlo Ople

Carlo is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Unbox.ph. During daytime he’s the Managing Director and Partner of a Digital Marketing Agency in the Philippines and by nighttime he’s living out his passion as a gadget enthusiast and story teller through Unbox.

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20 Comments

      1. Ang rate ng phonearena sa z5 ay 7/10. Daming nagalit at tinawag na bias at applearena ang site. I always trust your gadget reviews Mr. Ople at alam kong magagamit mo ang full potential ng z5 compact camera, 8mp automatic at 23mp manual mode.

    1. Hi Zobel! Which photo? We had both phones when we were at Eat Bulaga and we took shots with both of them. I checked the post on the Note 5 and I can’t find any photo that’s posted here as well. Thanks for the feedback though!

    2. Eto na naman si zobel na tatanga tanga at reklamador sa gadgets na di kaya ng bulsa niya. Matuto kang magbasa ng articles magkaibang camera review yun kahit eat bulaga ang venue. Bumalik ka sa grade one praktisin mo ulit yung spot the difference test ng teacher mo.

    1. You don’t have to be a pessimist to know that the Xperia Z5 is terrible.

      Even the Z2 is far better than all of the Xperia phones so far.

  1. Double-tap to wake – existent since Z3
    Camera button – the Z1 has it
    Screen record – Z3

    Sigh. Pretending to be experts.

  2. Hi! I think you compared the Z5’s camera shot in lowlight with phones on the sub20k price range. Why? The Z5 costs a lot for a phone, why compare it to phones that are really cheaper than it? Thanks.

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