Sony Xperia Z5 in-depth review - Still hot, in a good way! And that camera...

 Sony Xperia Z5 Review - Still hot, in a good way! And that camera...

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,10/21/2015 4:07:50 PM


out of 10



out of 5

Look and feel


out of 5

Ease of use


out of 5



out of 5

Battery life


Expandable storage | Good size | Waterproof | quad HD screen | camera


Overheating still an issue | Runs Android 5 |

By Sunetra Chakravarti

Sony have had it rough for some time now... The Xperia Z series was received very well but sometime after the Z2 and the hastily launched Z3, something went pear-shaped. The phone, following their much-touted omnibalance design was called uninspiring and it was notorious for over-heating.

The Z3+ had the same problem and missed out the UK altogether. So for ages, the Z3 range was not refreshed while others zoomed past it. First LG with the superior G4 and then Samsung with its eye-poppingly brilliant Galaxy S6 range.

And we are not even talking about Apple.

So it was quite interesting to see the Xperia trio showcased at IFA in Berlin this September. While the superstar of the group, the Xperia Z5 Premium comes to the UK later in the year, the Z5 is here. And even though it sits in the middle of the group, it packs some interesting features. But will it be able to pull Sony out of the mid-low of the manufacturer pile to the top again? Read on to find out more...

Is the Sony Xperia Z5 worth £550?

Well, yes and no. The phone still follows the Sony design principal that we have seen on all its previous iterations, so it is still very sophisticated and understated. Nothing like the blingy Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ or even the Huawei Mate S.

Our review sample was a dark green and impossibly cool, but did it look premium? Just like every little black dress looks classy and premium, the Xperia Z5 because of its lack of embelishments can be called that too. There is still glass on the back, but it is the frosted kind and a slight lip over from the side which is almost sharp. 

In-depth review Sony Xperia Z5

Like with everything else, it is difficult to say how much a phone should ideally cost but it looks chic, like a swanky hotel with mood lighting and nespresso machines in the room.

Does the Xperia Z5 slip and slide like the Z3 did?

I have a Z3 and if I ever put it on the arm of the sofa or on even a 2 degree incline, it would randomly slide off. This isnt a good thing when your hone has a glass front and back.

Thankfully I havent seen this happen with the Z5 owing to that slightly raised sharp lip where the sides join the back glass. The rounded edges are still plastic and the sides metal. The power button, now flatter and elongated is set flush with the side and also doubles up as the fingerprint sensor with the volume toggle and the camera shutter button below it.

On the other side, the word XPERIA is embossed on the lower part while the SIM tray is at the top along with the microSD slot which can take upto 200 GB cards.

After reviewing phones like the Samsung S6 Edge+ and the Apple iPhone 6s Plus, the Xperia Z5 feels surprisingly small and squat and almost too thick. Even though it is just 7.3mm in that respect, which is almost the same as that of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, it feels more stacked because we seem to have gotten used to the sloping sides of the Samsung. In hand, it feels almost retro, like an iPhone 4 or even the Xperia Z3 and I found myself worrying less about dropping the phone. And that is an innense weight off the mind when you live with a Galaxy Edge+ sans cover for a few weeks.

Is the Sony Xperia Z5 the best camera phone in the market?

Sony currently manufacture the camera sensors for most of the flagship handsets out there, whether it is an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy and when it came to the Z5, they did not mess around. The 23-MP Exmor RS for mobile sensor on the 1/2.3 size from Sony is a first.


They call the camera revolutionary and with good reason. We haven't seen this sensor on any other handset irrespective of its price. It is blindingly fast and that is what struck me first about it. And why not, Sony say that you can take pictures on it in .03s. We couldnt time it because it was too fast for our reflexes and stopwatch so would believe what they say about its speed.  

The best camera in the World is the one you have in your hand and with the Sony, you will not be disappointed. There is something called Clear Image Zoom which can help digitally zoom into subjects upto 5x. Sony promise lossless zooming which isnt using hardware but algorithms and pixel matching and the results are pretty good as you can see from the example below.

In-depth review Sony Xperia Z5


Not just that, but it manages low light photography like a fiend and it uses back illumination technology and some clever processing to serve up images that are not a bad effort at all. The f2.0 aperture is quite common and smartphones like Honor 7 and LG G4 go a step further and come at with far less price tag. The pictures on the Sony are difficult to find fault with but other manufactuers have upped their game while Sony have been away.

However, the default setting for taking photos on the Z5 is an 8-MP one and it seemed weird at first. But when I moved over to the 23-MP option, the pictures though absolutely massive were fuzzy around the edges and unimpressive. I have recently reviewed the Apple iPhone 6s Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Edge+ and was wowed by both the cameras. Yes, the Sony is faster but the depth of colours and the clarity and sharpness in images on those cameras were better than that of the Sony.

Sony further use their  BIONZ™ for mobile image-processing engine to produce photos free from noise and pixellation and especially so the colours are vivid. There is a bespoke shutter button on the right side of the phone so if you miss your pocket camera, then this should help you get over it. The other great benefit is that the phone comes with expandable storage so all the massive pictures you click in high resolution will be on your microSD card without clogging up your phone memory which clocks in at 32GB. 

Does the Sony Xperia Z5 get hot, like the Z3 did?

Again, yes and no. Every phone gets hot when you use it for a long time. We saw it happen with the HTC One M9, the LG G Flex 2 and obviously in the Sony Xperia Z3 which was notorious for it. The reason was the Snapdragon 810 chips they had which led to Samsung go for their own chips and LG to go with a lower specced chip for the G4. 

The heat on the Z5 isnt spread across the whole back of the phone like with the Z3. It is concentrated towards the top right of the phone, around where the lens of the phone is. While recording video, after 3 minutes of continued recording, the phone got quite warm, enough for my colleagues to say they would be alarmed if it happened on their phones. This wasn't as warm as the Xperia Z3 got during our Spanish holiday but it did and that's all that matters. More than other phones that we have reviewed in the recent past. 

The Snapdragon 810 processor is a superpowerful one especially with 4-cores at 2.0GHz and the other 4 at 1.5GHz but it is also one the reason for the overheating. The 3GB RAM is at par with the other flagships out there even though the likes of the Galaxy S6 Edge+ have gone past with a higher specced RAM. The Z5 usually runs without lag unless you touch the camera button and thats where it gets interesting. I also noticed it getting sluggish just after I had finished shooting a video on it which made it heat up no end.

Is the display on the Sony Xperia Z5 the same as that on a Sony TV?

For that premium Sony TV watching experience, you might want to wait and save for the Z5 Premium wich comes to the UK late November. The Xperia Z5 has a IPS LCD display on a 5.2-inch 1,080 x 1,920 pixel resolution screen which is sheathed in scratch resistant glass and a coating that helps not get your greasy fingerprints to show up on the screen. 

Trailers of Spectre do look spectacular as do HD videos and this is the best screen for commuting because of the size of the phone and the rich viewing experience. The phone was very easy to hold and watch stuff off and while I would have preferred it to be a shade bigger, this isnt that bad a size.

Also remember that because of the size, you are saving battery for those few extra minutes of Narcos just before your phone dies in your hands.

Does the Sony Xperia Z5 have Android Pay? And what about security? 

The Xperia Z5 has one of the most cunning places for the fingerprint scanner- the power button on the side. Not only is it super-intuitive, but it also super-efficiently unlocks the phone without the need to place your finger on the reader then unlock the phone using the power button on the Samsung and keep placing the thumb on the iPhone Home Button. 

So, when Android Pay gets widely used, you will be in a good place. There is also NFC onboard and that should help with making payments and getting information on the next bus at bus shelters.

And how long does the battery on the Xperia Z5 last?

At 2900mAH, the battery is the smallest of the Z series phones. The Z5 did quite well in battery tests, losing 27 percent of battery in 2.5 hours of streaming HD video over 4G at 100 percent brightness. It does come with a Power Saver mode but I am not a massive fan of those. But the smaller size and the quad HD screen arent as big power drainers as the Super AMOLEDs so the battery gets an easier time on these handsets.

Will I get Sony quality music playback on the Xperia Z5 with my £10 headphones?

Chances are, you will. The Xperia Z5 will automatically try to give you the best music experience, irrespective of the headphones. I was using JBL ones, which are very good but the music quality off bog-standard YouTube was great!

Will I be able to take the Xperia Z5 into the bath?

Sony advice against it, but the Xperia Z5 is water-proof. Not swimming pool proof or sea-proof, mind. Only fresh water proof, so probably not very good for your bath with the sea salts and bath bubbles and the glass of bubbly teetering on the ledge. But, it should be fine in the shower, just remember not to get soap suds all over it!

Should I buy a Sony Xperia Z5?

It is great to see Sony regain their mojo and come back with a nest of phones with similar form factor and features at varying budgets that will appeal to a lot of people. Sony have always had a core fan base who have been left more than a little bereft at their absence so they will definitely go out and buy the Z5. 

The phone has some great features, some not so great and some pretty average. However, they havent reinvented their own design wheel like Samsung have with the Galaxy S6 range and that can hurt them in the long run. In the past year, purse strings have tightened, consumers have become smarter and the definition of premium has changed drastically. It is not easy to just say that you have a premium product and expect the consumer to swipe their cards.

Sony have pedigree but they needed to do more to regain their place as one of the top three manufacturers in the world. The Xperia Z5 is a very good phone but it lacks that wow factor that could have propelled it to the top of the charts.

The camera is great and the expandable memory is an amazing bonus but you cannot tag a phone at £550 while it still runs an older version of Android and Sony have still not addressed the over-heating issue.

The Xperia Z5 is not the phone it could have been. 

The numbers on the Z5 number

Price: £549 (32GB) 

Operating System: Android 5.1 Lollipop

Weight: 154 g

Size: 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm 

Display: 5.2-inches; FHD 1080p 

Resolution: 1920x1080 (518 ppi)

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 (MSM8994) Adreno 430 GPU; 64-bit Octa Core processor


Camera: 23-MP and 5-MP Sony Exmor RS™ for mobile sensor

Storage: 32GB 

Memory via microSD: Upto 200GB

Battery: 2900mAH (non-removable)

Misc: Waterproof and dust tight (IP65 and IP68), Fingerprint sensor