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Sony Xperia Z5 Review: Sony’s latest flagship smartphone leaves much to be desired

Starting with the form factor, Sony has retained its OmniBalance design language for the Xperia Z5. Like the previous Xperia Zs, the latest one also has glass on the back, though it has now been updat

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Sony’s stint in the premium smartphone category isn’t heading the way it would like to. It’s last flagship Xperia Z3+ scored mostly average reviews, and drew heavy criticism for the exuberant pricing and particularly for overheating. With its future in the smartphone market, especially in the high-end category, already in doldrums, Sony is banking on its latest flagship Xperia Z5.

Priced at Rs 52,990, the Sony Xperia Z5 comes with contemporary if not revolutionary specifications including fingerprint reader, 23-megapixel camera, Android 5.1 Lollipop, Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC and 3GB of RAM. It also has IP65/IP68 ratings for water and dustproof. Since it’s a Sony phone, the Z5 is loaded with several software features. But do all these features combine to make the Xperia Z5 best premium smartphone in the market right now? We have spent considerable time with the smartphone and here’s our detailed review:

Starting with the form factor, Sony has retained its OmniBalance design language for the Xperia Z5. Like the previous Xperia Zs, the latest one also has glass on the back, though it has now been updated to frosted glass, which is basically glass with matte finish, along with metal frames on the side. Sporting a 5.2-inch Full HD display, the smartphone feels compact and lightweight. Overall, the smartphone measures 146x72x7.3 mm and weighs about 156 grams.

Xperia Z5009 Xperia Z5008

Also read: Sony Xperia Z5 vs Xperia Z3+: What’s different

While the Xperia Z5 is among one of the good looking phones, it loses points when it comes to ease of grip and normal day-to-day usage. Despite the frosted glass, the smartphone is very slippery. Edges on the phone are more prominent, which is perhaps designed to keep the front and rear glasses safe. However, these are bit sharp, which makes it uncomfortable to hold.

Xperia Z5004 Xperia Z5002

Another pain point of the Xperia Z5 is the placement of volume buttons. Placed on the lower side of the right edge, it is extremely difficult to reach to these buttons with your thumb. Had these buttons been placed slightly up, using this phone would have been a better experience. The reason for the awkward placement of the volume buttons could be attributed to the power button that also houses the fingerprint sensor.

Xperia Z5011 Xperia Z5007

Unlike the iPhone or other Android phones, the fingerprint button has been integrated in the power button on the right edge. This helps Sony save some real estate on the device as well as make most from the existing mechanism. Unlike the volume buttons, the home button/fingerprint scanner is well within reach, allowing comfortable single hand access.

The front is dominated by the display, and also includes a 5-megapixel front camera along with Sony logo. At the back, the camera lens is placed on the top-left corner, the SIM and microSD card tray is placed on the left side of the device, while the right features power button, which is also fingerprint reader, along with volume rockers and dedicated camera launch button. Audio jack is mounted at the top, while the micro-USB port is at the bottom.

Xperia Z5003 Xperia Z5005

The smartphone has a 5.2-inch Full HD Triluminos display, which offers near excellent color reproduction, brightness levels, outdoor and indoor legibility and viewing angles. Watching HD videos on this screen or playing graphics intensive games is a joy on this display. Sony gives a couple of customization features for the display – X-Reality for Mobile and Super vivid mode. The X-Reality improves the viewing quality of photos and videos, while the Super-vivid mode maximizes colors while viewing photos and videos. You can choose to switch off these image enhancing features, and can also customize the white balance of the display.

The excellent display on the Xperia Z5 is complemented by the Xperia UI, based on Android 5.1.1. The interface is very subtle and succeeds in retaining the ethos of Android’s Material design. As you expect from the Xperia UI, it’s a fluid experience with no stutter or lag at all. Sony has very well integrated its own set of apps in the UI. There are loads of beautiful themes, live wallpapers, widgets to further customize the interface.

Features such as tap to wake up, customize font size and glove mode, which allows interaction with touchscreen when wearing gloves, are really handy. The smartphone comes preloaded with several applications such as Sony Liv, Movie Creator, Jive, Hungama Play and Dropbox.

The Xperia Z5 comes with a 24-megapixel camera with Sony Exmor RS sensor. Up front, there is a 5-megapixel camera. Sony’s camera is one of the most feature rich cameras including a slew of modes such as AR effect, Style Portrait, Panorama, Background Focus, 4K video recorder, Timeshift video and Sound Photo.

Camera has always been a forte for Sony. However, the 24-megapixel rear camera on the Xperia Z5 is disappointing. If you are using the camera in the auto mode, which we assume is most fit for point and shoot and casual photography, resultant images are very inconsistent. Color reproduction is all over the place and at many occasions you will notice over saturation. White balance and contrast ratio are not very great either. In low-light situations, quality further dips marred by noise and imbalanced color reproduction. The built-in autofocus at 0.03 seconds is very fast and allows shooting in blink of an eye. The manual mode does give the liberty to customize the settings to draw more out of the camera. But, images in this mode are underwhelming.

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As said earlier there are plenty of camera modes, though some are pointless, you can experiment more with the camera. Sony lets you add more apps into the camera via the Play store. Background focus is quite useful for macro shots. One pain point of using these modes is that the image processing gets very slow, and on extended use of these modes, heats up the device to a very uncomfortable level.

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For videos, the camera takes full HD videos at 30fps and 60fps. To switch to 4K, you need to tap on the 4K recorder mode. While the quality of 4K videos are at par, the full HD videos are pretty average. Videos, however, deliver better in good light conditions. Sony does not use optical image stabilization but its own SteadyShot image stabilization technology, which helps shoot smoother videos on the go.

The front facing camera is average for a premium smartphone. While it does a decent job in good light conditions, it struggles in low-light. The Z5 is unlikely to woo selfie enthusiasts.

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Coming to the performance, the Xperia Z5 is pretty good until it starts heating up. Yes, the infamous 810 heating issue continues to mar this Xperia phone as well. Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 64-bit octa-core processor along with 3GB of RAM, the smartphone handles basic tasks such as browsing, streaming multimedia, e-mailing, playing games and switching between apps very well. But, the performance prowess chokes up soon after heating creeps in. On mere five minutes of playing games like WWE Immortals and Real Racing, temperature of the phone rose to uncomfortable levels.

Though heating on extended gaming sessions is bit normal, sadly the Xperia Z5 suffers this even on prolonged usage of normal apps such as Facebook or WhatsApp. Sony should have worked on this issue immediately after the Xperia Z3+ debacle. You can’t do much with fluid UI and feature-rich software when the device gets terribly hot.

One of the few positive features of the Xperia Z5 is the dual-SIM (nano+nano) support, which is rarity in this segment. It also comes with microSD support, allowing you to add up to 200GB storage along with 32GB internal.

Sound quality of the smartphone is quite good, especially when using headphones. Speakers are very average especially when on speakerphone mode.

Another downside of the Xperia Z5 is its battery life. The 2,900mAh battery is unlikely to last full day if you extensively use Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. During our usage, the battery lasted about 6-7 hours, which included prolonged sessions of camera, social media, YouTube streaming, Internet browsing, instant messengers such as Slack and WhatsApp and few minutes of gaming. Battery Stamina modes including low battery and ultra stamina are quite useful.

Sony’s latest flagship doesn’t look like a groundbreaking device. Except for elegant design and smooth UI, the smartphone is a very ordinary performer. In context of market dynamics, premium Android phones are already struggling. Take a look at the Galaxy S6, which is now retailing for under Rs 40,000.

At a price point of Rs 52,990, the Xperia Z5 doesn’t offer much to command that premium. The Samsung Galaxy S6 offers much better features and performance for much lesser. The Huawei Nexus 6P could be another smartphone that also offers a much better camera experience and stock Android for much lesser.

  • Published Date: November 16, 2015 7:12 PM IST
  • Updated Date: November 17, 2015 5:25 PM IST