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Sony Xperia Z5 review

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


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

Update 08/12/16: When we reviewed the Xperia Z5 in October 2015 it was priced at £549, making it an expensive handset. Since, the handset has significantly dropped in price, where it can be found as low as £325 making it much better value for money. If you’re in the market for a waterproof phone that has a fantastic display and superb performance, the Z5 is one to consider. Read our original review below.

James Bond would have never been seen with an 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 around 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 Nano-SIM and microSD card slots are hidden behind the Z5’s plastic flap


The Z5’s 5.2in, 1,920×1,080 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 2,560×1,440 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.


Toning down the CPU shouldn’t have too much of an effect on the Z5’s overall speed, though, as its octa-core, 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip and 3GB of RAM make it one of the fastest Android handsets around. With respective Geekbench 3 single- and multi-core scores of 1,236 and 3,943, the Z5 breezes past both the G4 and One M9, and it’s not that far off the Galaxy S6‘s scores of 1,427 and 4,501 either.

Unsurprisingly, Sony’s version of Android Lollipop 5.1.1 felt exceedingly snappy, and I didn’t notice the phone getting too hot either. Snapdragon 810 chips have been known to overheat in the past, but the Z5 only ever felt mildly warm round the back even when I was running multiple apps and watching a video.

The Z5 also has unparalleled gaming performance, as its 1,606 frames in the offscreen Manhattan test of GFX Bench GL is the fastest score I’ve seen on any Android handset, the Galaxy S6 included. This equates to roughly 26fps, and it had no problems running complex games like Hearthstone. The Xperia Z5 will also be an attractive prospect for PS4 owners, as it supports Sony’s PS4 Remote Play feature, which lets you use your smartphone screen as a portable display for your PS4 and keep on gaming if someone else wants to use the TV.

Sony Xperia Z5 hands on ^ The new frosted glass effect on the back of the handset gives it a beautiful matt finish that keeps messy fingerprints to an absolute minimum

The Z5 doesn’t drop the ball when it comes to web browsing performance either, as its Peacekeeper score of 1,609 blazes ahead of every other Android smartphone I’ve tested this year. In fact, it’s only bested by the Xperia Z5 Compact, which sneaks ahead with 1,629. Unsurprisingly, the Z5 handled complex web pages beautifully, taking sites with embedded videos, nested comments and large images in its stride.


If that wasn’t enough, the Xperia Z5’s 23-megapixel camera is capable of producing some superb photos, and its super fast autofocus, which Sony claims takes just 0.03 seconds, can latch on to subjects almost instantaneously. The combination of phase detection and contrast detection technology makes for extremely quick yet precise snaps.

Sony Xperia Z5 hands on camera^ This is the first time Sony’s introduced a new camera sensor to the Z series since the Xperia Z1

Outdoors, photos looked great, producing rich, vibrant colours while fitting a huge amount of stuff into each frame. Admittedly, detail levels dropped off slightly toward the edge of each photo, with windows and detailed brickwork often getting merged into single blocks of colour, for instance, but compared to other shots I took on the Motorola Moto X Style and iPhone 6S, the Z5 certainly produced the brightest and most attractive pictures overall.

This high brightness did have a somewhat detrimental effect when I moved indoors, though, as there was a distinct lack of contrast in my initial test shots which made photos seem quite drab and washed out. There was hardly any noise present, but colours lacked vibrancy and shadow areas just weren’t as dark as I expected them to be. This a shame, but I’ll be testing the camera out in more detail over the coming weeks, so the Z5’s sensor may yet prove itself to be the superior sensor once I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces a bit more.

Sony Xperia Z5 camera test^ Colours were lovely and bright on the Z5’s camera, but finer details were often lost towards the edge of the frame

Sony Xperia Z5 camera test indoors^ Indoors, images were a little too bright, and the loss of contrast makes images appear rather washed out

The only real negative point is an unfortunate side effect caused by the arrival of the fingerprint sensor. The volume control keys have been moved down below the power button, because your fingers naturally rest there when you hold the phone in portrait view. Turn the handset to landscape to take a photo, though, and it’s clear you can only rest your finger on the camera shutter button or the volume keys, not both, which makes zooming just that little bit trickier.


For some, the Xperia Z5 will have come far too soon after the launch of the Z3+, but for me, it can’t have come soon enough. While it’s slightly disappointing that Sony continues to persist with the same screen size and resolution, the display itself is the best LCD panel in the business and it’s great to see the company finally moving the Z series forwards with its new fingerprint sensor and camera module.

Of course, launching a new flagship phone at this point in the year always carries an element of risk, as it not only has to contend with this year’s flagships, but it’s also got to be futureproof to survive the launch of next year’s early flagships as well, such as Samsung’s inevitable Galaxy S7. Thankfully, the Z5’s class-leading performance should be more than enough to weather the transition, and its design feels bang up to date for a 2015 flagship.

The only problem is pricing, as now the Samsung Galaxy S6 has dropped to around £410 SIM-free and £32-per-month, the Z5 starts to look rather expensive by comparison, starting at either £550 SIM-free or £37.50-per-month with an upfront cost of £20 on contract. As a result, the Z5 just loses out on Best Buy award, but considering it’s still one of the best Android phones around, it still comes highly recommended.

See all of the best Sony Xperia Z5 deals on uSwitch

ProcessorOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
Screen size5.2in
Screen resolution1,920×1,080
Screen typeIPS
Front camera5 megapixels
Rear camera23 megapixels
Storage (free)32GB (22.5GB)
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.1
Wireless data3G, 4G
Operating systemAndroid 5.1.1
Battery size2,900mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£549
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £42-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)£530
Contract/prepay /
Part codeE6653

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