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Sony Xperia Z5 review: better late than never

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The Xperia Z3+ (Xperia Z4v in the US) was meant to be its answer to Samsung's Galaxy S6, but serious overheating issues made it a debacle. The Xperia Z5 corrects the Z3+'s wrongs and is the nicest-looking and fastest Xperia to date. Now that the US release has been confirmed (see the Release date and price section below) should you pick up the Xperia Z5? Find out in our full Xperia Z5 review.

Sony Xperia Z5


  • Waterproof
  • Excellent camera
  • microSD card slot
  • Very good fingerprint sensor
  • Solid battery life


  • No wireless charging
  • Sharp case edges
  • Expensive
Sony Xperia Z5
    Sony Xperia Z5: All deals

    Sony Xperia Z5 release date and price

    The Sony Xperia Z5 release date in the US is February 7. Sony announced the release via Facebook, stating that Amazon, Best Buy and B&H would all be stocking the device. It will be available as an unlocked device, supporting only GSM networks.

    Its price is set at US$599.99, making it a rather high-end purchase.

    Bizarrely, Sony has decided to ditch the fingerprint scanner on the US devices. All we know so far is that it was a "business decision".

    We've reached out to Sony for further comment, and we will update this page with more information as we receive it.

    Sony Xperia Z5 design and build quality

    At first glance, the back of the Xperia Z5 looks like it's made from metal, but it is actually frosted matte glass. This looks good but also makes it smooth and very slippery. The sides of the phone are slippier still. The edges of the phone – where the sides meet the front and the back – are slightly but significantly pronounced.

    These raised edges do at least give you something to grip onto, but they also accumulate grit and grime. They also like to snag your hair, both above your ear and, if you have a beard, on the side of your chin, which can get annoying.

    review xperia z5 PT design
    The Xperia Z5 looks great, but the finger sensor located in the power button is the best feature. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Despite these peculiar design choices, the Xperia Z5 is the best-looking Xperia device yet. It stays true to Sony's Omnibalance design but boasts some subtle improvements. The Xperia Z5 is very well put together, with Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and back, an aluminum frame and rubber bumpers on the corners to help absorb shock if the phone is dropped.

    Sony released a pink version of the Xperia Z5 on January 12, 2016. The release came later in the phone's lifecycle, potentially as a drawcard for potential buyers who prefer a more eye-catching color to the frosted glass and metal design.

    The Xperia Z5 is also dustproof and waterproof (it has an IP rating of IP68, which means it is dust-tight and protected against continued immersion in more than 1 m of fresh water), although you should observe Sony's advice regarding water-resistance on Xperia devices. 

    review xperia z5 PT certificacao
    There's only one waterproof flap on the Z5, the one covering the nano-SIM and microSD card port. / © ANDROIDPIT

    The Xperia Z5 measures 146 x 72 x 7.5 mm, but fits comfortably in your hand. The buttons for volume, camera shutter and power are all located on the right-hand side of the phone. The power button, which was circular on the Z3, is now pill-shaped, and also houses a fingerprint scanner.

    The left-hand side of the device now has a stamped Xperia logo at the bottom and a flap at the top, under which you'll find the nano-SIM card slot. This slot also provides access for microSD card expansion (up to 200 GB).

    review xperia z5 PT micro usb
    The USB 2.0 charging port is uncovered on the Xperia Z5. / © ANDROIDPIT

    The top edge has a headphone port and a pinhole mic. The bottom features an uncovered USB 2.0 port and a small loop for attaching a lanyard. Considering the Z5's waterproof rating, it's a little surprising that there's only one water-resistant flap (older Xperia models had up to three), but Sony now treats its ports with a water-resistant coating to prevent short circuits, which is why the charging and headphone ports are uncovered.

    review xperia z5 PT entrada fones
    The headphone port is coated with a water-resistant film to avoid short circuits. / © ANDROIDPIT

    On the front of the Xperia Z5, there's a subtle Sony logo up the top, with a proximity sensor and the front-facing camera (with a 5.1 MP Sony Exmor sensor) on either side of it. The upper edge of the display glass features a barely discernible speaker cut-out. The Z5 has another speaker grill at the bottom of the display, providing stereo sound.

    The layout on the back of the phone is the same as ever, with the 23 MP main camera in the top left-hand corner and a single LED flash beneath it.  

    review xperia z5 PT traseira
    The back of the Xperia Z5 may look metallic, but it is actually frosted glass. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony Xperia Z5 display

    The Xperia Z5 display is a Full HD 5.2-inch IPS LCD with a pixel density of 428 pixels per inch. While the blacks are not as deep as those found on an OLED display, the Xperia Z5 handles dark colors very well and offers excellent viewing angles.

    Using the brightness slider, you can turn the display brightness up high enough to operate the phone even in strong light, natural or otherwise. On the other end of the scale, you can drop the brightness low enough to comfortably read in bed at night without blinding yourself. 

    sony xperia z5 front display 2
    The Full HD display on the Xperia Z5 is great in color, viewing angles and brightness. / © ANDROIDPIT

    The Xperia Z5 display also excels in color reproduction and sharpness. It may not have the 4K chops of the Z5 Premium, but for Full HD resolution, the Z5 looks nice and crisp. There is a smart control option for managing the backlight and you can stop the phone from going to sleep while you're holding the phone.

    There are also image enhancement options called X-Reality and Super-vivid mode, which are used for increasing sharpness and saturation when viewing photos and video. Glove Mode makes a comeback and you can also make use of the 'double tap to wake' function.

    xperia z5 display settings
    Sony has equipped the Xperia Z5 display with lots of great options and settings. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony Xperia Z5 special features

    Fingerprint scanners may not be anything new, but Sony has really hit the nail on the head with the placement of its scanner. While Samsung continues to position the scanner in the home button on the front of the device, Sony's scanner is incorporated into the power button on the side of the device, which is a much more natural position for it.

    The Z5 scanner reacts just as quickly and accurately as those in competitors such as the iPhone 6 or the Galaxy S6. You can assign up to 10 fingerprints to your profile and if, for some reason, the scanner is unable to recognize your fingerprint, you can always fall back on a PIN or password to unlock your device.

    sony xperia z5 side power button
    The Xperia Z5 fingerprint sensor is easily as fast and accurate as its competitors. / © ANDROIDPIT

    The main reason you might have issues with the scanner is related to the Xperia Z5's water-resistance. You don't need to ensure your phone is dry, but you do need to make sure your fingers are dry if you want the scanner to work properly.

    Unfortunately, unlocking your phone is the only thing the scanner is used for at the moment (other than powering it on, of course). Sony hasn't tied the finger scanner to authentication of accounts or payments, but this could change when the Xperia Z5 gets the Android Marshmallow update, however, this could change.

    AndroidPIT Sony Xperia Z5 fingerprint scanner setup
    Setting up the scanner is a breeze, but it can't be used for account verification or payments yet. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony Xperia Z5 software

    Speaking of Android versions, the Xperia Z5 software is a new-look Xperia UI based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. This makeover has been a long time coming and the UI now looks a lot more like stock Android, especially in the in the notifications area and Quick Settings, although the main Settings area is still distinctly Sony.

    It's a slightly strange mixture, but it's nice to see an updated look to Sony's interface regardless. This hopefully means that Android updates can be pushed out more quickly too.

    sony xperia z5 quick settings
    The new Xperia UI looks a lot like stock Android in some parts... / © ANDROIDPIT

    That said, Sony delivers timely Android updates for its Xperia devices for the most part. It is also very transparent about which devices are due to be updated and when, and is one of the companies promising regular security patches not tied down to major Android updates.

    Once Sony pushes out Android 6.0 Marshmallow on the Xperia Z5, we'll update this review, but for now there's a fairly standard bunch of pre-installed apps. You'll get Sony's suite of Google alternatives for messaging, calling, contacts storage, camera, email, calendar and so on, but you'll also score Sony's excellent collection of entertainment focused apps.

    sony xperia z5 front display 2
    ...while other parts of the Xperia Z5 look the same as on the Z3. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony's Music, Album and Video apps are great for multimedia consumption, but the most exciting thing is the Z5's PlayStation connectivity. You can remotely play games on your PS4 from your Z5, as well as purchase games on your phone to play immediately on your PS4. The PlayStation Network also offers music and video of its own and everything is synced automatically.

    AndroidPIT Sony Xperia Z5 PlayStation Network PS4 connectivity
    Sony's PlayStation Network and PS4 integration is excellent. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony's integration of multimedia is also very future-proof, as anyone thinking of picking up a Sony Android TV will attest to. Our phones will increasingly be used as a hub in our connected homes, and the lounge is beginning to play an bigger role.

    Unfortunately, some of the pre-installed apps can not be uninstalled. So while you're unlikely to be fond of What's New, Movie Creator or Xperia Lounge, the best you can do is disable these apps you if don't want to use them.  

    sony xperia z5 specs
    The Xperia Z5 runs Android 5.1.1 out of the box, but Marshmallow is coming soon. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony Xperia Z5 performance

    The power of the Xperia Z5 specs are slightly above comparably equipped smartphones, but slightly below the Galaxy S6, the current 'best in class' benchmark. Like many phones, the Xperia Z5 suffers from occasional stuttering during everyday use, mostly when launching apps, but nothing that will really affect your use of it.

    The Xperia Z5 has a octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 (MSM8994) CPU with four low power cores clocked at 1.5 GHz and four high-performance cores clocked at 2 GHz. The 810 is a 64-bit chip with the Adreno 430 GPU built in alongside 3 GB of RAM.

    review xperia z5 antutu
    The Xperia Z5 posts solid scores in AnTuTu but not good enough to beat Samsung. / © ANDROIDPIT

    The Xperia Z5 is only offered in a 32 GB version, but that microSD card slot means you can beef up your internal storage for very little money. Android Marshmallow means external storage is treated much the same as internal storage (although it is less secure than flash memory), so once the update lands you can look forward to that.

    If the Snapdragon 810 sounds familiar, that's because it is the same processor used disastrously in the Xperia Z3+. The good news is that Sony has taken care of the processor's overheating problem in the Z5, so it won't suffer the same fate as the Z3+.

    review xperia z5 geekbench
    The Xperia Z5 also scores strongly in Geekbench 3, but is still weaker than the Galaxy S6. / © ANDROIDPIT

    The bad news is that the first level solution was to underclock the CPU, making it slightly less powerful than it was designed to be. The other part of the solution is physical: Sony now includes heat dissipating copper pipes in the Xperia Z5 to help distribute heat. It's an interesting solution but it works very well.

    When it comes to raw performance, the Xperia Z5 benchmarks at around seven percent below the scores posted by the Galaxy S6, which is currently the fastest Android smartphone on the market. In Geekbench and Vellamo, the difference grows to between 16 and 23 percent, but the Z5 scores better than any other phone with a Snapdragon 810. 

    vellamo xperia z5 results benchmark
    The Galaxy S6 once again beats the Xperia Z5 in Qualcomm's Vellamo benchmark test. / © ANDROIDPIT

    You don't have to compromise when gaming either. With scores like these, including GPU performance, it's unlikely you'll come across a game in the Play Store that will stutter or lag on the Xperia Z5. We certainly didn't encounter any during our Xperia Z5 review.

    Sony Xperia Z5 audio

    I've mixed feelings about the sound quality of the Xperia Z5. On the one hand, it comes with an excellent pair of headphones, and the phone has plenty of great audio tuning options on board. On the other hand, the built-in stereo speakers on our review unit have some issues.

    Despite Sony's promises of improved audio quality, I wasn't knocked off my feet. When the volume is raised to above 70 percent, the vibration of the back of the device tends to take over. The volume on the Xperia Z5 has been significantly increased since its predecessor, but that isn't necessarily a good thing if the sound quality hasn't improved as well.

    review xperia z5 PT now
    The stereo speakers at the top and bottom edge of the Xperia Z5 are a little underwhelming. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony has done very well with the microphones though, so call clarity is very good and you can always hear what's being said on the other end of the line. The included in-ear headphones are also very reasonable. A quick test with Audio Test Tone Generator shows audible sounds in the 8-16000 Hertz range.

    The quality of the headset is good. Low, mid-range and high tones are nicely balanced. You can actually pick up these headphones for as little as US$14.15 on Amazon, so if you're in the market for some decent budget in-ear phones, check these out, with or without the Xperia Z5.

    AndroidPIT Sony Xperia Z5 audio settings
    The Xperia Z5 offers lots of audio tweaking options and comes with some nice headphones. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony Xperia Z5 camera

    Sony has taken the cake with its 23 MP primary camera. The Xperia Z5 is currently at the top of our best Android smartphone camera list and renowned camera test site DxOMark has recently given the Xperia Z5 camera the top place in its mobiles ranking too, ousting the Galaxy S6 Edge, LG G4 and Nexus 6P. 

    Sony's new Exmor RS sensor has a super fast auto-focus speed of just 0.03 seconds. Still images have a resolution of 5,520 x 4,140 pixels and you can record 2,160-pixel video at 30 frames per second (fps). Slow motion video capture is 720p at 120 fps.

    sony xperia z5 camera mode 1
    The camera on the Xperia Z5 is one of its best features. / © ANDROIDPIT

    The camera has truly excellent auto-focus, at least as good as that found on any other top-tier smartphone. The camera sensor instantly detects moving images and adjusts the auto-focus automatically. Combine this with the insanely fast auto-focus speed and you're basically guaranteed in-focus images.

    The quality of the captured photos is always dependent on the included software, but fortunately Sony has done a great job here as well. The camera software is very easy to use and performs well. Vibrations and hand movements are less noticeable in video thanks to the image stabilization.

    sony xperia z5 camera mode 4
    The camera app isn't very user-friendly when it comes to video resolution changes. / © ANDROIDPIT

    By default, still photos are taken at 8 MP resolution to allow you to make use of Sony's lossless zoom (which means you can zoom into any part of an over-sampled 8 MP image and still have sufficient pixels for a full-sized photo).

    If you prefer to shoot at full resolution by default you can simply change your setting in the camera app and it will stay there. Personally, we prefer shooting at higher resolution and cropping the final image than oversampling at lower res. We also encountered the occasional post-processing problem as you'll see in the test photos below.

    AndroidPIT Sony Xperia Z5 camera settings
    By default, the Xperia Z5 shoots at 8 MP to make use of lossless zoom. / © ANDROIDPIT

    We asked Sony why it opted to use 8 MP as the default resolution. The response was that “you can permanently switch to 23 MP, but the default setting is 8 MP to enable lossless zoom – which in most cases is more important to the customer than full resolution”.

    One point to note is how non-user friendly the Sony camera app is for shooting video. In Superior Auto Mode you can't change video resolution. For that you have to switch to Manual Mode. But if you want to shoot video at full resolution you'll have to switch to a third mode: 4K Video.  

    sony xperia z5 sim sd 2
    Inside the Xperia Z5 microSD and NanoSIM card tray. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony Xperia Z5 battery

    The battery life of the Xperia Z5 is above average and will last an entire day with moderate use. This is in keeping with Sony's typically good battery performance, despite the fact they shrunk the non-removable battery to 2,900 mAh (from 3,100 mAh in the Xperia Z3).

    It's difficult to produce a standardized battery test for moderate us, so we've also run the AnTuTu battery benchmark test to give you a quantifiable score. AnTuTu combines intensive tasks, web-based content handling, 3D and multimedia.

    The Xperia Z5, with full Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth and NFC enabled (but no SIM card inserted), scored a decent 7,189 points, nearly identical to the Xperia Z3+. For comparison, the Xperia Z3 (in Airplane Mode, which still has Wi-Fi connectivity) posts a score of 8,400 points.

    xperia z5 battery benchmark antutu fix
    The Xperia Z5 didn't score as highly as the Xperia Z3 in AnTuTu's battery benchmark. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Energy-saving modes, including STAMINA Mode and Ultra-STAMINA Mode, where you can limit certain aspects of performance to prolong battery life, help the Xperia Z5 get you through a full weekend, but you'll need to greatly reduce the functionality of the device.

    Using the STAMINA Modes on the Xperia Z5 will limit background processes, which can cause delays in the delivery of notifications, instant messages and email. Fortunately, you can fine tune the settings to keep selected apps running at full steam while halting others.

    STAMINA Mode has an uncertain future. With the arrival of Android Marshmallow's stock Battery Saver and Doze Mode, manufacturer solutions might go the way of the dodo. Sony has always managed to improve on the core features of Android, so perhaps STAMINA will extend the battery benefits of Marshmallow even further.

    xperia z5 battery options
    Sony's STAMINA Mode is great for prolonging battery life – at the expense of functionality. / © ANDROIDPIT

    Sony Xperia Z5 technical specifications

    Final verdict

    The Xperia Z5 is a great smartphone with great features. It has an excellent display, above-average battery life, competitive performance and the best camera on Android. It also looks great, even if it is slippery and it has a tendency to catch your hair in its corners.

    The main problem is this phone should have come to the US months ago. With the failed Xperia Z3+ / Z4v not being released in the US as planned, Sony's US visibility has taken a huge hit. Should customers still consider the Xperia Z5? 

    sony xperia z5 back
    Is the Sony Xperia Z5 worth the money? / © ANDROIDPIT

    Probably not. Sony's answer to the Galaxy S6 has come too late, especially now that you can buy that phone for less than US$500 and the Galaxy S7, LG G5 and Xperia Z6 are just around the corner. Galaxy S7, LG G5 and Xperia Z6 are just around the corner. 

    As it stands, the Xperia Z5 is a solid all-round device that will arrive too close to the next generation of flagships to be worth buying.

    That's our take, what's yours? Let us know in the comments.

    This article has been updated since it was first published. Comments below may not reflect the current content. 

    Go to comment (18)
    Eric Ferrari-Herrmann

    Eric Ferrari-Herrmann
    Senior Editor

    Eric has been with AndroidPIT since 2014. He’s writing articles and reviews for the German website. Topics are mostly privacy and new technology but there's also the occasional piece on environmental sustainability.

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    • Parvind Chahal 21
      Parvind Chahal Jan 16, 2016 Link to comment

      sony phones ui is too complicated.....hard to use......realeasing two phone in a year wont help sony.....i bet it will be big failure

    • Erik English 2
      Erik English Dec 20, 2015 Link to comment

      Why isn't this phone available on US carriers?

      Scott Adam Gordon

      • Scott Adam Gordon 31
        Scott Adam Gordon Jan 15, 2016 Link to comment

        Seems like Sony heard you ^^

    • 1
      MDV Dec 4, 2015 Link to comment

      Could anyone please tell me if the Z5 or Z5 Compact the Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (LE) protocols supports? I can't find any specification where this information is available. Maybe somebody already tested the device with a BLE device?!
      Thank you!

    • Nadeem Zangi 3
      Nadeem Zangi Dec 2, 2015 Link to comment

      Any body tell me about Sony Xperia Z5 Camera flash ? Same as Z3 or different ?

      • 21
        Peter Harwood Dec 2, 2015 Link to comment

        What do you want to know about camera flash nadeem zangi?

        • Nadeem Zangi 3
          Nadeem Zangi Dec 2, 2015 Link to comment

          I wana know about flash?

        • 21
          Peter Harwood Dec 2, 2015 Link to comment

          what is it you want to know about Z5 flash?

        • Nadeem Zangi 3
          Nadeem Zangi Dec 2, 2015 Link to comment

          Is the flash same as Z3 or different from Z3

        • 21
          Peter Harwood Dec 2, 2015 Link to comment

          slightly different with Z5 as you have all your camera settings in one screen and you don't need to move out from manual auto or video but flash is very similar to z3

        • Nadeem Zangi 3
          Nadeem Zangi Dec 2, 2015 Link to comment

          I am facing problem with flash specially at night time. What will be fine swtring for night shooting ?

        • 21
          Peter Harwood Dec 2, 2015 Link to comment

          i find if you are shooting low light shots at night it's better to go on manual turn flash of and alter light by manual settings? but you just have to play around with settings to get the right shot that suits your own preference?

        • Nadeem Zangi 3
          Nadeem Zangi Dec 2, 2015 Link to comment

          Dust with flush light

          Peter Harwood

    • 21
      Peter Harwood Oct 26, 2015 Link to comment

      i had a z3 compact for a year a fantastic little phone, but i wanted a bigger screen so got the Z5, I've had it for a week now but in terms of performance wouldn't say it's a lot more superior than the z3 compact! screens nice, the 810 chipset compered to the 801 of the compact isn't any better in my opinion? speakers have a better quality than the z3c but still not enough volume suppose that's due to the water proofness, through the head phones got with the phone are better sound quality, heat wise found it got no warmer than the z3c, battery is not as good as z3c but put that down to bigger screen and full HD, but still get day and a half with moderate use, never any issue's with my hair snagging in the side of the phone like the review! camera apart from the quick focuse don't think it's any better than the z3c? overall it's a good phone but for the difference in price don't think it's worth the upgrade?

    • 1
      Wojtek Oct 20, 2015 Link to comment

      Can you confirm that Z5 has Gorilla Glass on the front. I cannot find this info on official specification. Thanks in advance.

    • 1
      Burt Buttertubs Sep 6, 2015 Link to comment

      How do you know the Z5 isn't under-clocked to prevent overheating ?
      Have Sony admitted that there is a hardware design fault with the Z3+ or was the overheating simply poor software design that is resolvable via updates ?

    • 1
      ProGadgets Sep 2, 2015 Link to comment

      Phone is value for money..but keep maintain same wud be much better look if release new devices.

    • Madars G 10
      Madars G Sep 2, 2015 Link to comment

      im so disappointed. i was wating for something really big from Sony, but no everything is the same copy/paste.

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