- Sturdy, solid Sony design
- More powerful, with more RAM, compared with previous models
- Clean, easy to use user interface
- Decent camera
- Mostly identical to older, now cheaper, Xperia phones
- Fingerprint scanner is a bit flaky
Sometimes familiarity is a good thing. Seeing the face of friend in a crowd of strangers or the taste of a Big Mac bought in any country around the world. In the familiar we find things we can trust, that we can rely on being good for us.
It is exactly this approach that Sony seems to be trying following in its Xperia smartphone series. Sony has released five Xperia Z flagship handsets in the past two years, and though each improves on the inside, the outside of these phones has remained more or less the same.
There is solid logic behind this, it seems. If you see an Xperia phone in someone’s hands on the bus, you know it is a Sony right away. The design is sturdy and reliable, if not particularly interesting. Sony keeps the good stuff for what goes inside its phones, not what wraps around them.
Like Xperias before it, the Z5 has tough, scratch-resistant glass on the front and a stainless steel edge running around it. Our review unit is Graphite Black and it looks great. It’s not eye catching, but up close there are some subtle, pleasing design elements.
The screen is a 5.2 inch Sony Triluminous LCD panel with a Full HD resolution. To help pictures and videos pop, Sony includes its X-Reality display engine, which enhances media on the fly.
The power button the right-hand side of the screen is larger than it has been in the past, and doubles as a fingerprint scanner — used to securely unlock the phone, if you choose. We used the fingerprint scanner as our unlock mechanism for a couple of weeks, but found that with the number of read errors, it is simpler to use a standard swipe pattern.
The Z5 ships running Google’s Android OS version 5.1.1, known as Lollipop. With an octo-core processor and 3GB RAM under the hood, the Z5 has no difficulties in delivering a fast, smooth user experience every time you turn the phone on.
Unlike other key Android phone makers, Sony doesn’t burden the user experience with many additions to Google’s winning formula. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, Sony delivers a clean, easy to use Android experience. Even smartphone newcomers should be able to follow the onscreen prompts and find what they are looking for without much trouble.
But it also begs the question: why Sony? There are many phones offering a clean Android experience without a premium Sony price tag, especially Motorola. If Sony isn’t developing must-have additions to the core Android experience, why pay a couple of hundred dollars extra?
The camera is one reason we can think of. Sony is a forerunner in smartphone imaging technology (so much so that Apple uses Sony cameras in the iPhone) and the camera in the Z5 is on par with Sony’s best.
The shutter is fast, so focus isn’t much of an issue, and the photos come out clean and with good colour. Sony’s default shooting mode doesn’t oversaturate photos, the way Samsung’s cameras do, but this might also make them look a little washed out to you, depending on the style of photos you prefer.
All in all, the camera is a solid shooter, though we will admit to liking the cameras in the Samsung Galaxy series and iPhones a little more.
The Sony Xperia Z5 is exactly what we expect from a Sony flagship: nothing more, nothing less. There’s enough power onboard to make for smooth, seamless operation, and the camera is good. For better or worse, if you’ve seen any Sony Xperia Z model released in the past two years, you know exactly what to expect out of the Z5. Nothing flashy, just a good all-rounder.