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Sony Xperia Z5 review

 Review: October 2015  

Last updated November 2015

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Sony Xperia Z5 has fixed the overheating problems that plagued the Z3+. It brings a new, less flashy design with a fingerprint sensor built into the power button, and sports an upgraded 23 megapixel camera too. It's one of the fastest smartphones available, with an excellent screen and plenty of memory.

Today's best buy: Sony Xperia Z5 Premium from Tesco Direct (£399.95)


Design & looks

At S21, we've been huge fans of Sony's Xperia Z-series smartphones from the original, launched nearly 3 years ago. The recent Z3+ was a flop however, and so we're pleased to see the release of the Z5 so soon afterwards.

Sony has clearly worked thoughtfully on the design of the new phone. Although it has the same Snapdragon 810 processor that caused the Z3+ to overheat, the interior design has been changed to ensure adequate cooling in the Z5. Unfortunately, that seems to have added extra thickness and weight to the phone, but the phone is still no bigger or heavier than the Xperia Z3.

The Z5 looks very similar to previous Z-series phones, with two flat glass surfaces front-and-back, bonded to a strong and lightweight metal frame. However, the back panel now has a frosted matte finish, which avoids acting as a fingerprint magnet, but is rather less glamorous than the previous glossy finishes. It feels like the Xperia Z5 has come of age, and has reigned in some of its youthful exuberance and replaced it with more sober practicality. If you want a phone that shows a bit more style, then the superb Sony Z5 Premium is the one to go for.

The phone still feels very good to hold, and has the benefit of being waterproof and dust tight, certified to the IP68 standard. It's available in a choice of Black, White, Green or Gold.

The button layout has been updated, with the iconic circular power button replaced by a larger button that acts as a fingerprint sensor. It's a good idea putting a sensor into the power button, as this makes it very convenient to use. Less convenient is the shifting of the volume rocker button to a location below the power button. We're pleased that Sony has decided to retain a dedicated camera button however.

Sony has left the screen of the Z-series phones unchanged for a couple of years now. Essentially, that's because it's so good. With a 5.2 inch Full HD display, featuring Sony's best display tech - Triluminos colour and the X-Reality engine - it's still one of the best screens you can get on a smartphone, although it's been overtaken now by the Samsung Galaxy S6, LG G4 and iPhone 6s Plus.

Running warm, but not overheating

The 8-core Snapdragon 810 processor introduced in the Xperia Z3+ may have been the latest and fastest, but in the Xperia Z3+ it caused terrible overheating problems, making the phone hot to run, and even causing the camera to shut down. Sony has bravely kept the same processor in the Z5, but has improved the heat dissipation. The Z5 still gets very warm when pushed, but it doesn't get so hot that you can fry an egg on it. 

The processor is superfast, making the Z5 one of the very fastest and most powerful smartphones on the market in 2015. Coupled with 3GB of RAM and a very fast graphics processor, the Z5 can handle any kind of demanding apps you care to throw its way, including the latest 3D games, and multitasking too.

The phone comes with a generous 32GB base memory (pay attention, Apple!) and you can upgrade this with a microSD card of up to 200GB. That's a truly massive amount of storage.

The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop.

Upgraded 23 megapixel camera

Sony has upgraded the already excellent rear-facing camera of the Z3 with a new 23 megapixel sensor. This uses a new hybrid autofocus system, making it incredibly fast to focus on subjects. The result is pin-sharp images that you can shoot in an instant. As well as finely-detailed still shots, the camera can also record UHD 4K video.

Sony claims that the Xperia Z5 is its best ever camera phone, and we're inclined to agree, although the Z3 was already a very competent performer. We're not sure that it can quite match the finesse of the Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6s Plus, but it comes very close - quite probably in the top 3 current camera phones.

The front camera has 5 megapixels and uses an Exmor R sensor, as before. It can capture 1080p HD video.


As expected, there's a full range of connectivity features here, with support for a wide range of 4G LTE bands, plus 3G and GSM. You'll also find Wi-Fi, GPS, Glonass, USB, NFC, as well as screen mirroring, MHL and ANT+.

Battery life

The Z5 is equipped with a slightly smaller battery than either the Z3 or Z3+. Sony claims it will last two days, but we think that heavy users may need to recharge every night.

Conclusion - superb, but a little under-stated

The Z5 seems to have fixed the overheating problem of the Z3+, albeit at the expense of added weight and thickness. The Z5 is certainly a very fast and capable smartphone with a practical and smart design and an absolutely superb camera. At launch it was over-priced, but already, after just a few weeks the price has dropped to a much more sensible level.

Note however, that the Sony Z3 sells for a much lower price and has nearly all of the capabilities of the Z5.

The design of the Z5 feels just a little plain for our taste, and if you share our opinion, then the phone for you is almost certainly the incredible Premium version. Read our Sony Z5 Premium review to find out what makes that phone so special.

Sony Xperia Z5 features include:

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Average rating from 1 review:

Reviewed by Ean from England on 30th Mar 2016
This is a very good phone, especially in the black version very quick and responsive, clear audio and excellent screen for size and viewing, well worth taking a chance and getting one. Really consider getting a case to protect this phone and you won't look back. Well done Sony.

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