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Sony Xperia Z5 review

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Sony Xperia Z5 review

Hang on, Z5? What happened to the Z4? No, you didn't doze off and miss it, Sony released that phone as the 'Sony Xperia Z3+' on these shores. As as the UK is concerned there was no Z4.

Confused? We don't blame you. And not just because of the name.

For one thing, Sony pumps out new phones like there's no tomorrow, so much so that customers often don't know which to choose or even which one is the latest model.

The Z3+ landed just three months ago, though the standard Z3 was a more respectable 10 months before that. That's more like it.

The Z5 sits between the recently released, more powerful Z5 Premium and smaller Z5 Compact. But does it fall between two stools? Let's take a look.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great screen
  • Excellent camera
  • Fingerprint security works well

Cons

  • Awkward button layout
  • Doesn't run pure Android, but a version customised by Sony
  • Design isn't as pleasing as some of its rivals

First impressions

  • Bit boring to look at
  • Slightly chunky compared to the competition
  • Relatively small screen

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The Xperia Z5 is about as monolithic as they come. It really is a solid slab of phone, rectangular as rectangles come with slightly rounded corners.

There's nothing really wrong with it. But despite the lively colour options (it comes with a green, black, white or gold back and sides), it doesn't have anywhere near the design flair of the iPhone 6S, Moto X Style, HTC One M9 or Samsung Galaxy S6.

Design

  • Frosted back with embossed logo. A first for an Xperia phone
  • Water-resistant up to a point
  • Corners feel a bit sharp
  • Build: Glass and metal
  • Weight: 154g
  • Dimensions: 146x72x7.3mm

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The first thing that strikes you as odd when you start using the phone is the button placement.

The power button is halfway down the right side, with the the volume rocker switch and camera button below it.

That means when you reach for the volume controls or camera button, you're not holding the top of the phone, and could easily drop it. Poor show.

The power button is also a fingerprint scanner, marking the first time we've seen one on the side of the phone, which is cool.

It's just a shame the knock-on effect means the rest of the buttons are awkwardly placed.

Screen

  • Spot-on colours
  • Small compared to some
  • Very responsive
  • Size: 5.2 inches
  • Resolution: 1,920x1,080
  • Technology: LCD

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At 5.2 inches, the screen is relatively small. We say 'relatively,' because a few years ago it would've seemed huge, but now everyone seems to have settled on around five and a half inches as standard.

The Full HD resolution technology impresses, though it's not as bright and sharp as the 2K panels seen on some phones (or the ridiculous 4K one on the Xperia Z5 Premium).

But it does the job amiably enough, with inky blacks and pristine whites. So while there are more impressive screens around, the Z5's is nothing to complain about.

Camera

  • Accurate colours
  • Great low-light performance
  • Could be quicker in HDR mode
  • Camera: 23-megapixels
  • Optical image stabilisation: No
  • Unique features: None

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Sony's cameras are among the best in the business. There's a reason plenty of other phone-makers use its imaging sensors, after all.

The Xperia Z5 is equipped with a 23-megapixel snapper, which is one of the highest resolutions you'll find on a phone right now. However, there's more to the story.

It actually shoots 8-megapixel photos as standard, but it 'oversamples' to cut down on image noise (that's tech terminology for the graininess you often see in photos taken in low light). And the results are certainly impressive.

You can opt to shoot in 23-megapixel mode if you like, but it means delving into the settings.

Compared to last year's Moto X, there's a huge gulf between blacks and whites in a shot. Snapped with the Z5, shadows look dark and moody, while the better-lit parts of the shot are nice and clear.

By way of comparison on the Moto X 2014 everything blurs into much closer shades, which means you lose clarity.

Performance and battery life

  • Overheating problems that blighted the Z3 persist
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Fast as you need
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Battery capacity: 2,900mAh
  • OS and version: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop

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Performance-wise, the Z5 is as solid as you could want. It handles games, videos, emailing and more without any complaints, and it slips through menus like an otter through water. There is one problem though: overheating.

It's the same issue that plagued the Z3+, and seeing as Sony has used the same Snapdragon 810 chip (which gets notoriously hot), it's hardly surprising that it happens again.

It heats up during even undemanding games, and even cooks while doing relatively simple tasks like playing music.

Thankfully, it records 4K video much better than the Z3+. Unlike its predecessor, it didn't stutter to a halt with an overheating message, but powered on through admirably. Which is progress.

The battery lasted a day with heavy use, which is about average. If you turn on Stamina mode, then you'll get the two days that Sony quotes, but this does hobble the phone somewhat.

Lastly, it has a microSD card slot. This is most welcome in an age when it's lacking from some flagships.

Value for money

SIM-free, the Z5 is yours for £549.99. You can pick it up on contract for £44 a month with no upfront fee. That's a lot more than Android rivals like the OnePlus 2 and Moto X Play, and a little too rich for our blood.

Verdict

  • Excellent camera
  • Uncomfortable to hold
  • Tinny speakers
  • Overheats
  • Solid performance
  • MicroSD card slot is a great addition

It's a fine phone, but the overheating issues, high price and interesting design choices mean we can't recommend it wholeheartedly. One for Sony fans only.

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