James Bond’s smartphone of choice, just how good is the Sony Xperia Z5? Let’s find out.

Over the last few years, Sony has been known to release a new flagship phone every six months; the most recent of which was the Z3 and the Z3+. In fact, the Z3+ was only released three months ago and as it was named the Z4 in Japan, on this side of the world, we’ve skipped straight to the latest member of the Sony family, the Sony Xperia Z5.

In terms of overall looks, the Z5 is much the same shape and size as previous models; however, Sony has packed a number of key innovations in the new Z5 family of phones, particularly in the Z5 Premium which offers an impressive 4k screen, making it the first phone with a screen of this quality.
 

Design


It has to be said, Sony certainly has a style and sticks to it – the same metal and glass ‘boxy’ design the company has been using since the original Z.

On the Z5, we get glass on the back and front; metal on the sides; and plastic on the corners – so any impact from accidentally dropping the phone doesn’t head straight to the glass on the back and turn it into a fractured spider’s web. Such an occurrence would certainly be a crying shame, considering the glass on the back of the Z5 is a thing of sheer beauty – the frosted finish, particularly in the grey colour, just makes the phone look very stylish and refined, while also making scratches become less apparent, which is always good.

The feel of the phone has certainly divided opinion, as the Z5 lacks the curved edges of some of its rivals, including the HTC One M9 and Samsung Galaxy S6, however this is something that I quite like; the sharper edgier design makes a statement and the thicker 7.3mm has a chunky elegance in comparison to the curvature and smoothness the other flagships bring to the table.
 

Added features


In terms of distinguishing features, the Xperia Z5 has something that the Samsung Galaxy S6 range and the iPhones don’t; and that’s a memory card slot. With 32GB of internal memory and up to an additional 32G available on an SD card here, this phone is a media monster.

It also has another very important and unique feature; something only Sony have achieved with success thus far, waterproofing. The Z5 has an IP68 rating, which is quite good; while personally I wouldn’t take it surfing,  if the phone does happens to end up in the sink, a puddle or – because it’s Ireland – a torrential burst of rain, then fear not, your Sony will come out unscathed.

But perhaps the most notable new feature can be found on the side of the phone – what seems to the naked eye to be a simple power button, albeit a little oversized, is actually also a fingerprint scanner. This offers a simple unlocking mechanism that Sony has managed to incorporate without being seen to be copying the competition. Unlike a front-loaded scanner – which some might say is a bit more convenient – it’s always nice to see something a little different.
Sony Xperia Z5 fingerprint button

The screen


The standard version of the Xperia Z5 doesn’t show too much progress on the display front. Like the Xperia Z3+, you get a great 5.2-inch Full HD LCD screen on the Z5 which uses a number of different Sony display technologies that nab you a nice vivid colour without the tone looking unnatural.

But it’s the Premium version of the Z5 where you’ll really see the different, in the 4k screen. Unfortunately, however the Z5 Premium hasn’t yet been released in Ireland and you’ll only ever really see the difference when you watch 4k videos – something which isn’t that common at the moment. The Xperia Z5 itself however is perfectly fine with vivid colours, considering it is an LCD with a backlight rather than an OLED, and its 1080p resolution has enough power in it to make everything look sharp.
 

Software


In terms of software, Sony has merely tweaked their custom Android UI, running Android 5.1 Lollipop at launch, rather than Marshmallow, with the interface laid on top makes for a simple and easy system to use. The only downside is the array of home screens and app menus, but these are easy to remove if you don’t use them.  

Note to all PS4 users; keep Remote Play which allows you to stream full console games to your phone. Handy for when the Saturday night XFactor is on and you want to play some GTA – wins all-round.
As the Z5 offers Snapdragon 810 CPU, you can be safe in the knowledge that it can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. It also has an eight-core processor, with four power cores clocked at 2GHz and four lower-key ones at 1.5GHz.

With 3GB RAM backing things up, the Android software feels pretty snappy on the Z5. On occasion there is perhaps the tiniest bit of slow-down after taking the phone out of sleep, but nothing to get too angry about. It’s only the ultra-intense camera modes that make the phone slow down.
 

Camera


As with all Sony smartphones, the camera is really where the Xperia Z5 has the edge on the competition; after all, Sony does make most of the top phone camera sensors on the market and has implemented an exclusive 23MP sensor into the current range.

The Xperia Z5 has an incredibly mode-rich app, but it generally banks on most people using the Superior Auto mode most of the time, which these days lets you pick the focus point, colour tone and brightness, but handles the rest. You see, the raw 23MP images look quite scratchy and fizzy down at pixel level. The Sony Xperia Z5 really shoots 8MP photos as standard, because it lets the image processor use oversampling to cut down on image noise.

At full resolution, phones like the iPhone 6s, S6 and G4 will look a lot cleaner. Even in bright daylight, shots can look somewhat noisy. The Xperia Z5 also lacks proper optical image stabilisation, which is what makes getting good low-light photos with a smartphone possible. It moves the sensor to match your movements, letting a phone use longer exposures without image blur. This in turn means it can use lower ISO sensitivity; resulting in less noise; simple.

On top of the resolution, the Z5 has its hybrid focusing system which uses both phase detection and contrast detection. Phase detection is a type of focusing using DSLRs and tends to be faster than contrast detection. There are 192 phase detection points across the sensor and sure enough it focuses very quickly indeed. In fact, it’s so fast that this phone can focus after you hit the shutter button and, thanks to the PD focusing action shots, become a little easier through better object tracking.

Finally, the Xperia AR mode has returned in the Z5. A handy feature to impress the kids or those who want to have a bit of fun with their camera, the AR mode allows you to do things like paste a T-Rex on your picture or don an augmented reality mask.
Xperia Z5 camera in action
 

The verdict


The camera and waterproofing features have always been the Xperia Z series main selling points and once again they do this in style in the Z5. The Z5, in short, is a very good smartphone and anyone who likes the edgier and sharper design of this phone is sure to love it once again.

Unfortunately, there are no real ‘killer features’ to set it apart from any of the other Android flagships on the market at the moment; although Sony has introduced an interesting fingerprint scanner, it’s something that the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One A9 also utilise.

Having said that, if it’s good enough for Bond, it’s good enough for me.

Buy the Sony Xperia Z5 now.