Sibling rivalry: Sony’s Xperia Z5 reviewed

Sony’s attention to audio is also clear, and given the company’s roots in engineering audio devices like the Walkman, it’s clear that it wants great audio in mobile handsets.

That’s not to say that audio has been bad in mobiles before this point. Rather, it’s been good, but there are always ways to improve, and with the amount of choice and control offered in the Xperia Z5, you get the feeling that’s what Sony is trying to accomplish.

As such, you get more than just an equaliser here, with Sony’s DSEE HX technology to make MP3s sounds like they’re high resolution, a normaliser to bring down the volume differences, and then a host of sound effects, with headphone surround options designed to simulate acoustic environments much like how Parrot’s Zik 2.0 headphones work except handled on the phone.


An automatic optimisation mode exists too, and this tries to work out the best way to play audio for your headphones, while Sony also sells special noise cancellation headphones for the Xperia Z5 (not just this model, but the entire range) that will switch on powered noise cancellation without needing to bring an active noise cancelling brick to the headphones.

Oh, and if you thought this was just and MP3 player, think again, with support for high-resolution 24-bit audio included in the device. So much for needing a dedicated media player.


And then there’s the camera, and for this model, we’re told the camera has been totally rebuilt and redesigned, with Sony’s camera division getting in on the fun, too.

The great news about that is that we’re not seeing a mobile company take someone else’s camera off the shelf and plonk it into the phone, but rather see something homebuilt.

Quite a few mobiles out there actually use Sony’s sensors, so we’d be surprised if Sony did tap someone else for the camera, but again, it’s nice to see a sensor made by the company specifically for the Z5 series of smartphones.

Test image from the Sony Xperia Z5 camera
Test image from the Sony Xperia Z5 camera

In action, the Sony Xperia Z5 camera handles its own, especially in daylight where visuals are crisp and quite sharp.

At night, it’s a little different, with details going soft in the background, losing quality while still keeping colours dynamic and poppy.

For some reason, the camera defaults to 8 megapixel out of the box, so if you use it, make sure you set it up to capture in the full 23 megapixel native resolution from the get-go, so you don’t miss out on quality.

Test image from the Sony Xperia Z5 camera
Test image from the Sony Xperia Z5 camera

Overall, it’s a fine camera, and there’s also some 4K capture support thrown in, just like on the previous Z3, providing a bit more than Full HD to the few of you with a 4K UHD TV.

Unfortunately, the camera is very slow to load, which is a bit of a shame since there’s a proper physical button to get the camera up and running. That’s been a key feature on Sony flagship phones for some time now, and while it’s still here, the performance of the phone lets this element down.


That performance should be better, and the benchmarks aren’t bad, but the issues reveal themselves a few days into using the Z5.

In fact, one thing that is obvious is the heat Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 throws out, returning memories of the HTC One from earlier in the year.

There’s apparently a revision variant that fixes this, but we don’t think Sony has opted for that, as the processor gets mighty toasty once you start using the device.

Hold the Z5 just under the camera and you’ll feel it, with the heat evident across your fingertips.


At least the glass back on the Z5 does a better job at dispersion than what HTC had going with the solid aluminium casing on its One M9, so you won’t be complaining for too long, and there are certainly very, very few hiccups on this phone.

Despite this, performance was usually ok — it’s a fairly speedy eight-core Snapdragon processor found inside, after all — though you will find some slowdowns here and there, but we’ll get to that later.

For the most part, people should be happy with what’s on offer, with a really capable chip inside the phone, and the same one that Sony has used for its recent Xperia Z4 Tablet.

That means pretty much anything you install for the next two years should have no problem running, even if you see the odd spot of lag as each app loads or switches, which you seem to on this phone.