Sony Xperia Z5 feels like it's playing catch-up

Sony's latest smartphone ticks all the right boxes in terms of features and hardware, but there is no escaping the feeling that it is merely playing catch-up rather than trying to lead its competitors.

The Z5 has a 64-bit octa-core processor and sharp full high-definition display - both standard offerings in many brands. It has a fingerprint sensor, which Sony must have finally been compelled to add to boost its feature count.

The sensor is in a rather unusual place though - on the power button at the right edge of the phone. Most phones have it on the front home button, or at the rear panel just under the camera.

I didn't even realise there was a sensor there until I chanced upon it in the settings page. It was easy to touch the sensor with my right thumb to unlock the phone, but left-handers might find the process more awkward.

After putting the same 20MP camera in several iterations of the Xperia Z phones, Sony has at last moved to a 23MP camera with the Z5.

What might create some confusion is that the Z5 comes in two other variants here.

There is a Z5 Premium that has a larger 5.5-inch 4K screen. There is also the smaller 4.6-inch Z5 Compact. The three versions share certain components like the camera and processor, but differ in features like battery size, display resolution and RAM. So it can get confusing trying to decide which Xperia Z5 to get.

One big selling point of the Xperia Z series has been its water and dust resistance, and I know of friends who have bought it for this very reason.

But otherwise, the Z5 feels like the unsatisfying upgrade that fans do not deserve, especially with the new camera.

While I can applaud Sony for its camera hardware, the persistent problem has always been on the software side.

With previous Xperia Z phones, it manifests in the form of a frustrating lag after the shutter button is pressed. There is also the weak low-light mode which drains indoor and night shots of details and colour.

Despite having a bigger sensor with a higher pixel count, the Z5 camera suffers from the same problems.

Compared to the iPhone 6s Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which have a 12MP and 16MP camera respectively, the Z5 produces photos that do not always beat its competitors'.

The camera produces its best results in daylight using the outdoor mode. But while the photos have plenty of details and great colours, the delay in the processing of each photo means you might miss out on key moments while snapping away.

Like HTC, Sony seems to be stuck at a point where it cannot offer anything unique to users, and the Xperia Z5 might struggle in finding an audience.


PROCESSOR: 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 (quad-core 1.5 GHz + quad-core 2 GHz)
DISPLAY: 5.2-inch Full HD (1,080 x 1,920 pixels) Triluminos IPS LCD, 428 ppi pixel density
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android OS, 5.1.1 Lollipop
CAMERA: (Rear) 23 MP, 5,520 x 4,140 pixels, phase detection autofocus, LED flash; (Front) 5.1 MP, 1,080p, HDR
MEMORY: 32GB (expandable microSD slot up to 20GB), 3GB RAM
BATTERY: 2,900 mAh




Verdict: Sony's Xperia Z5 has a little of everything, but nothing to make itself stand out.

This article was first published on November 19, 2015.
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