Every time Sony’s smartphone business moves out of sight, the Japanese company comes back at consumers with a new flagship. It doesn’t seem business as usual because every time the company tries to make a comeback of sorts with vengeance, it ends up being, well, a much ado about nothing.
Yet, Sony bounces back. It goes about its business — of bringing one flagship every six months — as if nothing happened. And there seems to be no stopping it. In fact, Sony has gone ahead and launched three flagships this season: the Xperia Z5 Compact, Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Premium. The Xperia Z5 — the subject of this review — is the direct successor to the Xperia Z3 Plus and comes with a rather high price of Rs.52,990. Sony says, the Xperia Z5 is its best phone ever. The surprising bit is that we agree. But there is a catch. There’s something about Sony’s OmniBalance design philosophy. Like it or not, you can’t ignore it.
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In a sea of iPhone look-alikes, Sony’s flagship phones are a rare breath of fresh air. They look different — from the crowd — and yet so familiar. Often, familiarity breeds contempt, but in the case of the Xperia Z5, everything somehow fits in place. If you were looking for a dramatic overhaul in design, well, stop there. The Xperia Z5 is still very much yesteryear. Sony insists it is different from the Xperia Z3+, and it is, but only for someone who is as observant as Sherlock.
For the regular folk it’s still two slabs of glass held together by Aluminium frame. Look closely, and you’ll realise that unlike previous Xperia Z phones, the Xperia Z5 is non-reflective and does not smudge, easily. This is because Sony has used a new ‘frosted’ form of glass on the back. It is basically glass with matte-finish. While, it may come off as ‘less durable’ on first look, it feels really very nice in hand. Sony has used the same matte-finish material on the Aluminium frame as well. Meanwhile, rubberised bumper corners act as shock absorbents should you drop the phone. Focus is on minimalistic design — which is nice — but there are trade-offs.
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For one, the Xperia Z5 is a little more boxed out or compact than previous Xperia Zs. This means there are no curves, at all. In fact, even the frame (that had a slight bulge in the previous generation) is sharp. The outer frame is slightly raised on both sides of the glass. We understand it’s a mechanism to protect the glass as well as to save it from accidently slipping off your hand, but it appears more like an aberration. Overall, it gives out the impression that the Z5 was done in a hurry.
At 7.3mm and 154 grams, we can still live with its ‘sort of’ chubby parameters, but the fact that it is heavier and thicker than the Xperia Z3+ and also has larger screen bezels (with the same screen size) in comparison doesn’t help its case. The biggest cosmetic change in the Xperia Z5, has, in fact, been born out of compulsion. For the first time — in forever — Sony has omitted its trademark circular power button and replaced it with a rectangular one housing a fingerprint scanner.
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Now we have seen fingerprint scanners under the screen and on the back cover but Sony has put one on the side of the phone. Quite an interesting position but it works well once you get used to it. The button that houses it is placed somewhat deeper than other regular buttons, and often takes a while to record your fingerprint because of this placement. The scanner is, however, fast. While we are on buttons, here’s a thought: Sony should have placed the volume rocker slightly higher. Meanwhile, the physical camera shutter button stays put at its earlier position.
The left edge is nearly vacant with the exception of dualSIM and microSD card slots (under a protective flap) and a nicely trimmed Xperia logo etched at the lower end. The Xperia Z5 like other top-of-the-line Xperias is also IP68 certified for dust and water resistance (over 1.5 meter and 30 minutes). At a time when rivals are totting 2K screens, Sony is like, “hey, it’s my way or the highway.” So, you either get a FullHD on the Xperia Z5, or a 4K screen on the Xperia Z5 Premium. Bottom-line is, you basically get the same deal in the Xperia Z5 as you got in yesteryear’s Xperia Z3+.
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Not that it is bad. In fact the FullHD display of the Xperia Z5 is a valid argument why the 4K screen of the Xperia Z5 Premium is an overkill. But, 2K makes more sense, any day, especially for the price that the Z5 commands. The screen of the Xperia Z3+ was good and so is the screen of the Xperia Z5. It’s nice and crisp with excellent viewing angles. Colours are spot on, and in case you want to tinker around, Sony’s X-Reality and Super-vivid modes help saturate colours even further. On the downside, it doesn’t get as bright and punchy as the Super AMOLED panels of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge.