We re-review Sony’s Xperia Z5 after more than three months of use, to see if this feature-packed flagship phone is still worthy of its five-star rating.
I’ve been a big fan of Sony’s premium smartphones for years now. The combination of slick design and desirable features make them must-have mobiles, with the only notable exception in recent times being the hot-enough-to-roast-your-marshmallows Xperia Z3+. A minor blip, thankfully, as the Xperia Z5 flagship which followed was everything I hoped for - certainly enough to warrant the full five-star rating in our in-depth review.
But how does the Xperia Z5 fare after a few months of use? Has the love dwindled, or is there still a Z5-shaped space in my heart? Here’s my three-month long-term Xperia Z5 review.
Starting with design, and the Xperia Z5’s looks haven’t faded with age, although it has picked up one hell of a scar.
There I was, bleary-eyed after a hard day’s work, shuffling out of my clothes and getting ready to collapse into bed. I slipped the Xperia Z5 from my pocket and placed it on my bedside table, but my positioning efforts were about as effective as Jeremy Hunt’s PR, because the phone immediately overbalanced and tumbled to the floor.
Now, we’re talking about a plunge of approximately 26-inches (yes, I was sad enough to measure it) onto a carpeted floor - not exactly a death-defying drop. In fact, I barely bothered to examine the Z5 when I plucked it up again, as I never expected to see any form of damage (plus I was absolutely knackered, which I think I mentioned). So imagine the shock and horror when I spotted a thin crack stretching from edge to edge across the phone’s glass backside.
My only explanation is that the Z5 landed in the perfectly wrong way, impacting on a weak spot comparable to the Death Star’s stupidly ridiculous shaft hole. However, I’ve seen a few other examples of Xperia Z5s with cracked rear ends in the past few months, so this doesn’t appear to be a one-off occurrence.
That hairline fracture does detract from the Xperia Z5’s gorgeous good looks, and given the premium price of the phone, it’s a shame that such a weakness exists. Still, at least the screen appears to be quite hardy and the phone is still working perfectly well, while the water resistance doesn’t appear to be compromised. And three months of heavy use haven’t resulted in any scuffs or other visual imperfections. That frosted surfacing really does hide smudges well.
The Xperia Z5’s fingerprint scanner is also still performing solidly, instantly recognising my digit almost every time. The only time it’s stumped is if my thumb is greasy (the usual culprit is a KFC bargain bucket) or damp. Even then, after three quick attempts the phone defaults back to PIN entry so it’s no biggie.
My opinions on the Z5’s 5.2-inch screen haven’t changed at all in the past three and a half months either. Sure, it isn’t a Quad HD beast like some of its closest rivals (Galaxy S6 and Nexus 6P included), but I’ve never missed those extra pixels and I certainly haven’t longed for the 4K madness of the Xperia Z5 Premium. Images are perfectly sharp and on super-vivid mode the colours are pleasingly rich, popping off the screen. And if you prefer more natural hues, simply switch to Sony’s X-Reality mode in the display settings. Simple.
The Xperia Z5’s speakers are decent too, with enough power to fill a small room with music or enjoy YouTube videos without plugging in earphones, even in a fairly noisy environment. Of course, you should always use headphones when you’re on a busy bus or train, kiddies. Blasting your phone’s speakers in public is one of the deadliest smartphone sins.
After three months of use, I still haven’t needed to nudge a micro SD memory card into the Xperia Z5’s slot. That 32GB of storage space is holding up nicely, with almost 9GB still free despite my downloading of plenty of apps and music, not to mention a few VR videos and Android games. It’s reassuring to know that the Z5 is easily expandable however, unlike the Galaxy S6, Nexus 6P, OnePlus 2 and a few other recent handsets.
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When I first reviewed the Xperia Z5, I noticed the occasional odd little stutter in performance, usually when opening an app. I figured that this was just a teething issue, especially as the Xperia Z5 could game with the best of them, and sure enough this seems to have been the case.
Three months on and a couple of Sony updates later, the Xperia Z5 is now a smooth operator. The Snapdragon 810 processor keeps things running well and I’ve only noticed the back end start to heat up if I shoot a long 4K video or spend a long time gaming.
As for battery life, I still consistently get a full day and a half of play per charge, providing I don’t take the mickey with non-stop heavy use. I don’t rue the lack of wireless charging, especially as the USB port is exposed rather than hidden away beneath a fiddly flap, although I would have liked some support for Type-C USB. Especially as I always manage to stab the charging cable at the port the wrong way around, every single time.
I’m still more than happy with the Xperia Z5’s cameras too. That 23-megapixel updated lens on the back is consistently strong and impressively versatile, only struggling when the lighting is very dim - and then you have the powerful LED flash to fall back on. The Z5 deals with motion well (only very fast-moving objects like the BB-8 can outfox it) and still does a solid job when recording HD or 4K footage, thanks in part to the excellent built-in stabilisation features.
Read next: Sony Xperia Z5 camera in-depth supertest
So, after three months of regular use, would we recommend picking up the Sony Xperia Z5 in 2016? Certainly. Some of its rivals have denser displays or perform better in benchmarking tests, but the Xperia Z5 is still one of the best for staying entertained and up-to-date on the move.
Of course, there is a ‘but’ right here, and it’s this: MWC is just around the corner (February 22 to be exact), with a fresh new range of flagship phones set to be announced. Sony is unlikely to push out the Xperia Z6 just yet (we reckon it’ll appear towards the end of the year), but the likes of LG and Samsung will be showing off their latest premium mobiles instead. So if you really want the very best mobile tech, it might be worth holding off a month or so to see what is launched.
And if you do still decide to grab an Xperia Z5, we recommend picking up a case for it too. That might unfortunately cover up the sexy glass and metal frame, but it’ll also keep your expensive new gadget from getting cracked up like mine.
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