Sony’s latest Xperia Z5 series of flagship smartphones are officially available in Malaysia. While companies like Samsung and Apple released two separate flagships with different screen sizes, Sony went one step further by introducing three different models in the new Xperia Z5 lineup – the Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact, and the Xperia Z5 Premium.
Before we get into detail, let’s take a look at all three devices as a whole. Every Xperia Z5 model sports Sony’s iconic OmniBalance design language, coupled with a metal and glass body for a premium finish. What’s different this time is visible at the back: the Z5 and Z5 Compact feature frosted glass backs, eliminating any issues with smudges and fingerprint stains. The Z5 Premium, on the other hand, goes for the opposite end of the spectrum, opting for a mirror finish – it’s particularly fetching in the Chrome colourway, but it’s going to take a lot of care to not scratch over time.
Also, each Z5 model is tailored for different types of users. The Z5 Compact, as its name suggests, sports a smaller 4.6-inch 720p display virtually not seen in any flagship smartphone in recent years. The standard Z5 features a more mainstream 5.2-inch 1080p panel, while the Z5 Premium goes all out with a dynamic Full HD/4K screen, switching to a higher resolution in specific apps.
All three devices are powered by the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa core processor. Also notable is the introduction of a brand new 23MP Exmor RS for mobile sensor that’s already being touted as the best in the business, marking the first time Sony has changed its camera sensor since the Xperia Z1. The front camera is a 5MP Exmor R shooter.
The rear camera is particularly interesting, and on all three devices the camera app launches really quickly; you can also open the app via a long press of the dedicated shutter button. While the area where we did our hands on for the three devices had poor lighting conditions, the Xperia devices had little problem when it comes to auto focus. However, while the AF lock was consistently good, from my initial tests the Z5 phones still retain a poor trait of previous Xperia devices: an overly-aggressive image processor. While the camera was exceptionally fast and snappy, the resulting images have a tendency to be overly processed with poor detail preservation.
But, we’ll definitely be spending more time with the camera in our full review.
In addition, the Xperia Z5 series also introduces a fingerprint sensor for the first time. Located on the redesigned power button it allows users to unlock instantly after pressing the power button. After a quick set up, the device’s fingerprint sensor is very reliable, unlocking seamlessly when pressed.
Not to forget, the device is also IP68-rated for dust and water resistance.
Now let’s take a closer look at each model.
Xperia Z5 Compact
The smallest version of the three in terms of size, the Z5 Compact is actually targeted towards women who prefer a small smartphone to fit their hands; this is reflected in the bright matte colours that the Z5 Compact is available in. Nevertheless, the powerful hardware means that this device will also appeal to other consumers looking for something small and powerful.
Having grown accustomed to larger smartphones over the past two years, the Z5 Compact feels astonishingly small. The Z5 Compact is the only device here with a polycarbonate frame, but that in no way leads to it feeling less premium than its counterparts. This applies to the 720p display resolution as well – with a screen this small, Sony’s rationale is spot on. There is no visible difference when comparing the Z5 Compact and Z5’s displays – both offer high pixel densities.
It seems an alien concept today, but being able to reach all four corners of the screen without stretching my thumb or shifting the Z5 Compact’s position is quite a refreshing feeling. The Z5 Compact’s heft and thickness feels just about right, lending a solid feeling in the hand.
Each side button in the Z5 series are customised based on their size. The Z5 Compact’s side buttons were a little too closely spaced together for my liking. All buttons are located on the right side, and volume rocker is placed between the power button (located at the niddle). The camera shutter button, which is close to the bottom of the right, sits far too low to be pressed while the phone is in portrait mode.
As far as first impressions go, there is again no visible difference in performance between the Z5 Compact and its more powerful brothers. Everything was buttery smooth, while the camera was just as responsive on the Z5 Compact as it was on the Z5 Dual. Of course, given the short space of time we spent with the devices we weren’t able to test out how the device fares over a longer period of time – that would have to wait until the review.
Xperia Z5 Dual
Corresponding to the recent trend in the country, Sony Malaysia is bringing in the dual-SIM version of the Xperia Z5 for the Malaysian market. The Z5 Dual offers dual-SIM, dual-LTE support, matching the flagship offerings by Samsung, Xiaomi and honor, among others.
As the “mainstream” version of the three flagships, the Xperia Z5 Dual offers little surprises from our initial observations. The frosted glass back is definitely a nice touch, and adds a unique look to Sony’s already handsome design language. Sony’s range of colours for the Z5 Dual (Black, White, and Gold) further complements the overall classy feel of the device.
However, the Z5 Dual has the same design issue that the Z5 Compact has: the odd location of the volume rocker. On most Android devices, the volume rocker would lie on the left side of the device, closer to the top. On the Z5 series, this space is occupied by the SIM and microSD card slots (covered by a flap for water and dust resistance). This means that Sony had to relocate the side buttons, and its final location isn’t really the most ideal.
Nevertheless, if you can overlook this design issue, the Z5 Dual remains one of the better designed flagship devices in the market today. That is, of course, before you take a look at the Xperia Z5 Premium.
Xperia Z5 Premium Dual
This is actually Sony’s first ever flagship phablet. While Sony has toyed with huge 6-inch devices previously, it never actually crafted one with flagship specs, until the Z5 Premium. And boy, did it do a fine job. Never mind the fact that this is the world’s first smartphone fitted with a 4K display, nor the glass back treated with a mirror finish, but it’s really in the fact that this is the first smartphone display with a dynamic resolution.
To keep smartphones thin, manufacturers create displays with static resolutions unlike those we find on PC and laptop monitors. Sony has bucked the trend with the Z5 Premium, offering a 4K display that only switches to the high resolution mode in certain apps, such as the video player, YouTube, camera, and Gallery. All other content, including the home screen and other apps, are rendered in Full HD or lower resolution. This is what not only allows the Z5 Premium to maintain the fantastic two-day battery life promise it started with the Xperia Z3, but also balance performance and keeping the Snapdragon 810 processor cool. Basically, all aspects that consumers want to remain in a high-resolution smartphone.
As a result, this may be one of the most efficient flagship smartphones today – though most of these enhancements will go unnoticed. What will be apparent is native 4K content playback when you need it, and exceptional battery life overall. And, that Chrome colourway is really, really cool (even if the effect lasts a few weeks until you eventually scratch the back).
Plus, like the standard Z5 Dual, Sony Malaysia will be bringing in the dual-SIM variant of the Z5 Premium. Nevertheless, one major stumbling block would be in the Z5 Premium’s retail price. Available now for pre-order for RM3,099, few would be able to justify the Z5 Premium’s asking price, especially when the Z5 Dual goes for RM500 less.
Stay tuned for our full review of the Sony Xperia Z5 Dual!