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Sony Xperia Z5, Premium and Compact: are they really worth the money?

At IFA this year, Sony presented the Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact and Xperia Z5 Premium. Three new flagships from a major Android manufacturer have landed, and I'm struggling to see a convincing reason to recommend any of them. Join us as we explore whether these new devices are really worth your money.

sony xperia z5 calling
Are the new Xperia Z devices worth the money? / © ANDROIDPIT

Overpriced

Let's start with the Xperia Z5 Compact. Sony's Compact series has traditionally filled a market gap: there are very few current smartphones that are smaller than five inches yet still shine with high-end hardware.

We have praised Sony in the past for delivering high-end Compact phones (such as the Xperia Z3 Compact) that have been almost as good as their larger cousins. So why has Sony decided to produce a Compact model that looks like it's fallen from a Toys'R'Us shelf this year? The Z5 Compact lacks the sophistication and craftsmanship that both its predecessors had.

Sony Xperia Z5 compact vs Sony Xperia Z3 compact side 1
The Xperia Z5 Compact (bottom) is considerably simpler in design than its predecessor. / © ANDROIDPIT

The Z5 Compact has some improvements, as you’d expect from a generational leap. The internal memory has doubled, the battery is slightly larger, and the processor is faster. The new lineup now includes a fingerprint sensor too.

Despite this, the display resolution is still an absurdly low 1,280 x 720, with a pixel density that's even below that of Apple's Retina-display (which may be adequate, but still falls far short of what's possible on modern smartphones). It’s slightly thicker and heavier than its predecessor, has a plastic body, and the same 2 GB of RAM, but still Sony wants to charge you more to own one.

The bottom line: This is a mid-range smartphone that costs around US$620 and in 2015, you can pay far less and receive far more.

Sony Xperia Z5 compact vs Sony Xperia Z3 Compact display
From the front, the differences between the Z5 Compact (left) and Z3 Compact are subtle. / © ANDROIDPIT

Overdone

With the Z5 Premium Sony has revealed its own inconsistency. Sony has been sticking with Full-HD displays on its hardware, despite Samsung, LG and Motorola releasing devices with QHD technology over the past 12 months, claiming that the benefit of QHD to the viewing experience is negligible.

It’s not an unreasonable argument, and it was brave of Sony to eschew the obvious marketing benefit that a QHD phone could offer on the grounds that it wouldn’t improve the user-experience.

Sony Xperia Z5 premium vs Samsung Galaxy S6 edgeplus Side 3
You could argue Z5 Premium (bottom) doesn't show the design evolution of likes of the recent Samsung devices. / © ANDROIDPIT

But why don't Sony’s arguments regarding 2K resolution apply to the even higher 4K resolution? We can only guess that Sony sees the "world’s first 4K smartphone" as a selling point, because it cannot be down to user-benefit. The Xperia Z5 Premium will now be able to correctly display 4K videos (which smartphones have been capable of recording for a while), but on a 5.5-inch display, it's going to be essentially undetectable to the human eye.

Given that a 4K display doesn’t provide a significant reason to purchase the Z5 Premium, what does justify the US$899 price? The processor is the same as on the Z5 and Z5 Compact. The camera is identical. The Z5 Premium is larger and heavier. Is the extra 1 GB of RAM (4 GB compared to 3 GB on the standard Z5) worth the extra cost?

Sony Xperia Z5 premium compact 1
Three 2015 Xperia handsets with no significant reason to buy any of them. / © ANDROIDPIT

Yes the battery is bigger, but you can bet it will be drained quicker after pushing around all those pixels. And it's not as if the Z5 Premium presents a more premium design – it looks just like a larger, non-premium Xperia Z5. The bottom line: it’s a more expensive version of the Xperia Z5 but isn’t really any better.

Unnecessary 

So we come to the regular Xperia Z5. If you liked the Xperia Z3+ then you will probably like the Xperia Z5, because its practically identical. The Z5 is a little thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but the battery is almost the same, the screen resolution and size are the same, the internal memory and RAM are the same, and so is the processor.

In other words, the Xperia Z5 boasts two main selling points: the fingerprint sensor – which is now pretty standard on Android – and the fact that its camera app no ​​longer crashes due to overheating. And that's pretty much all. 

Sony Xperia Z5 vs Sony Xperia Z3 display
The Xperia Z5 (left) and the Xperia Z3: how different are they really? / © ANDROIDPIT

I feel that Sony Mobile no longer has a passion for smartphones. The Z series has passed its peak, and until it is reinvented, its relevance in the market will continue to dwindle. Einstein said the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results. What does that say about Sony?

What’s your take on the latest Xperia Z devices? Let us know in the comments.

Readers' favorite comments

  • Sandeep Joshi Sep 5, 2015

    Half baked article with possible bias. Failed to acknowledge the camera improvements making it possibly the fastest focusing camera on phones! And that's what's making most noise across the whole xperia line.

  • Kelin Sep 6, 2015

    OMG! This review is so biased!

    Dear Author,

    I am sorry, but you absolutely fail to see the about the major improvements, features and the positive side of what the Z5 series can really offer!

    1. The compact Z5 looks like a thing from the shelf of "Toys'R'Us"? Thats funny because Xperia line of smart phone are perhaps the best looking phones... along with the iPhone and now Galaxy S6 series! So how exactly did you feel when Samsung released the Band aid Galaxy S5!

    2. Regarding Retina display of used in Apple products, the display is manufactured by LG! and not Apple itself.

    3. Sony has put in a new camera sensor with 23 MP with a hybrid auto focus technology that promises the fastest auto-focus ever in a smart phone, Clear Image Zoom, improved low-light performance and optical image stabilization.

    Now please realize this point, the camera sensors used on Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 are manufactured by Sony! and Nikon and Fujifilm camera sensors too. The Hasselblad cameras are actually Sony cameras with custom bodied. So the world knows Sony manufactures the best Image Sensors.

    4. Yes! the Z5 series are 0.6 mm thicker than its predecessors, it is perhaps a method Sony has come up with to resolve the heating issue with Snapdragon 810 processor. Atleast its not as bulky as Motorola Phones.

    5. Appreciate the integration of a finger print sensor embedded in the power button and it is just in the right place!! Unlike iPhone or Galaxy phones, where a shift of position and fingers are required to use the sensor!

    6. Inspite of being water proof flagship, Sony still provides EXPANDABLE STORAGE upto 200 GB using Micro SD card, which neither an iPhone or a Galaxy phone does.

    7. And lastly for the price point... Yes! Sony prices their phone more... But in the part of the world where I live, an iPhone consistently costs more or pretty much the same as Sony Flagships! And yeah... when Galaxy S6 & Edge model released, it sure costed a bomb! Infact more than an iPhone! Its only now that prices of S6 & Edge model have come down. Contract phones are just not available in my country.

    8. The two day battery life of the Xperia has been challenged regardless of history telling us that Sony can pull it off.

    9. Sony has always come up with true innovations... Look at their water proof USB ports! Tell me one other company that has flagships with water proof rating (not resistant) like Sony does! I always listen to music in the shower, which I cannot do with other phones! and dive into a swimming pool with the Xperia and snap pictures!


    4k screen resolution (So it is 2 times 1080p)
    2 day battery life
    New 23 MP camera sensor with the fastest auto-focus in the market
    Perfect finger print sensor
    Water proof and dust resistance

    Sounds like a game changer!

    10. Coming from Social Science background, I really don't know how much of technology or technical aspects you perceive!
    And yeah! Now I see why you have a biased review, Years of Political Journalism! :D

    We hope you give us a more neutral or unBiased insight or reviews of smart phones from next time!

    Best wishes :)

  • Rob Sep 5, 2015

    Your comments indicate you really don't know much about the Sony Xperia line of Z lineup..

    Perhaps you don't possess the proper knowledge base for commenting.

    There's no indication you have even picked one up... But instead this "article" appears to be based on reading the spec sheet.

18 comments

Write new comment:
  • dear author... your lovely galaxy phone cost more than $150-$200 US in indonesia... for Z5 compact, you can get 2 with one iphone 6s.
    oh and fyi, i've been using iphone since the first model until i change into first xperia z. almost 3 years my xperia z never show any lag or slow phone performance.
    to be honest, samsung may be the best phone among android clan but sony just below samsung, when in price category, for me xperia line up really worth the money... cheaper than galaxy s6, iphone 6/6s.

  • Mark Sep 7, 2015 Link to comment

    Commenters, This article was not a review as you are assuming. In the title on the main page it said ( in a box ) OPINION. It is the authors opinion that is expressed here. You may not agree with his opinion, but it is not a reason to be insulting. This is just my Opinion. :)

  • hm...What z3 price will be after z5 appear??

  • Sad to see any website resort to trolling articles as clickbait.
    Just sad.

  • Kelin Sep 6, 2015 Link to comment

    OMG! This review is so biased!

    Dear Author,

    I am sorry, but you absolutely fail to see the about the major improvements, features and the positive side of what the Z5 series can really offer!

    1. The compact Z5 looks like a thing from the shelf of "Toys'R'Us"? Thats funny because Xperia line of smart phone are perhaps the best looking phones... along with the iPhone and now Galaxy S6 series! So how exactly did you feel when Samsung released the Band aid Galaxy S5!

    2. Regarding Retina display of used in Apple products, the display is manufactured by LG! and not Apple itself.

    3. Sony has put in a new camera sensor with 23 MP with a hybrid auto focus technology that promises the fastest auto-focus ever in a smart phone, Clear Image Zoom, improved low-light performance and optical image stabilization.

    Now please realize this point, the camera sensors used on Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 are manufactured by Sony! and Nikon and Fujifilm camera sensors too. The Hasselblad cameras are actually Sony cameras with custom bodied. So the world knows Sony manufactures the best Image Sensors.

    4. Yes! the Z5 series are 0.6 mm thicker than its predecessors, it is perhaps a method Sony has come up with to resolve the heating issue with Snapdragon 810 processor. Atleast its not as bulky as Motorola Phones.

    5. Appreciate the integration of a finger print sensor embedded in the power button and it is just in the right place!! Unlike iPhone or Galaxy phones, where a shift of position and fingers are required to use the sensor!

    6. Inspite of being water proof flagship, Sony still provides EXPANDABLE STORAGE upto 200 GB using Micro SD card, which neither an iPhone or a Galaxy phone does.

    7. And lastly for the price point... Yes! Sony prices their phone more... But in the part of the world where I live, an iPhone consistently costs more or pretty much the same as Sony Flagships! And yeah... when Galaxy S6 & Edge model released, it sure costed a bomb! Infact more than an iPhone! Its only now that prices of S6 & Edge model have come down. Contract phones are just not available in my country.

    8. The two day battery life of the Xperia has been challenged regardless of history telling us that Sony can pull it off.

    9. Sony has always come up with true innovations... Look at their water proof USB ports! Tell me one other company that has flagships with water proof rating (not resistant) like Sony does! I always listen to music in the shower, which I cannot do with other phones! and dive into a swimming pool with the Xperia and snap pictures!


    4k screen resolution (So it is 2 times 1080p)
    2 day battery life
    New 23 MP camera sensor with the fastest auto-focus in the market
    Perfect finger print sensor
    Water proof and dust resistance

    Sounds like a game changer!

    10. Coming from Social Science background, I really don't know how much of technology or technical aspects you perceive!
    And yeah! Now I see why you have a biased review, Years of Political Journalism! :D

    We hope you give us a more neutral or unBiased insight or reviews of smart phones from next time!

    Best wishes :)

    • Agreed with all this fact. Sony z5 line is not the best on earth but it definitely the best from sony. Waterproof, awesome camera, mind blowing 4k screen definitely better then samsung n iphone. Cheers 🍻

  • Okay so its not worth your money. But that doesn't mean people won't buy it or no real reason they shouldn't.
    You don't mention how easy they've made the finger print scanner itself - touch the scanner and hold it normally wihout switching from the bottom to the side for gripping the phone. Now that's innovative.
    You've picked points from all three versions and termed the entire Z5 series as an underdone overpriced piece. Convenient, at best.
    Its just a future ready phone. There isn't much Quad HD content which is as readily available as 4K. Its not the only feature Sony will sell this on either. I read people ranting against the waterproof and dustproof feature. Alright it isn't useful when you see it every day but comes in handy when you don't expect it. Kinda like Insurance or Medicare.

  • You really shouldn't post this kinda rubbish online - its because of idiota like you that Sony don't do so well and are under threat from going out of business. I agree with all the other comments on here that you've clearly got something against Sony and have exaggerated half the stuff.

    Whilst Sony is slightly over-priced, so are the likes of Samsung and Apple. At least Sony put something together that is genuinely very good. It's just hard to build on something that is already really good. Sony have always did their own thing to some degree, the omnibalance design, the cameras, the waterproof feature, and they're one of the few to actually put the fingerprint scanner in a place that is actually easy to access! That being said, you can't even tell its a fingerprint scanner and I hear its remarkably quick. At least they're not trying to copy other companies...**cough** Samsung **cough**

    Despite not actually owning an xperia (sub-premium phones are more my thing), I would most definitely recommend an xperia as a premium phone to any of my friends or family.

    I suggest this post be taken down given the exaggeration with some points as its reviews like these that cause good company's like Sony to drop out of the race.

    If anyone else is reading this post, please use your brain and do proper research instead of following this rubbish.

  • Rob Sep 5, 2015 Link to comment

    Your comments indicate you really don't know much about the Sony Xperia line of Z lineup..

    Perhaps you don't possess the proper knowledge base for commenting.

    There's no indication you have even picked one up... But instead this "article" appears to be based on reading the spec sheet.

  • I couldn't disagree more, this phone upscales everything to 4 k, and unless ur 75 with fading eyesight the diff between my 720 lggflex my 1080 p note 3 and 2k nexus 6 the diff is stunning, can't wait for a waterproof 4 k phone with a 23 mp camera, plus I grew up in the 90s so I've always kinda liked Sony stuff and was sad to see em doing so bad in smartphone, but I think this one is awesome

  • tony Sep 5, 2015 Link to comment

    Waterproof? 4or 3 gigs?

    You are too harsh on Sony. Sony phones are cool, look and feel premium and are sought after. The problem is they are not readily available ( at least on my carrier) and are a little bit more expensive than the competition. Sony should get serious about being staying competitive in the marketplace.
    I have a Sony ZL, from a few years ago, and the phone is running fine, 100% perfect which I have given it to my 14 year old son, not any complaints whatsoever ( worth mentioning that this OLD Sony ZL is on a more current Android version than my "flagship" Note 4; something NO reviewers ever mention).
    So its worth to mention that Sony makes an effort to upgrade the OS at least compared to Samsung.
    I should know, I have lots of Android, mostly Samsung phones lying around my house....
    BTW ( my aging Google Nexus phone is sporting a Custom 5.1.1 rom and looks and feels AWESOME; I just had to mention that :)

  • You are a biased idiot.Not even worth reading your review or whatever you call

  • Half baked article with possible bias. Failed to acknowledge the camera improvements making it possibly the fastest focusing camera on phones! And that's what's making most noise across the whole xperia line.

  • I'm waiting for Z5 premium.

  • You do realize the Z3 Compact has the same display (720p) as the Z5 Compact?

    • As well as the z1 compact. So what? Detect a pixel with your eye on them and I will praise you. They are always doing an amazing job with screen resolution. Why the hell would you need gigantic resolutions such as 2K or 4K on a 5 and even 6 inch phone and full HD on a 4.6 inch phone when they can only have a bad influence on the performance and battery life, not really improving user experience because to a normal eye and from a normal distance, 300ppi is as sharp as 500ppi. Correct me if I am wrong, you superhumans who see what we, normal people, cannot, you who only care about the number of pixels, you who are always hungry for more and who are blind for what really matters in a phone. You have all become sick because of lies somebody told you for the sake of marketing. Think about it. A couple of years ago LG 4x and SGS3 were world wonders because of their extremely sharp displays which were just over 300ppi, that is HD resolution on a 4.7 and a 4.8 inch phone respectively. Where is that now? The main problem is in dumb people, and whoever decided to put an HD display in the z5 compact and a full HD in the z5 is someone due to whom I respect Sony the most. They have proved that, more than any other of the most popular phone manufacturers, they care about the user experience.

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