Sony Xperia Z5 vs Samsung Galaxy S6: first look
The Sony Xperia Z5 has arrived with a splash as one of a trio of new Xperia Z5 series of phones. It stands right in the middle of Sony's new flagship family of devices, and as such will enter the most heated competition with the best selling high-end devices on the market.
The most obvious rival to the Sony Xperia Z3 in the Android space is without a doubt the Samsung Galaxy S6. Both are premium phones with top grade specs and a bunch of superpowers.
We got the chance to compare the two right here at the IFA 2015 showroom floor and give you our first look comparison between the Xperia Z5 and the Galaxy S6 below.
In terms of size, the 5.1" Galaxy S6 is clearly the smaller and slightly more pocketable device. The difference is not huge, but it's there, and given that both (especially the Sony phone) are blocky devices, size does matter since the phones don't have that curvature that would make them fit more comfortable in pockets and in hand. The exact Xperia Z5 is both taller, wider and thicker than the Galaxy S6, and while both are thin, the 6.9mm S6 beats the 7.3mm Z5 in the race towards being the thinnest.
The big addition on the Xperia Z5 is a fingerprint scanner built right in the side-positioned lock/power key. It's a convenient and secure way to lock your phone, and we welcome this addition. The Galaxy S6 also has a fingerprint scanner built in the home key that resides below the display. The Xperia Z5 also has a dedicated two-way camera shutter key (all its physical buttons are on the right side), which is a nice touch for camera buffs, while the S6 has no such conveniences.
We should also mention the dual front-firing speakers on the Xperia Z5, while the Galaxy S6 has only one speaker. Keep in mind, though, that earlier we've seen no huge benefit in sound quality, despite the fact that previous Xperias feature dual speakers.
Sony is also one of a few to still make IP68-certified flagships, and the Xperia Z5 is such - protected from dust and water, and this gives you a peace of mind. The Galaxy S6 features no such extra protection from the elements. On the other hand, the Galaxy S6 has wireless charging support right out the gate, while the Xperia Z5 does not support wireless charging.
pixel peepers would inevitably stare up close and only then, you can notice that the sharper, 577ppi screen of the S6 has an advantage over the 424ppi Z5, but this really is not a huge difference by any means.
The big difference is one in technology: the Xperia Z5 uses an IPS LCD panel, while the Galaxy S6 sports the latest Samsung Super AMOLED screen. This brings all sorts of changes in color reproduction: the typical perfect blacks and excellent viewing angles on the Galaxy S6, along with its neat color calibration profiles that allow you to pick between unrealistic, but super eye-popping and contrasty colors, along with the more precisely calibrated Basic mode. The Xperia Z5, on the other hand, has the advantage of the more mature LCD technology. We're yet to compare the screens in detail and run our display benchmarks, but at first sight we can say that both screens look good to the eye.
The approach of Sony and Samsung to Android differs quite a lot: while Samsung likes to tweak Android to the extreme with its TouchWiz custom skin, Sony's user interface is a clean, simplistic affair with no extra bulk. This also shows in speed: the simpler Sony skin feels faster, with zippier animations and transitions, while the Samsung phone - with all its improvements - still has a few hiccups. We've also all heard about the RAM management issues on the Galaxy S6 and how it aggressively closes apps when multitasking, but we're yet to compare the two in terms of how well they handle multitasking.
For all else, we have Android 5.1 Lollipop on both, and both being flagships are guaranteed to get updated to Android 6.0 Marshmallow in the not too distant (but not too close either) future.
Processor and Memory
Samsung took the industry by surprise by being the first in the space with a mass roll-out of its 14nm wafer manufacturing that allowed it to roll out the Samsung Exynos 7420 system chip, an extremely capable octa-core chip using four high-performance Cortex A57 cores and four battery-savvy Cortex A53s.
Exynos 7420 vs Snapdragon 810The Sony Xperia Z5, on the other hand, uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 in - and that's important - its second iteration, where a lot of the overheating issues have been fixed. The Snapdragon 810 uses a big.LITTLE Cortex A57/A53 setup, just like the Exynos 7420, and we're yet to run benchmarks and do a more detailed analysis of the chassis and the performance of the SoCs.
In terms of memory, both phones ship with 32GB of internal storage in the base model, but the Xperia Z5 manages to keep the valued microSD card expansion, while the Galaxy S6 has done away with this choice and limits users to the on-board memory only.
The Xperia Z5 features a brand new, 23-megapixel camera with one of the largest sensors on Android - a 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS sensor with a tiny pixel size, but optical stabilization and improved digital stabilization to partly make up for that. The Galaxy S6, on the other hand, features a 16-meagpixel camera with a smaller (but still, larger than most others) 1/2.6-inch sensor that also supports optical image stabilization (OIS).
The Z5 offers super fast auto focus and one of the largest sensor on a phoneUnfortunately, we have not yet had a chance to test the cameras on the Xperia Z5, but Sony does promise some notable improvements among which the fastest auto-focus system ever on mobile with focusing speeds of just 0.03 seconds. The magic happens thanks to a hybrid system, a key part of which is the presence of many more phase detection pixels on the sensor. Admittedly, the Galaxy S6 also sports phase-detection auto-focus, but with less focal points.
Both phones are capable of recording 4K Ultra HD video, and that's good news for video enthusiasts not only because of the sheer resolution, but also because of higher average bit-rates. We've seen that Sony has done some improvements to heat management, and the camera seems to overheat less, so that you can record longer busts of 4K video on the Z5. Keep in mind that recording length is still limited to a few minutes on both phones.
All in all, it's clear that with the Sony Xperia Z5 and Samsung Galaxy S6 we're looking at two truly premium smartphones with excellent build quality and great visual appeal and style.
Both come with the high price tags that are common with such devices, and that would be around $649 for a full retail price. Keep in mind, though, that while that was the initial price of the Galaxy S6, it has now aged and its price has also been reduced quite significantly, so it's the better value for the money in this regard.
If money is no concern, then we should appreciate these two for what they are: good looking, fast and with very good cameras. The Xperia Z5 still seems like the a bit zippier phone, and it has got waterproofing going for it, which is nice. For all else, though, it's a tie - pick the one you like most if you're in a hurry, or wait for our more detailed analysis coming soon for the full breakdown of the features.