Sony Xperia Z5 vs Xperia Z3: first look
Just a couple of hours ago, Sony took the stage at this year's IFA superconference to announce its flagship for 2015 – the Xperia Z5. Figuring out whether it's a worthy annual upgrade over the Xperia Z3 is not the easiest task. Thankfully, we had some time with the new handset and brought the old one with us for some mano a mano, or should we say – phone teléfono a teléfono – between the two. So, let's take a closer look at the Z5, as compared to the Z3, shall we?
At first sight, the Sony Xperia Z5 and the Xperia Z3 have a lot in common. They both follow the same design principles – a stark, metal-framed rectangle, with glass panels on both front and back. It is here, where we can see the first difference – the rear of the new flagship has what Sony calls a “frosted glass” finish. It's more matte than glass and, as a result, slightly less slippery. In terms of size – the two are indistinguishable, measuring at 5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 inches (146 x 72 x 7.3 mm). The Xperia Z5 is just slightly heavier, at 5.43 oz (154 g) compared to the Xperia Z3's 5.36 oz (152 g). Sony has also not dealt away with the IP67 rating, as its newest flagship can still resist water and dust ingress. On the front, it still has the stereo speakers on both sides of the 5.2” display, housed behind the same thin speaker grilles.
Looking at the sides of the two devices, subtle differences can be found – most evidently, the power button of the Z5 is now much bigger, as it needs to hold the brand-new fingerprint scanner. Additionally, the Z5's frame is a bit flatter around the sides, allowing for a slightly more comfortable grip. Finally, there's a really stylish touch, with the Xperia logo being etched into the left side of the Z5's metal frame.
There's not a whole lot to say here, as the IPS LCD screens on the Sony Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z3 are nearly identical. They have the same diagonal size of about 5.2" and Sony still refuses to go into QHD (2560 x 1440) territory, so the Z5's resolution is still 1080 x 1920 pixels (resulting in 424 PPI density). The two screens exhibit pretty, popping colors, produce excellent details, and allow for generously wide viewing angles.
Sony's Xperia interface has never been very complex, like, say, LG's UX or Samsung's TouchWiz, providing fewer unneeded options, and keeping the balance between stock Android looks, and a branded UI imagery. The Z3 and Z5 have practically identical interface editions, with all features, functions, transition and sound effects intact, so you won't have a learning curve if you are upgrading from the predecessing Xperia phone.
Processor and memory
When the Sony Xperia Z3 came out, it was well in league with the most powerful Android phones of its time and still is a pretty capable handset, sporting a 2.5GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 801 SoC. With the Xperia Z5, Sony had to come out with a proper warrior for the 64-bit age, so it stuck the well-known Snapdragon 810 under the smartphone's hood. The new processor has 8 cores, clocked at 1.9 GHz, but has a mist of doubt surrounding it, due to overheating rumors. Time and vigorous testing will show whether the Z5's processor can outperform its predecessor, maintain a snappy feel, and leave the phone comfortable to the touch.
As for memory, both handsets have 3 GB of RAM, which is still relevant in the realm of flagship smartphones and promises smooth multitasking. Storage-wise, the Z3 could go all the way down to 16 GB, whereas we've only been shown a 32 GB version of the Z5, so the new flagship may come out only in the latter memory variation. Both handsets accept microSD of up to 128 GB for storage expansion.
Sony has outfitted the Xperia Z5 with a brand-new camera sensor, packing a 23 MP resolution, and some nifty software tricks backing in up. Most notably, the new snapper auto-focuses for 0.03 seconds, allowing us to take quick shots of fleeting moments. The software allows us to make full use of the 23 megapixels and zoom up to 5 times with no noticeable quality loss, as per Sony's words. Additionally, there is a new virtual stabilization algorithm, which should allow for clear shots to be made in less-than-ideal conditions, such as when moving or when the lighting is low.
The Xperia Z3 packs a 20.7 MP sensor – still a pretty generous resolution, but its image quality and performance in dark environments left a lot to be desired. How much better the Z5 is in this regard, we will be able to tell after we've had enough time to play with it when we get our hands on a test unit here in the office.
Sony's flagship refresh cycle seems a bit garbled and confusing by now. While the company planned to maintain a 6-month refresh for its Xperia Z-series, it only took 3 phones for it to realize that something might be wrong with this plan. Or at least that's how it seemed for a while, since the manufacturer kept silent many months post the Xperia Z3 release. But then, just 3 months ago, it dropped the Xperia Z3+, which seems to be right in the middle between the Z3 and the Z5, packing the same Snapdragon 810 SoC as the new flagship, but lacking the neat camera upgrades.
So, is the Z5 better than the Z3+ or is it another unneeded addition to the Xperia family? Well, we definitely see it as the better flagship, especially with the promising camera upgrades and its subtle, but cool design tweaks. Out of the two, we'd say the Xperia Z3+ was the unneeded launch. The Z5 definitely seems to have what it takes to carve its own place in users' hearts. But let's wait and see!