Xperia Z5 Dual: Dual identity


Pretty as a picture: The Sony Xperia Z5 Dual is, as its name suggests, a dual-sim smartphone. — Photos: TAN KIT HOONG/The Star

Pretty as a picture: The Sony Xperia Z5 Dual is, as its name suggests, a dual-sim smartphone. — Photos: TAN KIT HOONG/The Star

Sony’s latest flagship smartphone houses a 23-megapixel camera.

Sony has long been one of the major players in the Android ­market but some of its newer ­flagship models have yet to see commercial success.

It now has a new strategy which may help it reach a wider audience – its latest flagship, the Z5, comes in three variants – besides the main Z5 model, there is also a more expensive Z5 Premium and a smaller Z5 Compact.

We review the Z5 Dual which, as the name suggests, is the dual SIM variant of the main Z5.

Familiar design

The Z5 has a symmetrical design that should be familiar to its fans. The metal frame gives it a premium touch while the four edges are reinforced with polycarbonate plastic for ruggedness.

A welcome change is the matte glass back panel, which feels a lot more consistent with the design language, compared to the glass back panels of its predecessors.

Sony Xperia Z5 Dual
Having the Home button on the side makes it easy to unlock the Xperia Z5.

The right side of the device houses all the physical buttons, including the home button which also doubles up as a fingerprint sensor. Having the fingerprint sensor on the side made it easy to unlock the device with just one hand, as the sensor was fast and accurate.

The Z5 has 32GB of internal memory and has an independent microSD card slot for those requiring additional storage. (Unlike other devices on the market, the second SIM card slot is not used to double as the microSD card slot.)

One of the unique selling points of Sony’s Xperia devices has been the water and dust resistance, a tradition that the Z5 continues. It adheres to the IP68 certification – the device is water resistant for up to 30 minutes and at a depth of 1.5m.

Turning up the heat

The Z5 features uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor and has 3GB RAM which is enough firepower for lag-free operation.

It runs on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and Sony has said it’s committed to upgrading it to Android 6 Marshmallow once it becomes available.

Sony Xperia Z5 Dual
The Small Apps menu gives you quick access to apps and utilities.

Sony’s version of Android comes with some nifty features, such as the Small Apps menu which gives you quick access to apps and utilities such as the web browser, stopwatch and calculator.

It’s a shame that the device heats up very easily, a common issue with Androids fitted with the Snapdragon 810.

Using Google Maps, playing games and even watching YouTube videos heated the device quite a bit.

Megapixel machine

The Z5’s back camera boasts an impressive 23-megapixel sensor, which is ahead of most flagships on the market.

However, just like its predecessors, the Z5’s photo quality in auto mode is affected by poor software optimisation – pictures appeared softer around the edges more than they should.

While the photos are passable for social media usage, we were hoping that the additional megapixels would have been put to better use.

Manual mode produces much better quality photos than auto mode, but the average user may not have the time to fiddle with the manual settings to get the best out of the camera.

Sony Xperia Z5 Dual
The Z5’s back camera boasts an impressive 23-megapixel sensor, which is way ahead of most flagships on the market.

You can access the camera at anytime by holding the physical camera shutter button even when the device is locked. The camera button has two levels of pressure – press softly to focuses and fully press it to capture a shot.

The physical camera button itself is something that we are glad to have, as hardly any of Sony’s rivals on the market have it. The button is also helpful when taking underwater shots.

While the autofocus speed was very fast, we were a little disappointed with the slight delay after capturing each photo.

We thought it was caused by the large resolution, but the same delay is there even when we lowered the resolution to 8 megapixels. There was an update during the review period that improved the speed to a more acceptable level.

Multimedia Xperience

Sony has done a very good job with the speakers on the Z5. We are great fans of devices with front facing speakers, and the Z5’s stereo speakers are perfectly placed at the top and bottom of the device, which makes perfect sense when you are watching videos in landscape mode.

The way it’s positioned is also aesthetically pleasing as it doesn’t look out of place from the overall design of the device. Audio quality is as good as it gets from smartphone speakers.

The Z5’s 5.2in screen is good for multimedia consumption. The device comes with white balance adjustments for the screen to cater to the different tastes of users, whether they want their screen to be more natural or vibrant.

Sony Xperia Z5 Dual
The Z5 Dual has a more humble full HD resolution but is no less pretty.

Unlike the Z5 Premium which boasts a 4K resolution screen, the Z5 Dual has a more humble full HD resolution, which to us makes more practical sense.

The screen is more power efficient, and chances are you won’t be able to tell it apart from higher resolution screens with the naked eye anyway.

One area where the screen can be improved upon is visibility under the sun, as we had trouble using Google Maps outdoors even with the brightness at max.

Battery life was actually respectable and held up better than most other smartphones — it managed to easily last from morning to night on a single charge with average usage.

Battery drain was a lot faster while playing games though, which is a pity as the Z5 handled graphics intensive games like Need For Speed and Temple Run without a hitch. Game play was smooth and we enjoyed the experience with the front-facing speakers.

Conclusion

The improved design and physical camera button are among the things that we really like about the Z5 Dual. And Sony’s decision to have the home button on the side is just brilliant because unlocking the device has not been this easy before.

The 23-megapixel camera of the Z5 came with much promise, and it did deliver in a few ways, but is let down by the delay after capturing pictures. Hopefully this can be fixed with a future software update.

Where the Z5 disappoints is that it doesn’t remain cool under pressure. We understand that graphics intensive games and prolonged periods of picture taking will inevitably heat up the device, but it was surprising that it heated up even after watching YouTube videos.

Despite the Z5 Dual suffering from middle child syndrome – it’s not the most premium or affordable device in the range – it’s a good upgrade for Sony lovers.

Pros: Nice design; IP68 certification for water and dust resistance; smooth interface; memory card slot; 23-megapixel camera. 

Cons: Overheats; camera could have been better.

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Xperia Z5 Dual (E6683)
(Sony)
Android smartphone
Operating system: Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)
Network: 4G LTE
Processor: Quad-core 2GHz Cortex-A57 + quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53
Camera: 23 megapixels with LED flash; 5.1-megapixel front-facing camera
Display: 5.2in (1,080 x 1,920 pixels)
Memory: 32GB Internal ­memory, 3GB RAM
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1, USB 2.0, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; WiFi Direct; DLNA
Features: Fingerprint sensor; IP68 certification; physical shutter button
Battery: 2,900mAh lithium-ion
Size: 146 x 72 x 7.3mm
Weight: 154g
Price: RM2,699
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review unit courtesy of Sony Malaysia Sdn Bhd, 1300-88-1233.