Sony Xperia Z5 review: Finely tuned

GSMArena team, 19 October, 2015.

Performance

Specs-wise, the Xperia Z5 is a true flagship, no doubt about it. It runs on a Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810 SoC, which is still the chip manufacturer's top offer, at least until the 820 comes along. It has more than enough power to spare, but also happens to be the exact same hardware involved in the Z3+ overheating fiasco.

Whether it was Sony's fault or a faulty chipset batch doesn't really matter, as, at the end of the day, the Z3+ did, for a fact, overheat quite badly. This bad reputation quickly started dragging down Sony mobile's fortunes and looked like a primary motivator for the quick release of the Z5 family. This did, effectively, push the flagship issue under the rug and we are also happy to report that, as expected, Sony has made sure the Z5 doesn't suffer from overheating.

Sony Xperia Z5

Sony has really gone the extra length to ensure the Z5 handles heat diligently by employing a dual heat-pipe cooling system and quite a bit of high-efficiency thermal paste. It definitely does a better job at pulling heat away from the chip, so, even though the Z5 and Z3+ share the same core computing silicon, the former has the added benefit of better thermal management, which is generally a major stability and performance booster. It is just like investing in a big and pricy aftermarket heat sink to replace the small OEM one on a desktop pc - quite a natural thing to do and we applaud Sony for it.

However, before we get too carried away, there is an important note to be made here. The Z5 might handle heat better than the Z3+, but it still got quite toasty during our benchmark tests. This time around, however, it is nothing to worry about and quite tolerable, so Sony did, in fact, remedy the original issues. Still, it is also worth noting that despite its small size and identical hardware, the Z5 Compact did run a little colder than its full-size sibling. That is odd, to say the least, but the Z5 did also manage to score a bit higher in CPU tests, so, perhaps, Sony is pushing it a bit harder. But, we digress.

The rest of the Z5's specs sheet seems just as worthy for a 2015 flagship. The aforementioned eight-core chip (Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2 GHz Cortex-A57) is backed up by an Adreno 430 GPU, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expendable storage. The phone's price tag also puts it squarely in the high-end realm and lets it rub shoulders with most other current flagship smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S6, the LG G4 and perhaps even the 16GB iPhone 6s, although that might be a little bit of a stretch.

We made sure to pit the Z5 against all of these phones in the benchmark comparison below and also included a few other high-end offers that come close in specs to what the Z5 has to offer, like the Xiaomi Mi 4c, HTC One M9, OnePlus 2, Meizu MX5 and others. Last, but definitely not least, we threw in a few other Xperia handsets, like the aforementioned Z5 Compact, which we recently reviewed, as well as the nicely specked mid-range Xperia M5.

First up, we have the raw CPU performance test with GeekBench 3 and this is where the eight cores get to shine. We can happily report that the Z5 is performing up to par with other Snapdragon 810 devices. It fact, Sony seem to have done a truly terrific job in utilizing the raw CPU power to the fullest extent, outshined slightly only by the OnePlus 2, which has the same chipset. The Z5 did also score a couple of hundred points more than the Compact and seeing how this is a CPU only test and the extra gig of RAM couldn't weigh in like in some other scenarios, it does seem the Z5 is staining itself a bit more.

There is an interesting observation to be made here, pertaining to the Xperia M5. Like we already mentioned, despite being a mid-range phone by design, its MediaTek Helio X10 SoC definitely holds its own and scores only a couple of hundred points below the Z5 Compact. If it is raw computational power you are after, then the latter might be a perfectly viable choice and it does come with a lower price tag than the Z5. However, the weaker GPU does take its toll in most of the other tests, so there is a definite tradeoff in making the more economical choice.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    5215
  • Meizu MX5
    5110
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    5095
  • OnePlus 2
    4429
  • Apple iPhone 6s
    4427
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    4017
  • Sony Xperia Z5 (Android 6.0.1)
    4037
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    3796
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    3795
  • HTC One M9
    3761
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    3554
  • LG G4
    3522
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    3402
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    3394
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    3321
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3285
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML (Z3580)
    2887
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    2884
  • Apple iPhone 6
    2835

AnTuTu is a compound benchmark, which also takes into account RAM and GPU performance. Surprisingly, the Z5 Compact blew all of the competition out of the water. It seems that Sony has invested in some quicker chips and now reaps the benefits with a whopping lead over its competitors, be it Snapdragon 810-based or not, including the Z5.

Taking the smaller screen resolution into account, as expected, it actually turned out that the Compact is comes out on top and outscores the full size Z5, as far as synthetic benchmarks are concerned.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    70053
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    69396
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    61481
  • Apple iPhone 6s
    59074
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    54705
  • HTC One M9
    51427
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    50875
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    50611
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    49803
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    49441
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    49273
  • Meizu MX5
    48915
  • LG G4
    48693
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML (Z3580)
    47254
  • OnePlus 2
    47207
  • Apple iPhone 6
    45545
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    38786

Basemark OS II is another all-round benchmark. It gives an overall score along with single, multi-core performance, math performance and more. One again, the Z5 really shines, especially in the single-core department. It actually leaves behind all of its Snapdragon 810-powered rival in the overall score, which is impressive. Multi-tasking, however, seems to be a bit lacking, which was also the case with the Z5 Compact. However, it is nothing serious, nor is translatable to real life performance. Our experience with the unit showed fluent performance with even the most liberal usage pattern.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 2
    1942
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    1826
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    1825
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    1769
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    1696
  • HTC One M9
    1526
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1509
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    1464
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    1410
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    1332
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    1222
  • Meizu MX5
    1163
  • Huawei Honor 7
    1038
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    804

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    4031
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    3497
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    3372
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    3089
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    3085
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2708
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    2574
  • HTC One M9
    2401
  • Huawei Honor 7
    2251
  • OnePlus 2
    2047
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1967
  • Meizu MX5
    1957
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    1538
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    1453

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    16986
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    16856
  • Meizu MX5
    16485
  • Huawei Honor 7
    13708
  • OnePlus 2
    10799
  • HTC One M9
    10128
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    9994
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    9915
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    9604
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    9198
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    8148
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    7366
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    6995
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    6168

Moving on to pure graphics tests and namely GFX Bench. The Adreno 430 GPU inside the Snapdragon 810 chip is pretty powerful and offers nice graphics performance. The Z5 is more than capable of handling even the most demanding Android game, as you would expect form a flagship device.

As you might remember, the hardware platform in question is actually shared across the whole Z5 family, which means that the smaller Z5 Compact also has the Adreno 430 at its disposal. This, combined with a 720p resolution display allows it to achieve amazing scores, even with the new Open GL ES 3.1. The Z5, with its FullHD display is a lot more modest in on-screen frame rates, but still holds its own. As for offscreen rendering, results are comparable, as expected.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6s
    79.8
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    59
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    59
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    58
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    56
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    50
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    49
  • HTC One M9
    49
  • OnePlus 2
    48
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    44.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    40
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    38.9
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    35
  • LG G4
    34
  • Meizu MX5
    27
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    23
  • Huawei Honor 7
    17

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6s
    59.6
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    57
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    51
  • HTC One M9
    50
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    49
  • OnePlus 2
    46.7
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    46
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    39
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    38
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    35
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    27.4
  • Meizu MX5
    27
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    26
  • LG G4
    25
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    24
  • Huawei Honor 7
    19

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6s
    39.5
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    27
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    26
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    25
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    24
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    24
  • Sony Xperia Z5 (Android 6.0.1)
    28
  • HTC One M9
    23
  • OnePlus 2
    22
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    21
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18.6
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    18.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    18
  • LG G4
    15
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    15
  • Meizu MX5
    10
  • Huawei Honor 7
    9.2
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    8.4

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6s
    53.6
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    39
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    26
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    25
  • Sony Xperia Z5 (Android 6.0.1)
    29
  • HTC One M9
    24
  • OnePlus 2
    22
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    21
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    15
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    15
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    14
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    11.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    11
  • Meizu MX5
    9.5
  • LG G4
    9.4
  • Huawei Honor 7
    9.3
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    8.7

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    19
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    18
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    18
  • Sony Xperia Z5 (Android 6.0.1)
    19
  • OnePlus 2
    16
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    16
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    10
  • LG G4
    9.9
  • Huawei Honor 7
    4.9
  • Meizu MX5
    4.8
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    4.5

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    38
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    19
  • Sony Xperia Z5 (Android 6.0.1)
    19
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    19
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    17
  • OnePlus 2
    16
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    9.7
  • LG G4
    5.6
  • Huawei Honor 7
    5.2
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    4.9
  • Meizu MX5
    4.7

In terms of browsing, the Xperia Z5 offers a splendid online experience. BrowserMark definitely backs up our statement, but the all JavaScript Kraken benchmark isn't quite so favorable. Naturally, we would be quick to point a finger at the built-in browser, but in the case of Sony, that is Chrome, so other forces must be at play here.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Apple iPhone 6s
    1737
  • Apple iPhone 6
    2880
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    3989
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4154
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    4506
  • LG G4
    4639
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    4650
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    5181
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML (Z3580)
    5232
  • HTC One M9
    5500
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    5635
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    6088
  • OnePlus 2
    6808
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    7868
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    9204
  • Meizu MX5
    11414
  • Huawei Honor 7
    11493
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    20208
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    25088

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3389
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    2718
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    2702
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    2303
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    2232
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2113
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
    2099
  • OnePlus 2
    2055
  • LG G4
    1992
  • HTC One M9
    1681
  • Meizu MX5
    1471
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1447
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    1436
  • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
    1203
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    887
  • Huawei Honor 7
    825

Overall, the Xperia Z5 is a true powerhouse and a worthy flagship in any sense of the word. Also, it is really encouraging to see that Sony worked hard and remedied the overheating issue. It might not be a perfect fix, but is definitely a lot better than the easier alternatives, like simply going with another chip and sweeping the Z3+/Z4 under the rug - a respectable decision indeed.

As for the other elephant in the room - Z5 or Z3+ - performance isn't really all that different and perhaps shouldn't serve as an incentive in itself to shell out the extra money. However, if you find yourself drawn to some of the Z5's other features, like the camera or fingerprint reader, then the steeper price might well be justified, but it is worth noting that either way, you will be getting a pretty powerful device.