Four mobiles go head to head: Sony Xperia Z5 vs Apple iPhone 6s Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs LG V10
Is it a smooth user interface you’re after? Or a killer camera? Should you go with the latest version of iOS or Android? We take a closer look at the best new smartphones on the market at the moment and see how they measure up against one another
The Z5’s overall aesthetic, with its frosted glass back, is pleasing and minimal. The signature “OmniBalance” design – which is really just means an angular slab – still manages an element of sophistication, though some might find it slightly dated. The metallic-looking power button on the side of the phone doubles as a fingerprint reader and is probably the best design integration seen so far. However, the positioning of the volume control – below the power button – is arguably the worst button placement in the industry. It’s frustratingly hard to reach.
Apple’s latest features the same exceptional engineering and premium aluminium body inherited from last year’s 6. Bendgate issues have been taken care of by using aircraft-grade aluminium, so in terms of overall design, this is as good as it gets. The Plus model, with its 5.5in display and relatively large bezels (compared to Android phones), is a bit hard to operate with one hand and it doesn’t help that the latest release has gained a bit of width and thickness. Despite the interesting addition of the rose gold option, the antenna lines are still unseemly.
The Galaxy series has come a long way since its polycarbonate days. Now it’s all aluminium, inside and out. It’s sturdy but lightweight and its contoured back means it fits snugly in the palm. With a 5.7-inch display, the Note 5 has a smaller bezel but the downside is how easy it is to accidentally touch the display with your palm.
This is a huge phone but it does benefit from a slightly larger 5.7” display. For the first time, LG is making a phone with metals, and the exposed steel frame means duality and premium aesthetics. The phone maker has gone as far as having the V10 certified for toughness. There is no flex or squeak despite the silicon that makes up the rest of the body. Keeping up with its tradition of great usability, the rear power button and volume rocker cluster are back. This time round, they’ve added a fast, light-touch fingerprint scanner. The whole concept just works perfectly.
Sony was the first in the trend of waterproof phones and it’s proudly carrying that torch with the Z5. With an IP (ingress protection) rating of 68 which is the second highest achievable - you will never have to worry about it getting wet.
New on the 6s is “3D touch”. It’s a new level of interaction via a pressure sensitive display. For now, it’s brings up a shortcut to common tasks on app icons and allows for peeking at apps without opening them up outright. There are far reaching implications but for now we’re waiting for app developers to exploit them.
The excellent S-Pen is back and users can “put pen to paper” with this phone. The Note 5 has a super high definition “Quad HD” display, meaning it has roughly 20 per cent more pixels in the display than the Z5 and 28 per cent more than the 6s Plus. Another win with the Note 5, it’s the only phone out of the four with LTE Cat 9 where others stand at CAT 6. Essentially this means the maximum download rate is 450Mbps depending on your carrier; versus 300Mbps for everyone else.
One big selling point of this model is its second screen. The small strip of display sits on top of the main display and while the device is on standby, it shows useful information such as notification icons, battery level and date and time. Swipefor useful shortcuts. When the phone is switched back on, all notifications are displayed in the second screen, improving your viewing experience with minimal distraction on the main screen.
There can be no doubt as to the quality of the Z5’s new 23-megapixel sensor – it is a joy to use. Out of the box you get half a dozen augmented reality filters and effects to play with. And because the camera is so quick to focus, you can even set the shutter button to launch and capture a photo with a single press.
The iPhone’s 8-megapixel shooter has always been known to take great photos in most situations – but now we’re treated to a long-awaited resolution upgrade. In normal usage the photos still look great but now you can zoom in a little bit more and crop a little closer. 4K video recording has finally arrived, so you can take high resolution videos.
This 16 megapixel camera is a fast shooter. But great camera launch speeds mean nothing if the photos don’t look the part. Don’t worry, the Note 5 delivers. Focus is superfast and it’s hard to find fault. Samsung did the right thing letting the Note 5 inherit the camera system from the S6.
The V10 inherits the excellent 16-megapixel shooter from the G4 that was released earlier this year. Photos are sharp, colours natural and lighting is well-balanced. And it has OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) that cancels out shakes and vibrations. This model also comes with two selfie cameras, both are fairly respectable 5-megapixels. One camera allows for a regular selfie, the second is a wide-angle sensor, meaning you can ditch the selfie stick for group photos. Combined with the ability to take 4K (4,096 x 2,160) videos, it is a very powerful piece of kit.
The Z5’s battery can get through a day and a bit on idle. But with active usage, the processor felt very power hungry, as though it would happily drain the phone dry in no time.
With all that speed come sacrifices. The latest OS (iOS 9) is supposed to focus on extending battery life and it does – with a so-called low power mode – but only by a little. If you don’t go crazy with lots of gaming, you’ll probably make it through a day without charging a second time.
The Note 5 gets through a 14-hour day with medium usage quite comfortably, but with little to spare. The story is fairly similar to the 6s Plus, but it does also come with a few more choices such as fast charging and wireless charging to keep you going.
On a day of medium usage - no gaming - you’ll get roughly 13 hours of use. The biggest drain is naturally the 2560x1440 Quad HD LCD (as opposed to the power-saving AMOLED) display. With a compatible charger, you’ll get a couple hours’ worth of usage with just 20 minutes of charging.
While the interface is generally fast and smooth, there’s still some stutter in the most demanding of games and speed issues are very noticeable when you tax the camera with all the fun features. One unique advantage here is Remote Play - where you get to play PlayStation 4 games on your smartphone. Pair up with the DualShock Controller and it’ll feel as though you’re sitting right in front of your PS4.
The main strength of the 6s Plus is its unmatched graphics. Practically everything you see on a phone relies on the graphics processor so naturally this accounts for the buttery smooth navigation around the phone. Gaming on the device is delightful.
Like the 6s Plus, the Note 5 is also hugely powerful and runs all the most demanding games with ease.
This phone includes an interesting feature called “Game Optimiser”, which promises to use as little battery as possible during gameplay. And it works. Games run smoother, using less battery but at the expense of a slight degradation in visual quality.
If you’re a smartphone photographer, whether you take things seriously or love to just have fun, the Xperia Z5 is for you. HK$5,698, 32GB choice of single or dual Sim
Those who want faster speed and unparalled hardware and software cohesiveness would probably prefer the iPhone 6s Plus. Starts at HK$6,388, 16GB
With so many features and new ideas, LG V10 is a great all-rounder that would have been easy to recommend if not for the short battery life. Then again, this seems to be a universal problem. LG V10: HK$5,698, 64GB with dual Sim.
The Galaxy Note 5 represents the most versatile phablet in the market. It’s great for productivity thanks to the excellent S-Pen. It also has a great camera. Those who have come to expect the traditional removable battery and external storage (micro SD) will be disappointed, however (but really, for those who want those features, LG is the only game left in town). The Note 5 gets my vote for being the best overall phablet this year. HK$5,688, 32GB with dual Sim