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Sony Xperia 5 review

The Sony Xperia 5 is ideal for movie-aficionados and mobile gamers, but the camera leaves a lot to be desired.

Sony Xperia 5 review
(Image: © Sony)

Our Verdict

The Sony Xperia 5 is a great smartphone for gamers and avid movie watchers, but it lacks a high-quality camera and things are fairly standard elsewhere.

For

  • Ideal aspect ratio for movies
  • Good speakers
  • Speedy processor

Against

  • No headphones included
  • Average battery life

Remember the Sony Xperia 1 and how large and impressive (if a little dim) its screen was? Essentially, the Sony Xperia 5 is the same phone, only smaller. If you're considering a new handset and you're particularly keen on gaming or watching films, you've come to the right place. The latest phone in the Xperia range, it offers a 21:9 aspect ratio screen that's ideal for watching TV or movies, a speedy interface, and a size that means you can easily hold it in one hand. It's not perfect, bringing with it the flaws that the Sony Xperia 1 offered before it, but there are plenty of reasons to consider it. 

If you're looking to buy it SIM-free rather than as part of a mobile phone plan, the Sony Xperia 5 has an MSRP of $799 (or £699 in the UK) which makes it a little cheaper than its predecessor, as well as the same price as competitors like the Google Pixel 4. When it comes to competing with the likes of Apple's iPhone 11, it's a fair bit cheaper too, and it's this value proposition that earns it a place on our best smartphones list.

Sony Xperia 5 review: Design and styling

  • Available in black, gray or blue
  • Classy design

The Sony Xperia 5 is available in three colors: black, gray, and blue. Each looks  similarly classy with no sign of a garish exterior. The Xperia 5 is a lot like the Xperia 1, if smaller. It's still relatively long and certainly thin but it comes in at 6.2-inches long, 2.7-inches wide, and x 0.3-inches deep, making it less bulky than its predecessor and much easier to grip. Its width combined with its weight (164g) means that for the most part, the Sony Xperia 5 should be simple enough to hold in one hand - something that's rare nowadays with powerful smartphones.

The Sony Xperia 5 doesn't come in garish colors, but looks classy

The Sony Xperia 5 doesn't come in garish colors, but looks classy. (Image credit: Sony)

Buttons are all located on the side of the device with a thin aluminum frame around the screen. On the bottom is the USB-C port for charging and headphones (more on that later) with the right side offering a control for volume, side-mounted fingerprint sensor, as well as a dedicated camera button and power button. 

Unusually for a modern smartphone, the SIM card/microSD card tray (located on the left hand side) is accessible with just your hand. There's no need for a separate tool. Expect to be able to use microSD cards up to 512GB in size. On the back of the Sony Xperia 5, you can see the phone's three camera lenses lined up. As is often the way, the lenses protrude a bit and scuffs can be quite commonplace over time. A case is essential if you want to keep this phone looking brand new, and you will want to. 

Sony Xperia 5 review: Battery

  • Lasts a full day
  • Charges via USB-C cable

During a general day of use, the majority of users have found that the Sony Xperia 5 performs pretty well. Obviously, if you play a lot of games on it, it'll need recharging before the day is up, but for a bit of browsing, streaming and gaming, it should last the day without much trouble. The Sony Xperia 5 charges via a USB-C port and is generally pretty speedy. An hour's charge is expected to last most of a day. 

Sony Xperia 5 review: Screen and audio

Tech Specs

Average price: $799
Operating System: Android
Screen size: 6.1 inch OLED
Storage: 64GB/128GB
5G ready? No
Headphone jack? No
Charging type: USB-C
Also consider: Sony Xperia 1

  • Super-Wide Full HD+ OLED screen
  • Dolby Atmos speakers, but no headphones

The Sony Xperia 5 uses a Super-Wide Full HD+ OLED screen. It lacks 4K support, unlike the Xperia 1, but that's not where issues emerge. Instead, it's the fact that the maximum brightness is very low, so it's noticeably dimmer than most other handsets, depending on what you're doing.

Despite that, it offers some neat features. Its aspect ratio of 21:9 means it's perfect for streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime content to your handset, and it looks great with few black bars in sight other than some ultra-wide content. Many games will also look good thanks to optimized support for 21:9. 

Throw in Dolby Atmos speaker support, and it's a reminder that the Sony Xperia 5 is a good entertainment device, despite its brightness issues. Audio quality is certainly better than most smartphones can provide, with the One Plus 7T Pro perhaps its only competitor. Bear in mind, if you want to use headphones, you'll have to buy your own pair of USB-C headphones or wireless cans, as none are supplied. 

Sony Xperia 5 review: Camera

  • Three 12MP cameras
  • Dedicated camera button

The Sony Xperia 5's camera is just fine. It's nothing remarkable and doesn't compete with the best camera phones out there, but it's good enough for general use. With three different 12MP cameras comprising of f/1.6 wide-angle, f/2.4 telephoto, and f/2.4 ultra-wide, there are plenty of options here but photos can look a little grainy or distorted depending on the settings you use. The Huawei P30 Pro is the clear winner in this category.

Sony Xperia 5's camera leaves a lot to be desired

Sony Xperia 5's camera leaves a lot to be desired. (Image credit: Sony)

Limited options for tweaking and no night mode are an issue too, along with slightly slower than average autofocus. Although, its video recording facilities are surprisingly good in comparison. Despite these camera issues, most regular users will be happy enough with the results, but don't expect to be wowed by the picture quality here. 

Sony Xperia 5 review: Software and assistant features

  • Dynamic Vibration mode
  • Multi-window mode

The Sony Xperia 5 tosses in a few key features aimed at enhancing your movie watching experience. For instance, there's Dynamic Vibration which makes your phone vibrant slightly whenever you see an explosion, or hear a loud noise while watching something. It's a little gimmicky but a neat touch at times. There's also Creator Mode which aims to change your visual experience so that it looks more like how the maker imagined it to look. Again, a bit of a gimmick but a nice idea. 

Elsewhere, for productivity focused users, there's multi-window support allowing for 2 apps to run simultaneously side by side which works well on a big screen like the Sony Xperia 5's. 

Sadly, there's no voice assistant on the Xperia 5, beyond what comes with standard Google apps.

Sony Xperia 5 review: Security

  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Poor face unlock

On the side of the Sony Xperia 5 is a fingerprint sensor which most users have found to be a little temperamental. It's a good idea placing it to the side, away from the screen, but it's not always reliable. Other than that, the Sony Xperia 5 offers face unlocking functionality if you dig around the settings, but unlike better phones like the iPhone 11, it can be easily fooled by a photo rather than your face.

Should you buy the Sony Xperia 5? 

Knowing why you want a new smartphone is key to whether the Sony Xperia 5 is for you. If you love to watch movies on your smartphone or you're a big gamer then this is the device for you. It packs a lot of processing power so that games will hardly ever slow down and they'll look great too. Similarly, many streaming services will take advantage of the 21:9 ratio and you'll feel like you have a better viewing experience. However, if a high quality camera is what you're looking for, or exceptional battery life, the Sony Xperia 5 is a far more average smartphone at a hefty price tag for what it provides.