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REVIEW: Sony Xperia 5

John Reilly
  • On March 18, 2020
  • http://www.theeffect.net

Small premium phones went through a kind of mini-renaissance recently, but one smartphone maker has been squeezing the flagship power into a compact form factor for years. Sony’s beloved Compact smartphone series skipped the Xperia XZ3 generation. When Sony half-booted its smartphone brand with the Xperia 1 without its smaller counterpart, it looked like curtains for Compact fans. Step into the Xperia 5 – a spiritual successor to the extended Xperia Compact family with almost all the same features and specifications we saw on Sony’s latest tent model.

 

 

Before we get into our rlow are the main specs for the Xperia 5:

 

CPU: Snapdragon 855 (1 x Kryo 485 Gold @ 2.84 GHz + 3 x Kryo 485 Gold @ 2.42 GHz + 4 x Kryo 485 Silver @ 1.8 GHz), 7nm FinFET
GPU: Adreno 640
RAM: 6GB
Display: 6.1″ FHD+ (2520 x 1080) OLED Triluminos display, 100% DCI-P3, HDR BT.2020, X-Reality Engine, Corning Gorilla Glass 6
Storage: 128GB UFS 2.1
Camera: Main Camera(s)
12MP f/1.6 26mm wide, predictive Dual Pixel PDAF, 5-axis OIS
12MP f/2.4 52mm telephoto, predictive PDAF, 2x optical zoom
12MP f/2.4 16mm ultrawide
Night Mode, Pro mode, Portrait Mode, 4K @ 30 / 24 fps video, Full HD @ 60 / 30 fps video, HDR, eye-tracking, panorama, LED flash, 5-axis gyro EIS
Front Camera
8MP f/2.0 24mm wide
HDR, Full HD @ 30 fps video, 5-axis gyro EIS
OS: Android 10
Connectivity: LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/20/28/38/40/41/46/66
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)
Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, aptX HD, LE
GPS with with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
NFC
SIM: Dual SIM
Battery: Li-Po 3140 mAh (non-removable)
Xperia Adaptive Charging
18W fast charging support
USB Power Delivery 2.0
Dimensions: 158 x 68 x 8.2 mm
Weight: 164g
Ingress protection: IP65/68

 

Hardware and design

The Xperia 5 continues the design language set by the Xperia 1 and 10: it is a boxy, rectangular slab with an extra-long, narrow aspect ratio of 21:9, with top and bottom bezels that are small by Sony’s previous standards, but still chunky compared to every other phone. It’s not the sleekest, curviest, sexiest design by any means, but it is unique.

Unlike the Xperia 1, whose 6.5-inch display made the phone awkwardly tall, the Xperia 5’s 6.1-inch OLED screen is, in my opinion, the ideal size. The elongated aspect ratio makes the phone narrower than usual, giving a unique in-hand feel that resembles older Nokia “dumb” phones.

The Xperia 5’s extra tall aspect ratio becomes extra-wide when in landscape orientation, making it an ideal fit for modern Hollywood movies. Typing with one hand is easier here than on just about any other recent release, as even small hands should be able to reach across the screen with their thumbs.

The phone is mostly a glass and aluminium sandwich – a look that has become the norm – but the Sony-specific touches are still here: the fingerprint scanner is side-mounted on the right side of the chassis, and the SIM card slot can be opened without a need for a tiny tray opener pin. I switch phones often, and not needing to find a pin to take out a SIM card on a Sony device is convenient.There’s a triple camera system array – all 12-megapixel sensors – of the usual standard wide, telephoto variety, along with a Snapdragon 855 chip, and a 3,140mAh battery.

 

The Xperia 5 runs Android 9, which by now is dated, but at least Sony’s skin is relatively light.The software includes specific features to take advantage of that odd 21:9 aspect ratio, such as a side short cut bar that’s activated by double-tapping or swiping along the sides of the screen. Once triggered, the menu offers short cuts to launching two apps at the same time in split-screen mode, or shrinks the screen so the top portions of the display can be easily reached.

This short cut menu is a good idea in theory, but I found that the gestures required to activate are tough to get right consistently. Often, I have to double-tap four times, for a total of eight taps, before the phone registers the action.

Performance and battery life

For most smartphone tasks, the Xperia 5 is fine. Apps open and close without a hiccup, and games and media run well too. RAM management isn’t as sharp as other Chinese handsets, so reopening an app that has been sitting idle for over a day will usually result in the app reloading.

Despite the relatively small 3,140mAh battery, the Xperia 5’s endurance is quite good. The light software skin and not-too-big screen helps, as the phone consistently lasts a full a day for me, although only just. It’s not got the great battery life of a Huawei phone, but it’s not bad.

The cameras, however, disappoint. During the day, the phone can produce some lovely photos. At night, though, It’s a slightly different story. Below are some low light sample shots taking with the 3 different cameras along with testing the digital zoom for the last shot.

An ultra wide angle shot

A shot from the main wide lens

a 2x zoom lens shot

An 8X digital zoom shot

The wide-angle camera produces noisy, grainy images at night, and there is no software-assisted night mode to at least artificially liven up the colours like you would find on mid-tier Xiaomi or Oppo phones. A top-tier phone such as the Huawei Mate 30 Pro can produce significantly better wide-angle images once the sun sets.

This is baffling, as Sony is the maker of some of the best DLSR and mirrorless cameras around, and many of the top smartphones use Sony’s camera sensors. It would appear that the problem lies with Sony’s software image processing.

Conclusion

The Xperia 5 has some niche appeal. Its quirky, narrow form factor could be a draw for those who want a phone that can be easily used with one hand and that looks different from the sea of smartphones out there. Still, the mediocre camera performance and relatively high price compared to other Chinese Android options makes the Xperia 5 hard to recommend.

Review Overview

Hardware
7.5
Design
8.5
Performance
8
Battery Life
7.5
Camera
7
7.7

Okay

The Xperia 5 has some niche appeal. Its quirky, narrow form factor could be a draw for those who want a phone that can be easily used with one hand and that looks different from the sea of smartphones out there. Still, the mediocre camera performance and relatively high price compared to other Chinese Android options makes the Xperia 5 hard to recommend.

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