Sony Xperia 5 Review – Big Things Come in Small Packages
A compact, flagship-level smartphone with an emphasis on media consumption, the Sony Xperia 5 is quite a unique device. Is it worth your money? Let's find out.
RM3,399 (with free casing and screen protector)
+ Surprisingly good battery life
+ Flagship-level performance
+ Vibrant and colourful display
+ Stereo speakers
+ Telephoto and ultrawide camera produces good results
+ No notch
+ Compact and easy to use with one hand
- 21:9 aspect ratio can be awkward to use
- Camera tends to overexpose on Auto
- One of the speakers is bottom-firing
- Massive fingerprint magnet
Unboxing the Sony Xperia 5
With every purchase of the Sony Xperia 5 smartphone, you are expected to get the following items:
- USB-C cable
- USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter
- Handsfree kit
- User guide
- Warranty card
- The Sony Xperia 5 smartphone itself
Remember when 6-inch smartphones used to sound really big in size? Clearly I didn’t because when I first held this, it felt so small compared to most other smartphones out there today. The first thought that came to my head is that the Sony Xperia 5 is what I expect the Samsung Galaxy Fold to be when it’s folded, albeit much thinner. The body is mostly comprised of glass and aluminum.
The Sony Xperia 5 comes in four different colours; Black, Grey, Blue, and Red. For our review unit, we got the red colour variant, which honestly looks pink-ish to me. The general aesthetic certainly makes it appeal more to the younger crowd, with this colour most likely targeted towards women given the more feminine look in this.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t sport any type of notch and does have noticeable bezels. The side bezels are very slim but very noticeable for the top and bottom. The front camera can be seen on the top bezel, right beside the earpiece. While it does appear to be a design from years ago, the lack of a notch surprisingly makes it feel fresh compared to the typical designs of today. The display is rather long as it has a CinemaWide 21:9 aspect ratio.
There’s nothing much on the top aside from a microphone hole. On the bottom however, you have a USB-C port, speaker grille, and another microphone hole. As you can tell here, it doesn’t have a 3.5mm audio jack.
On the left side of the Sony Xperia 5, you have the SIM / microSD card slot which resides in solitude. The best part here is that you can eject the tray with your fingers as you don’t need a pin / ejector tool for it. On the right side, you have a volume rocker, fingerprint scanner, power button, and a camera shutter button. You read that right, the fingerprint scanner is located here but we’ll go more on that later.
The glossy back here is what I would describe as a double-edged blade. It looks great but it stains very easily as it’s a huge fingerprint magnet. If you’re worried about scratches, the back utilizes Gorilla Glass 6 as well, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Overall, the Sony Xperia 5 looks good and has a solid build quality that practically screams premium. The IP65/68 rating takes it up a notch as you don’t have to worry about water and dust damaging the smartphone. Given that the body is susceptible to fingerprints and that it can be a bit slippery to hold, a protective case is still needed.
|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|
|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|
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
8MP f/2.0 24mm wide
HDR, Full HD @ 30 fps video, 5-axis gyro EIS
|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
|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|
Given that the Sony Xperia 5 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, we expect it to deliver stellar performance. In Antutu v8, it didn’t perform as well as the Xiaomi Mi 9 with rather big difference in score. It’s understandable for the realme X2 Pro and Black Shark 2 Pro given that it’s the beefier 855+ but it’s odd that the Mi 9 performed that much better.
A similar pattern can be seen in Geekbench 5, albeit only in multi-core performance. It managed to beat every other device, even the ones running 855+, in single core performance.
Then in 3DMark, it claimed the highest score in Ice Storm Unlimited, but loses out to most Snapdragon 855 devices in Sling Shot and Sling Shot Extreme. Given that the ROG Phone 2 performed even worse here, it makes the whole thing a lot more intriguing.
As for PCMark’s Work 2.0 benchmark which puts it up against everyday tasks, the Sony Xperia 5 performed pretty well against the other Snapdragon 855 devices. It only lost out to the ones running 855+.
I’m sure many aren’t expecting the Sony Xperia 5 to do well in PCMark’s Work 2.0 battery endurance test. To my surprise, it actually lasted pretty long given the small 3,140mAh battery. While the top 3 devices shown here are also running Snapdragon 855, they do have a bigger battery capacity.
In my own personal use, I actually managed to last a whole day with it. This includes light gaming, messaging, social media, web browsing, and calls. The 7nm chipset is certainly efficient, but I still do wish Sony fit in a bigger battery so it can last even longer.
The Sony Xperia 5 uses an OLED Triluminos display at Full HD+ resolution. In other words, you get a display that has the best contrast and truest blacks while the Triluminos technology reduces colour fading when viewing under direct sunlight or at an angle. Adding the X-Reality Engine image processing technology to the mix and you get yourself some really punchy colours and sharp images regardless of how you look at the smartphone.
The size of the display is on the smaller side and the 21:9 aspect ratio can make viewing videos or playing games a little awkward to see. A slightly bigger screen would be better but that would be where the Xperia 1 shines. This one has stereo speakers; one being the earpiece and the other is a bottom-firing speaker. While sound quality is good enough and the volume is adequate, having two front-facing speakers would have been better.
While it is certainly an attractive smartphone in terms of looks, it’s a fingerprint magnet and is also slippery to hold. At the moment, Sony Malaysia is selling this together with a protective case and screen protector but we’re uncertain if it’s a temporary promotion or a permanent addition. If you don’t plan on using a case and are worried about scratches on its glass back, don’t worry about it. The back is using Gorilla Glass 6.
As far as using the Sony Xperia 5 goes, it came with Android 10 and Xperia Home launcher out of the box. It’s pretty clean with minimal bloatware inside and runs smoothly. There are additional tools in the form of Xperia Assist that you can make use of, such as battery and memory optimizations. If this isn’t up to your liking, you can always opt to use a different launcher.
One of our readers have reported to us that his unit comes with Android 9.0 Pie with no option to upgrade to Android 10. The update may not be available for every unit yet but is expected to appear soon.
One thing that I both liked and disliked here is the fingerprint scanner. I liked the fact that it’s situated on the side, right below the volume rocker, as it’s a space-saving placement. What I didn’t like is its inconsistency. Sometimes it works fine but other times, it requires multiple tries. When it does work, it works really fast but I do feel like it requires a bit more work to make it more reliable.
The stock camera app has a simple user interface that most people shouldn’t have trouble with. You can easily switch between the three cameras by tapping the 1x (standard wide camera by default), which will change into 2x for the telephoto camera, and W for the ultrawide camera. Other settings like flash and aspect ratio can be changed easily on the opposite side.
You can change to a variety of shooting modes by tapping on Mode, where you will have access to Portrait Selfie, Lens, Slow Motion, AR Effect, Manual (Pro), Creative Effect (filters), and Panorama. It may not be the fastest way to change shooting modes but it’s certainly more consistent than sliding over like in other camera apps.
As for video, you can shoot at 4K resolution but it will be limited to 30 FPS. If you want 60 FPS, you will have to move down to Full HD resolution instead. As for slow motion, it will record videos at 720p at 120 FPS. As much as competitors can do higher frames, it’s honestly good enough for most users.
Camera performance is decent but it does have the potential to do better. On Auto, the Sony Xperia 5 has the tendency to overexpose almost every shot regardless of lighting condition. It also has a bit trouble with moving objects as I couldn’t get it to focus on a plate of sushi on a conveyor belt. You’re honestly better off shooting in Manual (Pro) if you want an overall better experience. Having a dedicated camera shutter button is great.
The telephoto and ultra-wide cameras are better than I expected, and are definitely usable. It manages to capture quite a good amount of detail in every shot. With these two cameras however, lighting becomes even more critical for a good shot however.
Sony Xperia 5 Verdict
The Xperia 1 is clearly the flagship smartphone but the Sony Xperia 5 certainly feels like one, just smaller. It’s a compact smartphone that looks good, packed with flagship-level performance thanks to its Snapdragon 855 SoC, and it has a number of surprises up its sleeve, such as the battery life and display.
However, there are a few points that may turn you off. It’s a fingerprint magnet, it’s slippery to hold, the camera could do better, and the 21:9 aspect ratio can be awkward to use. If you can look past that and are looking for a compact smartphone, it’s hard to find a package as attractive as this.
With that, I award the Sony Xperia 5 with our Silver Pokdeward.
Big thanks to Sony Malaysia for letting us this smartphone for the purposes of this review.