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Sony Xperia 5 review: compact version of Xperia 1, OLED HDR display and triple camera

Chris MaccenroyOct 8, 20191 12115 votes +9 rating

Sony’s last compact flagship came out a year and a half ago. I even missed them. And suddenly the Japanese introduced Sony Xperia 5 – a smaller version of Xperia 1 with the same cool OLED HDR 21:9 display, top-end hardware and a triple camera. At the same time, the new product is more convenient, and we do not overpay for 4K. But isn’t it too late for Sony to compromise?

The most convenient flagship on Android?

Sony Xperia 5 - compact version of Xperia 1

Sony completely transferred the design of Xperia 1 to Xperia 5. An elongated display is a feature of all the company’s new smartphones, the Japanese will be promoting the cinema 21:9 format for the next few years even in the middle segment (Xperia 10). Get used to it.

But the Xperia 5 has become quite narrow, it is even more convenient to hold it in your hands. The width of 68 mm is almost like that of a small iPhone 8. It is the narrowest Android smartphone today, but the screen is still large – 6.1". It is more pleasant to play on such a display, watch widescreen films (most of them) and it’s convenient to scroll through the news feed of Twitter and Instagram with one hand.

What Sony has done well is setting up the display. The color rendition is calibrated by CineAlta masters to “excellent”, the shades are warm and calm. What is rare for OLED matrices.

Sony Xperia 1 had a resolution of 4K, here – Full HD+, but I did not notice the difference: 4K was turned on the same way only in suitable content. HDR support remained. It lacks only a margin of brightness: under the sun the screen fades, it is difficult to read small text. The flagship displays of Samsung, Huawei, Apple are noticeably brighter.

The Xperia 5 is comparable in height to the Huawei P30 Pro (6.47" screen), but the width is much smaller.

The fingerprint scanner on the side is convenient, but it works intermittently: if the finger is a little missed or your hands are wet, it will not be recognized. There is no tactile feedback with errors, and you just don’t understand: is the smartphone stupid or the limit of attempts is over – will you have to enter the PIN code? There are no alternatives: face unlocking has not been delivered. Also a disadvantage.

In terms of assembly and materials, the Sony Xperia 5 is an example of Japanese quality. The body is based on a metal frame, front and rear protective glass Gorilla Glass 6, the filling is protected from water according to the IP65/68 standard – can be immersed in water to a depth of 1.5 m for half an hour. There are 3 colors to choose from: black, silver, blue (the coolest).

Xperia 5 cameras catch up with competitors

Sony Xperia 5 received three cameras from Xperia 1: an ultra-wide-angle module, a main module and dual optical zoom. All have 12 megapixels, the last two cameras are with optical stabilization. The standard set for the flagship of 2019, but the quality heavily depends on processing algorithms, which Sony has always had problems with. We look at what has changed.

Sony Xperia 5: sample photos

First. Sony Xperia 5 has become much better to shoot in the dark. There is practically no noise, detail is high, there are almost no distortions at the edges of the frame. There is still a lack of detail in the shadows, but Sony has always stood for naturalness. The night in the picture should look like night until you turn on a special mode for highlighting.

Sony Xperia 5: sample photos

Second. Automatic HDR does not always work correctly. From one point you can get two different frames: on one there will be a wild contrast, on the other – an overexposed sky. Without HDR, the dynamic range is not enough in difficult conditions (when shooting against bright light).

Sony Xperia 5: sample photos

Third. When there is little light, the camera sets a slow shutter speed. The stabilizer saves from smearing, but moving objects in the frame leave a mark.

Sony Xperia 5: sample photos

Fourth. The camera now gives tips. For example, when a finger hit the photo, someone blinked or you missed with focus – camera asks to be reshooted. Such a feature is not new among smartphones, but anyway any help is appreciated.

Fifth. The eyes focusing works great, yet working with Sony Alpha engineers is paying off. Portraits are always obtained in focus. However, taking a selfie photo is not so hot: automation does not detect the edges of the object well, blurring is crooked, especially against the background of contrasting small objects (trees, water).

Sony firmly took up the processing of photos. By the quality of shooting, the Xperia 5 is matched by competitors – Huawei P30, Samsung Galaxy S10. But the algorithms are unstable, the perfect shot is not obtained on the first try. Not enough powerful zoom, and special shooting modes.

Cinema Pro – application for shooting movies has been updated

Sony Xperia 5 - compact version of Xperia 1

Now in the application you can lock the white balance, smoothly shifting the focus on the timer and add video to an existing project. In general, the settings have become even more. A good 4K resolution movie can be done and mounted in an hour.

Presets are superimposed on uncompressed video, so the quality of the clips remains high. Making and editing films on the go – isn’t this what every blogger dreams of? The main thing is to first understand the interface. In this regard, Apple is stepping on the heels: in the new iPhone 11, the company also focuses on simple but effective video editing “on the knee”. The Sony Xperia 5 abilities will be primarily appreciated by professionals.

And to play and to work

Sony Xperia 5, like Xperia 1, runs on the Snapdragon 855 processor. You can’t call it top-notch: the slightly overclocked Snapdragon 855 Plus came out in July, it was installed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and ASUS ROG Phone II. In terms of productivity, the difference is scanty, but competitors now have a marketing advantage.

Sony Xperia 5: AnTuTu testing

Sony Xperia 5: 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme testing

Sony Xperia 5: Geekbench 4 Multi testing

Sony Xperia 5: Geekbench 4 Single testing

And this is not only the case with the processor: 128 GB of memory – it seems to be a lot, but for the flagship of 2019 is already a minimum. If someone does not have enough device memory – there is a slot for microSD cards. Memory itself like UFS 2.1 is fast, but competitors are already coming out with UFS 3.0, and read speed is twice as fast in it. An example is OnePlus 7, that is cheaper and boasts a screen with a frequency of 90 Hz.

All this does not detract from the merits of the Sony Xperia 5 as an actual gaming smartphone. PUBG and WoT: Blitz runs at maximum speed without throttling, “asphalt” and Guns of Boom – even more so. The system runs smoothly, 6 GB of RAM is enough for pure Android without frills. The smartphone will definitely be updated to the latest version of Android 10.

There are no surprises regarding the operating time of the gadget

Sony Xperia 5 is smaller than Xperia 1, respectively, the battery is also smaller: 3140 mAh vs 3330 mAh. According to personal experience and monotests, it did not get worse. The battery holds steady for a day, the charge lasts for 10 hours of video playback at maximum brightness.

Sony Xperia 5: Work time

There is still no wireless charging, wired only at 18 watts. Like the iPhone 11 Pro. Compared to competitors with 40-45 watts, this is already ridiculous power. It’s time to catch up.

Prices and competitors

Sony Xperia 5 - compact version of Xperia 1

Sony has not yet announced the exact price of the Xperia 5. But if you consider that the changes are only in the Full HD+ display instead of 4K, we expect a price tag in the range of $920-$1,000. Most likely, there will be gifts for pre-order.

Competitors are compact Samsung Galaxy S10 and Huawei P30. The first is comparable in function, costs $1,045 (in official stores). The second is much simpler, but cheaper (cameras, screen, charging) and costs $615. Another thing is that in the gray market you can find the Galaxy S10+ and P30 Pro even cheaper.

The opinion of some reviewers

Sony Xperia 5 is a variant of Xperia 1, closer to the people. We lost a large 4K display, but can save $230-$310 – a good discount, considering the top-end hardware and three decent cameras. At the same time, we get great sound and a stylish look.

But the “enemies” are not asleep. The iPhone 11 has already been released with an emphasis on video, without professional tools like Cinema Pro though, but with simpler, more understandable, and, therefore, popular features.

Huawei Mate 30 Pro and Google Pixel 4 are on the way, these smartphones will definitely occupy the top ranks of mobile camera ratings. At the start, the price tag will be frantic, but the previous flagships will become cheaper – with wireless charging, face recognition unlock, powerful zoom, large battery. All this features is absent in the Xperia 5.

The chance to surprise the buyer would be much greater if the smartphone was released in February with Xperia 1. Then the price tag of $920-$1,000 for the top-end hardware and a competitive camera seemed adequate.

Now Xperia 5 stands out only for its size and unusual 21:9 display. And bells and whistles, such as Cinema Pro and calibration of the display according to the standards of master monitors, will be appreciated only by fans, geeks and creative people. However, Xperia 5 will definitely not disappoint them (you?).

Sony Xperia 5 advantages and disadvantages

Sony Xperia 5 advantages

  • Excellent ergonomics – one-handed operation
  • IP65/68 water resistant
  • Powerful stereo sound and great sound in headphones
  • High performance and all the most modern interfaces
  • 960 fps slow motion shooting in Full HD and movie shooting in Cinema Pro

Sony Xperia 5 disadvantages

  • No wireless charging
  • Slow fingerprint scanner
  • High price
  • The front camera does not take portraits well, photos in the dark and against bright light
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Discussion: 8 comments
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  1. Nicolle Steehle
    Nicolle SteehleJournalist
    2019-10-8, 1:43PM
    This almost feels like Sony is not liked any time they bring a new phone. They are probably the only ones to not jump on the stupid punch hole or notch or any of that sort of nonsense. They also do not believe in show-off and flashy and yucky color schemes. Sadly they left many markets.
  2. Ian Lexxus
    Ian LexxusJournalist
    2019-10-8, 12:18PM
    There are tons of people complain this Xperia 5 isn't a compact phone, should I believe them (anonymous)? They flooding the negative comments on Sony thread and looks like they are won although they never test the phone like you do. Thanks for the review, hope more in-depth review will show up soon.
  3. Jason Hensel
    Jason HenselJournalist
    2019-10-8, 12:11PM
    Since when, people started calling a tall 6" screen a compact screen size? To me, a less than 5" phone screen is a compact phone because my fingers can reach every corner of the phone with one hand. I have been searching everywhere to find a manufacturer that makes a really compact, usable, lightweight and productivity Android smartphone. I don't care for multiple or punch-hole cameras, pure view or infinity display and high-end CPU/GPU. The closest phone we can get right now is Google Pixel 3.
  4. iLawyer
    2019-10-8, 12:02PM
    Sony and LG (V series only) are the two companies now that are the only two that are not following the trends of useless features or hardware removal/addition which Samsung, Apple, and Xiaomi does. That's why I always loved them both as they are more towards utalitarianism then faggy trying to show off shit feature. If only they had more support put in, I would have bought Sony or V50 (60) whatever the new models are.
    1. Randall Mark
      Randall MarkJournalist
      2019-10-8, 1:51PM
      Though I like Sony's products and their phones. I gotta say the only thing people aren't getting their phones for are their shitty battery life. Not to mention some of phones have 4K resolution and combine that with a small battery capacity, you can already see why many would opt for an Apple, Samsung or a Huawei phone.
  5. Gregory French
    Gregory FrenchJournalist
    2019-10-8, 11:42AM
    My only complain with Sony phones are slow charging! Now this latest Xperia 5 took 30 minutes for 53% and 1 hour for 80%. Total of 2-hours for 100% in 2019 where other brands offering 40 watt 50 watt and dven 65 watt charging technology even in cheaper price... Currently I'm using Huawei's P30 Pro and it took just 55 minutes for 0 to 100% with 8/8 hours and 30 minutes of S.O.T or overall 24 hours of back up, I can't even think of using phone which took more then one hour for charging. Same complain is with iPhones.
  6. Chris Maccenroy
    Author: Chris MaccenroyJournalist
    2019-10-8, 11:14AM
    On the end of every Sony review, there is some kind of "this is a great phone to get, but there is Samsung...". Who cares if sammy phones are cheaper? Xperia lasts longer and it is better (this time for sure). Why don't you just make a review and not compare to other phones. Make different comparison review... compare in one camera quality. The other video compare battery life, sometime snappiness of the phones. Then and just then say that the sammy (or some other brand) is better buy. blush
    1. Nik Ivanovsky
      Nik IvanovskyChief Editor
      2019-10-8, 1:47PM
      Own an Xperia 1 now. Ergonomically the best smartphone I have held in a long time. The buttons on one side always fall right where my fingers are (set up my left middle finger on the finger print reader, amongst others). Also when using a flip phone cover, it's nice to have them on the side where they aren't covered.
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