Hands on: Sony Xperia 5 Review

A smaller, cheaper phone with a large, super-wide display

First Impressions

The Xperia 1 was a great handset, with its 21:9 screen delivering something a bit different to the competition. The Xperia 5 is more of the same, although this time around the screen is a smaller, a more manageable 6.1-inch model. Maintaining the same range of features that the Xperia 5's big brother had but at a cheaper price, this is arguably the more interesting phone.

There was a lot to like about the Sony Xperia 1, with the company taking a different approach with its 21:9 4K screen and using three cameras for the ultimate flexibility. That 6.5-inch screen and wide aspect ratio made it a bit of a lump to hold, which will make the altogether more compact Sony Xperia 5 a more interesting phone to most people. We got to go hands-on with the phone at IFA 2019 to see what this compact phone is all about.

Sony Xperia 5 – Design and screen

From the outside that Xperia 5 is effectively a smaller version of the Xperia 1. This model retains the original’s 21:9 aspect ratio, but has a smaller 6.1-inch screen. That may not sound particularly small, but the Xperia 5 measures a more svelte 158 x 68 x 8.2mm. While it’s still quite a tall phone, the reduced width makes this model that bit easier to hold than the Xperia 5.

Sony has dropped the 4K display, opting for a 2520 x 1080 screen instead. That still looked plenty sharp to our eyes, although there’s still the potential for problems with many apps and content not designed for this screen resolution. Sony has made some progress on this front, promising Fortnite in full-screen glory.

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Sony Xperia 5 hero

Although there’s a lower resolution OLED display here than on the flagship model, the Xperia 5’s display is still HDR compatible.

There’s a similar feel to this handset as its big brother and the more plastic body doesn’t have the same premium feel as, say, the iPhone XS or Galaxy S10. Going by the Xperia 1, the new model should be robust, with its body less likely to pick up scuffs. The display has Gorilla Glass 6 for extra toughness.

Sony quotes the phone as having an IP65/68 rating, which means that it’s sealed against dust and should be shower and dunk proof. The small print does warn that you shouldn’t “put the device completely underwater, or expose it to seawater, salt water, chlorinated water, or liquids such as drinks” and that the “USB port must be completely dry before charging”.

The right side of the phone is button central, with shutter, volume rocker, lock switch, and fingerprint reader. We didn’t get a chance to test the fingerprint reader but if it’s as good as the one on the Xperia 1, it should be lightning fast.

Sony Xperia 5 buttons

Sony Xperia 5 – Gaming

As well as giving you Fortnite formatted to fit the 21:9 screen, the Sony Xperia 5 is also compatible with the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller for proper control. There’s even an optional clip that sits over the top of the controller to hold the phone in place. Given how loved this game controller is, it should give the Xperia 5 a lift over the competition, such as the Asus ROG Phone 2. DualShock 4 support is also coming to the Xperia 1.

Sony Xperia 5 DualShock 4

There’s also the Game Enhancer, which lets you burst capture your games at 20fps and use the voice changer feature to make yourself sound different.

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Sony Xperia 5 – Cameras

It’s impossible to miss the three cameras on the rear, which match those on the Xperia 1. Designed to offer the maximum flexibility, all three cameras have the same 12-megapixel resolution but operate at different focal lengths, with an f/1.6 26mm main camera, f/2.4 52mm zoom and f/2.4 16mm wide-angle.

Sony Xperia 5 rear

We didn’t get a chance to put the camera through its paces, although we expect the results to be similar to those of the Xperia 1: that is, the best camera that Sony has put into a phone, but a touch behind the Google Pixel 3.

There’s also an 8-megapixel front snapper.

Sony Xperia 5 – Power

There are no surprises for guessing what’s inside, with the Xperia 5 using the same Qualcomm 855 chipset as the Xperia 1. There’s also the same 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which can be upgraded via the microSD card slot that can take cards of up to 512GB.

Using the 855 chipset means that this phone doesn’t support the growing number of 5G networks and you’re limited to 4G LTE connections.

There’s a slightly smaller 3,140mAh battery (the Xperia 1 has a 3,330mAh battery) charged via the phone’s USB-C port that supports PD fast charging. The smaller battery won’t make much of a difference as there’s a smaller, lower-resolution screen to power. In fact, we’d hope that the Xperia 5 would last longer on a charge, as the Xperia 1 was a little disappointing. We’ll have to wait until we have a review sample to find out how good (or not) this new phone is.

Sony Xperia 5 – Price and release date

The Sony Xperia 5 will go on sale in the UK on Friday 4 October, with pre-orders starting on Wednesday 18 September 2019. Europe pricing is set at €799, which works out at around £715, although official UK pricing has yet to be released. With that kind of pricing, the Xperia 5 should be around £130 cheaper than its big brother.

Sony Xperia 5 – Early verdict

Given that the Xperia 5 shares many of the features with its big brother, the Xperia 1, we already have a fairly good idea how it will turn out. With its super-wide screen and smaller body, the Xperia 5 feels like it pulls off Sony’s radical design in a more comfortable way. Sure, there’s a lower-resolution screen, although the new model should be plenty sharp enough for most people.

With the array of cameras giving flexibility, the Xperia 5 should prove to be a decent mobile camera, although the Pixel 3 will probably still outperform it.

While the Xperia 1 had a lot of high-end competition, the Xperia 5’s lower price and smaller body puts it into a slightly different category and makes it, arguably, a more interesting phone. Look out for our full review to give you the full lowdown on this new handset.

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