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Sony Xperia 5 review: a niche phone for 21:9 fans only

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The Sony Xperia 5 is basically a somewhat shrunken version of the Sony Xperia 1. Sony saved the additional 'Compact' name for a good reason. Here, too, the Japanese manufacturer relies on a tall display. Do you think there are any advantages to this?

Sony Xperia 5


  • Super performance
  • Good battery life
  • Chic design


  • 21:9 display format
  • Weak camera
Sony Xperia 5
Sony Xperia 5
Sony Xperia 5: All deals

Sony Xperia 5 release date and price

Sony presented the Xperia 5 at the IFA. While an Xperia 2 was expected at the beginning, there was a more compact version instead of a quickly presented successor of the Sony Xperia 1. The smartphone is available now in Europe. Prices start at £699 in the UK (around $879) for the 128GB version. As a special introductory offer, Sony is throwing in a pair of the WF-1000XM3 true wireless headphones when you buy a new Xperia 5.

Xperia 5 Insitu 4colours
The Sony Xperia 5 is available in four colors / © Sony Mobile

Compact? I don't think so.

If you know the Sony Xperia 1, the Xperia 5 will feel familiar. Instead of a 6.5-inch display, there is a 6.1-inch display. That's probably why Sony saved on the additional 'Compact' name, which the manufacturer used for its smaller models in the past. This smartphone is not compact.

It measures 158 x 68 x 8.2 millimeters and weighs 164 grams. If you compare it with the Xperia XZ2 Compact, it's a bit wider, a bit thinner, but also much taller. Gorilla Glass 6 protects the display. There is a SIM card slot on the side that can be removed without a paper clip or special tool. The memory card can also be stored there. But all too often you should not remove the SIM tray, for example, to change the memory card. The construction does not look very stable.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia 5 Fingerprint Sensor
The fingerprint sensor is well-positioned / © NextPit

All buttons are on the right-hand side. There is a camera button at the bottom, followed by the power button above in which the fingerprint sensor is located. Above is the volume rocker. All buttons are impractical if you hold the smartphone normally. The reliable fingerprint sensor, on the other hand, sits exactly in the right place.

A loudspeaker and a USB-C port sit at the bottom. You have to do without a headphone jack here. Otherwise, Sony remains true to itself and continues to rely on a display bezel in which the front camera sits. There is also a bezel at the bottom under the display, although this is a bit narrower. There are also bezels at the sides, but these are quite narrow. With the already very tall design, however, the top and bottom bezels are incomprehensible.

It is also clear, however, that the 21:9 ratio brings with it decisive disadvantages. If your pockets are not deep enough, the smartphone always pokes out. In addition, the exemplarily built Xperia 5 only sits well in the hand until you want to work with it. Then two hands are always required. There is a one-hand mode, but it is not helpful.

Goodbye, 4K

With the Xperia 1, Sony has placed the display above all in the foreground. Not only because of the new 21:9 format, but also because it supports 4K. Already at the MWC 2019 Sony talked a lot about "cinema". After all, 21:9 is the format in which many cinema films are shot. The Xperia 5 also has an OLED display. On the other hand, prospective directors have to do without 4K.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia 5 Handheld
The 21:9 display of the Xperia 5 is tall / © NextPit

However, this does not mean that the display is bad. The 6.2-inch display offers a resolution of 2,520 x 1,080 pixels with a pixel density of 449 PPI. HDR is also supported. As one might expect, the display offers good colors and those who really watch whole movies on their smartphone should also be pleased about the format of the display. It should be remembered that not every film is shot in 21:9. Often enough, thick black bars remain on the left and right in landscape format. Then you can zoom, but whether that is the sense and purpose of the whole thing remains to be seen.

Who needs 21:9?

It's already been mentioned a few times: like the Sony Xperia 1, the Xperia 5 has a 21:9 CinemaWide display. On the one hand, it's nice that Sony has come up with something new here and is now consistently relying on it. On the other hand, the question arises as to who needs such a display and whether the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

Clearly, if you buy your smartphone mainly to watch movies produced in 21:9, you should really take a closer look at the Xperia 5. Perhaps also those who want to produce 21:9 movies with their smartphone. But apart from that, the tall format simply proves to be impractical. When you hold the smartphone, you first think that it's a good thing to hold. It's a fallacy that makes itself felt when you try to use it. On the one hand, the buttons are all impractically positioned, on the other hand you need both hands all the time and you get the feeling during use that it simply doesn't feel right. Maybe that will settle with time - but the question is how long you have to use it to really make friends with it.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia 5 Front 2
The display looks good, but makes operation cumbersome / © NextPit

In addition, the aspect ratio has no advantages in everyday life. That's how much you gotta give up, Sony: the multitasking option, where one app runs in the upper half of the screen and one in the lower half, is good and makes good use of the display. Just as not all movies and videos are in 21:9 format, not all apps support this format either. Here, too, you sometimes have to put up with black beams. In addition, the display is so slim that typing is not much fun. Sony also uses Side Sense. This allows you to display a selection of apps by touching the edges of the display. The feature works unintuitively that I gave up after a while - despite the tutorial.

For the sake of fairness, it should be mentioned here that my colleague Steffen was enthusiastic about the 21:9 format when he tested the Xperia 1. So try it out first and then decide if it's something for you or not.

Pure Android with bloatware

Android 9 Pie runs on the Sony Xperia 5. It can be assumed that Sony will deliver the update to Android 10 sooner or later. When, however, is unknown so far.

Basically, the Sony Xperia 5 runs a pretty pure Android and that's pleasing. There are a few adjustments like the multi-window option that are very welcome. Inspired by Sony's professional film camera series, the camera app aims to provide the tools of a Hollywood director. In Master mode, aperture, filter, focus and even color depth can be individually adjusted. The video recordings are made in 21:9 with a resolution of 4K HDR.

sony xperia 5 multi window
Multi-window works well on the 21:9 display / © Screenshot: AndroidPIT

What is annoying, however, is that some apps are also included here, which cannot be uninstalled, but can only be deactivated. These include, Facebook, the Fortnite installer, but also Netflix and Prime Video. The last two may still be the most useful ones in view of the focus on movie fans. However, permission to uninstall would be desirable. Surely not everyone is bothered by it, surely there are smartphones that force even more apps on you. With a price like this, I would like to decide for myself if I have Facebook & Co. on my smartphone.

Fast, faster, Xperia

As with the Xperia 1, a Snapdragon 855 runs the Xperia 5 and there is 6GB of RAM. It's nice to see that Sony is not slimming down the supposedly smaller flagship in terms of hardware. There is nothing to complain about when it comes to performance. Also thanks to the software the Xperia 5 runs fast and has no problem with games. If you use the split-screen feature, you don't have to worry about any restrictions. Everything runs fast and so it's fun to use the Xperia 5 in this respect.

The Xperia 5 also performs extremely well in the benchmarks, sometimes even better than the Xperia 1. It should be noted that the Geekbench tests for the Xperia 1 and the OnePlus 7 Pro were carried out with Geekbench 4, whereas on the Xperia 5 they were carried out with Geekbench 5. They are therefore not comparable.

Sony Xperia 5 benchmark comparison

  Sony Xperia 5 Sony Xperia 1 OnePlus 7 Pro
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme 5.256 4.456 5.374
3DMark Sling Shot Volcano 4.625 4.256 4.758
3DMark Sling Shot 6.050 5.813 6.958
3DMark Ice Power Unlimited 63.143 63.038 65.808
Geekbench (Single / Multi-Core) 699 / 2.692 3.424 / 10.836 3.419 / 10.773
PassMark Memory 31.116 31.355 31.375
PassMark Disk 74.217 61.603 69.984

Good sound

Of course, a smartphone is not a surround sound system. But the sound of the Sony Xperia 5 is pretty good, even over the speakers. It might actually be fun to watch a movie in full length. However, there is no headphone jack. You must use Bluetooth. After all, there is aptX HD, DSEE HX upscaler and Dolby Atmos on the Xperia device.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia 5 Charging Port
A loudspeaker is located next to the USB-C port / © NextPit

A camera that can't see in the dark

Sony uses the same camera setup in the Xperia 5 as in the larger Xperia 1. The arrangement is the same as in the larger Xperia 1, but instead of being centered on the back, the camera is mounted on the left. It consists of three individual cameras, each with 12 megapixels and different focal lengths. There is a super wide-angle with 16 millimeters and f/2.4, a wide-angle with 26 millimeters and f/1.6 and a telephoto lens with double optical zoom, 52 millimeters focal length and f/2.4.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia 5 Camera
The Xperia 5 has the same camera equipment as the Xperia 1 / © NextPit

The camera app is nice and also offers a professional mode where you can record in RAW format and set your parameters manually. The Xperia 5 records videos in 4K with 30 FPS or 1080p with 60 FPS. There is also image stabilization.

Like almost all current smartphones, the Sony Xperia 5 takes good pictures. Sony relies on AI to optimize the results. And as always with photos that have been upgraded using software, some people will like that better and some will like it worse. Still, there's something to complain about here, too. On the one hand, the superwide-angle causes an unsightly fisheye effect. Secondly, the camera is night-blind. While smartphone cameras differ mainly in the implementation of night mode, the Xperia 5 displays everything as you see it. This means that if there is little light, the photo will be dark. That's a shame, because Sony could have clearly caught up with the competition like the Huawei P30 Pro.

If you want to learn more about the camera, read our detailed camera test of the Xperia 1:

Better battery than expected

The Xperia 5 has a 3,140 mAh battery. So it's a bit smaller than the 3,330 mAh battery in the Xperia 1. Now you might think this is a painful difference. However, this is not the case. Just like its big brother, it has a good six hours of on-screen time. If you don't do too much with your smartphone, but let it run with LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and background services, it can last a good two days. If you use it more and also watch videos, it still comes in at well over a day.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia 5 Back
The Xperia 5 accompanies you safely through the day / © NextPit

Unfortunately, you have to do without a wireless charging here. The battery can be quickly recharged with the 18-watt power supply. On the software side, there are various power-saving options that you can switch on if you are running out of power.

Sony Xperia 5 technical specifications

A niche smartphone

The Sony Xperia 5 is by no means a bad smartphone. But it is a smartphone that is only suitable for a certain target group. You don't just have to like the 21:9 display, you have to want it. Anyone who does not see any explicit benefit in this should be warned. It offers a number of disadvantages in everyday life - even though opinions differ in our editorial department.

You have to do without wireless charging and a headphone socket. The camera is not bad, but there are clearly better ones. Just look at the Google Pixel 3a or the Huawei P30 Pro. Both are cheaper than the Xperia 5. If you're looking for a compact smartphone, you're better off here than with the Xperia 1. But the Xperia 5 isn't really compact either. The Samsung Galaxy S10e already is - and is also much cheaper these days.

On the other hand, the Sony Xperia 5 is well processed and offers impressive performance, which is to a large extent also responsible for the rating. Nothing about this smartphone is really bad, but at the same time I was thinking that nothing is remarkable about it either. The Xperia 5 looks as if it doesn't know exactly where it belongs.

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Julius Stiebert

Julius Stiebert

Julius has been working as a technology journalist since 2005, although he took a few breaks to travel the world. He's part of AndroidPIT since May 2019, carrying an iPhone with him most of the time. In his spare time he's taking photos - not always digitally.

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  • 8
    Adrian Palmer Edwards Oct 23, 2019 Link to comment

    Sorry this reviewer is either blind or hasn't used the phone at all, that's all I can say. The height is ideal for multi tasking & watching videos, as for the camera it takes excellent photos in all situations, don't take my word for it just check on youtube. Plenty of videos there proving my point, im a Blackberry user, however, my son has the xperia 1, & it's an excellent phone, even compared to the iphone which my eldest son has. Stop showing bias towards certain phones, you are going in the same direction as DxOMark has giving people the impression that you receive payment or favourable reviews for certain brands! Very, very disappointing!!!!

  • 1
    Carlos Deleón Oct 16, 2019 Link to comment

    Phones are starting to come in 19.5:9 and 20:9 format. Yet 21:9 is niche. Right.