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Sony Xperia M5 review: A mid-range handset for UK selfie fans

Curtis Moldrich
25 Jan 2017
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
300
inc VAT (SIM-free)

Page 1 of 2Sony Xperia M5 review: A mid-range handset for UK selfie fans

A sluggish chipset and mediocre battery life fail to make the Xperia M5 stand out

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Specifications

Processor: Octa-core 2.0GHz Mediatek MT6795, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 21.5 megapixels, Storage (free): 16GB (10.8GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 145x72x7.6mm, Weight: 143g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1

Sony’s hit phones tend to be a bit hit and miss, don’t they? The Japanese giant’s Xperia X failed to live up to our expectations when we reviewed it, while the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact weren’t that different from the outgoing Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact handsets. Now the Xperia M5 is here, and we’re hoping it marks one of Sony’s high points.

Therefore, it’s with slight trepidation that we approach the Sony Xperia M5, the new version of the – still, frankly new Xperia M4 Aqua. The latter was one of the best mid-range smartphones of 2015, and costs around £150 – so the Xperia M5 needs to be much better to justify its higher, £300, asking price. So is it any good? Read our review of the Sony Xperia M5 to find out.

Design

With its glossy frame, reinforced corners, and gorgeous frosted rear glass, the Sony Xperia M5 is almost the spitting image of the Xperia Z3+, which was one of Sony's 2015 flagship handsets, and the gold version I was sent for review is particularly stunning.

With this kind of build quality, it's a world away from the plastic and faux leather combo of the S5 Neo and even the Nexus 5X's comfy, soft-touch unibody can't hold a candle to it. It's a shame it doesn't come with the same power-button based fingerprint reader as the Z5 and Z5 Compact, instead opting for one of Sony's traditional circular power buttons, but it's not really that surprising when this is still, largely, a mid-range handset.

The M5 has a much higher specification than the M4 - hence the increase in price. It has a 5in, Full HD display, a 21.1-megapixel camera on the rear, and a huge 13-megapixel camera on the front. That's a big upgrade from the M4 Aqua, but at this kind of price, it's also go to compete alongside other £300 phones like the Nexus 5X and Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo.

Performance

The Sony's Xperia M5's octa-core 2.0GHz MediaTek MT6795 processor and 3GB of RAM are arguably the phone's greatest undoing, as I've never seen a MediaTek processor outperform its Qualcomm-based equivalent. In Geekbench 3, for instance, the Xperia M5 managed scores of just 586 in the single core test and 1,429 in the multicore test, the latter of which is 1,000 points slower than last year's M4 Aqua. It's certainly no match for the Nexus 5X, which scored 1,235 and 3,489 respectively, and even the S5 Neo's Exynos 7580 produced faster scores of 724 and 3,547.

Fortunately, Sony's Android 5.1.1 interface is still relatively smooth during day-to-day use, but there can be a slight delay when returning to the home menu, for instance. Apps can also take a little longer to load than its main rivals, and there's a pause whenever you bring up the onscreen keyboard.

Its Peacekeeper score of 697 also wasn't very promising, and it took a significant amount of time for it to load all the pictures on the Guardian homepage. Scrolling up and down the page while it was loading was surprisingly smooth, however, so you shouldn't have too much trouble browsing the web as long as you don't mind waiting for the pictures to pop in.

Gaming

Gaming performance wasn't great either, as its offscreen Manhattan test score of 425 frames (6.9fps) in GFX Bench GL 3.0 is almost twice as slow as the Nexus 5X. It's not particularly well suited to playing graphically intense games, then, but even titles like Hearthstone weren't wholly unplayable. It struggled to maintain its frame rate when I laid down new cards and encountered speech bubbles, but at no point was it so bad that it made me want to stop playing. That said, its forte is definitely simpler games, as Threes! was much smoother and easier to play than Hearthstone.

Display

It's a shame the M5's hardware isn't better, as Sony's 5in, 1,920x1,080 resolution display looks great. With a peak brightness level of 542.61cd/m2, it's more than bright enough to use outdoors without any visibility problems, and colours look rich and vibrant thanks to its 92.2% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut. Blacks aren't particularly fantastic at 0.53cd/m2, but a contrast ratio of 840:1 still provides a reasonable amount of detail in dark photos and videos.

Battery Life

You'll need to keep tabs on the M5's brightness levels, however, as setting it to 170cd/m2 and playing a video continuously only produced 8h 55m of battery life, which is pitiful compared to the S5 Neo's 16h 27m, and it doesn't compare very well with the Nexus 5X's 10h 14m either. Admittedly, Sony's power-management software is brilliant when it comes to squeezing more out of your phone's 2,600mAh battery, but activating its Ultra Stamina and Low-battery modes do mean you'll have to sacrifice everything but its most basic phone functions.

Page 1 of 2Sony Xperia M5 review: A mid-range handset for UK selfie fans

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