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Sony Xperia 5 V review: Sony makes some small but significant cuts

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 849
inc. VAT

Sony has finally brought the price of its compact flagship down, but at what cost?

Pros

  • Much cheaper than before
  • Genuine two-day battery life
  • Strong main camera

Cons

  • Has lost its telephoto camera
  • Design has regressed
  • Display quality isn’t as good as it used to be

Sony’s Xperia 5 series invariably follows behind the flagship Xperia 1 line, providing similar performance and basic features but with fewer bells and whistles squeezed inside a smaller form factor, all at a cheaper price point.

It’s also always shared the same main criticism, with both Xperia families tending to be a little expensive, especially when you compare them to their contemporaries.

With the Xperia 5 V, Sony is finally attempting to address that issue. This year’s model has actively rolled back some of its features in pursuit of a more accessible price point, creating greater differentiation between Sony’s top two smartphone models. But do these cuts go too far?

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Sony Xperia 5 V review: What you need to know

First things first, let’s address that awkward name. Yes, Sony really has tossed two consecutive fives in there. No, Sony doesn’t want you to call it the ‘Xperia Five-Five’, but rather the ‘Xperia Five Mark 5’. Yes, it’s still a little daft.

Naming aside, the Xperia 5 V is a clear statement of intent from Sony. It’s a compact phone with flagship features, including an unusually wide 6.1in 21:9 120Hz OLED display and the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor that powers the £1,299 Xperia 1 V.

However, the Xperia 5 V’s signature squared-off design has lost a little of the finesse of the Xperia 5 IV, let alone the Xperia 1 V and the camera system has dropped to a dual setup for the first time.

Thankfully, it retains the Xperia 5 IV’s large 5,000mAh battery and wireless charging, which represented major points of progress with last year’s model. You also still get a level of water resistance certification that goes above and beyond (both IP68 and IP65), and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

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Sony Xperia 5 V review: Price and competition

With the Xperia 5 V, Sony shows signs of reshaping its flagship phone series, creating more differentiation and clarity in both features and pricing. With a starting price of £849, it’s £100 cheaper than last year’s Xperia 5 IV and £50 cheaper than the Xperia 5 III. It costs a considerable £450 less than the Sony Xperia 1 V, too.

All in all, the effect of this shift is a bit like if Apple were to ditch its Pro and Plus smartphone lines, instead only giving you the iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 15 as options. If you’re only going to supply two options, that makes quite a lot of sense.

Of course, the Sony Xperia 5 V isn’t competing with itself. There are other compact flagships out there selling for similar or even considerably less money. The Asus Zenfone 10 (£750) and Google Pixel 8 (£699) both undercut it, while the Samsung Galaxy S23 and Xiaomi 13 cost the same amount.

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Sony Xperia 5 V review: Display

On the surface, Sony doesn’t appear to have changed anything with the Xperia 5 V’s display. It’s yet another 6.1in 1080 x 2520 OLED with an unusually wide 21:9 aspect ratio.

This makes it easy to reach across the screen with the thumb of your holding hand (at least if you have large hands), and it also makes the phone great for playing ultrawide video content. The latter is especially true with the aforementioned lack of a display notch getting in the way.

Top brightness remains similar to the Xperia 5 IV, too. With auto brightness turned off, I recorded it hitting a solid 625cd/m².

Other measurements suggest something of a rollback on quality, however. While an average Delta E of 1.7, a gamut coverage of 94.7% and a gamut volume of 97.8% are far from bad, they fall a little short of my measurements for the Xperia 5 IV a year prior.

More generally, I found the display to be a little cool to my eye, and I also noticed a pronounced bluish tint when holding the phone off-angle. This was having switched to the more neutral Creator mode as well. It looked especially off-putting when held alongside the Pixel 8 with its warm, colour-accurate output.

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Sony Xperia 5 V review: Performance and battery life

While the Sony Xperia 5 V pares back on the Xperia 1 V provision in most key areas, it retains the flagship phone’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Together with 8GB of RAM, it ensures strong flagship-grade performance across the board.

All of our usual CPU and GPU benchmark tests reveal a phone that performs as well as the £1,300 Xperia 1 V, and comfortably better than last year’s Xperia 5 IV. It’s also a match for direct rivals like the Galaxy S23 and the Zenfone 10, while it eats the Pixel 8 for breakfast.Of course, with a late September release date, the Xperia 5 V won’t have long at the top of the compact flagship tree. But it’s a strong performer nonetheless and will handle all of the tasks and advanced 3D games that you can throw at it.General performance was solid during my time with the phone, and any foibles (such as an occasionally slow or janky jump into the camera app) would appear to be software issues rather than performance flaws. Expect updates to iron out any such bugs in the future.

There’s nothing to criticise on the stamina front, either. Like the Xperia 5 IV before it, the Xperia V 5 is an absolute battery life champ, aided by a large 5,000mAh cell.

In our usual looping battery test, the Xperia 5 V lasted 20hrs 45mins, which is around 40 minutes more than its predecessor. You can probably put those generational gains down to the more efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, plus whatever software improvements Google and Sony have made in the past 12 months.It should be said that this media-focused score falls well short of rival phones like the Pixel 8, Zenfone 10, and Galaxy S23. In more practical terms, however, the Xperia 5 V performs admirably, with a full 15-hour day of moderate usage (around four hours screen on time) leaving me with between 60 and 65% left in the tank. This is a flagship phone with genuine two-day potential.

Recharging times are as underwhelming as before. Once again, the Xperia 5 V tops out at 30W, and there’s no charger in the box. Using the Zenfone 10’s 30W charger, I was able to get the Xperia 5 V from empty to 47% in 30 minutes, which is identical to the Xperia 5 IV before it. Wireless charging also makes a return, which is nice to see.

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Sony Xperia 5 V review: Software

The Xperia 5 V runs Android 13 out of the box, and hasn’t been updated to Android 14 as of early December. Whenever it arrives, the phone will be halfway to Sony’s promise of two major Android updates. In a world where Google has promised seven major Android upgrades for the Pixel 8, that’s pretty meagre.

On the positive side, Sony has always provided one of the more tasteful custom Android UIs on the market. While it’s not quite up there with Motorola, it doesn’t tinker with Google’s clean operating system too much, leaving the menus, icons, and basic layout broadly untouched.

Sony injects some of its personality through its default clock widget and wallpaper, both of which are simple to replace. It also supplies a handful of its own apps, including two video capture apps, a Music app, a Game enhancer app, and a handy Window Manager for handling windowed and split-screen apps.

In terms of third-party bloatware, the provision of LinkedIn and Facebook are hardly welcome, but nor are they especially egregious.

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Sony Xperia 5 V review: Cameras

When it comes to the Xperia 5 V’s camera setup, I have mixed emotions. To get the negative stuff out of the way early on, this is the first Xperia 5 phone to omit a dedicated telephoto camera, which is hardly a glowing endorsement any way you cut it.

It was only two years ago that the Sony Xperia 5 III gave us a sophisticated variable ‘liquid’ telephoto lens that could flip between 70mm and 105mm equivalent focal lengths. Now you’ll need to crop in on the main sensor like a schmuck – or, to be fair, like a Pixel 8 or Zenfone 10 user.

Disappointing zoom omission aside, the Xperia 5 V camera takes better shots than the Xperia 5 IV on the whole thanks to its new main sensor. Like the Xperia 1 V, it has moved from a 12MP 1/1.7″ sensor to a new 48MP 1/1.35″ alternative, which is 1.7 times larger. Sony has further improved this sensor’s light-scooping powers by placing the photodiode and transistor on separate layers.

Sony has paid more attention to computational processing with this year’s models, too. As a result of all of this, the Xperia 5 V – like the Xperia 1 V – makes for a more satisfying point-and-shoot experience in its stock Basic shooting mode, better accounting for darker conditions. Nowhere was this more apparent than when shooting in restaurants and bars, where scenes (and food shots) were rendered with much more depth and clarity than before.

It still doesn’t quite get a handle on HDR scenarios as well as, say, the Pixel 8, with the odd instance of blown-out highlights. But Sony’s colour science continues to be more natural and ‘as seen’. Together with the camera UI’s unmatched level of Pro control options, as well as that dedicated physical two-stage shutter button, this is comfortably the best sub-£1,000 phone for avid photographers.

Sony appears to have stuck with the same 12MP ultrawide camera as last year, which maintains the tone if not the detail or dynamic range of the main sensor. The 12MP selfie camera, too, appears unchanged. I did notice that it missed focus on my face on a couple of occasions, but otherwise, it’s a competent performer.

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Sony Xperia 5 V review: Verdict

With the Xperia 5 V, Sony is to be commended for finally grabbing the bull by the horns and making the range more affordable. However, in doing so, Sony has arguably made the Xperia V 5 worse than its immediate predecessor, which is never a good look.

While the range’s exemplary performance and battery life have been slightly improved upon, these weren’t areas that needed addressing. Conversely, the design is slightly clunkier, the screen is slightly worse, and the camera is less flexible than before – albeit with a better main sensor.

Ultimately, while the Xperia 5 V is cheap for a Sony flagship, it’s arguably not cheap enough. Not when you can get so many formidable compact flagship phones (the Pixel 8, the Galaxy S23, the Xiaomi 13, the Zenfone 10) for similar or even less money, none of which feel quite as compromised as Sony’s latest. 

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