At a glanceExpert’s Rating
ProsVery colour accurate displayImpressive camerasGood battery lifeDecent performanceConsOnly two rear camerasNot very bright displayUncomfortable to holdProne to overheatingOur Verdict
A clear design flaw in the build drags down the score, and you shouldn’t expect too much in terms of performance It’s undoubtedly a quality phone with both a good camera and great media features, but such an orthodox phone is too niche for most people.
Many things go into building a good mobile phone. The right components, performance and features; a screen with good colour, contrast and brightness; a camera that gives you reliable images in many situations; good mobile signal and Wi-Fi reception; and well thought-out systems, apps and interfaces.
One of the most important is the physical design of the mobile phone – this is a gadget you carry in your pocket all day, and in your hand for several hours every day. So it has to be well adapted and designed for that.
The Sony Xperia 5 V is not. Despite retaining the compact, elongated dimensions that Sony’s Xperia 5 phones have become known for, it’s one of the most uncomfortable phones to hold that I’ve tried in a long time.
They’ve never been very ergonomically rounded with flat surfaces and straight edges in the frame all around, but what Sony’s designers were thinking here is a mystery.
There are double sharp edges on both the front and back where the frame transitions to a completely flat glass surface with a clear seam. It chafes my fingers and palm when I sometimes need to grip it more firmly, and is annoying when I make swipe gestures on the screen from the edges.
In the Xperia 1 V, similar edges worked better, as it was designed more for two-handed use and had ribbed sides for a firm grip.
High performance – at first
With Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 under the hood, it’s hard to complain about performance. Everything from games to heavy apps and multitasking runs smoothly.
For short-term high-intensity tasks, it’s one of the fastest phone I’ve seen. It seems that the immediate heat dissipation from the processor cores is particularly effective.
Unfortunately, this also means that the entire mobile phone becomes uncomfortably hot to grip if the high processor and graphics load lasts for more than five minutes. Then there can also be significant throttling: in a stress test of the graphics it loses almost 40% performance in 20 minutes.
You get 8GB of RAMand 128GB of storage on the only model available. The latter won’t be enough for most people, but it is expand with more storage, as there is a micro SD card slot in the SIM card slot. You have room for a physical nano SIM card and the phone also has support for eSIM.
Connections using either Wi-Fi 6E or 5G are stable and fast, though it’s not clear if the phone will ever be updated to support the latest (at the time of writing) Wi-Fi 7 standard.
Classic Xperia features
You can choose between three colours for the phone: matte black, light grey and a muted grey-blue model.
There’s not much to say about the look, it’s pretty much anonymous, and none of the colour choices stand out. On the back, a Sony logo is etched into the glass surface, and in the top left corner, a relatively small two-lens camera body sticks out an extra millimetre.
You’ll find several typical Sony details elsewhere on the phone. At the top, you’ll still find the classic 3.5mm audio jack for wired headphones. On the bottom, the SIM card slot that can be pulled out without a pin.
And on one long side small volume buttons, plus a fingerprint sensor built into the power button. There’s also a separate shutter button for the camera.
The front is also very Sony. The unusually wide 21:9 screen has neither softly rounded corners nor selfie camera holes, unlike almost every other phone these days.
While the bezels are slim, there needs to be room for both a selfie camera and front-facing stereo speakers either side of the screen. This makes the phone even longer than it would otherwise be, though still easier to use one-handed than most handsets.
Smart interface, few updates
Sony’s software here is the same as in other 2023 Xperia phones.
Its Android 13 skin is very similar to the stock Google version, but there are some bonus navigation features, such as a smart and easy-to-use split-screen or floating window multitasking system. However, the latter works better on the Xperia 1 V, where you have a larger screen area.
Sony spices things up with several of its own apps and services. One is called Bravia Core, which provides access to selected films from the Sony Pictures catalogue, and another is Music Pro, a multi-track audio recorder linked to an AI and cloud-based mixing and mastering service that you have to pay extra for. What
Sony isn’t so generous with its Android updates. Only two years of system updates and three years of security updates are guaranteed, which is well behind most of the competition.
But image quality is a key strength of the Xperia 5 V. There’s the same high quality of colours here as in the Xperia 1 V, with a BT.2020 (also known as Rec. 2020) colour gamut that’s even better than DCI-P3.
Alongside 10-bit colour depth and HDR optimised video, it makes for an amazing film experience with the right content. Or, as amazing as it can be on such a small screen.
The brightness of the screen is simultaneously good and bad. Basic brightness, which you can adjust manually, is up to almost 800 nits, which is unusually high. And for the most part, that’s good enough for both indoor and outdoor use.
But with auto brightness turned off, it’s very obviously lacking intensity, and struggles in direct sunlight.
Excellent camera, but the zoom is missing
A recent trend is for mobile phone manufacturers to “borrow” credit for their cameras by collaborating with well-known camera manufacturers. Sony doesn’t have to do that, basing its mobile cameras on its own Exmor sensors and importing features from its own Alpha system camera platform. However, Sony uses Zeiss optics in its mobiles, which is written in fine print under the main sensor.
The Xperia 5 V has received the same camera upgrade as the Xperia 1 V, with a new Exmor RS sensor in the main camera for this year, with 48Mp instead of the previous 12. The difference is that it’s then just a wide-angle camera, and you don’t get the top model’s telephoto for optical zoom.
That makes it a little more limited in use, but anything that doesn’t involve zooming makes the Xperia 5 V just as good. A wide dynamic range, pleasantly natural colour reproduction, fast and accurate autofocus and good low-light shooting capabilities. It maintains colour balance and dynamics with minimal noise.
If I shoot at a wide angle, I don’t have to rethink my approach – the colour, light and dynamics work the same way, even if the low-light shots are a bit noisier and the detail is not as sharp.
The camera app, which convincingly imitates a Sony Alpha system camera, still pretends I have an optical zoom and in manual mode makes it switch between three fixed focal lengths or zoom with a smooth slider.
Three ways to film
Sony also wants you to be happy to film a lot with your Xperia. In addition to video in the camera app, you have two separate video shooting apps.
Video Pro gives you some extra tools for things such as smooth zooming, object tracking, more ISO control and even live streaming capability. Cinema Pro mimics a real pro camera for cinematographers, offering the likes of colour grading filters, detailed FPS control and full manual control of the shutter. It all feels a bit excessive for a mobile phone, and I would have liked to see Video Pro baked in as a mode in the camera app instead.
With the same 5,000mAh battery as the Xperia 1 V, but a smaller screen area and lower resolution display, battery life should be improved. A 120Hz refresh rate can dynamically adjust depending on what you’re doing certainly helps this.
And yes, this is a step up from the Xperia 1 V’s merely acceptable battery life to something really good. There’s also 30W wired charging and support for Qi wireless charging, though the wattage of the latter isn’t specified.
Neither wired nor wireless chargers are included, so you’ll have to find one with the right power and charging standard. Luckily I had that available, and with it I can fill the battery to just under 50% in half an hour. A full charge then takes a further 50 minutes.
It’s not a dealbreaker for most people, but not on par with many other top phones that charge much faster. You don’t have the ability to quickly plug in for five minutes before running to the bus, and then have enough power for a few hours on the go.
Product name: Sony Xperia 5 V
System: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Memory: 8 GB
Storage: 128 GB
Display: 6.1 inch amoled, 1080×2520 pixels, 120 Hz
Cameras: 48 megapixel + 12 megapixel wide angle with led rear, 12 megapixel front
Communications: 2g, 3g, 4g, 5g, wifi 6e, bluetooth 5.3, gps, nfc
Connections: Usb 3 gen 2 type c, 3.5 mm headset
Operating system: Android 13 with Xperia UX, 4 years of updates
Other: Dual-SIM, side fingerprint reader, water resistant (ip65/ip68)
Battery: 5,000 mAh, 22 hrs video streaming (max brightness, 60 Hz), 14 hrs 72 min mixed use (Pcmark Work 3.0, 200 cd/m2 brightness), approx. 38 hours of calls (4g)
Battery charging: 30 W usb (pd3.0, pps), 0-26% in 15 min, 0-47% in 30 min, wireless charging (qi), charger not included
Size: 15.4 x 6.8 x 0.86 cm
Weight: 182 g
This article was originally published in Swedish on M3.