We’ve reviewed both the bigger and smaller siblings of the Xperia 5 IV, but in a tale as old as time, it's the middle child that gets attention last. The Xperia 5 has a tall ask if it wants to stand out against the Award-winning and incredible value Xperia 10 IV, as well as the 4K-toting, no-compromise Xperia 1 IV.
For some, though, the Xperia 5 IV might actually represent the sweet spot in the range. More premium and feature-rich than the 10 IV but significantly more affordable than the 1 IV, could it be the perfect balance of performance and price?
The Xperia 5 IV might sit in the middle of the current Xperia line-up, but it’s not what most people would think of as a mid-range phone. Its price is the first clear indication of this: starting at £949 / $999 / AU$1399, the Xperia 5 IV is in iPhone 14 and 14 Plus territory.
It undercuts the top of the range 1 IV (£1299 / $1599 / AU$2300) by a fair amount, but it costs more than twice as much as the budget 10 IV, which retails for just £429 (around $495 / AU$733).
The price thankfully brings better specs, with 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB (the latter for more money of course) of storage depending on your configuration. The processor is the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which keeps the Android 12 software running buttery smooth.
The Xperia 5 is best described as a shrunken-down Xperia 1. With an aluminium frame sandwiched between a 6.1-inch display and a matte frosted glass back panel, the 5 IV is a sleek device that feels smooth and premium in the hand. It's undoubtedly a more premium in-hand experience than the budget 10 IV, which is comparatively plastic-tastic. It’s heavier, too, at 172g, although the frosted back panel makes the phone easy to grip.
The phone retains the tall and thin build for which the Xperia range is renowned, with the 21:9 aspect ratio making for a narrow and lanky device that's ideal for watching movies, but can make everyday operations, such as swiping down the notifications panel from the top of the screen, a bit awkward.
Sony has trickled many features of its more expensive flagship down to its smaller counterpart, making the Sony Xperia 5 IV a worthy alternative to the 1 IV in terms of features. Starting with the aforementioned 21:9 OLED display, which has become a trademark feature of Sony's Xperia phones. The thin bezels keep the phone pocketable, while the aspect ratio is perfect for watching movies without black bars flanking the screen. The display also supports HDR (in the HDR10 format).
The only knock to the Xperia’s display is the fact that the 10 IV has a very similar one for half the price. The 5 IV has a 1080 x 2520 (FHD) display that features a pixel density of 449ppi. This is actually lower than the much cheaper Xperia 10 IV, which has a 6-inch display at 457ppi. Rather than upgrade the resolution for the 5 IV, Sony has instead decided to double the refresh rate to 120Hz, so performance is smoother but not any sharper.
Screen size 6.1-inches
Screen type OLED
Screen resolution 1080 x 2520 (449ppi)
Finishes x 3 (Black, Green, Ecru White)
OS Android 12
Storage 128GB / 256GB
One aspect where the Sony doesn’t hold back is battery life. The phone is equipped with a 5000mAh cell, the same size as the one in the Xperia 1 IV, which already had a more than acceptable battery life. Without the need to run a 4K display, the Xperia 5 is a battery titan – easily getting through a day of intense usage. This almost makes up for the fact that the fast charger is an additional extra cost as, much like the 1 IV, there’s no charger to be found in the box.
Elsewhere, Xperias are among the ever-dwindling number of phones that have a 3.5mm headphone jack. If wireless is more your thing, Sony has you covered with Bluetooth LE and aptX HD support for high-quality wireless audio. The phone also sports a stereo loudspeaker set-up, comprising two front-facing speakers, similar to the more expensive 1 IV.
Another one of the 5 IV’s headline features is the excellent camera arrangement, which features some of the best aspects of the 1 IV’s camera set-up. The main 12MP shooter appears to be lifted directly from the 1, alongside the Zeiss-branded camera glass designed to reduce glare. The main camera is backed up by additional 12MP telephoto and 12MP ultra-wide cameras for versatile photography opportunities. Much like its more expensive relation, the Xperia 5 IV is a solid camera companion for budding photographers, and it even includes a more in-depth camera interface for those wanting to try their hand at “professional” photography.
Both of the Xperia mark IV smartphones we’ve already tested have scored five in the screen department thanks to their sharp, bright and deep pictures. One of the greatest strengths of the Xperia 1 IV is its customisable picture settings, especially the Creator Mode, which the 5 IV inherits. We have this switched on for testing as it provides a 'truer to the creator’s intent' approach to colours; a feature we’d love to see on more phones.
Watching Thor: Love And Thunder on the Xperia, the bold and punchy colours are certainly at home on the Sony’s display, although it’s a more considered approach than most rival phones offer, which ensures they aren’t overblown or unnatural. The Creator Mode tends to reel in overly saturated scenes for a more cinematic effect, and it’s mostly excellent. However, it does also from time to time produce skin tones that look slightly pale. Overall though, the Sony gets colours right and its handling of HDR content is admirable, generally striking a fine balance between celebrating bold colours and natural hues.
Contrast is also one of the Xperia’s strengths, as it is with the other phones in the lineup. Sony has found a sweet spot here, allowing subjects on screen to be presented prominently against the background without looking overly etched or cut out. In scenes with sprawling alien planet backdrops, Thor stands firmly in the foreground of the shot, with neatly defined edges and a real sense of three-dimensional depth. The iPhone 14 is actually even better when it comes to the depth and solidity of the image, but it's a close-run thing.
The Xperia 5 IV might lack a QHD resolution, but it’s still sharp enough for movie and TV watching without sacrificing too much fidelity. Environmental surfaces retain detail, and skin tones have enough subtle texture in them to ensure they don’t look overly smoothed.
One thing that is smooth is the motion, especially when the action is kicked into high gear in Thor. Sweeping panning shots and fast-moving subjects are virtually stutter-free, and the bold, flashy fight scene feels right at home on the Xperia’s display.
All told, the Xperia produces an excellent picture that captures the cinematic feel that both of its siblings also display. The only issue is that the cheaper 10 IV punches above its price tag on picture performance, and that means that the 5 IV isn’t quite as much of an upgrade as you might expect, given the price difference.
Via headphones, the Xperia 5 IV produces a natural and textured rendition of James Blake’s Limit To Your Love, with decent spatial separation and a fair amount of weight behind the bass-heavy segments. Vocals are also given a chance to shine here through said separation, not getting overshadowed by the other elements of the track.
There is room for improvement when it comes to dynamics, though. Moments in the track that are supposed to be clean breaks of silence tend to struggle a little; and while this doesn’t write off the Sony’s overall strong headphone performance, we have heard better from the likes of the iPhone 14.
The 5 IV also gets a very similar front-firing speaker set-up to the 1 IV, and while you won’t want to listen to whole albums on these speakers, they’re a more than acceptable choice for a quick spot of movie watching. Thor: Love And Thunder is easy to follow, with clear dialogue and enough weight to avoid the tinny and thin sound provided by the loudspeakers of most phones. This is one area in which the Xperia 5 tells a completely different story to the 10, which suffers from a particularly weak loudspeaker.
The Xperia 5 IV really does feel like the middle child of the current Xperia range. It doesn’t get the fanfare of the all-singing, all-dancing Xperia 1, nor does it get the praise of the Award-winning budget performance of the 10. However, when given the chance to shine, the Xperia 5 IV is a really vital addition to the Xperia line for those who want something in between.
If you want the quality build, audio performance and features of the 1 IV, and could happily live without the costly 4K screen in favour of a still very likeable 1080p alternative, then the Xperia 5 IV deserves your attention.
- Features 5
- Picture 5
- Sound 4
Read our review of the Apple iPhone 14
Also consider the Sony Xperia 10 IV
Read our Sony Xperia 1 IV review12