Sony seems to have settled into a comfortable, if not terribly exciting smartphone formula. Skinny, tall and squared-off rectangles built for content creation and consumption, the Sony Xperia family genes run particularly strong in all the devices we’ve seen so far. This can certainly also be said for the Xperia 5 V, the third and final phone to complete Sony’s trio of Mark V devices.
We’ve already taken a look at the flagship Xperia 1 V as well as the cheapest phone of the series, the Xperia 10 V, which earned itself a What Hi-Fi? Award thanks to its stellar AV performance and inexpensive price tag. Both phones earned five stars in their respective reviews, so what does the middle device have to offer? Unsurprisingly, Sony’s prioritisation of picture and sound has won us over once again, but it’s up against some tough competition.
The Sony Xperia 5 V is priced at £849 here in the UK. That, surprisingly, is £100 cheaper than the last generation model. It hasn’t launched in the US or Australia yet, but we anticipate the price will be around $899 and AU$1299 respectively when (or if) it does. Lower prices are always welcome to see, and this has been a trend across the Sony smartphone lineup this year, as the 1 V and 10 V are also cheaper than their predecessors.
While welcome, the lower price still puts the Xperia 5 V in the firing line of some seriously tough competition. It’s slap bang in between Apple’s latest equivalent offerings, with the iPhone 15 starting at £799 and the iPhone 15 Plus at £899. There’s also pressure from Google’s latest Pixel devices, with the Pixel 8 undercutting it at £699, while the Pixel 8 Pro isn’t far off at £999.
If it wasn’t for the slightly redesigned camera module on this unit, we’d find it impossible to differentiate this new Xperia 5 from the 2022 version. Its premium metal and glass construction feels great in the hand and looks sleek too in the matte black finish, but the Xperia 1 V is more exciting and feels more secure in the hand with its grippy textured back and side rails.
You have three finishes to choose from on the Xperia 5 V; Black, Platinum Silver and Blue. If we had to choose, we’d take the pleasingly subtle blue hue that has a hint of purple to it – according to Pantone it would be classed as “light periwinkle”.
Screen size 6.1 inches
Screen type OLED
Screen resolution 1080 x 2520 (449 ppi)
Finishes x 4 (Black, Platinum Silver, Blue)
Operating system Android 13
The 5 V’s 6.1-inch 21:9 aspect ratio screen makes handling the phone easier than its bigger sibling, although swiping from the top of the tall display still requires some manoeuvring when using the phone one-handed. That being said, the smaller display is easier to navigate than the larger 1 V, and it's the same size as the cheaper Xperia 10 V.
Flipping over to the rear of the phone, you’ll find the camera housing tucked into the top left-hand corner. It’s more compact than the 5 IV, now sporting just two lenses, while the microphone and flash have been integrated into the camera housing, giving it a much neater appearance compared to last year’s model.
Around the edges of the phone you’ll find a USB-C and “no tool required” SIM tray on the bottom, on the right-hand side are all of the buttons including a camera shutter button, volume controls and a power/lock/fingerprint sensor combination button. On the top of the device is where, pleasingly, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, when every other smartphone manufacturer seems to have abandoned it many moons ago.
We’re reluctant to call the Xperia 5 V a mid-range phone because its price and feature set are on par with most flagship phones. However, it is literally in the middle of the current Sony range, meaning it isn’t quite as high spec as the Xperia 1, but it’s got more to offer than the Xperia 10 V.
That being said, it shares a lot of screen specifications with its smaller and cheaper sibling. It uses an OLED panel, with a resolution of 1080 x 2520 and a pixel density of 449ppi, identical to the 10 V. Although, it does feature a higher refresh rate at 120Hz, and it has access to Sony’s excellent Creator Mode screen setting which uses image processing and colour tuning to allow for content with “faithful reproduction of the creator’s intended vision”. The display also supports HDR via the HDR10 standard.
Sound features are also very similar to the other two models in the lineup, with front-facing stereo loudspeakers, hi-res wired audio and plenty of Bluetooth 5.3 audio codecs including A2DP, LE Audio, aptX HD and aptX Adaptive, as well as immersive audio formats in the form of Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio.
Internally, we’re happy to report that the Xperia 5 V more closely resembles the flagship 1 V, sharing the same powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor which ensures the 5 V is buttery smooth in daily operation. Pair that with 8GB of RAM and 128GB and we have a near-enough-flagship set of internals. This phone also has the same 5000mAh battery as its more expensive sibling, although you’ll have to supply your own charger (wired or wireless) as one does not come in the box.
The Xperia 5 V is arguably closest to the flagship grade in its camera. It has dropped the telephoto lens this year, meaning you’ll have to rely on digital zoom, but it does get the Xperia 1’s Exmoor T for Mobile primary camera sensor. The 48MP main shooter and 12MP ultra-wide combination provide a pretty excellent camera experience, creating sharp and detailed images that should be good enough for self-proclaimed smartphone photographers and Instagrammers. Sony also includes its Photography Pro app for users who want to delve into the more complex areas of photography.
If you’ve read any of our Sony phone reviews before, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that the Xperia 5 V is seriously talented in the picture department. While we prefer the bigger screen of the 1 V for watching movies, the 5 V gains most of the best picture qualities from its more expensive counterpart.
Starting with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Disney Plus, the opening shot of pitch black space perforated by hundreds of miniature stars and the planet Lah'mu looks striking and clear, with each star bursting with plenty of brightness against the expanse of space, which looks convincingly deep black thanks to the OLED display.
As the shot transitions to the Imperial shuttle entering the planet’s atmosphere, we do notice a slight wobble in the motion, although this seems to resolve itself in the next tracking shot of the spaceship soaring over the beach. Not only this, we’re quickly distracted by the solidity and depth of the image, which ensures even the mountains in the background of the shot appear structured and three-dimensional. We can truly appreciate this as a shot lingers on a service droid, as its outline is sharp yet not overly etched, resulting in a solid depth effect without verging into the unnatural “cardboard cutout” look.
Moving onto John Wick: Chapter 4 on Amazon Prime Video, we jump into the thrilling sequence set in the Osaka branch of the Continental Hotel. It’s a visual feast on the Xperia 5, with punchy, dramatic red neon lights juxtaposed with a pitch black night sky that looks appropriately cinematic on this smartphone screen. It’s also worth noting here that the film is uninterrupted by a notch or black bars, taking up the whole 21:9 display in a sleek and cinematic fashion.
While it can do brighter and bolder colours, the Sony is also adept at handling skin tones, with a natural warmth on everyone from the titular hero to the henchmen he swiftly dispatches and hotel owner Shimazu Koji alike. Individual wrinkles and skin textures are sharp and defined, as well as finer details on clothing and even the vast array of weapons seen in the shot.
The display is also pleasingly bright, as while we have it cranked up to maximum brightness for full effect, it adds to the spotlights and lens flare seen throughout the sequence. Especially as the lights go out and the action kicks into high gear, the neon lights and flashes of gunfire pop with vibrancy.
The only issue we can find with the Xperia 5 V’s display is that content not in the 21:9 aspect ratio, such as Peep Show on Netflix is subject to hefty black pillars flanking the left and right of the picture. While you can zoom in to fill out the full display, it does cut off a fair amount of the top and bottom of the picture as a result.
It’s likely, though not surprising, that Sony’s latest smartphone would be equally talented in the audio department – after all, who puts a headphone jack on a phone in 2023 without considering sonic performance? Plugging straight into that seldom-seen port offers a rich and textured rendition of James Blake’s Limit To Your Love, with the piano and vocals sounding authentic and engaging. Dynamics are particularly strong, with Blake’s vibrato vocals punching through the moments of silence before the warbling bass kicks in.
Moving onto the 5 V’s speakers, they’re by no means game-changing and we’d still recommend plugging in some proper cans to listen to music on this device, but they’re decent for watching an episode of a TV show or even a movie here and there. Listening to a quick clip from John Wick: Chapter 4 we find the dialogue to be clear, and there’s even a semblance of low level dynamics that adds detail to voices. That being said, they could offer a touch more weight, as punchy gunshots and the cinematic score fail to muster the strength to provide much impact.
Sony nails the cinematic experience on a phone once again, something it’s getting very good at. It’s hard to pick faults in its picture, and the smaller screen and lower price tag will most likely be a draw for many who don’t want or need everything the flagship Xperia 1 V offers.
If we’re being frank, the Xperia 5 V is the best chance that Sony has to distract people from the iPhones, Galaxys and Pixels of the world, and it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
- Picture 5
- Sound 4
- Features 5
Read our review of the iPhone 14
Also consider the Sony Xperia 10 V
Read our Sony Xperia 1 V review