Sony Xperia 5: Everything you need to know about Sony’s smaller flagship phone

Georgina Torbet/Digital Trends

Sony took to IFA 2019 to announce a whole host of new devices, and among them was a neat new flagship smartphone, the Sony Xperia 5. While Sony’s smartphone division has struggled to stand out in the last few years, Sony is likely hoping a new focus on its strengths — including support for the PS4’s wireless controller, and an odd new feature that uses a photo of your ear to optimize your sound — will prove successful when combined with flagship specs and a triple-lens camera. Here’s everything you need to know about the Sony Xperia 5.

Design and display

First things first — the looks. The Xperia 5 looks a lot like the Xperia 1. There, we said it. Sony’s design language tends towards the boxy, and it is certainly unique. The front of the Xperia 5 is dominated by the display, with only slim bezels at the top and bottom. Like most recent Xperia phones, the Xperia 5’s display is rocking a super-wide 21:9 aspect ratio and Sony is working with various games and content creators to really bring that aspect ratio into its own. That long aspect ratio and a smaller overall size should mean the Xperia 5 is easier to handle than the larger Xperia 1. However, it’s not the return of the Compact range — it’s just smaller than Sony’s massive flagship.

The display itself is impressive. It’s a 6.1-inch OLED display running a 2520 x 1080 resolution, with support for HDR (and automatic conversion of SDR content to HDR), 10-bit tonal gradation, and DCI-P3. The phone should sound good too, with support for Dolby Atmos and stereo speakers.

Flip the phone over and you’ll see some key differences to the larger Xperia 1. The back is covered with Gorilla Glass 6, but the triple camera module is now placed at the top left of the phone’s rear. As is Sony’s tradition, you’ll find the fingerprint on the side of the phone, perfectly placed for your thumb.

Camera

The rear camera module is comprised of three 12-megapixel lenses, including the main lens with an f/1.6 aperture, a 2x telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture, and a super-wide lens with an aperture of f/2.4. The camera has optical image stabilization and is powered by Sony’s Eye AF software that can identify and hold focus on the human eye, helping to take photos with better focus. You’ll find an 8-megapixel selfie lens around the front.

The camera’s not just for taking snaps though, it can also be used to personalize your audio experience. Called 360 Reality Audio, Sony boasted you’ll be able to customize your sound profile with headphones by taking a picture of your ear with the Xperia 5. Your ear shape is analyzed in the cloud, and sound profiles are altered to fit your unique ear shape. It’s an odd feature, but an interesting one. We’ll be looking into this more, but it is not currently clear whether this feature will be available on launch, and whether it only works with Sony’s headphones.

Specifications and battery

Georgina Torbet/Digital Trends

The Xperia 5 is a flagship phone, so it gets some suitably flagship-level specs to match its price.

Key Specs

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • MicroSD storage: Yes, up to 512GB
  • Screen size: 6.1 inches
  • Resolution: 2520 x 1080 pixels
  • Dimensions: 157.5 x 66 x 7.6 mm
  • Weight: 5.8 oz (166.9 grams)
  • Water-resistance: IP65/68
  • Battery: 3,140mAh
  • Operating system: Android 9.0 Pie

The Xperia 5 is powered by the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, which will provide more than enough power for most users. However, with Sony’s emphasis on mobile gaming — including the ability to use a PS4 controller on your smartphone, no less — we’re disappointed to not be seeing the more powerful Snapdragon 855 Plus. While the Snapdragon 855 is extremely powerful, serious gaming phones like the Asus ROG Phone 2 have already moved to the 855 Plus.

That strong processing power is backed up by 6GB of RAM — again, more than enough for most — and a decently large 128GB of onboard storage. If that’s not enough for you, it can be boosted by up to 512GB through MicroSD card. The battery could be a weak point. At 3,140mAh, it’s on the smaller side for modern flagships and may not hold up to sustained gaming and media use. However, Sony’s loaded the Xperia 5 up with its usual battery saving features, so it may last longer than we initially expect.

Software and special features

The Xperia 5 also launches with Android 9.0 Pie — another slight disappointment. Android 10 just launched, and we hoped a new flagship would come with Google’s latest operating system. Hopefully, it’ll see a speedy update after release.

However, you’ll find Sony’s usual broad range of special features loaded into Android. There’s the support for PlayStation wireless controllers as well as Remote Play with the PS4. If you’re the owner of a Sony Alpha camera, then you’ll also be able to use your Xperia 5 as a remote display using Sony’s Imaging Edge app.

Release date and price

The Sony Xperia 5 is launching in European markets and will be released in October 2019 in Europe, and in November 2019 in the U.S. at Best Buy, Amazon, B&H Photo & Video, and other retail stores. Prices will start at $800, which puts it into direct competition with the iPhone XR, Samsung Galaxy S10e, and OnePlus 7 Pro at $750. That’s some seriously strong competition.

Pre-orders will kick off next week in select European markets and will come bundled with Sony’s WF-1000XM3 Noise Canceling headphones.

Updated on September 5, 2019: We’ve added more details about the Xperia 5.