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Review: Sony Xperia 5 IV

Compact top phone for camera enthusiasts

The Sony Xperia 5 IV is one of the few premium compact smartphones on the market. It's excellent, but Sony misses the mark on a few points.

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Sony Xperia 5 IV
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Published 2022-09-05 - 8:26 am
Our opinion
Excellent camera phone for semi-professionals. Plus 21:9 OLED display, now brighter. Plus compact size and dedicated camera button, plus fast processor and wireless charging.
The phone gets extremely hot under pressure. The camera lacks the Xperia series' traditional periscope technology in the telephoto lens.
Specifications
  • Operating system: Android 12
  • Display: 6.1″ 21:9 HDR OLED 120 Hz, FHD+ (2520 x 1080), 450 ppi
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM / 128 GB storage (+ microSD up to 1 TB)
  • Cameras: 12 Mp wide-angle 24 mm f/1.7 m. OIS + 12 Mp tele 60 mm f/2.4 m. OIS + 12 Mp ultra-wide-angle 16 mm f/2.2 124° (primary) / 12 Mp f/2.0 (front)
  • Wireless: 5G, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, A-GPS, A-GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo
  • Dimensions and weight: 156 x 67 x 8.2 mm / 172 g
  • Battery: 5000 mAh, 30 W QuickCharge, 15 W wireless charging
  • Web: sonymobile.com
Benchmarks

Price 1 049 Product page

In keeping with tradition, Sony is also launching a compact version of their latest flagship phone, the Sony Xperia 1 IV. And just like last year, the compact Sony Xperia 5 IV is very similar to its big brother, but downgraded on a few points so that the price is also easier to swallow.

However, this year’s Xperia 5 model is a substantially more expensive than last year’s Sony Xperia 5 III, so the crucial question is whether Sony has achieved the right balance between price and quality this year, or whether last year’s model was a better buy for the price.

Sony Xperia 5 IV
The Sony Xperia 5 IV is elegantly designed with Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Appearance and construction

Not much has changed since last year. The Xperia 5 IV looks like its big brother with an elegant design featuring Gorilla Glass Victus on both the front and back, all surrounded by a metal frame. Unlike last year, the Xperia 5 IV is available in three different colours: black, green and white. And although the back is glass, the colour is matt, so the phone is both comfortable to hold and doesn’t collect fingerprints.

Like its three predecessors, Sony’s latest compact model also features a 21:9 screen. This makes the phone slim and long, and the narrow format means it’s easy to hold. There’s even a little extra length at the top, as Sony has opted again this year to place the front camera next to the speaker in the frame above the screen itself.

Sony Xperia 5 IV
New this year, Sony has cranked up the brightness of the screen, which is said to be 50 percent brighter than last year’s model. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

The camera module sits, as on the Xperia 5 III, in the top left corner of the back when viewed from behind. One reason is that Sony has made room for a 3.5mm minijack connector on the top of the phone, which is a nice touch for audiophiles.

The fingerprint reader is integrated into the power button on the right side of the phone. There you’ll also find the volume button and the dedicated camera button, which is a little bonus you don’t get with many other smartphones.

Screen

Like its predecessor, the Xperia 5 IV has a refresh rate of 120 Hz, and as we know, the high refresh rate means that the user experience is velvety smooth when moving around the home screen, in menus, etc.

New this year, Sony has cranked up the brightness, which should be 50% brighter than last year’s model. This makes the Sony Xperia 5 IV significantly more usable outdoors, which can be useful if you use the screen as a viewfinder when taking photos.

In addition, the screen on the Xperia 5 IV is almost a faithful copy of the screen on last year’s model. It’s an OLED screen with FHD+ resolution and, like its predecessor, the Xperia 5 IV features the so-called Creator Mode, which makes the screen’s image reproduction as colour-accurate and lifelike as possible. Among other things, the technology gives the mobile screen a wider colour gamut, while 10-bit HDR ensures more detailed reproduction of colour transitions.

Sony Xperia 5 IV
The new Sony mobile has three Zeiss lenses (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

The technology is supported by Netflix, among others, and the picture quality is quite impressive. On the Sony screen, the picture looks like in the cinema or on the very best TVs on the market, and of course it will be really cool if the content is available in 21:9 aspect ratio.

On Netflix, that’s about two out of three movies, while the vast majority of TV shows are only in 18:9 format. Unfortunately, this means that black bars appear on the right and left sides of the picture. But that might be worth putting up with in exchange for the opportunity to get the full benefit of content actually shot and available in the cinema format.

Incidentally, the 21:9 format also allows you to run two apps at the same time in so-called 21.9 multi-window mode, which works really well.

Audio

The cinema feel of the 21:9 format is amplified if you use a pair of proper headphones with your Sony Xperia 5 IV.

Last year, the Xperia 5 III’s built-in stereo speakers delivered a thin and rather miserable audio experience. Thankfully, the Sony Xperia 5 IV offers an update to the corresponding speakers that improves sound pressure and eliminates vibrations, increasing volume and reducing distortion. As a result, the sound quality from the built-in speakers is also better this year, although the Xperia 5 IV still lacks some depth and volume compared to the last few editions of the Xperia 1 model.

Sony Xperia 5 IV
The camera button has been moved further down on the Sony Xperia 5 IV, so it sits on the far right when you hold the phone horizontally. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

As mentioned, the phone also has a built-in minijack connector, and the Xperia 5 IV supports Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res Audio, including Sony’s LDAC format and DSEE Ultimate technology, as well as Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound.

Camera

The most notable thing about the Sony Xperia 5 IV compared to last year’s model is that the camera has actually been downgraded in a way. Specifically, the Xperia 5 IV doesn’t have the special periscope technology in the telephoto lens that gave the Xperia 5 III variable focal length, allowing the camera to switch smoothly between 70 and 105mm.

Sony used this solution as an alternative to traditional optical zoom. The 70mm provides 2.9x zoom, while the 105mm zooms to 4.4x, so with the Xperia 5 III you could zoom optically to 2.9x or 4.4x, while all other zoom distances were digital. With the Sony Xperia 1 IV, Sony even refined the technology to allow seamless optical zoom throughout the range 3.5x (85 mm) to 5.2x (125 mm).

But the Xperia 5 IV has a 60 mm telephoto lens only, with no variable focal length, so the only optical zoom distance is 2.5x, everything else is digital. A strange choice, which detracts from the user experience.

Sony Xperia5 IV galleri1 Sony Xperia5 IV galleri2 Sony Xperia5 IV galleri3
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The Church of St. Gethsemane in Berlin, photographed with ultra-wide angle, wide angle and 60 mm telephoto. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

The camera is controlled via the Photography Pro app, which basically has the same interface as Sony’s Alpha cameras, offering manual settings for exposure, white balance, shutter speed, etc. The camera has also borrowed a few other tricks from Sony’s Alpha range, such as Real-time Eye-AF, which tracks and focuses on the subject’s eyes even when the person is moving, which now works with all camera lenses.

Sony Xperia5 IV bokeh
Even without the dedicated 3D iToF sensor from the Xperia 1 IV, you can take pretty brilliant bokeh shots with the Sony Xperia 5 IV. The degree of bokeh effect can of course be adjusted manually in the camera app. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Should you not be a camera enthusiast, you can still choose the Sony Xperia 5 IV. Photography Pro also comes with a so-called Basic mode, which gives the user a simple interface that does most things automatically.

And where in the past (since the first Xperia 1 and Xperia 5 models, in fact) we experienced annoying weaknesses in Sony’s software as soon as the camera was left to its own devices – for example, Xperia phones had problems with automatic HDR for years, often leading to either over- or underexposed images – Sony has finally got their act together. Even pictures taken in Basic mode turn out quite nice, and Sony has got the automatic exposure under control.

But it’s the Alpha interface that makes the Sony Xperia 5 IV special, and the fact that Sony prioritises its own professional camera app is a good example of the Japanese electronics manufacturer knowing its audience. Many loyal Xperia users swear by Sony’s top-of-the-range phone precisely because of its close affinity with the company’s system cameras.

Sony Xperia5 IV AIzoom Sony Xperia5 IV standardzoom
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Another innovative camera feature is AI Super Resolution Zoom, which lets you get up close to your subject and still get a pretty sharp result. Like here, because this picture was shot with AI zoom. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Performance and features

Like its big brother Xperia 1 IV, the Sony Xperia 5 IV is equipped with the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor that we know from the Motorola Edge 30 Pro, OnePlus 10 Pro and Xiaomi 12 Pro, for example.

All of these phones saw the light of day in the spring, and Qualcomm has since launched a new and faster processor, the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, which can be found in the OnePlus 10T and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, among others, but even though the Sony Xperia 5 IV isn’t powered by the very latest technology, it’s still fast.

Sony Xperia5 IV HDR
Unlike all its predecessors, the Sony Xperia 5 IV has no problems controlling exposure. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

In our benchmark tests, the phone even performs better than its big brother Xperia 1 IV – except in the general Geekbench 5 test, where the result is significantly worse. We can’t really explain this remarkable discrepancy, and when we play our usual heavy test games like Asphalt 9 and Into the Dead 2, there’s no let-up.

Just with the exception of the temperature, that’s a problem the Xperia 5 IV has in common with its predecessor. The phone gets extremely hot at peak loads, making it almost impossible to hold in your hand. This is despite the fact that the Xperia 5 IV is equipped with the same kind of game-enhancing software as its predecessors, allowing you to dedicate more memory to the game you’re running.

On the other hand, we can be pleased that the Xperia 5 IV comes with a larger battery than last year’s model, and this can be felt in the battery life – despite the significantly brighter screen. There’s also 30 watts of fast charging – and now wireless charging too, which is another upgrade on its predecessor.

The fingerprint reader, as mentioned, is neither in the screen nor on the back of the phone, but rather integrated into the power button, and it’s actually a good solution that works every time. Like its predecessor, the Sony Xperia 5 IV is also water and dust resistant (IP65/68).

Conclusion

On most points, the Sony Xperia 5 IV is better than its predecessor. The screen is brighter, the battery is bigger and now supports wireless charging – and the processor is faster. The camera software and all the automated settings have also finally been sorted out.

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Sony Xperia5 IV selfie
Another significant improvement over last year’s Xperia 5 is the front camera, which is now 12 megapixels and has been equipped with a larger Exmor RS sensor. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

And compared to big brother Xperia 1 IV, it’s of course also understandable that some compromises have to be made when pressing the price, and some of Sony’s choices make good sense. There’s no need for a phone with a 6.1-inch screen to have 4K resolution, and we didn’t miss the iToF sensor when we tested the camera either.

However, it’s a shame that the Xperia 5 IV gets so extremely hot if you challenge the processor. Moreover, the fact that the Xperia 5 IV has to do without the special periscope technology in the telephoto lens, which had become one of the Xperia models’ distinguishing features, is a bit of a drag on the overall balance.

Unfortunately, in these times of inflation, it’s also not surprising that the Xperia 5 IV is more expensive than its predecessor, but for about the same price you can buy a true compact flagship like the Asus Zenfone 9, and that might be worth considering instead of Sony’s compact top model.

The Sony Xperia 5 IV is a must-buy if the camera’s pro capabilities tempt. Then you won’t go wrong, because of course the little mobile is a good product overall, but the top rating and our special recommendation may have to wait until some other time.

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