Review: Sony Xperia 5 V

Pocket-friendly top phone for camera enthusiasts

If you're a photo enthusiast but prefer a compact smartphone, the Sony Xperia 5 V is a must-have.

Published 2023-09-29 - 9:00 am
Sony Xperia 5 V
Peter Gotschalk

True to tradition, this year Sony has once again released a compact version of its latest flagship phone, the Sony Xperia 1 V. And just like last year, the compact Sony Xperia 5 V is very similar to the top model, but downgraded in a few ways to make the price more bearable.

Appearance and construction

Design-wise, not much has changed since 2022, or 2021 or 2020 for that matter. The Sony Xperia 5 V is very similar to its predecessors, with a fairly angular design and all surrounded by a metal frame, but this year with Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on both the front and back.

The Xperia 5 V is available in three different colors: black, platinum silver and blue. And even though the back is made of glass, the color is matte, so the phone is both comfortable to hold and doesn’t attract fingerprints.

Just like its four predecessors, Sony’s latest compact model is also equipped with a 21:9 screen. This makes the phone slim and long, and the narrow format means it’s easy to hold in the hand. There’s even a little more space at the top, as Sony has again this year chosen to place the front camera next to the speaker in the frame above the screen itself.

Sony Xperia 5 V
The Sony Xperia 5 V has the same angular design as most of its predecessors, but now with Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the front and back. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

The camera module sits in the top left corner of the back when viewed from the rear. One of the reasons is that Sony has made room for a 3.5 mm minijack 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 control and the dedicated camera button, which is a little bonus that you don’t get with many other smartphones.

Sony Xperia 5 V
The phone comes with a 6.1″ OLED display with FHD+ resolution (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Display and sound

The display on the Xperia 5 V is a faithful copy of the display on last year’s model, unfortunately including the rather wide black border that goes around the entire display, which is starting to look a bit dated now at the end of 2023.

This is an OLED display with FHD+ resolution, and like its predecessor, the Xperia 5 V features Creator Mode, which makes the display’s image reproduction as color-accurate and lifelike as possible. Among other things, the technology gives the mobile display a wider color space, while 10-bit HDR provides more detailed rendering of color transitions.

The technology is supported by Netflix, among others, and the image quality is quite impressive. On the Sony display, the picture looks like it does in the cinema or on the very best TVs on the market, and of course, it gets really cool if the content is available in 21:9 format.

Sony Xperia 5 V
Hey, wait, isn’t something missing? Yes, indeed. This year, the Xperia 5 V has to make do with a dual camera system with two lenses, including the same 48 megapixel Exmor T sensor as the Xperia 1 V. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

On Netflix, this applies to about two out of three movies, while the vast majority of TV series are only in 18:9 format. Unfortunately, this means that black bars appear on the right and left side of the image. But perhaps it’s worth putting up with this in exchange for the opportunity to take full advantage of the content that is actually recorded and available in the cinema format.

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

The cinematic feel of the 21:9 format is enhanced if you use a decent pair of headphones with your Sony Xperia 5 V. The sound quality from the built-in speakers is also acceptable, although the Xperia 5 V still lacks a bit of depth and volume compared to the last few editions of the Xperia 1 model.

Sony Xperia 5 V
Sony has again this year chosen to place the front camera next to the speaker in the frame above the display. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

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

Cameras

The most notable thing about the Sony Xperia 5 V compared to last year’s model is that the camera has actually been downgraded in a way. Specifically, the Xperia 5 V no longer has a dedicated telephoto lens, which most of its predecessors had. Instead, the compact phone comes with the same Exmor T sensor as the Xperia 1 V – with 48 megapixel resolution and an extra layer of photocells to improve light sensitivity and make the phone better able to take pictures in night mode, which has previously been one of the Xperia models’ biggest weaknesses.

Sony Xperia 5 V
The camera button is located on the far right when the phone is held horizontally. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

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

However, if you are not a camera enthusiast, you can still choose the Sony Xperia 5 V. Photography Pro also has a so-called Basic mode, which gives the user a simple interface that does most things automatically.

And where we previously (actually ever since the first Xperia 1 and Xperia 5 models) experienced annoying weaknesses in Sony’s software as soon as the camera was left to its own devices – for example, for years the Xperia mobiles had problems with automatic HDR, which often led to either over- or underexposed images – Sony has finally got it right. Even pictures taken in Basic mode turn out quite well, and Sony has got the automatic exposure under control.

But it’s the Alpha user interface that makes the Sony Xperia 5 V special, and the fact that Sony prioritizes its own professional camera app is a good example of the Japanese electronics manufacturer knowing its audience. Too many loyal Xperia users choose Sony’s top phones because of their close affinity with the company’s system cameras.

Also check out Best Sony Xperia 1 ever

If you're a photo enthusiast and really care about your mobile camera, the Sony Xperia 1 V is a must-have.

In other words, the Sony Xperia 5 V is probably one of the most interesting smartphones on the market right now for those who are more than generally interested in photography and like to spend time manually adjusting camera settings.

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The 'Grotta' in Prague photographed with ultra wide angle, wide angle and 2x zoom. This is as close as we can get with optical zoom. On the other hand, the Sony Xperia 5 V has no problems controlling exposure (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

This also applies to those who prefer to record video rather than taking pictures. There are two different apps to choose from, Video Pro and Cinema Pro, the latter of which has a number of color profiles, so-called “Looks”, that adjust color curves, contrast and saturation to give the finished videos a look that corresponds to the way different film genres tend to look.

The new Video Creator app, on the other hand, is for those who want to post cool videos on TikTok and Instagram but haven’t taken a video editing course. At the touch of a button, Video Creator transforms the user’s video into a social media-friendly format that’s ready to share.

Performance and features

Just like its big brother, the Xperia 1 V, the Sony Xperia 5 V is equipped with the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, which we also know from OnePlus 11 and Motorola Edge 40 Pro.

In benchmark tests, the phone even performs better than the Xperia 1 V, despite the fact that the two phones have the same type of processor, and the Xperia 5 V even has to make do with 8 gigabytes of RAM compared to the 12 gigabytes in the Xperia 1 V.

Compared to the other top phones, the Xperia 5 V’s performance is also top notch, which means that at the time of writing, the Sony Xperia 5 V is one of the fastest Android phones money can buy.

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As mentioned, the fingerprint reader is neither in the screen nor on the back of the phone, but integrated into the power button, which is a good solution that works every time. Like its predecessor, the Sony Xperia 5 V is also water and dust resistant (IP65/68).

The 5,000 mAh battery ensures excellent battery life – just like last year’s model – and this year it’s even better, probably thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which offers various power-saving features. Add to that 30 watts of fast charging and, of course, wireless charging.

A few of its predecessors had problems with them getting extremely hot at peak loads, making them almost impossible to hold in your hand. The Sony Xperia 5 V also tends to get too hot, but the problem has lessened. Perhaps the Japanese manufacturer has mastered the game-enhancing software that dedicates more memory to the game that’s running. We can only hope that the problem of excessive heat generation has been completely resolved by the time next year’s model hits the market.

You can take pretty crisp bokeh images with the Sony Xperia 5 V. The degree of bokeh effect can of course be manually adjusted in the camera app. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Conclusion

“Don’t mess with a working system,” as the saying goes, and Sony dutifully follows this recipe with the compact Sony Xperia 5 V, which as always is a slightly downgraded and thus cheaper version of this year’s excellent top model, the Sony Xperia 1 V. So you get the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and the new 48 megapixel camera with Exmor T sensor as well as the large 5,000 mAh battery with a long lifespan if you choose the Xperia 5 V, but you have to do without the telephoto lens and live with the fact that the compact phone tends to get a little too hot sometimes.

In hindsight, however, you might wish that Sony would dare to experiment a little more than they currently do. The Xperia 5 V is, apart from a few changes, a faithful copy of its predecessor, and especially the angular design with the rather wide black screen border is starting to look old-fashioned here at the end of 2023.

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Sony Xperia 5 V
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We think

Excellent camera phone for semi-professionals. Large battery with long battery life. Plus, compact size and dedicated camera button and lightning-fast processor. Slightly dated design that hasn't changed in several years. Must do without the Xperia series' traditional telephoto lens. Still minor issues with heat build-up.

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