Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Sony’s most complete compact flagship yet
Sony Xperia 5 IV Review
Every year Sony releases a ridiculously well-specced and correspondingly expensive addition to its flagship Xperia 1 series, and each year it follows that up with a smaller and cheaper alternative from the Xperia 5 range.
In 2022 that brief is fulfilled by the Xperia 5 IV, which trails the multimedia powerhouse Xperia 1 IV (£1,299) by a couple of months. Sony’s latest step-down model gets closer than ever to the ideal compact phone package, albeit at a higher price than ever.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: What you need to know
Sony isn’t one for radical reinvention in the smartphone space. It walks to the beat of its own drum and sticks closely to its own uniquely media-focused script.
That’s a roundabout way of saying that the Xperia 5 IV looks and handles much the same as its predecessors. Its compact, squared-off design is nigh-on identical to the Xperia 5 III (£899) before it, while the only real difference with its 6.1in 120Hz OLED display is that it gets brighter.
It runs on the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor as the Xperia 1 IV, too, rather than the slightly faster Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 of some of its contemporaries.
The phone’s triple 12MP camera array looks much the same as the Xperia 5 III’s on paper but packs a simpler telephoto system and improvements to tracking and autofocus across the board. Sony has improved its selfie camera, too.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade here relates to the Xperia 5 IV’s stamina, with a larger 5,000mAh battery and the belated inclusion of wireless charging support.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Price and competition
At £949 for the sole 8GB/128GB UK model (some territories also get a 256GB option), the Sony Xperia 5 IV has received an unwelcome £50 price bump over last year’s Xperia 5 III (£899). We saw an even bigger price rise with the Xperia 1 IV (£1,299) earlier in the year, so perhaps we should be thankful.
Pricing remains arguably the biggest issue with the Sony Xperia 5 line. This has been brought into focus with the recent launch of the Asus Zenfone 9, another atypically compact yet impressively powerful phone that costs £250 less than the Xperia 5 IV. It’s true that the Zenfone 9 lacks some of the Xperia 5 IV’s flagship features, such as wireless charging and a dedicated telephoto camera, but it’s also more powerful, more compact and more distinctively styled.
Sticking with compact(ish) flagship(ish) phones, Samsung’s fancy folding Galaxy Z Flip 4 (£999) only costs £50 more, while the iPhone 14 (£849) will set you back £100 less.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Design and key features
Sony hasn’t innovated in the smartphone design stakes for a fair few years now. There’s an almost Porsche-like purity to the way it insists on sticking to the same squared-off design, concentrating all of its considerable engineering expertise on the internal goings on of its phones instead.
Make no bones about it, though, the Xperia 5 IV looks almost exactly like the Xperia 5 III, especially in the familiar black of my test model. The Green and Ecru White options will distinguish it more.
While you get the same aluminium frame, Sony has switched things up to the more premium Gorilla Glass Victus for the front and back of the phone, which is an advance on the Xperia 1 III’s Gorilla Glass 6. It’s more scratch-resistant as a result, while the phone maintains its comprehensive IP65/IP68 dust- and water-resistance rating.
At 156 x 67 x 8.2 mm and 172g, it’s very fractionally shorter and narrower than Xperia 5 III, but 3g heavier. You can likely put that slight weight gain down to a larger battery and the addition of a wireless charging coil, both of which are welcome trade-offs.
Sony’s trademark tall-and-thin phone design can be attributed to a couple of things. Most notably, it goes with a 21:9 screen aspect ratio, which we’ll discuss in a bit. Second, the company continues to reject the notion of notches for its flagship lines, meaning the Xperia 5 IV houses its selfie camera in an extended forehead bezel, which is balanced out by a correspondingly chunky chin.
The payoff for this is a completely uninhibited picture, as well as the inclusion of true front-firing stereo speakers. They sound suitably crisp and clear, and you won’t find yourself blocking them with your hands. The inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack is another audio-friendly inclusion.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Display
Sony has packed its latest phone with a 6.1in OLED display, which comes in at the smaller end of the Android spectrum. Thanks to a 21:9 aspect ratio, it’s also unusually narrow, making it relatively easy to reach across and operate using the thumb of your holding hand. Ultrawide movie content can be played without any black borders, too.
With a 120Hz refresh rate and a 2,520 x 1,080 resolution rounding out the package, the Xperia 5 IV display looks much the same as the Xperia 5 III’s before it. There’s one notable difference, however, with Sony claiming that this latest screen gets 50% brighter than before. In my experience, the screen hits 648cd/m² with auto brightness switched off. That compares incredibly favourably to the Xperia 5 III’s 339cd/m².
This is a pleasingly colour-accurate display, too. Using the preferable Creator colour profile, which is tuned to the BT.2020 colour gamut, I recorded a strong average Delta E of 1.23, with a gamut coverage of 98.3% and a gamut volume of 101.2%.
Sony Xperia 5 IVreview: Performance and battery life
The Sony Xperia 5 IV runs on the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip as its big brother, the Sony Xperia 1 IV. This represents a clear generational improvement on the Xperia 5 III’s Snapdragon 888.
There isn’t actually a huge difference in CPU performance here, with an average Geekbench 5 single-core score of 1,230 and a multicore score of 3,546 roughly matching the Xperia 5 III from the previous year. However, there’s been a noticeable bump up in GPU performance. Manhattan 3.0 benchmark scores of 119fps onscreen and 203fps offscreen absolutely blitz the Xperia 5 III, which scored 60fps and 150fps respectively.
The fact that the Xperia 5 IV came to market significantly later than the Xperia 1 IV counts against it here, however. The phone’s closest contemporary – in terms of form factor, at least – is the Asus Zenfone 9, which came to market at around the same time with a beefier Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip. It scores faster across the board, both in CPU and GPU terms.
Not that you’d notice in a practical sense. The Sony Xperia 5 IV handles general navigation and app switching flawlessly, games run well at high settings, and everything generally runs along buttery-smooth. I didn’t notice any egregious examples of thermal issues, as was reported with the Xperia 5 III, though obviously it will run a little warm when charging its battery.
Talking of which, Sony has somehow bumped the capacity of the Xperia 5 IV’s battery up to 5,000mAh, despite its slender dimensions. This results in exemplary stamina, with a 15-hour day involving around four hours of screen-on time leaving me with roughly 60% left.
In a similar scenario, the Xperia 5 III and its 4,500mAh battery would leave me at around the 50% mark, which is still decent in its own right, while the Asus Zenfone 9 and its pokey 4,300mAh battery would be left with between 30 and 40%. Running the usual Expert Reviews looping video test, the Xperia 5 IV lasted 20hrs 3mins, which is just over two hours longer than the Asus Zenfone 9 managed. It beats the Xiaomi 12 and the Pixel 6 by a similar margin, too.
The good news continues with Sony finally adding wireless charging support. This always felt like a major omission given the premium pricing of the Xperia 5 range, so I’m glad to see it here.
Less positive is the fact that the Xperia 5 IV is stuck with a mere 30W wired charging. Using the 30W charger from the Asus Zenfone 9 (Sony doesn’t supply one in the box), 30 minutes of charging from empty got me to 47%, which isn’t amazing.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Cameras
The Sony Xperia 5 IV comes with the same 12MP main camera as before, backed by Sony’s super-fast Dual Pixel PDAF system and OIS. However, the 12MP ultrawide and the 12MP telephoto are slightly different to their Xperia 5 III equivalents.
Most notably, the telephoto camera has lost its headline-grabbing variable lens. It’s now just a single fixed 60mm focal length, or a 2.5x optical zoom. This time, however, all three cameras get Sony’s Real-time Eye AF and Real-time Tracking, making for a more consistently locked-on shooting experience. And really, it’s that spookily accomplished quickfire lock-on that’s been the signifier of Sony’s high-end smartphone cameras for a number of years.
That and manual controls. Once again, this is a camera system that wants you to get hands-on, with a set of Pro controls that largely ape Sony’s Alpha cameras. If you have the patience to tinker with ISO, exposure, white balance and the like, there’s no (non-Sony) smartphone camera like it – especially with that two-stage physical shutter button on the right-hand edge of the handset.
As a point-and-shoot experience, the Xperia 5 IV isn’t up there with the iPhones and Pixels of this world. Sony’s low-intervention approach to image processing means that non-optimal shots retain more of their natural shade and murk, while Sony’s HDR implementation is much less aggressive than rivals, leading to less clarity and more overexposure in demanding lighting situations. Food shots, too, lack the Insta-worthy pop that all of Sony’s rivals manage to achieve.
Sony still doesn’t have a dedicated Night mode, either. The default Basic mode will make adjustments using multiple extended shutter time shots and OIS assistance, but low-light shots retain a lot more of the natural darkness than other flagship phones. In many ways, this is preferable, but you won’t get the stark clarity of other phones.
Sony has implemented a new and improved 12MP front camera (up from 8MP) this time around, which yields sharper selfies and enables 4K recording.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Verdict
The Sony Xperia 5 IV is another stylish, highly capable phone that slips into the pocket better than most of its oversized rivals. However, with the arrival of the striking (not to mention significantly cheaper) Asus Zenfone 9, Sony no longer has the premium compact field to itself.
Sony’s camera system is still incredibly quick and accurate, with a firm enthusiast focus that entails a physical shutter button and a host of manual controls. What’s more, Sony has finally rounded out the package with wireless charging, while boosting the phone’s battery life even further.
With that said, the Xperia 5 IV remains a very expensive piece of kit, and its tall display aspect ratio still won’t be for everyone. Meanwhile, Sony’s Pro-focused camera still doesn’t offer quite enough automated assistance on the point-and-shoot front if you need it.
The Xperia 5 IV falls tantalisingly short of being the ultimate compact flagship that we know Sony has in its repertoire, but that still makes it an excellent phone and an easy recommendation for anyone looking to downsize without compromise.