After a small phone with top-tier specs? This Sony Xperia 5 IV review will be a good fit for you. Up against the best phones in the world, it holds its own but it’s also small enough to comfortably use one-handed.
There aren’t many phones that are this small but yet still mighty - most powerful handsets are huge and while that works fine for some, others find it pretty off-putting or even impossible to use. Sony’s Xperia 5 series is one of very few that boasts impressive hardware in a compact device, and that’s pretty much the main reason why you’d buy this phone over any other.
In this Sony Xperia 5 IV review, you’ll be able to find out everything you need to know before you decide to buy it, or not. That includes what’s new as well as my take on its design, screen, camera system, performance and battery life.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: price and what’s new
You can buy the Sony Xperia 5 IV now for $1,000 in the US, £950 in the UK and AU$1,240 in Australia. Take a look at the widgets on this page to find out more about where you can pick one up in your region.
This phone follows the Sony Xperia 5 III and improves on it in a few different ways, although you’ll still get the same 6.1-inch display as before. Most notably, there’s a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor under the hood alongside 8GB of RAM but this time the storage is limited to only 128GB instead of 256GB. There’s a much bigger 5,000mAh battery that can be charged wirelessly and it even supports reverse wireless charging, neither of those features were there before.
Not many changes have been made to the rear camera setup. One of the only differences is that the telephoto camera no longer has a variable lens, it’s now a fixed 60mm lens with a 2.5x optical zoom. Flip the phone over and the front camera has been boosted from 8MP to 12MP.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: design and display
What’s great about the Sony Xperia 5 series phones is that they put flagship-level specs into a small, thin device that is very easily used one-handed. The fourth generation is no different measuring 156 x 67 x 8.2mm, and weighing 172g, it is really lightweight as well when you compare it to other flagship devices which more often than not weigh 200g or more.
You get the same matte black or white glass build with the same camera strip along the left-hand side as before, as well as a USB-C port, a fingerprint sensor, a camera shutter button and a volume rocker around the frame. Unlike most other phones, it even has a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. It’s a shame that there’s still no in-display fingerprint scanner but the physical button works fine and sits in the same place as your thumb which makes it feel natural to use.
For the accident-prone, there’s an IP68 rating so it’s both water and dustproof enough to be submerged in either and survive. You won’t need to worry about using it in the rain, something Brits will be pleased about. All in all, it feels pretty sturdy. I wasn’t too worried about dropping it or accidentally knocking it, and I wouldn’t necessarily buy a case for it myself.
The 6.1-inch screen might be small but that doesn’t mean it makes any sacrifices when it comes to quality. It’s an FHD+ OLED slate with 2520 x 1080 pixels and a 21:9 aspect ratio. Lines are sharp, colours pop and I was pleased with the level of contrast between light and dark areas while streaming shows from Netflix. Sony claims it’s up to 50% brighter than the previous model too which is what makes it so easy to see even under sunlight.
I also like that it’s long and thin because it means you can fit more of a webpage or document on the screen, and it’s well suited to movie streaming, but not everyone will be as keen as me because it does mean that you can’t fit much in width-ways.
Thanks to the maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, scrolling and swiping feel smooth and effortless, which makes this a great option for gaming if you can put up with the small screen size.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: camera system
If it’s a rock-solid camera system you’re after, that’s exactly what you’ll get with the Sony Xperia 5 IV. Loaded with 3 rear camera lenses, all of which are 12MP as well as a 12MP front camera, you can shoot some really nice photos on this phone.
While images aren’t necessarily as bold as you’d get elsewhere, they are a lot more accurate with natural colouring and lighting, although that can at times come across as a little dull on overcast days in comparison to other flagship shooters, especially on its automatic settings. Nothing gets exaggerated here because there’s no over-the-top AI fixing the photos, which ultimately means that the results are better for detailed editing after the fact. You can see some examples of shots taken on the Sony Xperia 5 IV below.
One of the big plus points of Sony Xperia smartphone cameras is the number of manual controls you get to tweak the image to your liking, you can adjust the ISO, white balance, and exposure. What’s more, is that shooting couldn’t be easier thanks to the shutter button on the frame, it works quickly when you press it although there is a slight delay to find the right focus which could mean you end up missing some fast-moving shots.
You don’t get a Night Mode on this phone, which means there’s nothing to boost the image when there’s not much in the way of light. It’s a shame because it means you won’t be able to see as much of the scene as you would elsewhere.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: performance and battery
Loaded with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, one of the most recent premium processors but not the very latest, you can expect the Sony Xperia 5 IV to be a top performer compared to other similarly sized smartphones. To go alongside that, there’s 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, as well as a MicroSD card slot to expand it, something you don’t often find in top-performing smartphones nowadays.
In use, this phone can handle it all without slowing down or heating up. I used it for everything from mobile gaming to word processing and it managed to take everything in its stride.
Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 are packed in as well, giving you speedy connections to the web and to your other devices.
The 5,000mAh battery was quite good, having lasted me most of the day even when I was using it for lots of different tasks like firing off emails, snapping photos and scrolling the web. Then when I ran my usual battery test on it, downloading and playing an HD video for 2 hours, its level dropped by about 12% which suggests it would have lasted a total of almost 17 hours. That’s not as good as the 25 hours achieved by some handsets but it’s certainly up there among the best in the business.
In the box, there’s no charger or even a cable included, so you’ll need to buy those separately if you don’t already own them.
Because it runs on Sony’s take on Android 12, there are a few apps and features here that you don’t get elsewhere - that includes the Video Pro and Music Pro apps which allow you to create content exactly how you want thanks to a whole host of detailed manual controls.
When you buy this phone, you’ll also get 12 months of Bravia Core for free, which is Sony’s own movie streaming service featuring titles like Venom, Ghostbusters and Jumanji. It's got tonnes of popular movies on to check out.
Like most Android phones, everything is clearly laid out on home screens with all of your apps tucked away into a drawer. By default, the icons and wording are quite small so despite the small screen size, you can still fit plenty in. Of course, if that doesn’t work for you then you can always increase the size of it all through the settings app.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: verdict
Anyone who isn’t keen on the idea of buying a huge smartphone will love what the Sony Xperia 5 IV has to offer because, despite its small size, it still manages to impress with speedy hardware, a high-quality camera system and a sharp bright display.
If you’re not huge on photography and you want an easy point-and-shoot camera then this won’t be the phone for you because it’s so jam-packed full of manual controls you won’t get the best shots without tweaking the settings here and there. The way the camera is set up also means it’s not quick to shoot with so you could miss some important moments.
Something else that might not suit everyone is the aspect ratio of the screen, while it’s fantastic for streaming video and for scrolling long pages, it doesn’t fit much in width-ways and that could be annoying for certain tasks.
If both of those are things you don’t mind then this will be a great choice that will last you a long time. It is quite pricey for a phone with a 6.1-inch screen but you are paying for the sheer quality of the thing.
Sony Xperia 5 IV review: also consider
If it’s a small phone you’re after, have you considered the iPhone 14? Like this, it’s a 6.1-inch smartphone but it runs on iOS and comes in a few more colourways. For point-and-shoot photography, it’s really quite capable and it packs Apple’s previous generation chipset, the A15 Bionic so it’ll work smoothly too.
Another smaller-scale smartphone to consider is the Google Pixel 7. It’s a lot cheaper than the Sony Xperia but has a bigger 6.3-inch screen, Loaded with the Google Tensor G2 chip, it won’t as good for gaming but it’s much better for AI-based features, like on the camera system where you can take steady, vibrant shots without putting in too much thought.