- Decent battery life
- Respectable budget performance
- Very basic cameras
Sony Xperia E5 Review: Sony’s cheapest Xperia phone of 2016 costs just £99, while packing a 13-megapixel camera and sharp 5-inch HD screen. Here’s our full Xperia E5 review, including what we think of the Xperia E5’s camera tech, performance, battery life and everything else.
Sony Mobile’s big focus in 2016 has so far been the Xperia X series, and we’re already fans of the Xperia X, even though you can pick up similar rival phones (such as the OnePlus 3 and Galaxy A5 2016) for over £100 less.
However, the cheapest member of the Xperia X family, the Xperia XA, was a crushing disappointment. You see, the XA initially wowed us with a gorgeous edge-to-edge screen design, but performance and battery life let us down and made the phone tough to recommend.
Undeterred, Sony has just released a new budget phone, the Xperia E5, which costs a measly £99 yet packs almost the same specs as the Xperia XA. So, is the Xperia E5 hampered by those same problems, and how does it compare to other £100 rivals like the Moto E3 and Voda’s Smart Prime 7?
Read next: Sony Xperia XA vs Xperia E5
Sony Xperia E5 Review: Design
Remember when cheap mobile phones used to feel like plasticky kids toys, which would crumble apart if a flea so much as farted near them? Well, no more. Now affordable smartphones are (on the whole) solidly-built handsets and occasionally even rather good looking.
So it is with the Xperia E5, which retains some of Sony’s iconic design language despite being by far the cheapest Xperia phone of 2016. Of course, at this price point you can’t expect the same stunning edge-to-edge aesthetics of the Xperia XA, but the Xperia E5 still boasts quite narrow bezels which make it a comfortable fit for the hand.
There’s a pleasing heft to the Xperia E5’s only-slightly-chunky frame, which is definitely reassuring. I’ve carried the phone about in my rucksack, filled with all manner of pointy objects, and after several days there’s nary a scratch or mark to be seen.
You can’t pull the back off, so the Xperia E5’s SIM card slot and memory card slot are accessed via a handy flap on the left edge. The headphone jack is up top and there’s a power button and volume rocker on the right edge (but no dedicated camera button).
Sony Xperia E5 Review: Screen and media
Like the Xperia XA before it, Sony’s Xperia E5 rocks a 5-inch IPS screen. However, there are some differences beyond the lack of edge-to-edge design.
For a start, the Xperia E5’s display produces warmer colours, which makes it a little easier on the eye in low light - although whites do have a slight yellow tint to them. There’s also no support for the Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 in the Xperia E5’s display settings, or Sony’s Super Vivid Mode (which artificially boost the look of photos and video).
Still, for £99 you can’t expect the moon on a stick and the Xperia E5’s screen is powerful enough to cut through glare, complete with adaptive brightness to save battery power when needed. It’s also sharp enough to make your high-res movies look decent, thanks to the 720p HD resolution.
And while the Xperia E5’s dinky speaker, housed on the bottom of the phone, isn’t exactly a powerful blaster, it’s perfectly fine for kicking back with YouTube vids. Connect some headphones if you want to enjoy your tunes, though.
Streaming video and music via the likes of Netflix and Spotify is becoming increasingly popular, but I always like to have a big collection of movies and albums on my phone for those offline moments. Thankfully the Xperia E5’s 16GB of storage can be quickly boosted by up to a further 256GB using the microSD memory card slot.
Sony Xperia E5 Review: Features
At this price point, you’d be foolhardy for expecting much beyond the bog-standard smartphone features. Still, the Xperia E5 does boast the latest version of Android (Marshmallow), with Sony’s attractive, colourful launcher plastered over the surface.
Read next: Best budget phones of 2016
In fact, the Xperia E5 desktops and menus have the same look and feel as the Xperia X phones, which is a nice touch. Sadly you don’t get most of the cool Sony features found in the Xperia X, such as support for Hi-Res audio and the ability to stream games from your PS4. Not too surprising given the Xperia E5’s cut-price performance.
However, you do get Sony’s interactive help guide, which is a handy little feature for anyone who isn’t used to smartphones or Android handsets. This explains how to use all of the Xperia E5’s features and set it up just how you like, with links to relevant settings menus and the rest.
We’re impressed to see support for 5GHz WiFi on the Xperia E5, something that’s often missing from budget blowers. Occasionally the Xperia E5’s WiFi crapped out, throwing up ‘connection error’ messages when I tried to access the Play Store or YouTube for instance, but thankfully these were always corrected by backing out of the app and jumping back in.
Read next: Best Sony phones you can buy right now
Sony Xperia E5 Review: Performance and battery life
This was my main area of concern when I first slipped my SIM card inside the Xperia E5. I’d already struggled with the hampered performance of the Xperia XA, and the Xperia E5 uses an even more basic Mediatek processor, backed up by just 1.5GB of RAM. I’ve also only just reviewed the similarly cheap Wileyfox Spark, another Mediatek mobile that was rendered pretty much unusable by its juddery user experience.
After running our benchmarking tests, I was even more uneasy. AnTuTu awarded the Xperia E5 a paltry score of 32k, which is a big drop from the Xperia XA’s 47k score.
However, after several days of use, the Xperia E5 has actually proved itself a respectable budget blower. There’s an occasional lingering pause when you try and open an app, but Android runs surprisingly well, as did all of the apps I tested out. For £99, I wouldn’t expect anything more.
You can also indulge in some light gaming on the Xperia E5. Racing games and scrolling platformers run with a decent frame rate, although we did notice that the top end of the phone started to get a little toasty after about ten minutes of action.
As for battery life, the Xperia E5 religiously made it through a full 24 hours on a single charge, even with a fair bit of use. That’s a definite improvement on the Xperia XA, which would just about make it to the early evening before dying.
Sony Xperia E5 Review: Cameras
The Xperia E5 packs a 13-megapixel camera just like the Xperia XA, but there’s a definite dip in quality between the two phones - again, unsurprising given the massive jump in asking price.
Sony’s usual camera interface is in play, but Superior Auto mode is replaced with a bog-standard ‘Auto Scene Recognition’ mode. This tends to produce photos with serious over-saturation when you’re shooting in bright conditions, as you can see from our example shots. There’s plenty of detail packed into every photo however and the Xperia E5 does a decent job when conditions are overcast, or when snapping indoors.
The Xperia E5’s camera supports image tracking, where the lens tries to keep a selected object in focus automatically, but it’s a dud of a feature. Moving objects are often quickly lost and I found that focusing was a real struggle at times even when shooting a static scene. As soon as I turned off image tracking in the camera settings, the E5 behaved itself more often.
There’s a single LED flash on the back of the phone, which is essential when shooting photos in low-light conditions; the Xperia E5’s camera lens really doesn’t work well in the dark, like pretty much every budget snapper. I also found that the Xperia E5 struggled with up-close macro shots, producing blurry results every time.
As for video, you can shoot up to Full HD 1080p home movies at 30 frames-per-second. However, once again the results are less than stunning, with bright conditions proving a stick point as before. There’s no image stabilisation built in, so any movements are replicated as juddering and shaking in the video.
The E5’s 5-megapixel selfie camera is perfectly decent but again struggles in tricky lighting conditions.
If you’re after a phone to capture all of your precious family memories, I’d say it’s worth upgrading to something like the Moto G4. The Xperia E5 will just about do the job if you simply want to shoot some quick pics to share online.
Sony Xperia E5 Review: Verdict
Sony’s Xperia E5 is one of the cheapest Xperia phones you can nab these days, but holds up remarkably well compared with rivals like the Wileyfox Spark. Attractive and solid design work, respectable performance and battery life, and a decent HD screen all make for a worthy £100 handset.
Thanks to MobileFun for the Xperia E5 review sample
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- 16GB + microSD