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Sony Xperia M5 Review: In Depth

4.5
Blurring the lines between mid-range and top-tier

The Good

  • Clean design
  • Great cameras
  • Feature packed

The Bad

  • Screen could be better
  • Questionable aesthetic elements
  • Weak graphical performance

Sony Xperia M5 review: The new Xperia M5 was never originally meant to sell in the UK. It launched in the second half of 2015 in other markets, but we’re glad Sony had a change of heart and finally brought it to our shores.

Design

Sony doesn’t really make mention of its OmniBalance design language anywhere near as much as it did when the original Xperia Z came into being, but it’s still alive and well, serving as the aesthetic rulebook when creating the company’s latest smartphones, including the M5.

Sony Xperia M5 - front Sony Xperia M5 - back

The design feels closer to the Z3 than the Z5, with rounded corners and edges, as well as a signature metal power key – no fingerprint sensor for this mid-ranger. The phone comes in three colours with the gold device we tested highlighting the particularly shiny edges and corners of the body. They cheapen the appearance of the phone slightly, but it still looks good overall and feels nice in the hand.

Sony Xperia M5 - sides

Like its predecessor, the M5 packs IP65/68 waterproofing whilst retaining an exposed microUSB port and headphone jack, ensuring those clean lines aren’t ruined by awkward seals or exceptionally bulky bodywork. The one remaining flap on the phone’s left side conceals both a nanoSIM tray and a microSD card slot.

Screen

The M5’s 5-inch display is skirted by fairly large bezels, but they don’t add too much to the phone’s footprint overall. The screen itself sports a Full HD resolution too, which means this mid-ranger technically boasts a sharper screen than the premium Z5 Compact.

Sony Xperia M5 - screen

Head-on the IPS LCD panel offers accurate colours and contrast, even at more extreme angles, however brightness can quickly drop off and appears to be a little on the weak side, even when pushed to its maximum. Automatic brightness is also a little slow to respond, often leaving you blinded in a dark room, or straining to see what’s on-screen in bright environments.

On the flip side, the smart backlight feature is a nice touch that keeps the display on irrespective of screen timeout settings, during handheld use. As with other Sony handsets, the M5 also boasts glove mode that boosts touch sensitivity, which is particularly handy in those winter months.

OS

Sony hasn’t yet pushed the Xperia M5 up to the latest version of Android, however 5.1 Lollipop with the company’s light skinning feels fluid and well laid out for everyday use.

The company has reined in its proprietary software in favour of more established third-party offerings of late and that means that whilst the M5 has some distinctly Sony software and services, it doesn’t feel weighed down by bloatware.

The Xperia Lounge app offers up exclusive deals to Sony users, whilst Socialife is the company’s Apple News/HTC Blinkfeed/Flipboard equivalent. Thankfully the phone also boasts a suite of PlayStation apps and although it doesn’t support Remote Play, you still have tools to enjoy the world of PlayStation on the go, provided you’re a fan of Sony’s signature console as well as its smartphones.

There are other smaller touches that deserve a mention too, such as integrated screen recording tools, LinkedIn calendar integration, Spotify and Podcast functionality within the Music app and a handful of useful third-party offerings out-the-box.

Performance

Considering the phone originally touched down in other markets back in August 2015, the internals still feel fresh and deliver a smooth experience that could fool you into thinking this is a more powerful handset than the spec sheet lets on. The MediaTek Helio X10 chipset is an uncommon choice amongst devices in the UK and aside from some shortcomings in the graphics department, it’s a competent piece of hardware.

Sony Xperia M5 - ports

As with Sony’s premium handsets the M5 features NFC, a heap of connectivity options and room to expand upon the 16GB of internal memory by up to an additional 200GB using microSD too.

The 2600mAh battery tires out before a day and a half of use (switching it off at night), which is a little disappointing, but if you’re willing to fall back on the Sony’s STAMINA technology, the M5 will keep going until the end of a second day, just.

Cameras

Easily the biggest selling point for the Xperia M5 is its camera arrangement. On the back you’ll find a huge 21.5-megapixel Exmor RS sensor, whilst selfie fans will appreciate the sizeable 13-megapixel front-facer.

Sony’s managed to strike a good balance of features versus usability in the M5. The interface doesn’t feel too crowded, but you have a plethora of modes to toy with; from Auto to augmented reality offerings. Manual control isn’t anywhere near as deep as you’d find on the likes of the LG G4 or the latest Lumia phones, but its presence highlights the fact that the M5 isn’t messing around; mid-ranger or not.

High contrast scenarios are the biggest challenge for the phone’s main camera, although HDR and DIS (digital image stabilisation) are at your disposal to help smooth out resultant stills and video.

Speaking of video, the M5 also comes with both slow-motion video and 4K video recording, which is unheard of in the mid-range market. Autofocus isn’t as proactive as we’d like or Sony claims it is, but to get a better idea of image and video quality, check out our dedicated camera review.

Read next: Sony Xperia M5 camera review

Verdict

The M4 Aqua was already a great mid-ranger, but Sony has improved on it in every way with the Sony Xperia M5, which feels like it pushes the boundaries of what could honestly be considered mid-range.

Sony Xperia M5 - handheld

At £300 SIM-free it becomes a toss-up between this and older flagships, but the price will undoubtedly drop pretty quickly and you get plenty of bang for your buck as it stands. Beyond the strong imaging experience, the M5’s svelte design, robust feature set and waterproofing skills mean that it’s a great smartphone for anyone looking for a top tier experience without the price tag.

Key Specs

  • 5-inches
  • Full HD (1920x1080)
  • 142.5 grams
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • 21.5-megapixel
  • 13-megapixel
  • 2.0GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio X10
  • 3GB
  • 16GB. Expandable via microSD up to 200GB
  • Yes
  • IP65/68 waterproofing, PlayStation integration, AR camera modes, STAMINA battery mode, Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2

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