Sony Xperia 5 IV review: a camera and screen (almost) as mighty as its price tag

The Sony Xperia 5 IV is a near-top-spec phone, but the price may prove too premium

A black Sony Xperia 5 IV being held above and laid on a stony surface
(Image: © Ian Evenden)

Our Verdict

Sony’s small-but-mighty phone reaches version IV with some excellent cameras, great software, and a nice screen. However, the Sony Xperia 5 IV is expensive compared to other Android phones, and even the iPhone 14.

For

  • Good screen
  • Great cameras
  • Complete package

Against

  • Samey design
  • Limited updates
  • Steep price point

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Sony Xperia 5 IV: key specs

Chipset: Qualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128/256GB
OS: Android 12
Screen: 6.1in, OLED, 120Hz, 1080 x 2520
Cameras: 12MP x4 - wide, ultrawide, tele, selfie
Video: 4k/30, 1080/60, EIS
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C 3.2
Dimensions: 156 x 67 x 8.2 mm
Weight: 172g

Android phones like the Sony Xperia 5 IV require updates, at least they do if you care about things like the security of your payment information and getting new features. Google’s phones get updates for five years from their first availability, as do Samsung’s. OnePlus phones get four. With the Xperia 5 IV, Sony is offering three years of security updates, and only two of OS updates.

We tell you this up-front because the rest of this review is going to be positive. The Xperia 5 IV is a great phone, with good specs, a sharp, bright, colourful screen, and a nice camera cluster with an excellent app. It’s even relatively water-resistant and comes in green. That limited update policy, though, means you may find yourself thinking about an upgrade earlier than you might want.

In many ways a cut-down version of the range-topping Xperia 1 IV, though it doesn’t have that phone’s excellent zoom camera to make it quite the best camera phone (opens in new tab). It takes a step back in the processor department too, but also doesn't cost £1,300. The Xperia 5 IV is still an expensive phone, but Sony is chasing a price/performance sweet spot here, and largely hits it.

A black Sony Xperia 5 IV being held above and laid on a stony surface

(Image credit: Ian Evenden)

Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Design

We may have mentioned in our review of the Xperia 10 IV (opens in new tab) that the Sony phones of this generation look rather similar, and the Sony Xperia 5 IV is no different. It sticks to the familiar look, being tall, slim, and shiny on one side. It differs from the 10 IV in the position of its SIM tray (though you can still open it with your fingernail, which is one of our favourite Sony features), its additional shutter button, and a slight variation in the camera module that on this phone contains a Zeiss logo.

There's still a headphone socket at the top though, which is good to see even though Sony sells some of the best wireless earbuds out there, and you can find the phone bundled with the Sony Linkbuds.

The phone is a standard black (or white, or green) rectangle made from aluminium and Gorilla glass, the screen a 6.1-inch OLED in a 21:9 aspect ratio, with a 1080 x 2520 resolution for a pixel density of 449ppi. As you’d hope from a Sony device, the screen is excellent, and the taller, thinner shape makes it easier to hold if you’ve got slender hands.

Despite being the same size as the Xperia 10 IV, it’s just a little heavier at 172 grams, and has the same fingerprint reader built into the lock button, a position that makes a lot of sense. More than burying it under the screen where you can leave a smeared mess, anyway.

Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Camera

The Xperia 5 IV’s triple-lens camera is accessed via Sony’s Photo Pro app. All the cameras produce 12.2MP files, and the rear module consists of a 24mm-equivalent f/1.7 main camera, an ultrawide 16mm-equivalent f/2.2, and a short tele 60mm-equivalent f/2.4. On the front lives an f/2.0 selfie camera.

Photo Pro offers an on-screen PASM dial, which offers Basic and Auto modes - Basic is the standard Android camera app with an on-screen shutter button, while the others (Auto, Program, Shutter Priority and Manual, with a memory recall option for loading saved settings) turn the Xperia 5 IV into something more like a compact camera by using the hardware shutter button. There's no Aperture Priority, but then depth of field isn’t much of a concern with smartphone cameras unless you get very close, and Program mode offers aperture control anyway. We found, annoyingly, that it tended to slip back into Basic mode every time we closed the app, but later found an option in the settings to change this.

Burst shooting gets high- and low-speed modes, both of which carry over to the HDR mode. There's a choice between single-shot and continuous AF, along with face and eye detection, and you can set wide, spot or centre-weighted metering. If you’ve ever used a Sony Alpha mirrorless camera, most of the options and terminology will be familiar, as is the way the AF points cluster like a swarm of green squares over the point of focus.

Video tops out at 4K 30fps, and there's five-axis image stabilisation at work. You can shoot videos in the Basic mode of the camera app, but if you’re more serious there's a Video Pro app, and a Cinema Pro app developed in conjunction with CineAlta that takes things even further. If you like to fiddle with video settings, but can’t quite stretch to something like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, then this might be worth a look, though don’t expect the footage to have quite the same feel. Beware, though, that the phone can get hot quite quickly if you’re shooting lots of video.

A black Sony Xperia 5 IV being held above and laid on a stony surface

(Image credit: Ian Evenden)

Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Performance and interface

There's a Snapdragon Gen 1 thrumming away inside the Xperia 5 IV. It’s a chipset that’s already been superseded by an 8+ that runs slightly faster, but still holds its own very nicely in the mobile arena. It contains eight processor cores, in the normal arrangement of four fast performance cores and eight slower but more efficient cores, but here one of the P cores is a ‘prime’, which means it’s even faster for single-threaded applications, running at 3GHz. It’s accompanied by three more P cores at 2.5GHz, and four E cores at 1.8GHz, making for a capable package that can tear through the usual mobile computing tasks.

There's 8GB of RAM, and a choice of either 128GB or 256GB of storage, which can be expanded by up to 1TB using the micro-SD card slot that shares space with the nano-SIM. You can use an e-SIM too for dual-number fun.

The OS is Android 12, with an update to 13 promised ‘soon’ at the time of writing. Sony doesn’t put a noticeable stamp on the OS, with only the presence of a few Sony-centric apps giving the manufacturer away. These apps, and indeed everything we tried on the phone, open quickly, as did a folder full of app icons on the home screen, something that can give some phones pause.

A black Sony Xperia 5 IV being held above and laid on a stony surface

(Image credit: Ian Evenden)

Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Battery and charging

The battery is fairly large, at 5,000mAh, and is filled up with USB PD 3.0. It’ll get to 50% in half an hour, and there are wireless and reverse charging options too. You don’t get a charger in the box, which is a shame given the high price, but understandable as we’re surrounded by USB ports these days, and it cuts down on unused electrical junk.

Should you buy the Sony Xperia 5 IV?

If you want something snappy, nice to look at, easy to hold and with a great camera app in your pocket, then this is a good choice if you’re prepared to pay for it. The only thing that’s going to put people off is the price - it costs the same as the iPhone 14 Plus 128GB model, and £100 more than the basic iPhone 14. It’s three times the price of the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite, and almost twice the price of a Nothing Phone 1 with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Despite being an excellent, powerful, well-made phone, the Xperia 5 IV may have trouble persuading you to justify spending so much on it.

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The Verdict
8

out of 10

Sony Xperia 5 IV

Sony’s small-but-mighty phone reaches version IV with some excellent cameras, great software, and a nice screen. However, the Sony Xperia 5 IV is expensive compared to other Android phones, and even the iPhone 14.