Sony are one of the biggest manufacturers of electronical devices in the world and have had many iconic brands such as PlayStation, Walkman, and Xperia in their mobile phone department.
However it’s no secret that the company have struggled in recent years against the competition from Apple and Samsung to name a few.
Sony have been making phones for years and I’ve been lucky enough to get hands on a lot of them in my time writing for various websites, they always have high quality hardware but can come with a high price tag to match.
A lot of talk at the moment is about the Sony Xperia Pro I with its large 1 inch camera sensor, but also large £1,700 asking price here in the UK.
The company also have other devices that are on sale at the moment at a lower price, so when Sony offered to send me both the Xperia 5iii and the Xperia 1iii to compare, I was looking forward to getting hands on both to do the reviews and see what the Sony smartphones could do in 2022.
This is a review of the Sony Xperia 5iii where I used it as my main phone with my main SIM card for all my daily tasks so could really get a good feel for what the company were aiming for.
The device was sent to me by Sony UK PR and on the review was finished was returned back to them so other reviewers can get hands on it for their coverage.
No offer of a device to keep was made and no one else had any input in any of this review as it is going live for everyone to see at the same time.
Whilst a lot of the design for Sony smartphones seems to stay roughly the same, it was nice to see a slight change from the squared off edges from the more expensive 1ii which made it feel rather large, and with the smaller display and curved edges, the 5iii was much better in the hand in both comfort and usability.
The front camera will be covered more in the camera section of the review, but as a quick overview you get a 8 megapixel camera with 1080p recording that is the same camera found on last years model.
The screen comes in at a decent 6.1 inches in size using OLED technology for deep blacks and bright colours, it also offers a 120hz refresh rate which will be great for anyone into high frame rate gaming or likes a smooth silky animation here and there, and the 1080p resolution does a good job at keeping things looking good.
The large screen takes up all the front with no physical buttons to be seen, just the large screen which looks great for watching content back on.
Also it is interesting to see Sony not go with a pinhole or notch for the camera again, they have a 21:9 aspect ratio display with no cutout for the camera, instead sticking to the traditional phone design with a bar up top to house this instead.
Looking over at the left side you get the pull out tray, you also get the Nano SIM slot for your network of choice SIM, also included on the 5iii is Dual SIM support so you can place two different networks at the same time instead of needing two phones, you do still however lack any eSIM option.
Only a small thing to mention but appreciated was the fact you don’t need a pin to take out the sliding holder like on most other phones, there is a small slot you can use your nail and remove quickly which is great for anyone who swaps SIM cards a lot as there is no need to go hunting for the pin to swap over, however what is annoying is the phone restarting any time you swap SIM cards, frustrating when you need to swap and make that quick phone call.
Sony does this a lot on their phones and is something very much appreciated as not everyone has access to a PIN to swap SIMS unless they remember to have one with them at all time
Over on the right hand side you have the volume rocker for up and down controls, also a power button in the middle which has a fingerprint sensor inside so you can use this for unlocking quickly or authorising contact less payments if you use Google Pay, thankfully speed and reliability was very good and was easy to use thanks to the curved edges making it easier to hold.
One button that some will like and some will find very annoying is the addition of a Google Assistant key between the volume and camera button.
Whilst this is a handy way to load the assistant for doing different tasks, you can of course use the Hey Google voice phrase or tap the microphone on screen to bring this up instead, some people may get annoyed when they accidentally keep pressing this when aiming for the camera button, or just holding the phone normally.
Finally you have a dedicated camera button which is something Sony have been doing for years on their phones, it gives you a real camera experience by half pressing to focus, then fully pressing to take a photo
Up at the top you have one of the dual microphones for noise cancellation as well as stereo recording, also nice to see is the 3.5mm headphone jack so you can use your own pair of headphones without needing an adapter which is nice to see, plus you do get a decent pair of in-ear headphones in the box if you don’t already have a pair you want to use.
Down at the bottom you have the other microphone used in the dual setup, you also have the USB-C port for data transfer or fast charging at 30w which is decent but slower than some of the competition, and as mentioned before you also miss out on wireless charging here so need to remember to have your charger with you if you plan to use a lot through the day.
Turning over to the back you have a full glass panel with the Sony logo slap bang in the middle.
In the top left corner you have the LED flash for use of a flashlight or boosting brightness in poorly lit conditions for photos and videos.
Then you have the triple camera setup consisting of three 12 megapixel lenses and the LED flash for improving low light situations, in fact the only thing missing over the Xperia 1iii is the ToF sensor.
Sony have gone with a wide angle, super wide and a telephoto, all at 12 megapixels to keep the levels of brightness and contrast consistent with each other and to make things more consistent.
The camera setup is the same as on the more expensive Xperia 1iii model which means you get the same camera performance and quality images between both of them, so if the camera is the main thing you look for this is a way to save a lot of money and not miss out on performance.
Sample photos and videos taken from each camera can be found later on in the review so you can see what the quality is like.
Sony have cut back on the amount of customisation they do to Android updates, and this allows faster rollout of newer patches because there is less work involved.
Also there is less bloatware installed including doubling up on apps for the same task, for so long there was an Album app for photos as well as Google Photos for example, instead there are just a few from Sony to enhance the experience without taking over completely.
When I started to use the phone I was running Android 11, however after about 4 updates (which seem to take forever to install for some reason) I finally ended up on Android 12 and have based the screenshots on this.
The latest version of Android brings with it the new design language with flatter icons and shapes, for example the number pad to unlock the phone is now large circles with basic feel that makes everything just easier to understand and use.
Also the notification slider has been redesigned with easier to understand notifications and optioned to customise quickly, it is the same content as before just much better in design and overall layout.
Having such a tall screen also brings some new additions to the software with the ability to be able to multitask with 2 apps at the same time on a 50/50 split, and with the screen being so tall it does not make the content too small to be usable.
Sony has done a good job on the software front with little bloatware and quick software updates such as to the latest Android 12, and this is a big improvement from the old Sony software experience on older devices.
One setting you will either love or hate pretty quickly is the dynamic vibration mode when watching back video content, the idea is that is enhances the experience with small timed shakes when video content needs it,for example in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex scene makes the water in the cup shake, this is a perfect use, but may be annoying for some people, so Sony let you switch this on or off easily.
Performance is very good as you would expect considering the Xperia 5 iii comes packing the powerful Snapdragon 888 processor which brings great speed and performance with it.
This is backed up by 8GB of RAM which means smooth multitasking including graphic heavy games, and in my time playing Call of Duty or PUBG I had no issues at all with the performance and this was based on a 8GB model with 128GB storage.
The battery included is 4500mAh which is one of the higher end models on sale at the moment, even considering the OLED screen that runs at 120hz and 5G supported too, it was great having such a large battery included as this is a great gaming phone, and if you do need to top up the power, the Xperia 5 iii supports 30w charging but takes a while to fully charge from flat when compared to some of the competition.
Something you do miss out on here is wireless charging support which for a £900 phone is rather surprising although not a deal breaker for most people.
The Xperia 5 iii comes with support for 2G/3G/4G/5G so you have a wide range of connectivity options depending on your network and sometimes price plan of choice (not all plans include 5G access)
I was able to test using 5G on the EE network picking up some coverage from a nearby town of Paignton and was getting very respectable speeds considering the distance of the mast, however with all mobile networks, everyone’s experience will be different.
With using 4G this was also giving access to 4G+ which is also known as LTE-Advanced, again it depends on network and location but I was happy to be getting speeds of around 100Mbps over this network here in Torquay which isn’t exactly the most popular of places for technology, and if you are in a better area with faster networks you can in theory get 200/300Mbps speeds over 4G.
Being 5G ready as soon as signal covers your area you will get access to these even faster speeds and you are future proofing yourself, all for such a crazy low price.
Of course you also get the standard GPS, Bluetooth, NFC and WiFi built in for navigation and communication, WiFi supports the latest standard too for stronger and quicker data speeds if you have the right router.
Sony are huge in the camera industry so you would hope this would also move over onto the Xperia brand of smartphones, however this has not always been the case in previous models, especially with 4K video recording often overheating.
The selfie camera uses the same 8MP lens that was found on the premium Xperia 1iii, but also the same on last years models too which performed quite well, although low on the megapixel count when you consider some phones these days have 32MP selfie cameras, and this phone is hardly cheap to buy either.
Quality is decent for selfies and what you would take them fore which is mainly sharing on social media and video calls, although in a time when phones around this price have 16/32/40 megapixel selfie shooters it would have been nice to have a higher megapixel count for more detail as I mentioned before.
Selfie videos are decent too, but with a lower megapixel count you do lose some of the creative opportunity such as cropping in and keeping the footage really sharp, but for most uses it will do a good job.
With the camera setup being the same as the flagship Xperia 1ii this means anyone looking to get the best camera from Sony can pick this phone and not miss on any performance for lower cost, so once again they have stayed away from the high megapixel count seen by other manufacturers.
Sony have gone with a three lens setup, all at 12 megapixels which includes a telephoto, a main, and a wide angle camera for all conditions. Also the megapixel size all being the same should make for the same colours and contrast no matter what camera you decide to use which will be key to professional users.
In good lighting the captured photos seem decent enough packing a lot of details and colour which was good to see, it does not have the boosted contrast which Samsung seem to love doing in there photos that make greens really over the top which is a good thing although some people do like that style of photo.
Here are photos taken using each of the three cameras so you can see what quality you can expect to see from these 12 megapixel sensors.
Normally it is Night photos that struggle with capturing a lot of details compared to some of the competition in the past for me, however it looks like Sony have managed to improve on their quality and get sone really good photos at even the toughest of conditions which was great to see.
In an attempt to make things easier and more streamlined, Sony have now gone with a single app for the camera and a separate one for their Pro video mode.
In previous models there was a normal camera which did the basics and then Pro models when you wanted to get more control over your settings, in the Xperia 5 iii this is now just one for camera and one for video.
When you load for the first time you get into the Basic mode for those of us who like to point and shoot to get a decent photo, tapping this setting in the corner opens up all the professional modes and tools to get the very best photo possible should you know how to use these the right way.
Cinema Pro is the professional video recorder included which can really produce some fantastic content, anyone coming from a Sony camera will recognise a lot of the settings and toggles available to get the best from the device, anyone who prefers the point and shoot method may be a bit overwhelmed by all the options you have on screen.
It is clear that Sony are leaning on their fanbase of existing Sony users who will understand what they are looking at when loading the Cinema Pro app to record video.
One thing that seems to still trouble Sony is their 4K recording in which you often get a pop up message about the video needing to stop because the phone is too hot due to consistently recording 4K footage, this doesn’t seem to impact any other flagship phone from other manufacturers but is also not unique to this device as this same issue has gone back since 4K recording first started many years ago.
With a price tag of £900 here in the UK the Xperia 5iii isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t their flagship phone either so was interesting to see where they would aim this phone in the market at a time when Samsung and Apple seems to be dominating and you have up and coming brands such as Oppo, OnePlus and Xiaomi coming into the mix.
Sony have a diehard following of fans around the world who love the brand and everything that they have to offer, in which case this will be right at home for you if you want to spend under the £1,000 mark on a new smartphone.
Where company struggle is for attracting new customers from other devices onto the Sony brand and that is a shame because once you get using the Xperia 5 iii It’s a very enjoyable experience with a great set of specifications that give you value for money. It’s just a shame that a lot of people won’t get to see this.
Ignoring the camera focused Xperia Pro- I, if you want the top of the range phone from Sony then you’ll go for the Xperia 1iii with it’s larger 4K resolution display, but if that price point is too high and you don’t need a 4K display or 12GB of RAM then Xperia 5 iii is a great alternative phone to go for where you won’t lose a lot of specs for your money, and get a nice saving too.
If you asked me if I would recommend this device. I would actually have to say yes, take out the competition and what they have to offer and look at this phone for what it has to offer, and you’re getting a great smartphone that will last you well into this year and the next, however where I think Sony may struggle as I said before is where the competition are so strongly priced and marketed much more meaning consumers will notice them more when deciding what to buy.
Again a big thanks to Sony for sending out the Xperia 5iii for review