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Sony Xperia 5 III review: The almost perfect handy flagship

Sony Xperia 5 III review header
Picture: TechnikNews
(Post picture: © 2021 TechnikNews)

While Samsung, Huawei, OPPO, Xiaomi, OnePlus and Co. almost exclusively bring large high-end smartphones onto the market, Sony was last year with the 5 II next to Google and Apple the only manufacturer that had a relatively compact smartphone with the latest top hardware on offer. Since this year, however, also the coming Pixel 6 Devices are to become significantly larger, it is all the more gratifying that at least Sony is still sticking to compact high-end smartphones with the new Xperia 5 III.

The 5 III's display measures just 6,1 inches, which was considered huge a few years ago, but it is actually quite small by today's standards. In addition, there is the unusual aspect ratio of 21: 9, which makes the device noticeably narrower in the hand than comparable competitors, which is essential for good one-handed operation. Despite the small form factor, the Xperia 5 III is packed with the latest hardware and does not have to be ahead of its bigger brother, the 1III, hide. We have tested it extensively in the last few days and now want to clarify in the following lines whether it was convincing in everyday life and whether it is worth buying.

Haptics, design & processing

The biggest selling point of the Sony Xperia 5 III is of course its compact size. Although it is relatively long at 157 millimeters in height, it is also extremely narrow at just 67 millimeters wide, which is extremely important for proper one-handed operation. I could use the smartphone in almost every situation proeasily operated with one hand, which is the case with most other devices, such as the Huawei P50 Pro or especially that Xiaomi mi 11 ultra, not possible. In addition, there is the relatively light weight of 168 grams and the thickness of 8,2 millimeters, which also contribute to pleasant operation. If you are a big fan of compact and lightweight smartphones, you should definitely consider the 5 III.

The frame is made of aluminum with a high-gloss finish, which on the one hand attracts fingerprints almost magically, but on the other hand it creates a high-quality feeling in the hand. In addition, it is almost perfectly rounded, which makes it easy to use. If we take a closer look at the right side of the frame, we can see four buttons. At the top is the button for regulating the volume and directly below is the on / off button, in which the fingerprint sensor is also integrated. Both keys are easy to reach, have a good pressure point and are almost perfectly made. The device also has a dedicated Google Assistant button and another button for the camera shutter release. When taking photos in horizontal mode, you can simply press the shutter release button with your index finger. It can also be pressed in standby mode to start the camera.

While the Xperia 1 III is only available in matt colors, its smaller brother, black and green, unfortunately only comes in two glossy colors that you could brush all day long due to the susceptibility to fingerprints. At least the back is made of glass and not made of plastic like the S21. Sony has installed a total of three sensors at the top left on the back, which are placed extremely discreetly compared to the competition. Although the cameras only protrude a little from the case, the smartphone wobbles noticeably when it is used on the table.

If we turn the smartphone around, we are greeted by a 6,1-inch display, which is neither interrupted by a notch nor a punch hole. Instead, we have relatively thick bezels above and below the panel, at least by today's standards. After all, Sony makes good use of the space and installs stereo front speakers, the quality of which we will take care of towards the end of the test. Personally, I would have liked to have thinner edges, since the entire competition is much further ahead here. Nevertheless, the front looks quite consistent, as the edges above and below the screen are about the same thickness.

Display - long and neat

The 6,1-inch OLED display with a 21: 9 aspect ratio shines on the front. The resolution of 2.560 x 1.080 pixels is lower than that of the large Xperia 1 III, but it is completely sufficient in view of the compact size. Much more important is the supported refresh rate of 120 Hertz, which is kept very constant and makes all movements look much smoother.

You can choose between two modes on the display, normal and creator mode. In the first, colors are very saturated, in the second, very realistic. With your own X1 for mobile Chip, the support of the BT.2020 color space, the 10bit color depth and the support for HDR content, the display should be one of the few smartphones for proprofessional users should also be appealing. The black level is excellent and even the white level is at a very high level for an OLED panel. The only criticism is the display brightness, which is visibly lower compared to comparable competitors, making the screen harder to read under the sun. More should have been possible here, but the display brightness isn't bad either.

Sony Xperia 5 III display

The colors of the Xperia 5 III are much more visible than, for example, the cheaper Realme GT Master. (Image: TechnikNews)

There is still a bit of room for improvement in terms of viewing angle stability. With a slight inclination, colors turn slightly bluish. Here is that itself Real GT Master Edition better, which, mind you, is 650 euros cheaper.

Software - almost pure stock Android

The software used is Android 11 with the in-house XperiaUI. It is very similar to Stock Android and is equipped with some useful additional functions, such as the concentration mode, with which apps can be paused and their notifications can be hidden. Furthermore, a night mode, an ingenious gesture control and a night light mode are on board. With the latter, the screen takes on a yellowish tint that is easier on the eyes. Unfortunately, there was also some bloatware out of the factory with Facebook, Netflix, LinkedIn and Call of Duty. Unfortunately, these preinstalled apps cannot be uninstalled either.

Dynamic vibration

Sony also integrates a very special feature, which was introduced two years ago with the Xperia 1 was introduced. The so-called dynamic vibration improves the media experience through vibrations when playing films, videos or music. To turn this feature on, all you have to do is press the volume button to display the volume window and select an effect. I think this is a very useful feature, especially when it comes to gaming. With music, on the other hand, less so, because who holds their smartphone in their hand all the time while listening to music?

The Snapdragon 888 from Qualcomm works under the hood, which is supported by 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. The latter can be expanded via a micro SD card.

No matter what you do with the Sony Xperia 5 III, it never reaches its limits. Apps start and close extremely quickly and there have never been any major stutters or delays. Thanks to the smooth refresh rate of 120 Hertz, all animations are noticeably smoother than with just 60 Hertz.

heat generation

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 is actually a really good one in terms of performance Processor, which will still have sufficient performance reserves in one to two years, but the big one ProThe heat development is a problem with almost all smartphones that are powered by this SoC. Even in everyday life, for example when watching YouTube videos or scrolling Twitter or Instagram, the Xperia 5 III gets noticeably warmer than other devices, which shouldn't be the case. Anyone who takes photos or gambles a lot with their smartphone will feel the heat even more clearly. Of course you don't have to worry too much about burning your fingers, for example, but on very warm days I would definitely keep an eye on the heat development. With last year's Snapdragon 865 or this year's 870, these are mine Prodidn't get noticed.

Battery - great runtimes, disappointing charging times

Sony has actually managed to pack a large 4.500 mAh battery into this small body, which is extremely commendable. For such a handy smartphone, the battery life is above average, which corresponds to my measured values ​​of 5 to 6 hours of screen-on time with the remaining 15 to 30 Procenter on the battery. I can easily get through a day with it and even 1,5 days without charging were sometimes possible. If you only use the smartphone at 60 Hertz, you get about 1,5 hours more screen-on-time.

Unfortunately, the scope of delivery only includes a 30 watt power supply, with which it takes just under 100 minutes until the battery is fully charged. In view of the price, I would have expected a lot more here. For comparison, the Real GT Master Edition for 350 euros is fully charged in just under 30 minutes. As with the predecessor, wireless charging is unfortunately not possible, which I think is a shame.

Camera - good zoom, otherwise just average

The manufacturer installs three sensors on the back, all of which are arranged one below the other and each has a resolution of 12 megapixels. With the main camera we are dealing with a 1 / 1.7 inch sensor that is supposed to absorb a lot of light due to the bright aperture of f / 1.7. The ultra-wide-angle camera is slightly smaller at 1 / 2.5 inches and not too bright with an aperture of f / 2.2. All of this sounds rather unspectacular so far, but that changes as soon as you take a closer look at the zoom camera. Sony installed a telephoto camera with a variable focal length: 70 and 105 mm. This means that recordings at both 2,9 (70 mm) and 4,4 times (105 mm) magnifications do not lose their quality, since each is an optical zoom. There is nothing like this on any other smartphone today. The front camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels and allows selfies in appealing quality.

Sony Xperia 5 III camera

The triple camera of the Sony Xperia 5 III. (Image: TechnikNews)

With the main camera, very nice shots can be taken in good lighting conditions, which are particularly characterized by extremely realistic color reproduction. This is actually one of the things I like best about the current flagship smartphones. The sharpness is perfectly fine, but in this respect I see a few competitors a little further ahead. In my opinion, there is room for improvement in terms of dynamic range, although you can definitely get by with it. Unfortunately, the 5 III can no longer really keep up with the competition, at the latest in poor light conditions. Recordings can be used from time to time, but I expect more for a suggested retail price of 999 euros. The mainproThe problem here is that the brightness is too low and that clouds are oversaturated. Also in terms of image sharpness I see the Mi 11 Ultra, Find X3 and Huawei P50 Pro visible further ahead.

The ultra-wide-angle camera performs a little worse, which is quite normal, however. The sharpness is decent, although here an OPPO Find X3, P40 Pro+, Mate 40 Pro and OnePlus 9 Pro are still a little better. On the other hand, I really liked the color rendering and the color matching between the main and ultra-wide-angle camera. As soon as it gets darker, the quality can no longer really convince. A lot of details are lost and overall the images lack brightness. Some competitors are visibly better here.

I really like the quality of the telephoto camera, both at 2,9x and 4,4x optical magnification. Here, too, colors are reproduced extremely realistically without appearing too pale, and the dynamic range is satisfactory. In terms of sharpness, there are now a few competitors that offer a little more, but with the OnePlus 9 Pro, OPPO Find X3 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus there are also a few smartphones that deliver visibly blurred zoom images. The sharpness of the 5 III is perfectly fine and the photos look very good up to about 10x. Overall, I am satisfied with the zoom, especially when you consider that there is currently no other compact smartphone with a great telephoto camera.

Picture Pro

Already with the Xperia 1 II, the so-called Photo Proapp launched. In terms of operation and setting options, the whole thing is very reminiscent of Sony's digital cameras. Those who know a little more about it will get their money's worth and can adapt the images to their taste.

Sony Xperia 5 III Photo Pro

Picture: TechnikNews

Cinema Pro

The cinema ensures even better videos Proapp where you can manually set the resolution, frame rate, ISO value or autofocus, among other things. There are also some filters that you can use to change the look of the videos to suit your taste.

Sony Xperia 5 III Cinema Pro

Picture: TechnikNews

Test photos

Let's take a look at a few test photos. As always, the following images are absolutely unprocessed, but compressed without loss in order to keep loading times and memory consumption of the website low.

In good lighting conditions, it is relatively easy to see that Sony is consistently ahead in terms of color reproduction and delivers the most natural results. Xiaomi and OPPO, on the other hand, score with a higher sharpness and a slightly better dynamic range, both with the main and ultra-wide-angle camera. Unfortunately, the 5 III can no longer quite keep up in the dark. The sharpness is still reasonably okay, but the images mainly lack brightness and the noise level is definitely too high. In addition, Sony exaggerates the saturation, which is particularly easy to see in the sky.

Others - good speakers, average vibration motor, and more

There are two loudspeakers at the top and bottom of the comparatively thick display bezels. As one of the less up-to-date smartphones, it has stereo front speakers. First of all, you should note that due to their large opening and their material, they are magnetic to attract dust in your pocket, so you should clean them more often. The loudspeakers still play a role in the sound experience, although I personally see other flagships at an advantage here, as they sound even fuller. Nevertheless, I was quite satisfied here.

On the hardware side, a vibration motor of the first class is built into the Sony Xperia 5 III, which is, however, used more for the "dynamic vibration system" feature mentioned above. Overall, the vibration motor can only convince to a limited extent. It does convey a sufficiently high-quality feeling in the hand, although most of the other flagships are a bit better in this regard, but often it just sounds annoyingly loud, especially when the smartphone receives a notification while lying on the table and then vibrates.

The smartphone can only be unlocked using a fingerprint sensor placed on the side, because face recognition is not available, but that's not so bad, because the sensor always unlocks the smartphone quickly and reliably.

What is worth mentioning, however, are the special “old school” functions that Sony still maintains in their current smartphones. These include the 3,5 millimeter jack with LDAC, a notification LED for incoming notifications and a SIM slot that can be opened by hand. In addition, it is IP68 protected against the ingress of water and dust.

Summary

My conclusion on the Sony Xperia 5 III is anything but easy for me, because it is without question a great smartphone that delivers very good hardware in a compact housing, but on the other hand there are the rather disappointing loading times, the lack of wireless charging and camera weaknesses Lowlight. If the 5 III didn't have these points of criticism, then in my opinion it would be the almost perfect handy high-end smartphone, but unfortunately this is not the case, which is why the title “The almost perfect handy flagship” fits very well.

In my opinion, the recommended retail price of 999 euros is a bit too high for what is on offer, especially compared to a OnePlus 9 Pro or Galaxy S21 Plus, which deliver similarly good hardware for less money.

The big specialty of the 5 III, however, is the compact size, which of course puts the price into perspective, because there are currently almost no handy Android flagships on the market. Therefore, in my opinion, fans of small smartphones can grab the Xperia 999 III for 5 euros and be very happy with it. Otherwise, I would wait a few more months until the price is around 850 euros or take a look at the also handy Galaxy S21which, however, cannot keep up with the Xperia in terms of feel, zoom and battery life.

Thank you to Sony Germany for providing the Sony Xperia 5 III!

Buy Sony Xperia 5 III

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Fabian Menzel

Fabian has been part of since mid-September 2020 TechnikNews and regularly provides the site with various news, but also with some test reports on smartphones. It's a lot of fun for him and he's extremely grateful to have such a great team at his side. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to music and occasionally taking photos with his Huawei P50 Pro.

Fabian has already written 273 articles and left 22 comments.

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