The Sony Xperia E5 is the cheapest Android smartphone in Sony's current lineup; however, the Japanese electronics giant has never done budget particularly well – it's a premium brand – and the entry-level Android smartphone space has never been more competitive, so the Xperia E5 has its work cut out if it's going to make an impression.
Expectations of what you can get for your money in the budget sphere have changed dramatically in the last couple of years, with the Moto line and a flood of Chinese newcomers offering increasingly impressive handsets at ever-decreasing prices.
The Xperia E5 does have one foot in the mid-range, but the boundaries between categories are becoming more and more blurred.
The MediaTek processor, 1.5GB of RAM and 5-inch 720p display are slightly below par for a smartphone at this price, but the 13MP main camera is a pleasant surprise, while the classic, industrial Sony design is classier than some of the competition.
Is that enough? With such a wealth of strong alternatives to choose from, can Sony really make its presence felt at the less premium end of the market with the Xperia E5?
Sony style for the snap-happy
Two things immediately stand out about the Sony Xperia E5: the sexy design and the 13MP camera. If you love Sony's style, then the E5 is going to appeal.
The E5's budget predecessors have always resembled ugly cousins to Sony's main lines – a little too chubby and squat to draw any admiring glances. But the E5 doesn't look out of place next to the current Xperia X lineup. This is a phone you won't be ashamed to pull out of your pocket.
Sony has also thrown a 13MP main camera into the mix here, alongside a selfie-friendly 5MP front-facing snapper. On paper that's a major draw for a phone this price, and it's a good performer in favourable conditions, although there are issues with low-light shots.
The camera app has also been updated from those in previous budget Sony phones, and offers a manual mode, so you can tweak settings to your heart's content. We'll dig into the camera some more, and look at a few sample images, in the camera section.
Design and display
- A design you won't be ashamed to pull out of your pocket
- Everything looks sharp on the 720p display
You can tell at a glance that the Xperia E5 is part of the Sony family. It's a gently rounded rectangle with big bezels top and bottom.
Like the Sony Xperia X, XA and X Performance, the Xperia E5 sports a 5-inch display. Sony seems to have decided that five inches is the optimum size for a smartphone display, and while everyone else goes large, Sony has recalibrated its lineup to this more manageable size.
The E5 is also about the same size as its relations in terms of dimensions, just a tiny bit thicker, measuring 144 x 69 x 8.2mm. It's lighter, too, at 147g, thanks to its polycarbonate construction, but the matte finish feels and looks good.
You'll find the micro USB port for charging on the bottom edge, the headphone jack up top, and a fiddly flap that opens to reveal the SIM card and microSD card slots on the left spine.
It's when you look at the buttons on the right edge that you notice the first major departure from Sony's Xperia X phones – there's no dedicated camera button.
We usually find one at the bottom of the right spine, in the perfect place to press when you hold the phone in landscape view, as you naturally do to snap a shot. This is a real shame, especially since the camera is the star of the show here.
There's also, unsurprisingly, no fingerprint sensor in the power button. In fact, the E5 doesn't even get the old, circular, silver signature power button, as on the Xperia XA. There's just a tiny plastic lozenge for the power button, with a volume rocker above it.
For some reason, Sony has moved the volume rocker to the very top of the right edge, which makes it harder to get at when you're holding the phone one-handed. It's much further down on the X range, in a more comfortable position, so we're not sure why Sony has moved it here on the E5.
All the buttons feel solid, with a satisfying click, but the volume rocker placement is unfortunate – and we would have loved to see a physical shutter button for the camera.
The 5-inch display on the Sony Xperia E5 has a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels, just like the Xperia XA. That gives it a pixel density of 294ppi, which on a phone this size is perfectly adequate – everything looks sharp, and it's comfortable to read on.
Get too close, or sit it next to a higher-resolution phone and you can see its limitations, but it's a decent display. Colours look quite realistic, and you can crank the brightness up high enough to read outdoors, or low enough to kill the glare in a darkened room.
The only issue we had with the display was the poor viewing angles. If you aren't looking at it head-on, it dims considerably and doesn't look anywhere near as good.
Our Xperia E5 review unit is a dark grey, almost black colour, but you can get the phone in white, too. It's solidly built, and a really nice size for comfortable one-handed use. In this price bracket the Xperia E5 is a definite looker, and you could easily mistake it for one of Sony's more expensive releases.
- Thanks to Vodafone for providing an Xperia E5 for review