Sony Xperia M5 review

More storage, more power, more megapixels – for a lot more money

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Our Verdict

The Sony Xperia M5 has a gorgeous screen and is a competent phone in every other way, but its a small, expensive upgrade on the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua.

For

  • Sharp, vibrant screen
  • Stylish water-resistant design
  • Solid battery life

Against

  • Sluggish camera
  • Too similar to M4 Aqua
  • Performance isn't the best

The Sony Xperia M5 is a follow-up to the middling Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, which on paper seems to fix many of the issues we had with that mid-range phone. There's more storage, more RAM, a higher-spec camera and a sharper screen.

All of this comes at a price, however. The Sony Xperia M5 retails for roughly US$370 (£300, AU$425), while the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua can now be had from around US$220 (£160, AU$255) - but even its launch price was less than the M5.

That's a significant difference, and its price tag puts the Sony Xperia M5 up against the likes of the OnePlus 2 and even close to the Sony Xperia Z3+ and LG G4.

Sony Xperia M5 review

With an octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 1080p screen, water-resistant build, 21.2MP main camera and a 13MP front-facing one, the Xperia M5 certainly ticks a lot of boxes.

But is it the phone the M4 Aqua should have been, or does the higher price put it out of the mid-range running?

Design

The Sony Xperia M5 certainly makes a good first impression. Like so many Sony phones it has a rectangular Omnibalance design, and in terms of the materials used it falls somewhere between the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua and the Sony Xperia Z5.

The M4 Aqua is all polycarbonate, whereas here the back has been upgraded to a glass finish. But where the Xperia Z5 has a metal frame it's plastic on the Xperia M5, other than the corners, which are made of stainless steel.

Sony Xperia M5 review

Its dimensions are similar to those of the M4 Aqua, with the M5 coming in at 145 x 72 x 7.6mm. It's a slim phone then, but it's not actually all that compact given its 5-inch display; it's only slightly smaller than the Moto X Play, despite that phone having a much larger 5.5-inch screen.

The big bezels above and below the display on the Xperia M5 are the culprit here. While they presumably serve some purpose under the hood they look unnecessarily large, with only the microphone and earpiece, a Sony logo and a 13MP camera lens visibly housed in them – other than that they're just empty black space.

Even the bezels to the sides of the screen look a little on the large side, but that's a small complaint. The Xperia M5 is a slim and generally stylish handset, which – until you actually get your hands on it and feel the plastic edging – appears almost as premium as the Xperia Z5.

Sony Xperia M5 review

It's a little plain, with the whole body coming in one colour (gold in the case of my review unit). And there's little to break that finish up on the back, with just a couple of small logos, a 21.2MP camera lens and an LED flash.

But being plain isn't the worst thing in the world, and Sony's iconic metal power key does add a touch of contrast on the right edge. The button is positioned halfway down, which makes it easy to reach.

Note, though, that unlike on some Sony handsets there's no fingerprint scanner here, which is a shame.

Sony Xperia M5 review

That right edge is also home to a volume rocker and dedicated camera shutter button, both of which are even closer to the bottom edge, making them just as easy to get to without stretching.

Speaking of the bottom edge, that houses a micro USB port and the M5's speaker; sadly, there's no stereo sound here. On the left edge you'll find covered slots for the SIM card and microSD card, while up top there's a headphone port.

So all the actual buttons are on one edge, which makes them easy to find, especially as they're all different sizes and shapes.

Sony Xperia M5 review

The slightly curved edges make the Sony Xperia M5 reasonably comfortable to hold too, and while they're a little slippery the glass back provides a lot more grip.

All in all it's a fairly good-looking and very easy to operate phone, and I haven't even got to one of its best features yet: the fact that it's IP68-certified dust-proof and water-resistant.

Sony Xperia M5 review

While I'd always be hesitant to risk my phone in a shower or swimming pool, it does at least give me some peace of mind that if I spill a drink on it or get caught in the rain it will still work afterwards.

Of course you can get this same protection with the far cheaper Xperia M4 Aqua, but it's nice to see nonetheless.