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. 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?

Sony Xperia M5 review

Sony Xperia M5 price and release date

  • Launched at a higher price than the Xperia M4 Aqua did
  • Now down to $240 (£250, about AU$420)

Sony decided to raise the price of the Xperia M5 compared to the Xperia M4. The Sony Xperia M5 launched at $370 (£300, AU$425), while the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua can was around $340 (£220, AU$435).

You can now get a good discount on the Xperia M5 with it coming in at around $240 (£250, about AU$420).

Design

  • Traditional Sony Omnibalance design
  • Falls in between Xperia M4 Aqua and Xperia Z5

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.

Sony Xperia M5 review

Sony Xperia M5 specs

Weight: 142g
Dimensions: 145 x 72 x 7.6mm
OS: Android 6.0.1
Screen size: 5-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 1920
CPU: Mediatek Helio X10
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 16GB
Battery: 2600mAh
Rear camera: 21.2MP
Front camera: 13MP 

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. 

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.

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. 

Sony Xperia M5 review

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.

Key features

  • 5-inch Full HD screen that offers better resolution than past phones
  • 21.2MP rear shooter and 13MP front facing camera

While the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua has waterproofing as a key feature it's more of an expectation here, which is presumably why Sony has dropped 'Aqua' from the name.

The Sony Xperia M5 is, on paper at least, an improvement on the Xperia M4 Aqua in almost every other way, with the screen and camera arguably being the two biggest improvements.

The display is still 5 inches, but it has a resolution of 1080 x 1920, up from 720 x 1280 on the Xperia M4 Aqua. That resolution jump gives it a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch. That's up from just 294ppi on the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, and puts the M5 more in line with the Sony Xperia Z5 and HTC One M9.

Sony Xperia M5 review

The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua had a vibrant display with great viewing angles, and the same is true on the M5 – but now it's sharper. The contrast is good, images are still fairly bright even at extreme angles, and everything looks great on it.

There are better screens, and sharper ones. A quick look at what Samsung is doing on the Galaxy S7 – or even the Samsung Galaxy S6 – will show you that, but at this sort of price the Sony Xperia M5 stands up really well.

Then there's the camera. The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua has a solid but sluggish 13MP main snapper and a 5MP front-facing camera; the Xperia M5 significantly ups the megapixel count to 21.2MP on the back and 13MP on the front.

Sony Xperia M5 review

I'll cover the cameras in detail in the camera section, but for now you just need to know that it's an upgrade in some ways and not in others.

It's not much faster at snapping photos, despite the extra gigabyte of RAM the phone is packing, but shots are generally pretty impressive, as well as giving you lots of options to play with if you don't want to just point and shoot.

Not only are both the M5's camera and screen upgrades over the M4 Aqua's, they also stand up well to many rival phones at this price point. The 13MP primary snapper on the OnePlus 2 is no match for the M5's, for example, and its 1080p screen is no better.

Sony Xperia M5 review

Things become a bit more muddied when you consider that you can get some of 2015's flagships for only a shade more than this. The LG G4, for example, can be found for around the same price and both the camera and screen blow the M5's away.

That's a big problem for the Xperia M5, as while it shouldn't be expected to compete with a flagship – even a 2015 one – its price means it has to do exactly that.