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Sony Xperia 5 IV camera hero
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
aa2020 recommended

Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Still a pocket photography powerhouse

Does Sony's compact smartphone live up to its little but mighty legacy over a year later?
By
November 6, 2023
aa2020 recommended

Sony Xperia 5 IV

One of the best multimedia hardware packages offered by a smartphone to date but is, unfortunately, held back by a sub-par update promise. However, if you can make peace with only three years of software support, the Xperia 5 IV is a compact delight and a much more sensible buy than the eye-wateringly expensive Xperia 1 IV.

What we like

Sturdy, compact design
Impressive battery life
Unique content creator apps
Superb camera autofocus and portraits
Excellent video capture
Great-sounding stereo speakers

What we don't like

So-so selfie camera
No variable refresh rate
Poor sustained performance
Sub-par update promise
aa2020 recommended

Sony Xperia 5 IV

One of the best multimedia hardware packages offered by a smartphone to date but is, unfortunately, held back by a sub-par update promise. However, if you can make peace with only three years of software support, the Xperia 5 IV is a compact delight and a much more sensible buy than the eye-wateringly expensive Xperia 1 IV.
A newer version of this device is now available. The Sony Xperia 5 V launched in September 2023 and is now available in Europe. The new model sports an updated processor, new multimedia features, and a different camera setup. You can read Android Authority's Sony Xperia 5 V review here.

We had to wait slightly longer than in previous years but got our hands on the Sony Xperia 5 IV — the compact and slightly more affordable alternative to the flagship Xperia 1 IV and the newer Xperia 1 V. Distilling Sony’s expensive flagship formula down to a slightly more affordable and compact form hasn’t always struck the ideal compromises. So does the 2022 model manage to find the right balance? Find out in Android Authority’s Sony Xperia 5 IV review.

Sony Xperia 5 IV
Sony Xperia 5 IV
MSRP: $999.00
See review
See review
About this Sony Xperia 5 IV review: I tested the Sony Xperia 5 IV over a period of five days. It was running the Android 12 64.0.H.4.18 build on the July 2022 security patch. The unit was provided by Sony for this review.

Update, November 2023: Added more information on competitors and updates.

What you need to know about the Sony Xperia 5 IV

Sony creative apps
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • Sony Xperia 5 IV (8GB/128GB): $999 / £699 / €799 (was £949/€1,049)

Just like its bigger sibling, the Xperia 1 IV, Sony’s compact flagship focuses on winning over the content creator crowd. Between the Photo Pro, Video Pro, and new Music Pro apps, creators have plenty of toys to play with. Sony aims to appeal to the live streaming crowd too, with streaming straight to YouTube or an RTMP URL service via Sony’s Video Pro and Game Enhancer apps.

Ravenous content consumers are well-catered to here as well. Bravia Core gifts customers five movies to redeem and 12 months of unlimited streaming of older shows, free of charge. Music lovers benefit from LDAC and LE Audio Bluetooth, as well as DSEE upscaling and 360 Reality Audio Upmix. Gamers can configure their experiences just how they like through Game Enhancer, with performance, charging, audio, and other options.

It’s not all copy/paste from when we reviewed the flagship Xperia 1 IV, however. The Xperia 5 IV misses out on the innovative 85-125mm variable focal length periscope camera. There’s also no 4K display here, as is typical of the Xperia 5 series. The RAM also drops from 12GB to 8GB, and there’s a paltry 128GB of storage. Thankfully, the handset supports 1TB microSD cards, somewhat offsetting the lack of higher storage variants. If you need a second SIM, there’s eSIM support too.

Sony has built a powerhouse for content creators and distilled it into a compact package.

Still, the broader package remains very much a classic Xperia, complete with a IP65/68 rating, 4K 120fps HDR video recording, 5G networking, Wi-Fi 6E, and other modern Sony smartphone staples.

You can buy the Xperia 5 IV in US, UK, and Europe at the time of this writing. The Sony Xperia 5 IV is available in three color options: Black, Green, and Ecru White.

What’s good?

Sony Xperia 5 IV with headphones
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

If you love Sony’s monolithic design then you’ll be pleased to note that the Xperia 5 IV looks the same as the previous model and the one before that. The familiarity is a bit boring, but if Apple can get away with the same old look then Sony’s classy design can too.

There’s the same sturdy aluminum frame from its premium sibling that’s a major upgrade over the previous generation’s cheap-feeling plastic. The frame houses a snappy side-mounted fingerprint scanner, sturdy volume rockers, plus the camera shutter button. The Xperia 5 IV is also one of the few remaining phones with a 3.5mm headphone jack. The glossy Corning Gorilla Glass Victus front and back is a dust and fingerprint magnet, but hardy against scratches.

Sony's design remains exquisite, even after all these years.

The Xperia 5 IV is wonderfully compact with a beautiful 6.1-inch HDR OLED FHD+ display that’s mostly unchanged from the Xperia 5 III. The panel is apparently 50% brighter at its peak, which does help ensure visibility outdoors. This supposedly plays in with Sony’s “Real Time HDR Drive” video exposure correction feature, but I couldn’t tell if/when this kicks in. Equally importantly, the 21:9 aspect ratio further plays to the slim feel in the hand, yet the phone doesn’t feel overly tall.

The Xperia 5 IV features front-facing stereo speakers, one at the bottom and another at the top. It’s a rarity these days and, as such, the handset’s sound stands head and shoulders above most other phones. A newly developed special enclosure reduces unwanted vibrations and helps the speakers sing when propped up on a table. Speaking of, I’d turn Sony’s Dynamic Vibration feature off, it takes the edge off the otherwise superb sound. Of course, the small speakers won’t rival a proper set at driving bass-heavy tracks, but the setup excels at sound separation and clarity for both music and film.

A familiar design doesn’t mean the internals haven’t changed, though. Sony finally squeezes Qi wireless charging into its smaller model, complete with battery share functionality to reverse wirelessly charge earbuds and the like. Wireless charging doesn’t peak above 7.5W on the couple of docks I tested, so it’s pretty slow. Much like the 30W wired Power Delivery charging that takes 30 minutes to 50% but around 95 minutes to full (a modest improvement over the Xperia 5 III). Still, wireless capabilities are welcome nonetheless.

Finally, the Xperia 5 IV includes wireless charging.

There’s no charger in the box, so you’ll have to buy your own plug to provide enough power. But that does mean Sony’s box is 50% slimmer, with no plastic inside and fewer carbon emissions. Thankfully, I didn’t encounter the same finicky cable and charger issues I had with the Xperia 1 IV. Sony seems to have fixed that particular bug; this phone charged nicely with the plugs and cables I threw at it.

Sony has packed a 5,000mAh battery into its smaller phone, so you won’t have to charge the phone often. The large battery will easily handle daily social and business tasks, as well as long video playback sessions, and even a decent amount of gaming. Expect a full day’s battery life and then some for all but the heaviest use cases.

What’s not so good?

Sony Xperia 5 IV quick settings
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

As nice as Sony’s hardware package is, it’s not entirely cutting-edge. The lack of variable refresh rate display tech means you’re stuck with the added battery drain of 120Hz or the jankier feel of 60Hz, the latter of which the Xperia defaults to out of the box — this helps explains the great battery life. Setting the phone to 120Hz should still provide around four hours of screen time for moderate use, thanks to the large battery capacity. However, that’s probably battery anxiety-inducing for all but the lightest of users. If you’re more of a power user, the smaller display makes this less of a multitasker than the 6.5-inch Xperia 1 IV anyway, and I struggled to make any meaningful use of Sony’s 21:9 Multi-window feature.

The inclusion of a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and not the newer, more efficient Plus version leaves the phone prone to heating during extensive gaming. We clocked a reasonable 9,626 run in 3DMark’s Wildlife, but this falls by nearly 50% to 4,975 by the end of a stress test. That said, the phone will survive a whole round of Apex Legends at a steady 60fps, so it will still serve many gamers well enough. Just bear in mind that it does become warm during longer sessions and that newer Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 phones are much more powerful.

A few small issues take the polish off an otherwise exceptional hardware package.

Turning to software, I’m so-so on Sony’s take on Android 12 and even the phone’s first upgrade to Android 13. Material You’s aesthetics and theming customization are now (finally) in place for a stock-like experience that Sony imbues Android with added features like Side Sense, battery Stamina mode, and Ambient Display, which are all solid. It’s minimalistic, if not a little disjointed. It’s a small gripe, but the inconsistent app, menu theming, and pre-installed junk like LinkedIn don’t provide the same cohesive polish as the hardware package.

Sony Xperia 5 IV app launcher
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Likewise, I’m not sold on the value proposition of Sony’s niche Music Pro cloud-processing subscription. It only filters and upscales vocals and guitar for a start. But even then, serious musicians and producers will want more powerful editing tools and robust-sounding recording equipment. The microphones are clear enough to record a rough idea, but no phone can legitimately double up as a recording studio.

Creator apps are nice but the features are increasingly niche.

Sony’s update pledge of two OS and three years of security updates is a real disappointment, as it’s now firmly below average in the flagship and even mid-tier smartphone categories. That’s not great in anyone’s book, and especially not when Sony is charging top dollar for the handset.

Sony Xperia 5 IV camera review

Sony Xperia 5 IV camera close
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Much like a lot of the internals, the Xperia 5 IV doesn’t switch up too much in the camera department. There are the same 12MP main and ultrawide cameras as the Xperia 5 III, complete with 20fps burst shooting. The previous gen’s switchable focal length camera is also replaced with a fixed 60mm shooter, which is a disappointing downgrade. However, Sony has brought its best-in-class 60fps eye autofocus, 4K 120fps recording, and AI-based object tracking to power up the latest 5 series model.

As we’ve come to expect from Sony smartphones, the Xperia 5 IV’s camera package excels at color accuracy, white balance, and natural details. Its results can look subdued compared to some other phones, but Sony balances accuracy with healthy saturation and, like the best camera phones, doesn’t rely on oversharpening. Most of the images I took with the phone look fantastic, and HDR is much improved in this generation. You can always go further with the Photo Pro app’s now staple A/P/S/M options for serious photographers.

There are some still lingering rough edges, though. Pay close attention, and you’ll sometimes spot HDR haloing, chromatic aberration on the ultrawide lens, and smudgy low-light environments. It’s also disappointing that the phone can’t do HDR and bokeh processing at once, and there are still no macro capabilities or night mode toggle — Sony relies on HDR processing and long exposures for low light. That said, the camera is plenty capable enough 90% of the time.

Sony’s Xperia 5 IV misses out on the variable focal length zoom camera of its bigger sibling, stepping back to a fixed 60mm (2.5x) telephoto lens. This setup is limited in its long-range applications, tapping out at about 4x of usable zoom distance while Sony caps it at 7.5x. This telephoto isn’t the most detailed, and there’s some desaturation versus the main lens. However, the 60mm focal length is quite nice for portraits, especially when paired with the artificial bokeh option.

In equally good news, Sony has finally fixed its selfie portrait feature. Gone is the separate menu, replaced with the same bokeh button used for the main camera. Edge detection is vastly improved and now competes with some of the best phones in the business. My only complaint is I don’t care for the fake bokeh halos Sony adds to highlights seemingly arbitrarily, and the bokeh mode has a habit of blowing out background highlights.

Selfie quality is decent in most lighting conditions, thanks to the new larger sensor. However, the camera can only handle so much dynamic range, which throws off the white balance in some instances. Overall, skin textures look great, but tones are hit and miss depending on the lighting, making the selfie experience subpar versus the rear camera package, even with the hardware improvements.

When it comes to video, you’re capped at 4K/30fps or 1080p/60fps in the main camera app but can obtain 4K/120fps from the slightly rejigged Video Pro app. Either way, the footage quality is excellent. Combined with excellent eye tracking and Video Pro’s powerful manual controls, budding videographers have everything they need here.

Sony Xperia 5 IV specs

Sony Xperia 5 IV
Display
6.1-inch HDR OLED FHD+
120Hz display
21:9 aspect ratio

Processor
Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM
8GB
Storage
128GB
microSDXC support (up to 1TB)

Power
5,000mAh battery
30W wired charging (30 min 50% charge)
Wireless charging
Battery share
Cameras
Rear:
- 16mm, 12MP, 1/.25-inch, ƒ/2.2
- 24mm, 12MP, 1/1.7-inch, ƒ/1.7, 1.8um OIS
- 60mm, 12MP, 1/3.5-inch, ƒ/2.4, OIS

120fps readout
High-speed eye AF on all lenses
Object tracking in photo and video
60fps AF/AE calculations on all lenses
20fps burst photos in HDR
4K 120fps (up to 5x slow mo)
Wide dynamic range for video

Front:
- 12MP, 1.29-inch

4K HDR video from front cam
Audio
3.5mm headphone jack
Full-stage stereo speakers
Dolby Atmos
Hi-Res audio
DSEE Ultimate
LDAC support
360 Reality Audio Upmix
Connectivity
Bluetooth LE Audio
5G support
Dimensions
156 x 67 x 8.2mm
172g
Software
Android 12

Colors
Black, Green, Ecru White
Durability
IP65/IP68
Corning Gorilla Glass Victus

Sony Xperia 5 IV review: The verdict

Sony Xperia 5 IV back standing
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Well over a year down the line, the Xperia 5 IV is a tricky phone to continue to recommend, and not just because the Xperia 5 V is here. The IV remains your only compact Sony option in the US and still has its launch $999 tag attached. While its hardware might compete with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus ($999.99 at Samsung) in places, Samsung’s flagship still has years of support left while the Xperia 1 IV has just one OS upgrade left, which should land in the coming months.

There are newer alternatives to consider too. The Apple iPhone 15 Pro ($999 at Amazon) is a great pick for those after robust video capabilities, long-term support, and blazing-fast performance that make the 5 IV feel dated. Sony’s apps might be more dedicated to multimedia, but there’s no arguing that the latest iPhone executes well here.

Sony's Xperia 5 IV boasts wonderful hardware. We just wish it was built to last five years.

At this price, you could also grab the Google Pixel 8 Pro ($999 at Amazon), which boasts a brilliant camera setup with manual controls for the first time, seven years of updates, and AI smarts that you can’t get hold of anywhere else. Google’s Tensor G3 chip isn’t the fastest, but we’re not concerned about its thermal performance like we have been with the Xperia’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.

Speaking of, smoother performance can be found in more modern rivals, such as those sporting a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and flagships launching in the next few months with the newer 8 Gen 3. Unfortunately, Sony isn’t matching the long-term support offered by other leading manufacturers either, making the Xperia 5 IV impossible to recommend to anyone looking for a phone that will serve them well past the three-year mark when security updates will cease.

Now, the Xperia 1 IV has seen significant discounts in Europe (€250 off) and the UK (£250 off), making the phone a better deal than in the US. However, the phone is now halfway through its software lifecycle, so that’s still not exactly a bargain. Sony had a very tempting hardware and software package in the Xperia 5 IV; now it just needs to play with the big names in the update space as well.

Sony Xperia 5 IVSony Xperia 5 IV
AA Recommended
Sony Xperia 5 IV
Excellent video capture • Superb camera autofocus • Compact design
MSRP: $999.00
One of the best multimedia hardware packages
The Sony Xperia 5 IV is for the folks who like the Xperia 1 IV but can't stomach the price. While it's cheaper and offers less than its bigger brother, it's still one of the best phones for creators out there.

Top Sony Xperia 5 IV questions and answers

The Xperia 5 IV has a smaller 6.1-inch display that drops the 4K resolution. The Xperia 1 IV also has a variable focal length zoom camera which is absent from the 5 IV model.

Yes. The Xperia 5 IV supports sub-6GHz 5G but not mmWave 5G frequency bands.

Yes, the phone supports Qi wireless and reverse wireless charging. This is the first time Sony has bought wireless charging to the 5 series.

Sony’s update policy includes two Android upgrades and three years of security patches.

The Sony Xperia 5 IV is IP65/68 rated for immersion in up to 1.5m of water for 30 minutes.