Sony Xperia M5 Review: The mid-range King or Jester?

We take a look at the Sony Xperia M5. The mid-range device aims to capture the market with its amazing camera setup and dust/water proof rating.

Away from all the glitz and glam that comes with a “flagship” tag there exists a smartphone segment that could be seen as the bread and butter devices for many manufacturing companies. The “mid-range” smartphone caters for the millions around the world that can’t afford the latest top of the line smartphone from their favoured company. The question however is how do you find the best mid-range smartphone without the continuous marketing bombardment tied to their loftier flagship sibling? Well a good place to start is right here. We take a look at the Xperia M5, the so-called “super mid-range” device from Sony.
Xperia M5First things first. Let’s take a look at the specs:

Sony SpecsDesign and Build

All that glitters is not gold. Sony might have given the Xperia M5 the appearance of a Z (their flagship) series device, but the frame is made of plastic, not metal, leaving the M5 feeling noticeably cheaper. The case is, however, completely waterproof and dustproof to IP65 / 68 certification, which you won’t find on any competitor in this market.
Xperia M5The M5 measures out at 145 x 72 x 7.6 mm. 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. This is due to the large bezels at the top and bottom which only serves to house the front camera, Sony logo, microphone and earpiece.
Xperia M5Around the device you will find all the expected buttons and ports. The right side has the volume rocker and dedicated camera shutter button as well as the iconic Sony metal power button. On the left you’ll find covered slots for the SIM card and microSD card, the top has a headphone jack and the bottom houses the USB port and speaker. All of course designed not to let in water or dust.
It‘s not quite as premium looking as the Sony Xperia Z5, as only the corners are metal and while the OmniBalance design looks good it‘s also arguably over familiar at this point, but these are small complaints against an otherwise good looking and durable smartphone. It could almost pass as a flagship, and that’s high praise given that it’s not one.
Read: Sony Xperia Z5 Review: The gentleman rockstar

Display and Performance

The Sony Xperia M5 has a 5.0-inch 1080 x 1920 IPS LCD display with a pixel density of 441 ppi. Right of the bat I was super impressed with the M5’s display. The contrast and colour range are extensive and rich and the image quality comes close to that of Samsung’s OLED screens (primarily thanks to the BRAVIA technology).
Sony’s X-Reality software optimization also offers improved quality. It is designed to reduce noise, and together with the Triluminous engine, artificially increases the color palette to achieve more realistic shades and tones than most other smartphones.I have seen some sharper and more vivid screens out there (the new Samsung Galaxy S7 is especially good), but you won’t find a screen this good at this price point.
The M5 is powered by the MediaTek Helio X10, an octa-core processor with eight Cortex-A53 CPUs. The MediaTek CPUs are typically cheaper and less powerful than their Snapdragon counterparts. When I pushed the M5 with some heavy use I could detect a stutter here and there. I could also detect some lags and heat generation when playing games for an extended amount of time. But nevertheless this is a high-end processor, which in general isn’t noticeably much slower than the Snapdragon 810. That‘s impressive for a mid-range phone.

Xperia M5User Interface & Battery

I found that the Sony Xperia user interface doesn’t stray to far from the stock Android UI. The M5 does come with Lollipop 5.1 however and not the latest Marshmallow version. The notification drop-down is very familiar as is the app drawer (something that a few Android devices are moving away from). Even though Sony has reduced the number of pre-installed apps your device is still clogged full of applications you possibly won’t use. The default setup also has some pretty meaningless widgets present (thankfully you can remove those – yay Android!).
Xperia M5The bloatware eats up a significant chunk of the 16GB of built-in storage, so you’ll definitely want a microSD card (probably why Sony didn’t trim the app-fat). Many of the pre-installed apps are quite useful too. There are Google staples like Maps and YouTube, plus a File Manager. But there’s also a certain amount of overlap, with Sony’s own music and video offerings included alongside Google’s, and there are apps that many people probably won’t touch, like ‘Sketch’, which is a fairly basic sketchbook, and ‘What’s New’, which basically just advertises other apps and content.
From a battery point of view you will have to keep tabs on your brightness level, the vivid 5-inch display is quite a drainer. All in all the battery lasted as expected. I goth through an entire day with normal usage. ony’s power-management software is brilliant when it comes to squeezing more out of your phone’s 2,600mAh battery, but activating its Ultra Stamina and Low-battery modes do mean you’ll have to sacrifice everything but its most basic phone functions.

Camera

Sony’s strength has always been in its camera technology. The primary camera delivers high-contrast, sharp images in 21.5 MP and the selfie camera produces pleasing wide-angle shots in 13 MP. The quick-start function can be used to wake the phone from standby and go directly into the camera app. I did find that the aggressive noise reduction function robs your pics of a lot of fine detail, leaving all but the objects closest to the centre of frame rather soft and blurry. The whole camera experience is a joy though, the Exmor RS sensor provides fast autofocus, which takes only 30 milliseconds.
Xperia M5The front facing selfie camera might be overkill at 13 MP, but if you want to get your “blue-steel” on you probably won’t find any better companion at this price point. Thanks to face- and smile-detection technology, you can shoot selfies without even having to press the shutter button. The camera app itself comes packed with a plethora of special selfie filters such as Style Portrait mode, but not all of them are wholly successful (and tends to slow the device down).
Xperia M5As with most Xperia smartphones, the M5 also has a physical camera button on its side. Pressing this button while the smartphone is in standby mode, will instantly wake the device and open the camera app.

Conclusion

If you were looking for a reasonably priced mid-range smartphone with a good camera you can’t really go wrong with the Xperia M5. But there is some kind of “out-of-date” feeling I get with the M5. It could be the now almost stagnant styling from Sony or the lack of a real wow-factor, but it just seems to me that there might be better options out there. If you compare mid-range competitors to the M5 I am sure it will hold up reasonably well, but if you ask me I would rather get an older flagship (like the LG G4) that will probably offer the same (if not better specs) at around the same price point of around R 7,500.
I have to say that the dust/water proof design is a major added bonus for a mid-range device and the display has that unmistakable Sony BRAVIA charm. I don’t think the M5 can claim the mid-range throne but you won’t be a laughing stock jester should you pull this baby out of your pocket – especially if you have to grab that all important group-selfie of you night out on the town!
What do you think of the Xperia M5? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!
Score: 7/10
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