Sony Xperia M5 review: Shoots 13MP selfies, but is the rest of this phone any good?

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For a company that’s struggling to make its mobile business work, Sony sure like to pump out smartphones. The top-end Xperia Z range has three models to choose from, ranging from the excellent pint-sized Z5 Compact all the way up to the entirely superfluous Z5 Premium. Then there’s a budget range represented by the Xperia C selection and, finally, there’s Xperia M. That’s M for mid-range, represented here by the Sony Xperia M5.

None of these are bad – in fact, some are downright brilliant – and yet Sony continues to struggle. The M5 is unlikely to change any of that: it’s another solid device, but no trends are being bucked in this particular neighbourhood, and certainly not enough to justify the inflation-busting £100 the M5 has on last year’s M4 Aqua.

Sony Xperia M5 review: Design

At a glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at the Z5 when examining the 5in M5 for the first time, which is quite the compliment, considering the latter retails for £220 less. It’s something of an acquired taste, depending on how much you like oblongs. Sony hasn’t been quick to embrace curves, unlike HTC and Apple, although the edges are gently rounded off. The back is completely flat, although it does have a slightly raised “lip” like its more expensive sibling.

There’s actually no need for this here. On the Xperia Z5, the lip is presumably designed to prevent the glass back plate from cracking (something that didn’t help Jon Bray when his review unit succumbed to that very fate), but the M5’s frame is all plastic. You can’t tell at a glance, and it’s not unpleasant to the touch, but if you’re scratching your head and wondering where Sony are making the savings, that’s a pretty obvious starting point.

Another is the lack of a fingerprint sensor. The Z5 had by far the nicest fingerprint sensor I’ve ever used on a phone because it was situated on the edge of the handset rather than the front or rear. However, for cost saving reasons, there’s no scanner here, with the button replaced by a small round power nub.

It does retain the Xperia family’s traditional waterproofing, though, with an IP68 rating, meaning it’ll survive if you drop it in the bath, or subject it to the kind of toilet dunking that would prove terminal for other mobiles. I don’t recommend you make a habit of that, however.

Sony Xperia M5 review review: Screen

The similarities continue when you switch the phone on. Like the Z5 (and the Z5 Premium when not in its two supported 4K apps), the M5’s 5in screen has a resolution of 1,080p, which means that everything is pleasingly sharp. In our tests, we found quality was very good, although not quite up there with company’s pricier offerings.

Maximum screen brightness hit an impressive 543cd/m², which is high compared to the majority of handsets (and near identical to the iPhone 6s) but a lot lower than the Z5, which crushes pretty much everything else on the market with its maximum brightness of 684cd/m².

In other areas, the Xperia M5 fares less well, reproducing 92% of the sRGB gamut spectrum, compared to the Xperia Z5’s 99%, while its contrast ratio is a fair bit lower too: 840:1 compared to the Z5’s 1,078:1. These aren’t bad scores, though. The hugely popular OnePlus 2 scored 90% on sRGB coverage, and you may not be able to spot the differences or care about them, but they are most definitely there to be seen.

Sony Xperia M5 review: Performance and specifications

Performance is where the cracks begin to show, but it’s perfectly acceptable for day-to-day use, with app switching and scrolling between windows snappy, even if the camera app does take a while to open. The Xperia M5 has 16GB of storage, with a microSD slot for extending that by up to 200GB.

While the Xperia Z5 series is backed by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip, the M5’s duties fall to the MediaTek MT6795, and its benchmark results are markedly weaker, even with the M5’s 3GB of RAM backing things up.

Then again, it does retail for £220 less, so for comparisons’ sake, here it is compared to a couple of similarly priced quality handsets: the Nexus 5X (£339) and the OnePlus 2 (£249).

Sony Xperia M5

Nexus 5X

OnePlus 2

Sony Xperia Z5

Geekbench single core

586

1,235

1,210

1,236

Geekbench multi core

1,429

3,489

4,744

3,943

Manhattan 3 offscreen

6.9fps

16fps

23fps

26fps

Manhattan 3 onscreen

7fps

16fps

23fps

27fps

It isn’t good reading for the Sony Xperia M5. It’s one thing to be roundly beaten by a more expensive model in the same family, but quite another to be beaten by one slightly more expensive and another £50 cheaper. True, both the Nexus 5X and OnePlus 2 two of the finest handsets you can buy right now, but performance-wise, they’re in a different league to the Xperia M5.

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