It looks upmarket, but is it?
You’d guess the Xperia M5 was the successor to the M4, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But compared to last year’s model, tagged ‘Aqua’ for its colourful waterproof case, the M5 is a much blingier affair. With a polished metal frame and 13-megapixel ‘selfie’ camera, it would be at home in one of those awful American TV shows about schoolgirls who drive open-topped cars and live in mansions. It comes as no surprise, then, that it’s more expensive than the Aqua, but is still a reasonable price for a smartphone. So is it worth it?
Compared with plasticky rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo and Google Nexus 5X, the Xperia M5’s frosted glass back, which resembles the pricier Xperia Z3+, looks and feels impressively smart. Advanced features like a fingerprint reader are absent, though, and inside is a processor that lags behind those of the latest top models. Android 5.1.1 ran quite smoothly in our tests, but we noticed the wait when loading an app or popping up the onscreen keyboard, and complex web pages took a while to appear. If you like games with fancy graphics, you may find them choppy. In this respect it’s beaten by the S5 Neo and trounced by the Nexus 5X.
The Full HD screen is much better than the Aqua’s. It’s bright and sharp with a pretty good 92 per cent of the sRGB color range represented. You might want to turn it down to save battery life, though, because the M5 conked out five minutes short of nine hours in our video playback test. Fortunately, Sony’s clever low-battery modes will help to keep basic functions going to the end of a busy day.
As for that selfie camera, it does take good pictures, but they look a bit over-processed even if you skip the optional filters. And you really should, because they’re horrid. The Red Lips option is notable for applying lipstick that looks like you put it on while driving. The main camera has an even higher resolution of 21 megapixels, but this is negated by excessive noise reduction, which removes grain by smooshing pixels together. The effect seems to be exacerbated by the lens not being very sharp, except in the center. Our pictures had good color and contrast, but no fine detail.
The Xperia M5 will appeal if you want a sophisticated-looking phone without spending a fortune, but it offers few real advances. At least it’s still waterproof.
It’s an attractive phone for its price bracket with no catastrophic flaws, but the underpowered M5 didn’t impress us.
5in 1920×1080-pixel screen • 21.5-megapixel rear camera • 13-megapixel front camera • 16GB flash storage • microSD card slot • 802.11n Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 4.1 • 3G/4G • Android 5.1 • 145x72x7.6mm (HxWxD) • 143g • One-year warranty.