With the Xperia 5 III, Sony completes the third generation of the Xperia series. Our test shows how much flagship there is in the compact smartphone.
The Sony Xperia 5 III takes place in the Japanese manufacturer’s range between the top model Sony Xperia 1 III (test report) and the mid-range smartphone Sony Xperia 10 III (test report). In terms of features, the new 5-series model is a potential high-end smartphone closer to the Xperia 1 III than the 10 III. This is also shown by the price, which scratches at the 1000 euro mark. Our test shows whether a large amount of money for the new Xperia 5 III is worth it.
Sony remains true to the design of its models – the Xperia 5 III is very similar to the predecessor Sony Xperia 5 II (test report) and the other smartphones in the series. That should especially please nostalgics and die-hard fans of the brand. After all, optically, they get what they know. Whether that is timeless or rather boring is a matter of taste. The third generation of the five models again offers an elongated and narrow housing in 21: 9 format. This makes the device quite slim and handy.
Like the earlier smartphones in the Xperia series, the new 5-series model has a metal frame and a glass back. The narrow and elongated 6.1-inch screen in its dimensions of 157 x 68 x 8 millimeters essentially corresponds to its predecessor. The Xperia 5 III is compact and slightly larger than the 10 III but significantly smaller than the 1 III. At 170 grams, it weighs roughly the same as the 10 III and is 15 grams below the top model 1 III.
The Xperia 5 III comes in the usual high-quality range from Sony. In addition to the power button with an integrated fingerprint sensor, the smartphone has a volume rocker on the right, a button for the Google Assistant, and a special two-stage button for starting and releasing the camera. We particularly like this feature because taking pictures via a button on display can be annoying – we have already missed some good opportunities for snapshots as a result.
There are practically no gaps on the device, and the pressure point of the buttons is solid. Like its predecessor, the housing is also protected against water and dust by IP68. To do this, Sony placed it in fresh water at a depth of 1.5 meters for half an hour.
As with the previous model, Sony uses an HDR-capable OLED display with a resolution of 2520 x 1080 pixels, a refresh rate of 120 Hz, and a sampling rate of 240 Hz for the Xperia 5 III. Gorilla Glass 6 protects the display from scratches and breaks. The resolution enables a high pixel density of 450 PPI (pixels per inch). Although this does not come close to the brutal 4K resolution of the Sony Xperia 1 III (test report), it is still a substantial value in which individual pixels are not visible.
The elongated format of 21: 9 is somewhat unusual. With 16: 9 videos, this results in a black bar on the left and right. In return, you get more space for games or films in the super widescreen format Cinemascope. But whether you want to watch an entire 6.1-inch movie is another question. Sony seems to think so because, among other things, the manufacturer does without a drop or punch hole notch so that it cannot interfere with games or films. In return, this results in wide black borders above and below the display for today’s standards.
The maximum brightness in manual mode is 330 cd / m². Indirect sunlight, the brightness briefly increases to almost double in automatic mode. This is a good value for an OLED display – cheaper smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy A52 (test report) or Xiaomi Redmi Note 10S (test report) even achieve more than 400 cd / m² in manual mode.
The OLED display ensures excellent black levels and pronounced contrasts, and good viewing angle stability from all angles. The coloring is very natural and yet extremely powerful. Users first have to activate the high refresh rate of 120 Hz manually. This then ensures smooth playback of content.
The optionally switchable dynamic vibration is intended to enhance the media experience – when videos or music are played back, the mobile phone then vibrates automatically – as a substitute for the bass. It used to be for the car and was called Shaker – we couldn’t get anything from this feature even then.
Sony relies on cooperation with Zeiss and three lenses and optical image stabilization for the camera of the Xperia 5 III. The notch uses the unique Zeiss T * coating, which minimizes reflections and increases contrasts. The primary camera offers 12 megapixels with an f / 1.7 aperture; the second 12-megapixel lens with f / 2.2 aperture is used for ultra-wide-angle shots. The third lens with 12 megapixels is a telephoto lens that offers an optical zoom with a maximum factor of 4.4. The camera uses up to four different focal lengths, which gives the user several options.
The Xperia 5 III delivers successful and sharp images with pronounced contrasts. The image noise is very restrained, but the colors appear a bit pale at times. The positive thing about the ultra-wide-angle lens is that the edges do not distort, and there is also no noticeable quality disadvantage compared to the primary camera. The exact number of megapixels has a positive effect on all three lenses. We were particularly impressed by the optical zoom – recordings at four times the magnification look very natural and do not lose any image details. In the dark, the telephoto lens, in particular, slackens, resulting in increased image noise. But this is the case with almost all smartphones with a Tele lens, as they usually offer the worst f-number. The optical image stabilizer is very positive for video recordings. In motion, the video clips hardly appear shaky thanks to additional electronic stabilization – up to 2160p is possible at a maximum of 120 fps.
We only used the basic model for the photos; here, the camera app controls everything by itself, and you either press the camera button on the display or the two-stage physical button. Pressed halfway down, the model focuses, fully pressed down, the picture follows. If you want to feel like you would with a Sony camera, you can use the other modes: With “Automatic,” the camera continues to take over all the necessary settings. To release, the physical release button on the side must now be pressed. With the automatic program, the user can make different settings while the mobile phone regulates the shutter speed automatically. In more advanced modes, the user can also change the exposure or the shutter speed.
Overall, the camera system convinces image stabilization and optical zoom, which offers various setting options for experienced photographers. However, the image quality does not quite come close to that of the Sony Xperia 1 III (test report), the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (test report), or the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (test report).
The front camera uses an 8-megapixel lens with an F / 2.0 aperture. This allows selfies in appealing, albeit not outstanding, quality and video recordings with up to 1080p to 30 fps. This is more than sufficient for a video chat.
In terms of performance, the Xperia 5 III offers the maximum that Android smartphones currently offer: Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 with Adreno 660. The eight-core CPU achieved an impressive 11650 points in PCmark’s Works 3.0 benchmark test. We reached 5900 points in 3Dmark’s wildlife test – a top value.
This makes the Sony model one of the fastest Android devices on the market, even if the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (test report) or Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (test report) and in particular the gaming smartphone Asus ROG Phone 5 (test report) are even faster are. The system runs very smoothly in conjunction with 8 GB of RAM, and apps start very quickly. Games like Asphalt 9 Legends run smoothly even with more excellent graphic details and are easy on players’ nerves with short loading times.
The internal memory is 128 GB and uses USF technology for fast transfer rates; the storage capacity can be expanded to 1 TB with a micro SD card. We also liked the slot for the SIM and micro SD card on the left. This opens without special tools – but otherwise sits tightly closed. A nano-SIM is used. If you want to use two SIMs / DualSIM, you sacrifice the micro SD card slot. It’s a shame; more and more smartphones allow two SIM cards and one micro SD card simultaneously. The wireless communication of the Xperia 5 III is state-of-the-art: It offers Wi-Fi 6, 5G, and Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX HD and NFC.
Fortunately, a classic 3.5-millimeter jack for headphones is a feature that is becoming increasingly rare in high-end smartphones. The stereo speaker ensures decent sound, which is best used with video clips and games. As always with smartphones, there is a lack of volume and depth for music. The USB-C connection also supports the no longer fastest standard USB 3.1 Gen 1. Sony does not use excessive bloatware in the operating system. At the time of the test, Android 11 was running on the device; the security update dates from July 1, 2021, and is about six weeks behind.
The battery capacity of 4500 mAh is not as high as in other top smartphones, but the Xperia 5 III is also significantly more compact than most competitors. In PCMark’s battery test, we still achieved a battery life of under 12 hours – albeit at 60 Hz. This is a pretty good value for such a powerful device and should ensure that the phone is only plugged into the charging cable every two days.
The included power adapter delivers 30 watts and, unusually, only has one USB-C slot. This means that the battery is charged in around 90 minutes – an average value. For comparison: The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (test report) charges entirely in 40 minutes. The Xperia 5 III does not offer wireless charging via Qi. We cannot understand this decision for the price of the device.
The MSRP for the Sony Xperia 5 III is a proud 999 euros. The smartphone is only available in black or green. Even if the hardware equipment is excellent, the price seems pretty high compared to devices from China from Xiaomi or Realme.
At first glance, the Sony Xperia 5 III looks like an ordinary mid-range cell phone. But even if the Sony Xperia 1 III (test report) is the current flagship, the five series model offers some high-end smartphone features: excellent performance, a great OLED display, a robust camera with many professional setting options, a waterproof housing as well as high-quality artistry. In addition, the Xperia 5 III is very compact, handy, and light for a potential top smartphone.
However, the superior technology has its price – at almost 1000 euros, the Xperia 5 III is quite expensive. However, with so much light, there are also shadows on the cell phone:
- Wireless charging is not possible.
- The camera has slight weaknesses in terms of color dynamics and dark lighting conditions.
- The display could be even brighter.
The design also looks old-fashioned. In this context, the device appears to us to be overpriced.
For half the Xperia 5 III purchase price, the similarly sized Realme GT (test report) also offers the blazingly fast Snapdragon 888 and a 120 Hz OLED display, only the camera is worse. The much cheaper OnePlus 9 (review) also provides a lot of performance and a good camera in reasonably compact housing. The faster Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (review) has now fallen to a price level similar to the Xperia 5 III. We show other alternatives in our Top 10: These are the best smartphones in 2021.