Descendant of the Compact range, the Xperia 5 III is Sony’s third small-sized flagship. Ode to a time when high-end smartphones were easy to use with one hand, this smartphone carries the essentials of the Xperia 1 III, while avoiding the extravagant and exuberant. A natural competitor to the ZenFone 8, it is also eyeing the iPhone 13 Pro with its state-of-the-art camera equipment. What is it worth in real life? Answer in this comprehensive test.
Sony introduced three smartphones earlier this year. The Xperia 1 III, which we tested when it was released. the Xperia 10 III, mid-range smartphone well in all respects. And the Xperia 5 III. Only the first two came out in the first half of the year. The third had to take his illness patiently. The smartphone has indeed experienced a delay of several months on its launch schedule.
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On the occasion of the commercial release of the Xperia 5 III, we met with Sony France to understand the reasons for this discrepancy. The brand told us that it, like many other brands, has suffered from the component shortage that plagues many electronics markets. The Xperia 5 III was therefore forced to give priority to the Xperia 1 III. Bad for good: this gave the Xperia 5 II, which we tested in October 2020, time to gently end its commercial career.
Fortunately, the shortage hasn’t stopped Sony from releasing the Xperia 5 III. And it may be bad for good. Releasing three months after the other “mark 3”, the Xperia 5 III aims to be the competitor of the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro, recently unveiled: same screen size, close resolution, top performance and ambitious photographic equipment. For a price right in the middle of the two Apple models. This is a pitch that attracts our curiosity. Is it deserved? Response throughout this test.
|Sony Xperia 5 III|
|Dimensions||157 x 68 x 8.2 mm|
|Screen||6.1 inch OLED
2520 x 1080 pixels
Corning Gorilla 6
|Chipset||Snapdragon 888 (5nm)|
|BONE||Android 11 + Xperia UI|
|Main sensor||12 MP f / 1.7 OIS PDAF
12 MP wide angle f / 2.2 PDAF
12 MP telefoto f / 2.3-f / 2.8 OIS PDAF (optical zoom 2.9-4.4)
Carl Zeiss optics
4K @ 60 fps video
|Secondary sensor||8 MP f / 2.0|
Quick charge 30 watts
USB 3.1 type-C
|Biometrics||Edge fingerprint scanner (in the power button)|
|Water resistance||IP 68|
Pricing and availability
The price of the Xperia 5 III is 999 euros. It is three hundred euros cheaper than the Xperia 1 III. It is also 100 euros more expensive than its predecessor, the Xperia 5 II. We will see in this test how Sony justifies this inflation. The Xperia 5 III is available from today, Friday September 24, at online distributors (Fnac, Darty, Boulanger, Amazon, Cdiscount). It will then gradually arrive in physical stores and operators.
Technically, it is in competition with certain smartphones whose screen size is similar, but whose price is more aggressive. We are thinking of the ZenFone 8 and the Galaxy S21, two small flagships. With respect to Apple’s proposal, the price of the Xperia 5 III is positioned between the iPhone 13 (from 909 euros) and the iPhone 13 Pro (from 1159 euros). And technically, it’s closer to the iPhone 13 Pro.
The Xperia 5 III is equipped with 8 GB of RAM and of 128 GB of storage. Note that there is an international version of the Xperia 5 III with 256 GB of internal storage. However, this is not important: you can expand this space with a microSDXC card. The smartphone accepts cards up to 1TB in size.
The smartphone comes with a wall charger offering the maximum power compatible with the smartphone, a USB cable type-C to USB type-C and a pair of wired in-ear headphones. Sony does not provide a basic cover with its smartphones to protect them right out of the box. It is kind of a shame.
Now let’s go into detail, starting with the design. Ergonomically, the Xperia 5 III is very close to Xperia 5 II. There is virtually no physical difference between the two generations. It’s almost a shame: Sony has managed to modify the contours and finishes of the Xperia 1 III very slightly to give it a different touch from the Xperia 1 II, while respecting the design language that has been so dear to the brand since 2019.
So we find the same sandwich of mineral glass (Gorilla Glass 6) that we enjoyed last year. We also find the aluminum frame and the slightly domed edges with the separations for the “almost” invisible antennas. If you discover the black version here, we still have a small preference for the green version. This one benefits from a matt coating on the back, which is less prone to fingerprints, while remaining sober and elegant.
The technical elements are positioned in the same places. USB Type-C port and main microphone on the bottom edge. SIM drawer, removable without tools, to the left. Secondary microphone and 3.5mm mini jack port on top. Power button (with integrated fingerprint reader), volume control, photo trigger and dedicated Google Assistant key on the right.
On the back, Sony offers a slightly protruding photo module, with rounded ends. It is larger than that of the Xperia 5 III. It is still topped with the flash and the light sensor. This block, integrating three lenses, is almost identical to that of the Xperia 5 III, with one difference: the telescopic optic is square and wide and not round and small. This is a sign of a technical change that we will see in the photo section. Other change: the NFC sensor has been repositioned lower, halfway up the module.
Up front, finally, no surprises to reveal. Sony keeps the same architecture: a slender slab (21 / 9th) flanked by two borders which have been very slightly refined (the Xperia 5 III is 1 mm less in height than the Xperia 5 II). They always integrate two front symmetrical speakers on the front. And one of them also houses the selfie sensor.
The design of the Xperia 5 III has been proven. It therefore remains excellent. But it remains extremely close to that of its predecessor. Some might wonder if Sony is having a hard time renewing itself. We also think it is sometimes wise not to try to reinvent the wheel with each generation.
Let’s stay on the front of the smartphone and go into the technical details of the panel. This incorporates the main technical characteristics of that of the Xperia 5 II, while supporting the rare (but important) new features brought by the Xperia 1 III. Among these, we find in particular the 10-bit colorimetry : Up to a billion different colors can be displayed.
We therefore find a OLED panel, one of the hallmarks of the Xperia range. This is a very nice technology, inherited from Bravia televisions. The Xperia 5 III obviously continues to benefit from the X-Reality rendering engine and a Triluminos display. The size of the slab is 6.1 inch. It monopolizes more than 80% of the front surface of the phone.
This slab benefits from the ratio 9th / 9th CinemaScope in the Sony range since 2019: movies are therefore displayed borderless on this screen: it’s a real pleasure. On the other hand, the display of 16: 9 content is less elegant, with very nice black borders on the sides. We can not have everything. The Xperia 5 III displays images in Full HD +, like its predecessor. That is a resolution of 449 pixels per inch. It is HDR and BT.2020 compatible, as usual.
As with its predecessor, the Xperia 5 III benefits from a 120Hz refresh rate. By default, this frequency is not enabled. You have to go through the settings menu to take advantage of it. Unlike Samsung or Apple, for example, there is also no variable frequency depending on the content, with one exception: the game. The smartphone’s gaming mode is capable of forcing the switch to 120 Hz. It can also simulate 240 Hz refresh with games, but this is a software tactic, as with the Xperia 5 II. The sample rate is 240 Hz, a ratio of two with refresh.
Let’s talk colorimetry. The Xperia 5 III supports both display modes found in the Xperia 1 III. The first is the standard mode, applied by default. And the second is the designer fashion, similar to the one you find at Bravia. You can combine the two with a setting that automatically activates Creative Mode with certain apps: Netflix, Photo Pro, etc. You can add applications to this list. You also have many settings to fine-tune the color profile of the screen to suit your tastes.
By default, we got readings quite similar to the Xperia 1 III a few months ago. Designer mode presents an almost perfect mean gamma, with some small deviations on the extreme frequencies of the spectrum. The temperature is always a little too high (6900 °). The average Delta E is 2.2, which is very good. And only one color exceeds the Delta E of 4: dark green (with an overall tendency to point to blue). The brightness issue has still not been resolved and does not manually exceed the bar of 400 cd / m2. The standard mode is less precise: temperature of 7500 °, average Delta E of 3.3. And half a dozen colors above 4. And always this little concern for brightness. But here it is less marked.
The Xperia 5 III uses the same interface as the Xperia 1 III. No big surprise here. We find an organization very similar to Android stock, with two home screens, an application drawer and a pane for notifications and quick settings. We note Sony’s efforts to provide a more dynamic experience, especially on the wallpaper that comes alive when you unlock the mobile. It’s pretty cool. We are also pleased to find the side panel which provides easy access to your favorite applications, “one-hand” mode and multi-window mode.
As always, Sony prefers to place the Google search bar at the bottom of the screen, between the most common shortcuts and the navigation keys. So even if you have difficulty reaching the top of the screen with your thumb, Google search will still be accessible. It cannot be removed and is therefore available on all screens. This has the negative consequence of reducing the space for your own settings: application or widget.
There aren’t that many preinstalled apps. Sony has chosen not to offer software that duplicates those imposed by Google. No second web browser. No second mail manager. No second file explorer. Not even a gallery to manage the photos: Google Photos takes care of it.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, but they are Sony’s business partners: Tidal is added to YouTube Music, while Prime Video and Netflix add to Play Films. Among the commercial applications, you find Asphalt 9, Call of Duty Mobile, Facebook, LinkedIn, Booking and the Amazon Store.
Among the default applications of the Sony interface, you will find two themes dear to the group: photos and games. On the first theme, you have Photo Pro and Cinema Pro, already crossed over in the Xperia 1 III. Go to the photo part of this test to talk more about Photo Pro.
Cinema Pro is the manual mode equivalent of Photo Pro. With the latter, you can disengage the camera to fine-tune your video: ISO, aperture, white balance, number of frames per second, color filter and lenses, since you can shoot on all three optics and four focal lengths. .
On the game side, on the one hand, you will find the PS App which is only of interest if you have a PlayStation. You will find your trophies, your friends, your game library (for consultation only), as well as the PlayStation Store to buy games and start their download on your console.
The other game-oriented application in the Sony interface is theGame Optimizer. It is an equivalent of the Games Space of Color OS and Realme UI. Less powerful than Armory Crate at Asus ROG or Legion Realm at Lenovo, it allows you to disable notifications, increase or decrease the refresh rate, set the equalizer and take screenshots (still or video). You can adjust certain settings for all games or for certain games. Finally, Game Optimizer includes charging bypass to plug in the mobile without charging it during long gaming sessions.
Now let’s talk about power. The Xperia 5 III has, like the Xperia 1 III, the Snapdragon 888, accompanied by 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. When it was formalized, this smartphone therefore benefited from Qualcomm’s best SoC. Since then, this is no longer the case, even if no smartphone with the Snapdragon 888+ has yet been marketed in France (we are still waiting for the launch of the Mix 4 at Xiaomi, the Magic3 at Honor or the ROG Phone 5s at Asus) .
Subject to the pressure of our benchmarks, the Xperia 5 III adopts the same behavior as the Xperia 1 III. Sony, however, seems to have opted for even more careful management of the heat emitted by the SoC by Qualcomm. Indeed, the scores of the Xperia 5 III are slightly behind those of its big brother on AnTuTu. On the other hand, they are just as impressive on Geekbench or PC Mark. Our hypothesis: on simple tasks, not involving the GPU, there is no overheating problem.
However, as soon as the GPU kicks in, it’s not the same song anymore. The temperature rises and the protections are put in place. This is confirmed with the 3D Mark test. All of the performance scores of the Xperia 5 III are below those of the Xperia 1 III. We suspect Sony engineers were concerned that the smallness of the small flagship would make it difficult to dissipate heat.
We notice on the other hand a very slight improvement in the stability of the platform : it is regularly above 60% during the 20-minute stress tests. This means that restricting performance to avoid overheating causes less slowdown than on the Xperia 1 III. But there are some all the same, very unfortunately. This is what we experienced with Genshin Impact during play sessions with the best possible graphics.
Game Optimizer offers several “performance” profiles. By default, it is on “Equality”, an equivalent of the balanced mode among the competitors. You also have “Performance” and “Autonomy”, depending on your preferences. A personalized mode allows you to choose the elements to be privileged. These profiles only affect the screen refresh rate (40Hz to 240Hz) and not the SoC frequency. But it is already that.
Let’s move on to autonomy. During our test of the Xperia 5 II, we noted a decent battery life (very decent even for a small smartphone), but not extraordinary either. It must be said that the platform used then was greedy. And it was paired with a 120Hz display, which didn’t help. Here the 120 Hz is back, as well as the greedy SoC (even more). But Sony has planned the blow: the battery here is 4500 mAh, as in the Xperia 1 III. This explains why the Xperia 5 III is 2mm thicker than its predecessor.
In typical use, the Xperia 5 III offers good results. We identified about a day and a half of autonomy, slightly more than with the Xperia 5 II. The increase in capacity obviously has something to do with it. For very standard uses (streaming, Internet, social networks, casual gaming, etc.), the Snapdragon 888 maintains a cool temperature and consumes less energy than the Snapdragon 865. This is good news. And thanks to its Full HD + screen, it offers better battery life than the Xperia 1 III (which takes advantage of the same battery).
And when it comes to playing? There, the discourse is not that different. The Xperia 5 III does as well as its predecessor. It lasts between 4 and 5 hours in video games, a figure that varies depending on the quality of the graphics. 15 minutes of Genshin Impact causes it to lose between 5% and 6% of battery. Which is in the good average. It does better than the Galaxy S21, ZenFone 8, and Xperia 1 III. All for different reasons: small battery for the first, tendency to overheat for the second and energy-intensive screen for the third.
Once the battery is completely discharged, it is time to use the charger supplied with the smartphone. Once again, the presence of this charger is good news … even if the charge is nowhere near as swift as with the competition. Technically, the Xperia 5 III supports charging power of up to 30 watts (and the supplied charger is compatible with 30 watts, precisely). But, to preserve the battery, Sony has restricted the charging speed as soon as 80% of the battery is charged.
So you get 50% of the battery in half an hour, as promised. Then you hit 70% in 50% and 80% in one hour. What remains correct for a power of 30 watts. Then the charging speed plummeted. We waited more than 1h50 to charge the phone from 0% to 100% (phone off) using the supplied accessories. It’s pretty slow, let’s face it, for a high-end smartphone. Note also the absence of wireless charging, reserved for the Xperia 1 III.
On the audio side, the Xperia 5 III builds on the legacy of many high-end Xperias that came before it. We therefore find the double speaker on the front. Balanced speakers, delivering as much power to the right as to the left when you hold the phone horizontally. And the result is a great stereo experience, both for gaming and watching movies and series. Note that the speaker next to the selfie sensor also acts as a telephone receiver.
Another important audio element: the jack port. This is the second year that it has been featured, after a noticeable return to the Xperia 1 II. It allows the use of many audio accessories, especially from Sony. We would have preferred that this connection be integrated on the lower edge, but its presence is appreciated at its fair value.
The Xperia 5 III, like the Xperia 1 III, is compatible with Dolby Atmos, 360 Spatial Sound and DSEE Ultimate. The first two require a compatible headset, obviously, while the third will largely depend on the tracks you’re listening to. Dolby Atmos is accompanied here by a complete equalizer which allows the sound to be adapted to the content and to the desires. Unfortunately, this is still too rare. In addition, the Xperia 5 III, like its predecessor, is compatible dynamic vibrations : this function makes the mobile vibrate according to the tempo of the music or sound effects of a movie. It’s amazing.
You will find in the box a pair of good quality wired headphones, with remote control. They are not Dolby Atmos and 360 Spatial Sound compatible. But they provide a very satisfying audio experience. And they come with several pairs of eartips to suit everyone’s ear size. It’s a detail, but it matters.
Presentation of the sensors and the application
We come to the last part of this test. And what a part! The photo is a very big subject this year, for both the Xperia 1 III and the Xperia 5 III. Unlike 2020 where Sony positioned the Xperia 5 II as an ideal smartphone for gaming, the Japanese firm opted in 2021 on the same arguments for the two standard bearers, even on the photo part. This implies that they share the same sensors and the same optics. Only difference: the flight time camera has disappeared.
So we find a triptych of 12 megapixel sensors at the rear. A very large one that will serve as the main sensor, with its pixels measuring 1.8 microns. It’s really huge. The sensor also incorporates a phase detection autofocus of the Dual Pixel type. Its lens opens at f / 1.7. He’s stabilized. The focal length is equivalent to 24mm. A great classic of photography.
The first secondary sensor is a much smaller model (almost half in size). It also has Dual Pixel autofocus. It is placed behind the square telephoto lens seen in the design section. It is stabilized and periscopic, offering a deeper zoom than that of the Xperia 5 II. Two of its lenses are removable. This allows for a variable zoom of 2.9x or 4.4x (equivalent to a focal length of 70mm or 105mm). The aperture is at f / 2.3 or f / 2.8 (also variable depending on the zoom ratio used).
The second secondary sensor is also quite a small sensor (but less than the telephoto one). It has Dual Pixel autofocus, like the others. It is placed behind an ultra wide-angle lens opening at f / 2.2. The viewing angle is 124 °. The focal length is equivalent to 16mm. All of these lenses benefit from Zeis signature optics. On the front, the selfie sensor is the same as that of the Xperia 5 II: 8 megapixel definition and lens opening at f / 2.0.
In video, the Xperia 5 III goes up to 120 frames per second in 4K, and 240 frames per second in Full HD. There is always a double stabilization in video (optical and electronic). The only real difference with the Xperia 1 III is that Sony has removed the time-of-flight camera in the Xperia 5 III. We will see in a few lines what the consequences are. It should also be remembered that the whole is operated by Photo Pro for photography as well as simple video clips and by Video Pro for slightly more complex video shots.
Photo Pro has nothing to do with other photography apps. These offer the possibility of switching from an automatic mode to other more advanced modes: portrait, macro, night, panoramic, scanner, etc. Photo Pro opts for a grip close to that of the Alpha when you opt for an “expert” mode which allows you to more or less disengage the various settings: Auto, P, S or M. The application interface, similar to that of Sony SLR cameras, of course responds to this positioning.
Only basic mode allows you to trigger the shot with a virtual button on the screen. The others “force” you to go through the physical button on the edge. Amateur photographers will certainly appreciate the gesture. Sony remains the only brand in telephony to dedicate a mechanical button to the photo, which is used to open the application and trigger the shooting. This button is double-triggered: press halfway to focus and fully press to take the picture.
With the Xperia 5 III, we find the colorimetry and the visual signature that Sony is so fond of. The Japanese brand prefers a natural photo, rather than a high contrast photo, where the colors are vibrant. Sometimes a little too much (like at Oppo, Xiaomi or Huawei). The eye of an amateur or expert photographer will find it beneficial. The others will certainly be a little disappointed by this strategic choice.
The Xperia 5 III works like a camera. It detects the scene and adapts the brightness settings. Basic mode often takes good shots, but they sometimes lack contrast, especially if the focus is on a brighter spot. Manually acting on the focus and increasing the brightness is necessary when the light conditions are difficult.
Optical zoom is one of the strengths of the Xperia 5 III. It allows to climb to 4.4x without loss of quality. And it goes up to 12x digitally. During the day, the loss of quality remains acceptable (beware of the lack of light when the zoom is at 4.4x). On the other hand, at night, it is advisable to be satisfied with the optical zoom. Especially since scene recognition, which allows you to increase the pause time to acquire more light, seems less precise with this lens than with the main sensor.
The sensor with the ultra-wide-angle lens takes very good shots during the day, but much less qualitative at night, the fault of the lack of night mode, a much smaller sensor and an optic that opens less wide. As a result, there is not the homogeneity that we might have expected between the main sensor and the wide-angle sensor. In macro mode, it takes more interesting photos than a dedicated 2-megapixel sensor. But, without a stabilizer, unsightly blurs are more frequent.
Speaking of blur, precisely, one of the paradoxes of the Xperia 5 III, which we did not encounter with the Xperia 1 III, concerns the manual shutter release (the button located at the bottom of the right edge when the phone is vertical): when you press it, it makes the smartphone shake. And, sometimes, even the main sensor’s optical stabilizer cannot compensate for this movement. And this is even more true with the periscope telephoto lens.
La disparition de la caméra temps de vol a une conséquence fâcheuse. Même si l’autofocus continu est activé, les prises de vue de sujets en mouvement seront bien moins faciles. Et c’est évidemment bien dommage. Nous sommes arrivés à prendre des photos nettes de voiture en mouvement de jour, mais pas de nuit.
Il n’y a pas de mode portrait dans le Xperia 5 III. Il y a un bouton bokeh dans l’interface du mode basic. Ce bouton est accessible avec tous les objectifs : 16, 24, 70 et 105 mm. Cela veut dire que vous pouvez réaliser des portraits avec le grand-angle ou le téléobjectif. C’est très amusant (avec des effets qui sortent de l’ordinaire). Vous pouvez bien sûr régler la puissance du bokeh selon vos besoins.
Parlons enfin du capteur selfie. C’est le capteur le moins intéressant de tous. C’est aussi celui qui a le moins évolué ces deux dernières années : c’est strictement le même capteur, avec le même objectif depuis le Xperia 1 premier du nom. Les résultats sont corrects, avec, une fois encore de l’équilibre et du naturel. Pas de filtre facial pour lisser les détails. Et heureusement, car la définition est assez faible : cela aurait dégradé les selfies. Ce capteur est évidemment compatible avec le bokeh. Et le détourage est assez précis.
Le Xperia 5 III est la juste combinaison du Xperia 1 III et du Xperia 5 II. Du premier, il reprend certaines des nouveautés technologiques. La plate-forme bien sûr, très puissante, mais suffisamment maitrisée. L’équipement photographique, inspiré des boitiers reflex de la gamme Alpha, offrant des résultats naturels et équilibrés. La batterie et la charge rapide améliorée. Du second, il reprend le design élégant, l’encombrement réduit, la portabilité et le bel écran. C’est une belle combinaison.
Nous trouvons qu’il y a encore quelques petits défauts, malgré des améliorations notables. La charge rapide pourrait être meilleure. La luminosité de l’écran pourrait être plus soutenue. Le capteur selfie pourrait être plus qualitatif. Nous regrettons, une fois encore, l’absence de caméra temps de vol, même si cela aurait eu une incidence sur le prix, lequel est déjà assez élevé.
Mais l’est-il tant que cela ? Pas forcément. Car, face à l’iPhone 13, le ZenFone 8 et le Galaxy S21, ces trois principaux concurrents sur le segment des petits flagships, n’en offrent pas autant dans tous ces domaines. Meilleure autonomie. Meilleure expérience photo. Écran d’aussi bonne qualité. Puissance au moins équivalente. Même si le Xperia 5 III est plus cher, il en offre également plus. Le rapport qualité-prix n’est donc pas en défaveur de Sony.