Sony Xperia C5 Ultra Dual Review


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Selfies are all the rage right now and Sony seems to understand that better than most other companies. The Sony Xperia C5 Ultra is the successor to the Xperia C4 that came out earlier this year. Like the Xperia C4, the Xperia C5 Ultra is also a selfie-centric smartphone. While the Xperia C4 did have a pretty capable camera up front, the Xperia C5 Ultra makes it look like the Xperia C4 was a half-baked attempt at making a selfie smartphone due to its much higher end camera specifications. But do those specs actually translate to a better smartphone and a selfie camera? Let us find out in the review.

Unboxing

We have already done an unboxing of the C5 Ultra Dual. If you haven’t seen it already, do check out the video below.

The contents of the box are:

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  • Sony Xperia C5 Ultra Dual smartphone in white color
  • Micro USB cable
  • AC charger (5V-850mA)
  • User manual and warranty information

Design, Materials and Build Quality

The Xperia C4 itself was quite a big phone with its 5.5 inch screen. However it is overshadowed in comparison to the Xperia C5 Ultra which is now a 6-inch phablet. However, the good thing to note here is that the device is practically bezel-less at the sides and that really helps keep the physical footprint to a minimum. Yes, the C5 Ultra is much taller than the C4, but the width of the phone is just around 2mm more than the C4. That really helps to make the handling of the C5 Ultra a lot better. The C5 Ultra measures 164.2 x 79.6 x 8.2 mm compared to the C4 which measures 150.3 x 77.4 x 7.9 mm. Along with the increase in size, there is an increase in weight as well. The C5 Ultra weighs 40 grams more than the C4 which weighed 147 grams.

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However, like we mentioned earlier, the phone does feel quite good in the hands and the handling isn’t as difficult as some of the other 6-inch phones out there. The Nexus 6 for example is a good 5 mm shorter than the C5 Ultra but is a whole lot more difficult to handle due to the fact that it is much wider. The thin bezels on either sides of the screen really help make the phone narrower and thus helps improve handling. Sure, we would’ve like to have thing bezels on top and below the display as well but that’s probably hoping for too much especially considering the massive front facing camera unit above the display. Besides, Sony have never been ones to chase slimmer bezels and this itself is a good start for them.

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Weight distribution is on point and the phone fits well into the palm of your hands thanks to the curved back. The back panel has a really glossy finish and that is something you should be careful about as the phone does become quite slippery especially if your hands are sweaty or wet. It is also quite prone to scratches so we’d suggest getting a case or applying a protective film over it to prevent that from happening.

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The front is dominated by the large 6-inch display, above which you have the ambient light sensor and proximity sensor. There is a speaker that also doubles as an earpiece in the middle and the 13 Megapixel front facing camera and flash to its right. Below the display, you have the second speaker.

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The right side has the volume rocker buttons and the power/lock key both of which are well raised and give good tactile feedback when pressed. Below both these buttons is a two stage camera button as well. Half pressing it will trigger the autofocus and a full press will take the picture.

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The left side houses both the microSD card slot and the SIM card tray which in our case is a dual nanoSIM tray since the device we are reviewing is the C5 Ultra Dual. There is a single SIM variant as well of the device but the one available in India is the dual SIM version.

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At the top, you have the 3.5mm audio jack and at the bottom there is the microUSB port and the primary microphone. Although Sony has now left the microUSB ports uncovered even in their waterproof phones, the C5 Ultra isn’t waterproof. We had to keep reminding ourselves of that fact as most Sony phones are waterproof and whenever it gets dirty, the first thing I normally do is take it to a tap. Can’t do that with this one.

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At the back, you have another 13 Megapixel camera and an LED flash. The secondary microphone is also located here below the flash. The phone does support NFC and there is a 2930 mAH battery under the hood, but the back panel and battery are non-removable. The phone is available in 3 colour variants. A black, a white and a greenish colour that is called Mint.

Display

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The bezel-less display on the C5 Ultra looks gorgeous. It almost feels as if the screen is detached from the phone at some point. The 6 inch screen isn’t something that can be used single-handed. It maybe possible for those with big hands and long fingers but even then it is a stretch and you wouldn’t be too comfortable doing it over a long duration. The screen is quite bright and vivid with good viewing angles. There is a slight change in colour but only at extreme angles.

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Sunlight legibility is quite good too and despite the screen being reflective, you can still view most content on it easily without having to strain your eyes. That could mainly be attributed to the brightness of the screen. The sharpness seems good enough and we didn’t really face any issues with pixelation or blurring when reading or watching. The Mobile BRAVIA 2 engine enhances the visual experience when viewing images or videos. You can choose to turn off the BRAVIA Engine 2 effects if you want and there is an optional Super Vivid mode as well but that had colors that were too saturated for our liking. There is a glove mode as well that makes the screen more sensitive and also shows you the are where your fingers are touching the screen. Users can also adjust the white balance of the display to be cooler or warmer based on their liking.

Sony says that the display uses a scratch resistant glass and while it is generic, it seems to hold up quite well against scratches and even keeps smudges away to a certain extent. The lack of bezels on the sides actually makes it quite a bit more enjoyable during use and it looks really good. You really have to see it in person to know what I’m talking about.

Calling and Messaging

The C5 Ultra has good audio quality through the earpiece as well as through speakers. Loudness too is more than sufficient through both. Audio from your phone also gets conveyed well to the party at the other end thanks to the secondary mic which helps in noise cancellation. The dial pad is large and easy to use even after implementing the one-handed usage feature and enabling does make dialing a whole lot easier.

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The default keyboard is quite good too and makes use of the large screen estate. It supports different themes and keyboard tracing as well. It also has a spell checked and word suggestions based on your usage.

Software and UI

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C5 Ultra Dual runs on Android Lollipop 5.0 out of the box and comes with Sony’s own UI on top. The UI however remains quite close to stock Android and as a result there isn’t any lag when navigating through the menus. The notification bar and the app drawer too remain similar to stock Android UI.

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Sony have bundled quite a few tools that will help users manage using the phone with one hand a whole lot easier. These settings are grouped under the tab called one-handed operations in the settings. The first feature allows you to resize the entire interface to a smaller size and then further move it towards the left or right based on which hand you are using to handle the phone. Similarly, you can make the dial pad and unlock methods for the lock screen smaller and move them to either side as well. There is also the option of being able to bring down the notifications just by double tapping the on-screen home key. The slider for answering or declining calls can also be made smaller if needed.

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Connectivity, Storage and Performance

The C5 Ultra support dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, but no support for ac standard. Considering that this is a mid-range device in 2015, we would’ve liked the support for ac standard as well. It has Bluetooth 4.1 and we tried sending files as well as connecting it to a car’s hands-free system. Both times, the device worked very well. The device has a microUSB port and a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 200GB in capacity.

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There is 16GB of on board memory and the phone system does take up a lot of that memory as there in only around 7.78GB of free space upon boot. But at least there is a provision for expansion when you require it. The phone has a dual nanoSIM card tray that can be taken out from under the flap on the left side. It also supports 4G LTE on both the slots with support for LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 28 and 40 that includes LTE bands for India, however if one is connected on 4G LTE, the other one can be used only in 2G mode simultaneously. It also has USB on-the-go (OTG) support that lets you connect flash drives.

The phone has 2GB of RAM and is powered by a Mediatek MT6752 octa-core chipset with Mali 760-MP2 GPU. The performance is quite good and we didn’t really notice any lag as such even when multi-tasking. Games too played smoothly and the heat was kept under control. Some games didn’t run their best and certain graphics weren’t rendered as well as possible due to lack of optimization for the chipset, but overall the phone is quite good.

Music Player and Audio Quality

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The audio quality on the C5 Ultra is really good. When listening to music through earphones or headphones, the clarity is really good and so is the dynamic range. The loudness is more than sufficient in any situation and there’s hardly any stereo crosstalk. You also have a good and punchy bass when needed. The speaker offers output of up to 95 decibels. It is loud and offer good audio quality but there is a little bit of distortion at the highest volume. The speakers are positioned on the front which is a good thing as it doesn’t get muffled if you place it on its back and they sound good in both portrait as well as landscape modes.

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Sony has bundled an equally good music player to complement the good audio quality. The music player allows the users to sort the music files in several different ways. It has several built-in equalizer presets and users can even create ones of their own. We also liked the other audio enhancements that the music player provides. ClearAudio+ in particular increases the “clarity” and definition of songs. There is also a really nice surround feature that allows you to set the reverb based on the type of room you want to simulate. It works really well and when paired with the right songs, can sound really good. Apart from that, there are built-in presets that help you get the best out of your headphones/earphones but these are mainly for Sony specific audio devices.

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Camera

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Let us start with the rear camera first. The 13 Megapixel shooter at the back performs very well in well-lit conditions. The detailing is good and the colours are on point. The dynamic range is also really good and surprised us at times. In fact, you don’t really need to make use of the phone’s HDR option most of the time. But when you do, the HDR mode also does a really good job and gives quite vivid images. The only downside is the slow shutter speed in HDR mode which requires you to hold the phone quite steady to avoid ghosting. In normal mode, the shutter speed is much faster and should be easy for anyone to hold steady long enough. You can click on any of the images below to view the full resolution samples.

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Photos on the left are with HDR turned on and photos on the right are the regular shots.

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At night time, the phone fails to impress though as most shots are ruined with high levels of noise. The flash does help at times but being a single LED flash, it isn’t powerful enough most of the times unless you get really close to the subject and if you are taking photos of people, you’re better off avoiding the flash as the skin tones don’t look good with it turned on.

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Video resolution maxes out at 1080p at a frame rate of 30 fps. Video recording is good as well in terms of dynamic range however seems to lack detailing. The video files seem to undergo quite a lot of compression in the processing stage. The field of view is also narrower than in photos so keep that in mind when framing for the video. Audio quality for videos is quite good as well. There is a software stabilizer that can be turned on but unlike most Sony flagships, the stabilization seemed quite jerky in comparison.

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The front facing camera is one of the best we’ve seen on any smartphone. The detailing is really good and the colours are brilliant. The images are more than good enough for social media and can even be printed out to a decent size if required.

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The camera UI is still the same as every other Sony smartphone out there. The C5 Ultra does nothing beyond the ordinary. It has several user modes such for specialized situations. Users can download additional modes as well from Sony if they wish to use more features of the camera but by default, there are quite a few pre-installed on the phone itself. Manual mode gives the user complete control over the camera settings including white balance, exposure, sharpness, ISO etc.

Battery Life

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The C5 Ultra Dual packs a 2930mAH battery that is non-removable. Judging by the specs sheet itself we expected the battery life to be average at best especially since there is such a large screen to power. Our worries came true as the phone achieved a one charge rating of 9 hours and 31 minutes in our battery tests. That isn’t very good and despite having done really good in the 3G browsing test, the device is an average performance. Heavy users will find the need to charge it before the day ends for certain. However if you are a light user, you should be able to see the phone through till the day ends. We do suggest carrying a power bank when in doubt as the phone doesn’t have a removable battery, nor fast charging. Not that it charges slow but it still takes more time than most phones these days that support Quick Charge 2.0.

To view our full battery test of the C5 Ultra Dual, do check out our battery test post.

Conclusion

The Sony Xperia C5 Ultra isn’t a perfect phone. The battery life is one of its main drawbacks and it is a large phone that might turn some people off. Its camera quality isn’t impressive in low light either. But it has a great screen, good audio quality, a good camera (in good lighting conditions) and most of all it does what it meant to really well. It is a really good selfie-centric smartphone as the front camera is easily one of the best we’ve seen on any smartphone if not the best. Even though it was launched at Rs. 29,999, it can now be found for around Rs. 27,500 which still is pricey especially when compared to what most Chinese manufacturers are offering. But it is a Sony smartphone and the brand name along with the good build quality and reputation comes at a price. If selfies are a big part of your social life, this is one smartphone that you can’t go wrong with.

Pros

  • Great Bezel-Less Screen
  • Good Sunlight Legibility
  • Excellent Front Facing Camera
  • Good Rear Camera (In Well Lit Conditions)
  • Good Audio Quality
  • Dual SIM with 4G LTE Support
  • microSD Card Slot

Cons

  • Low Light Performance is Noisy
  • No 4K Video Recording
  • Battery Life not Good Enough
  • Slightly priced on the higher side

Srivatsan and Siraj contributed to this review.


Author: Sandeep Sarma

Sandeep Sarma is a blogger and a freelance photographer. Apart from gadgets and phones, he also has a passion for movies and cars. He currently uses the S7 Edge as his main phone. Catch him on twitter at @sandeep9sarma