Sony Xperia C5 Ultra | review

Sony’s new Xperia C5 Ultra is a big screen smartphone that targets the selfie aficionados with its 13MP front camera and flash.

Sony has tried to make the phone less unwieldy by keeping the bezels narrower compared to its previous phablet offerings and balancing the thickness. The phone boasts of mid-range hardware and looks very similar to its premium offerings.

At Rs 29,990, the phone faces tough competition from value-for-money phones like the OnePlus 2 and Asus Zenfone 2 Deluxe. We try to find out if it’s worth a buy in our review…

Build & design
Sony’s no stranger to big screen phones. The Sony Xperia Z Ultra was one of the most attractive albeit unwieldy 6-inch+ device from the company. However, with the Xperia C5 Ultra, it has been able to strike a balance between good looks and ergonomics. We have to say we were very impressed with the nearly bezel-free display.

The screen to body ratio is large so you never feel you’re holding an oversized smartphone in your hand. Unlike the Xperia Z Ultra, the phone is not super thin so the weight is well spread out making it easy to lug around the phone. Sony continues to stay loyal to the OmniBalance design philosophy but with soft, rounded edges and corners.

The front is largely dominated by the 6-inch screen flanked by a metal ring that surrounds the 13MP camera lens and flash at the top along with the sensor array and the Sony logo. There are also two grills at the top and bottom lip. The front panel is all glass and doesn’t get smudged easily.

The phone is held together by an aluminium frame with rounded edges and soft nylon bumpers at the corners that help the phone’s antenna to get the signal and also prevent dents if the phone experiences a fall. The volume rocker is located at the right edge with the typical Sony watch crown-shaped, metallic power button.

There’s also a camera shutter key towards the bottom at the same edge. The keys offer decent tactile feedback and are positioned comfortably keeping in consideration the length of the phone. The left edge houses a flap that hides two slots for nano-sim cards and one slot for a microSD card. The 3.5mm headset jack is at the top while the micro-USB port sits at the bottom.

The phone has a unibody design so you can’t remove the back panel.The back, made from plastic, is slightly curved and sports a soft touch finish. While it’s glossy, the material helps in hiding smudges. The 13MP rear camera and a flash are also at the back. The plastic used in the back looks and feels premium.

Without doubt, the Sony Xperia C5 Ultra is a well built phone and one of the few devices with super-thin bezels.

Sony Xperia C5 Ultra sports a 6-inch full-HD (1080x1280p) IPS display, mobile BRAVIA Engine and has a super Vivid mode that enhances the colour brightness and saturation of photos and videos on the phone screen. We found the display to be bright and vivid and viewing angles were sufficiently wide.

Colours looked accurate and graphics appeared sharp and crisp. You can even control the white balance of the display and set adaptive brightness. We found the default white balance made the screen appear a little bland. It’s great that one can customize it.

The screen is slightly reflective but sunlight legibility was decently good. Touch response was great but it’s not clear if the screen comes with Gorilla Glass protection.

The Xperia C5 Ultra comes with Android 5.0 (Lollipop) out of the box with Sony’s own UI and apps for music, videos and gallery. Sony’s UI skin is not very heavy and doesn’t hog on system resources. The experience of navigating across the UI was smooth but not as swift as it is on high-end devices such as the Xperia Z3+.

The phone also has some content marketplace apps and a What’s New apps, which show curated content (such as apps, music, games) that users can buy. We feel that Sony has stuffed the phone with a lot of bloatware including third party apps like Line, AVG antivirus, and BigFlix. Thankfully, most of these apps can be removed.

The UI elements, including the notifications tray, app launcher and settings menu have been skinned but also borrow elements from the new Android 5.0 UI. System apps feature Material Design with a colour theme being omnipresent depending on what you choose in the Themes settings. The transition effects visible during launching and minimizing apps are also pleasant to look at. The app-switcher is also borrowed from Android 5.0 Lollipop but features the launcher for small apps which can float on top of other running apps.

The phone ships with some small apps,including a browser, timer, calculator and calendar. One can download additional small apps from the Play Store, or even turn a widget into a small app. Sony has also included software optimizations for one hand use including the ability to position certain UI elements on the left or right side of the display. You can swipe from the right corner to resize the screen for one hand use and even choose to move it to the right or left side of the screen.

The phone also offers a Simple Home mode that offers a grid-based simplified interface featuring frequently used app and a list mode for app launcher.

At the cost of repeating ourselves, we have to say that Sony’s UI skin looks less intrusive and is well-balanced.

The Sony Xperia C5 Ultra sports a 13MP rear camera and a 13MP front-facing camera with a front flash.

The camera app offers a large number of settings in addition to Sony’s Superior Auto mode that chooses the optimal settings as per the ambient light. You also get different scene options and the ability to switch the resolution of the pictures. Scene modes also include night mode and backlight correction HDR, among others.

The other modes that the app offers include Style portrait, Multi-camera, Sweep Panorama, AR Effect, Creative effect, and Face in picture Effect. There’s no time shift video mode. The Multi-camera mode lets you hook other Xperia devices (phones or tablets) or a Sony Wi-Fi/NFC camera and record the same scene with multiple cameras.

The front camera takes good quality selfies in day light and even indoor selfies shot in in artificial light looked good. The pictures featured good amount of detail and the front flash came in handy while taking selfies in dark locations such as dimly lit restaurants. The camera has a wide-angled lens(88-degrees) so you can fit in more people in selfies.

(Front Camera)

The rear camera takes good quality pictures in most conditions including in low-light. We did find the Superior Auto mode a little inconsistent; it has a tendency to produce saturated colours. HDR mode photos had better contrast.

(Rear camera — HDR mode)

The phone is capable of shooting 1080p video. Videos shot with the phone looked good and are fit for sharing moments and video chats.

Sony Xperia C5 Ultra is powered by a 1.7GHz octa-core (Cortex-A53) MediaTek MT6752 processor coupled with 2GB RAM. The phone comes with 16GB internal storage expandable up to 200GB via microSD card or by using a USB On-the-Go drive (or adapter plus USB drive).

While we did not notice any major lag while navigating through the phone’s menu, launching apps and switching between them, the experience is not as smooth as it is on high-end devices and even some competing mid-range ones. Having said that, you may not really notice it while performing everyday tasks and it does a decent job if you’re primarily using the device for multimedia consumption. We were able to play most popular video and audio file formats on the phone.

We were able to play games like Temple Run 2 and Leo’s Fortune without encountering lag or freezes or heating issues but we did notice some minor frame drops while playing Asphalt 8.

The phone supports NFC, Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS connectivity options an has an FM radio tuner.

It offers excellent call quality and signal reception and we did not encounter problems while making calls even in areas where cell signal is relatively weaker. The phone was able to lock to GPS without any hiccups. We also used 4G data on Airtel’s Delhi network and were able to get a good signal.

The sound output through the phone’s front speaker grille (only the bottom one acts as a speaker) was loud and clear at moderate volume levels.

The phone is backed by a 2,930mAh battery and will last you more than a full day even if you put the screen brightness at the highest level and use a mix of 4G and Wi-Fi.

The phone can play video continuously for 6-7 hours.

You can boost the battery backup by using Sony’s Stamina mode that shuts down battery-draining apps and data transfer when the screen is turned off and starts them again when it is turned on.

Is the Sony Xperia C5 Ultra a good buy? It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re in the market for a premium phablet that also takes good selfies and offers a balanced software experience, this device is a good option. It is also fit for people who prefer a large screen for multimedia consumption and don’t want to carry their tablets along. The phone is slightly overpriced for what it offers compared to phones in the same price range from Chinese brands but then you’re paying a premium for the Sony brand. Also, there are not many 6-inch display-equipped devices available at the moment.

If you can make do with a slightly smaller display but need a selfie-focused phone, there are a number of good options available in the market. HTC offers some good selfie phones including the One E9+ and One M8 Eye. If you’re not finicky about the brand and can live with a 5.5-inch display, the Asus Zenfone Selfie is an excellent option priced below Rs 20,0000. All these phones sport 13MP front camera and will satisfy most selfie addicts.

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