If you've read any of our previous Xperia reviews, you should be all be familiar with Sony's custom gallery Album by now. It organizes images into groups of thumbnails and sorts them by date. You can change the thumbnails size by pinching.
Unlike previous versions there isn't a homepage that hosts all of your albums, instead you get the same navigation drawer as the app drawer is offering. There you can find a selector of all of your online and offline albums.
The gallery can connect to online albums (Facebook, Picasa, Flickr) and also to other devices on the local network. Maps and Globe albums are also available, which use the geotagging info to sort photos by the location at which they were taken, and faces, which groups photos by the faces of the people in them.
Images can be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Filters and effects are also abundant. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also available.
The Walkman music player is part of the equipment of all recent Xperia smartphones. The Walkman interface is based on a swipe-able menu that sort your music collection by Artist, Albums, Playlists, all songs and even the songs your friends are listening to (but you need to connect the player to your Facebook account). You can pop up the menu the same way you'd do it in the app drawer or the gallery - just swipe from the left edge of the screen.
The Infinite button is available in the Now Playing screen (just tap the album art) - it will help you find the track's video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia and search for lyrics on Google. Gracenote is used here too and it can automatically download information about your tracks and album art.
The Walkman player offers a variety of audio settings - ClearAudio+ option is here, which determines the best audio quality settings depending on the song you're listening to. We liked how it changed the music and carefully accentuated various details.
Dynamic normalizer evens out the differences in the volume between tracks, which is great if you've mixed multiple albums from multiple sources.
The Sound enhancements contain yet more settings. There's an equalizer with presets and manual settings (including tweaking Clear Bass). Then there's Surround sound mode, which imitates the Studio, Club or Concert Hall experience.
Another new entry is the media server option. When turned on it allows your phone to act like a DLNA server, presenting its multimedia (music, photos and videos) to other DLNA clients in your network - really nifty. Also, you might notice that there is now Spotify integration inside the Walkman app, it can be enabled or disabled inside the settings menu.
There's also an FM radio tuner with RDS. The app features multiple visualizations and integrates with TrackID to recognize the currently playing song. You can even directly send an "I'm listening to..." post to Facebook. The interface is very intuitive and complete with stunning animations. Possibly one of the best FM radio apps out there.
Of course, you would need to have your headset plugged in for the FM radio to pick up any signal.
The video playing app is dubbed Movies and it too has a great custom UI. It's connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies and TVs you have on the phone. It will even download posters for them and for movies, it will download metadata like genre, synopsis, director and cast. As for individual episodes of series, the service is still dodgy, but you might get lucky and find the info you are looking for.
Movies also minimized your current clip and leaves it in a small window in your bottom right corner when you back out into the menu, just like the YouTube app. This is really convenient and lets you quickly return back to your content.
The M5 is powerful enough to breeze through 1080p videos. It had issues with the AC-3 audio codec and failed to load sound in videos carrying it but that's mostly normal for smartphones these days. MKV movies went through, but without sound because of their AC-3 audio codec.
The video player comes with subtitle support by default, the only requirement is both file names (video and subtitles) to be identical.
The Sony Xperia M5 did a very good job in the first part of our audio quality test, where it's connected to an active external amplifier. The scores it got were great top to bottom and it matched them with excellently high volume for an impressive performance.
Plugging in a pair of headphones did harm the stereo crosstalk and frequency response, while also adding some intermodulation distortion. None of the readings are too bad, but we are used to seeing less degradation in this case. Volume levels dropped significantly too, but they were so high at the start that we are still left with very good loudness.
And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|Samsung Galaxy Alpha||+0.01, -0.04||-96.6||92.8||0.0058||0.0091||-97.1|
|Samsung Galaxy Alpha (headphones attached)||+0.04, -0.01||-95.7||92.7||0.013||0.033||-65.6|
Sony Xperia M5 frequency response
You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.