The Xperia 5 III is a rather peculiar offering that requires some careful framing for us to pinpoint its correct competitors. The way we see it, if you're looking at the 5 III instead of the 1 III, you must be fond of the form factor in the first place because in most other respects, the two phones are the same.
Hardly a compact in the same sense that old Sony Compacts were, the Xperia 5 III is still some of the most phone you can get in this much volume and weight. So it's only natural that you'd be weighing its Pros and Cons against other easily pocketable alternatives.
Starting off with Samsung's smallest from the top shelf, the Galaxy S21 5G can be had for a lot less than the $1000/€1000/£900 that Sony is asking for the Xperia 5 III - it's a few months old by now. The Galaxy has the better display and faster charging, plus it can charge wirelessly. The Xperia, meanwhile, has more zoom on its rear cameras and longer battery life, plus old-school goodies like a headphone jack and a memory card slot.
Some things are hard to quantify and will have to come down to personal preference - the specifics of image quality, the Galaxy's under-display fingerprint sensor vs. the Xperia's side mounted one, One UI vs. the stock-ish interface of the Sony. We can see the 5 III winning this battle for some buyers, particularly if the price drops down the line or there's a pair of premium headphones bundled to offset the difference.
There's going to be a lot to offset against the Zenfone 8, which can be had for as little as €600. The Xperia can flex its rear camera at the Asus, sure, and the slightly better battery life and microSD slot could make a small difference to some. But if you're not that big on zooming in, the Zenfone's camera will serve you well, while everything else is probably as good or better on the Asus than on the Sony. Plus - money in your pocket.
We have to mention one alternative here, even though it's not available in Xperia's key markets - the vivo X60 Pro+. Essentially the only other reasonably sized phone with as much zoom capability as the Xperia 5 III, it also has a gimbal-stabilized ultrawide camera. Add to that a superior display and way quicker charging, and the vivo could be the right person's preferred choice - if, that is, they can their hands on one. The Xperia does have a lot going for it, of course - IP rating, stereo speakers, memory expansion, 3.5mm jack - it's hard to argue with those. But if the camera/volume ratio is what counts, the vivo makes a strong case for itself.
An iPhone 12 Pro can be found on virtually all markets, of which the some markets you can buy an Xperia are a subset (#logic). Marginally more expensive than the 5 III for a base 128GB version, the iPhone will take up even less space in your pocket than the Sony, though it's still somehow 21g heavier. Ignoring the different things on each side of the OS divide, overall, the Xperia has the better battery life while its optical zooming capability is an obvious advantage. On the other hand, the iPhone wins for display quality, and it has wireless charging.
We've fallen into a pattern with Xperia 1s and 5s - for the third time now, we're liking the smaller phone better than its supposedly superior bigger sibling. There's actually a pretty straightforward explanation for this - context.
The Xperia 1 III takes on the absolute finest on the market and is priced accordingly, but fails to shine in that crowd. Meanwhile, the Xperia 5 III is positioned lower, costs a fair bit less, and is, well... smaller, but is missing very little from that higher-end model, making it a much more unique proposition than what the 1 III can ever hope to be.
So if you're looking for a high-end Sony, the Xperia 5 III is the sensible choice over the 1 III. But, more importantly, the 5 III is hard to beat by any reasonably-sized outside competition either. And by that, we mean there's no match for the completeness of its spec sheet and more or less its actual overall performance.
Now, there are a couple of issues for the 5 III - price and availability. It's more expensive at launch than any of the direct rivals we have in mind for it, and that launch is happening way too late - in September, after an April announcement. If you can wait until then, and then maybe wait some more for its price to drop a little, the Xperia 5 III might just make all the sense.
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