With the $950 (£799 or about AU$1,350) Xperia 5 II, Sony is essentially selling a more compact, more affordable version of the Sony packed the Xperia 1 II with photo and video tools from its , and for $1,200 the phone targeted creative types who wanted more artistic control over their photos and videos. But the new Xperia 5 II (read as "five mark two") is more than a miniature version of Sony's previous phone. With a high-refresh-rate display, the ability to record 4K videos at 120 frames per second and an overhauled Game Enhancer app, the new version is the best Sony phone in years. And best of all, it adds those features while costing hundreds of dollars less.
One thing of note, however. While the Xperia 5 II's solid specs and photo and video software are similar to the Xperia 1 II (same processor, 8GB of RAM and so on), it lacks wireless charging, a time-of-flight sensor and a 4K display. But it does retain the wonderful EyeAF (autofocus) feature that speedily finds and locks onto the eyes of people and pets.
On the whole, I like the Xperia 5 II. It's an incredible phone for people who enjoy gaming, photography and recording videos. That won't appeal to everyone, but for people like me who enjoy that kind of thing, the phone is a treat. But my biggest gripe is with its price. While the Xperia 5 II is cheaper than the Xperia 1 II, it's also $150 more than last year's Xperia 5 I. Add the fact that we're in a pandemic, meaning many people are enduring financial hardship. That makes it hard for me to get behind this phone, or any phone really, that costs nearly $1,000. But if you have the money and are into Sony's mirrorless cameras, then the Xperia 5 II is worth considering.
The Xperia 5 II will be available Dec. 4, and gaming headset, a 10,000-mAh portable power bank and 21,600 Call of Duty points.. When you preorder, you'll receive a free gaming bundle that includes a HyperX Cloud II
Xperia 5 II design: Great high-refresh rate display, not so great number of buttons
The Xperia 5 II's display isn't as sharp as the Xperia 1 II's, so Sony sensibly added a high refresh rate screen to the former. Now you can choose: If you want super-sharp resolution, get the Xperia 1 II and its stunning 6.5-inch 4K display. But if you want a phone with a high refresh rate, you'll want an Xperia 5 II with its 6.1-inch 120Hz HD screen.
Both phones have long narrow screens with a 21:9 aspect ratio, which is great for watching Netflix since most of its films are shot in widescreen. But the smaller Xperia 5 II makes the tall, slender design pop. I like how well it fits in my hand.
The phone's design isn't perfect though. It's a bit boring, especially when compared to a phone like the. Despite the Xperia's slender bezels on the side, it has a chunky (by 2020 standards) chin and forehead. I also miss the Xperia 1 II's squared-off edges, which allowed me to stand up the phone on its side for filming and watching videos.
But my least favorite part of the Xperia 5 II's design is the Google Assistant button on the side. It lives on the right edge, along with the volume rocker, a combination power button and fingerprint reader, and a shutter button for the camera. That's one button too many, and it got in my way a lot.
Are people using Google Assistant so much that it needs its own button? Maybe? I don't know these people. But here's what gets me: This phone is aimed at photographers, videographers, gamers, journalists and creative types. Nearly every one of those people are likely to mount this phone, whether it's on a PS4 controller for games or on a mini-tripod for shooting photos and videos. That means the fewer buttons on the edge to press (on purpose or by accident), the better.
For example, I have a C-shaped grip that goes around the sides and back of the phone so I can mount it to a tripod. On the Xperia 1 II, there was a space on the right side between the power button and the camera shutter for the grip to grab onto. On the Xperia 5 II, however, that space is now occupied by this Assistant button, which leaves me the recessed power button and fingerprint reader as the only place to attach the grip. As a result I lose access to that button, which is far more useful than the Google Assistant.
Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras in a phone… kind of
The camera feature I was most excited to try out was the new 4K 120fps video capture. This only works in the phone's Cinema Pro app. Files are saved as 30fps or 24fps, which gives videos a dreamy 4x or 5x slow-motion effect. I shot a bunch of footage using the Xperia 5 II's Cinema Pro app and this is the best slow motion video on any phone I've tested. Check it out below.
Aside from lacking a time-of-flight sensor, the Xperia 5 II has the same Xperia 1 II camera hardware and software. And if you want an in-depth look at it all, read my review of the Sony Xperia 1 II. The Xperia 5 II comes with support for RAW photo files, which is super useful to me since I enjoy editing photos later in an app or on my computer. Also, the Photo Pro app's menus look just like the new ones on the new Sony A7SIII camera, so props to Sony for a consistent design language. Speaking of the A7SIII, you can now connect a USB-C cable between it and the Xperia 5 II to send photo and video files to the phone for file transfer protocol uploads.
If there's one criticism I have with the cameras, it's the amount of leeway there is for controlling the exposure when using the Cinema Pro app. I wish I had more ways to control the exposure aside from ISO and shutter angle (think of it like shutter speed for video). I ran into this with the Xperia 1 II as well. When it's too bright, I can't get the ISO or shutter angle low enough so that my video isn't overexposed. One solution would be to get a neutral density filter for your phone.
But when it was too dark, I ran into similar exposure challenges. The ISO tops out at 800 and because the cameras have a fixed aperture, I'm left with only the shutter angle to adjust. That's not ideal because the shutter angle also affects the quality of movement in the frame.
Below are some photos I took with the default camera app and Photo Pro app.
Game Enhancer, battery and high refresh rate
You can set the Xperia 5 II's refresh rate to 60Hz or 120Hz. There isn't an in-between option or adaptive software like on the OnePlus 8 Pro. During my time with the phone, I left it at 120Hz and didn't look back. I noticed the benefits of the high-refresh rate most when gaming. Part of that comes from the improved Game Enhancer app, which lets me choose the refresh rate for games I play. It uses software to crank that 120Hz display so that it can appear equivalent to a 240Hz equivalent. The effect works well enough, as if someone added sharpness and contrast to my games. It was particularly impressive in a game like Call of Duty. Game Enhancer has a heads up display as well, so you can preview the game at different refresh rates between 40fps and 240fps before committing to it.
The Xperia 5 II's battery is larger than its predecessor, despite the phones being physically the same size. The 4,000-mAh battery is the same size as the one found in the Sony Xperia 1 II. The phone made it through a day of use (set to 120Hz for the display). But I did find myself plugging it in to top it off near the end of the evening, usually after dinner. Tests for continuous video playback on Airplane mode with the screen set to 120Hz and half brightness showed that it lasted 18 hours and 36 minutes. For comparison, that's nearly four hours more that the Xperia 1 II lasted in the same test and it's nearly the same the OnePlus 8 Pro lasted.
The battery along with Game Enhancer, allows for a new feature called HS Power Control. The HS stands for heat suppression and it essentially reroutes power between charging the battery and directly powering the phone itself. When HS Power Control is enabled, the phone got warm while gaming, but it never got hot. It worked well enough that it'd be nice to turn on HS Power Control for other uses such as video capture or photo editing and not just gaming.
Snapdragon 865 processor and 5G
The Xperia 5 II has a Snapdragon processor and supports sub-6 5G connectivity outside the US. Sony said that its upcoming Xperia Pro will likely be the first Sony phone to support 5G in the US.
In use the Xperia 5 II was peppy. Even during heavy sessions of video recording and photo taking, the phone never lagged or seemed sluggish. In performance tests, the Xperia 5 II unsurprisingly posted identical results to the Xperia 1 II, but also was on par with the OnePlus 8 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, all of which also have a Snapdragon 865 processor.
Sony Xperia 5 II specs compared to Sony Xperia 1 II, Sony Xperia 5 I, OnePlus 8 Pro
||Sony Xperia 5 II||Sony Xperia 1 II||Sony Xperia 5||OnePlus 8 Pro|
|Display size, resolution||6.1-inch FHD+ HDR OLED; 2,520x1,080 pixels||6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED; 3,840x1,644 pixels||6.1-inch OLED; 2,520x1,080 pixels||6.78-inch AMOLED; 1,440x3,168 pixels|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.22x2.68x0.31 in||6.5×2.8×0.3 in||6.2x2.6x0.3 in||6.51x2.93x0.35 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||158x68x8 mm||165.1x71.1x7.62 mm||157x66x7.62 mm||165x74.4x8.5 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||5.75 oz; 163g||6.4 oz; 181g||5.8 oz; 164g||7.02 oz; 199g|
|Mobile software||Android 10||Android 10||Android 9 Pie||Android 10|
|Camera||12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 12-megapixel (3x telephoto)||12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 12-megapixel (3x telephoto)||12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 12-megapixel (3x telephoto)||48-megapixel (standard), 48-megapixel (ultra-wide), 8-megapixel (telephoto), 5-megapixel ('color filter')|
|Processor||Snapdragon 865||Snapdragon 865||Snapdragon 855||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865|
|Expandable storage||Up to 1TB||Up to 1TB||Up to 512GB||No|
|Battery||4,000 mAh||4,000 mAh||3,140 mAh||4,510 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||Right side||Right side||Right side||In-screen|
|Special features||5G-enabled (not in US), 120Hz refresh rate display, rated IP 65/68, adaptive battery charging and care, Dolby ATMOS, Zeiss lens coatings, time of flight sensor, hardware shutter button, hardware Google Assistant button||5G-enabled (not in US), wireless charging, rated IP 65/68, adaptive battery charging and care, Dolby ATMOS, Zeiss lens coatings, time of flight sensor, hardware shutter button||IP65/68 water and dust resistant, 10-bit video, Eye AF, Fast charging||5G enabled; Warp Charge; reverse wireless charging; water resistant (IP68); 120Hz refresh rate|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$950||$1,200||$799||$899 (8GB RAM/128GB), $999 (12GB RAM/256GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£799||£1,099||£699||£799 (8GB RAM/128GB), £899 (12GB RAM/256GB)|
|Price (AUD)||Converts to AU$1,350||Converts to AU$1,710||Converts to AU$1,135||UK converts to: AU$1,570 (8GB RAM/128GB), AU$1,770 (12GB RAM/256GB)|