Sony Xperia 5 II Review
Sony Xperia 5 II: is it worth your purchase?
- Nice 120Hz display
- Excellent performance
- Good battery life
- Unstable cameras
- Frustrating bloatware
- No wireless charging
Our verdict: The Xperia 5 II’s 21: 9 non- notch display and its 3.5mm jack port mean that it stands out above the competition, but there are other phones that, at this price, offer much more.
Retail price (RRP)
Sony Xperia 5 II Review
After three years of decline, sales of Sony smartphones have started to stabilize. Between July and September 2020, the company sold some 600,000 Xperia phones, roughly the same as in the third quarter of 2019.
However, this is still a negligible part of the global smartphone market. It is curious that it is the company responsible for one of the most popular game consoles in history and internationally recognized for its televisions and audio devices.
For its 2020 phones, Sony has been inspired by another of its flagship products: mirrorless cameras . Thus, the successor to last year’s Xperia 5 is known as the Xperia 5 II (or Mark 2). At first glance it looks like a great upgrade, but how does this translate into practice?
Design and display
The design of the Xperia 5 II has nothing to do with any other mobile I have tried this year, which is very positive. It is a kind of fusion between the old and the modern: features such as the 3.5 mm jack port or the screen without notch are preserved , and to this is added a beautiful screen and a premium build quality .
In my opinion, it has it all, and is very comfortable to hold.
The mobile looks much more compact than its 6.1 ”screen might suggest, in part due to its tall and narrow 21: 9 aspect ratio. It’s already something we saw in last year’s Xperia 5 , but it’s still rare and something that makes it stand out.
In this case, it is also difficult to reach the top of the mobile with one hand, but you can watch many movies without the annoying black bars on the side.
The screen itself is a Full-HD AMOLED panel (1080 x 2520), surely the biggest difference from the flagship Xperia 1 II , with a 4K display. On the other hand, you do get a key feature that is not available in this more expensive mobile: a refresh rate of 120Hz.
I’m aware that this is not a priority for most, but I think the same could be said for the aforementioned 4K display at this size. If I have to decide between one and the other, I would always stick with 120Hz.
It is difficult to explain the benefits you will get if you are used to 60Hz screens, but in general everything is faster and smoother. The average user will notice it especially when scrolling on social networks like Twitter, but the most advanced will see it in an improvement with gaming . You will also notice that it has a negative effect on battery life, but I think it is well worth it.
As expected, the traces are marked on the back of the mobile, although these are no less visible in the black model that I have tested. It’s surprisingly tough, as both the front and the back are protected by Gorilla Glass 6, and that shows in how robust the phone feels too.
It’s kind of slippery, though, and I was often worried that it might fall off the table or slip out of my pocket. The camera module sticks out so much that it is almost impossible to use the device on a flat surface, so I recommend using a case.
This vertical module houses three lenses: a 12 MP wide angle, a 12 MP ultra wide angle and a 12 MP telephoto lens, a configuration identical to that of the Xperia 1 II. In front, we also find the same 8 MP selfie camera, but we will analyze that in more detail later.
By keeping the bezels slim, Sony has managed to find space to include two front speakers, and that completely changes the listening experience of the Xperia 5 II.
The company has also managed to overcome the problems of the first patents to include a fingerprint scanner in the power button. It’s fairly fast and accurate overall, but it also feels wet on your fingers more easily than its rear counterparts.
My personal experience with in-display sensors hasn’t been good, so I’m pleased to see that Sony is still going for a physical one.
Another detail that I applaud is the SIM card slot, which has a small lever to open it without having to use anything other than your fingers. We also found a USB-C port, as expected, and two more physical buttons on the right side. One of them is to activate the Google Assistant and the other serves as a trigger for the camera.
Hardware and performance
The Xperia 5 II comes with the latest generation Snapdragon 865 processor, which includes the Adreno 650 GPU and 8GB of RAM.
Qualcomm’s premium processors are no longer exclusive to more expensive mobiles, but it is equally a pleasant surprise to see them here. Predictably, performance is excellent, and you can surf the web, use social media, and do more than one task at a time without any problems.
Sony’s confidence in the performance of the Xperia 5 II is shown by the fact that Call of Duty: Mobile is included out of the box , known to be one of the most graphically demanding games on the Play Store. This is where the 120Hz refresh rate comes in, offering smooth gameplay without lag.
That carries over in the benchmarks below. It is worth mentioning that some mobiles have a 60fps limit in some GFXBench tests, which means that the Xperia 5 II’s advantage over its predecessor is not as great as what these results suggest.
Audio quality is often ignored on modern smartphones , in part due to the popularity of wireless headphones. However, keeping the bezels gives the Xperia 5 II room for dual stereo speakers at the front that offer very good performance. They have a very rich sound and impressive bass, something that many 2020 terminals do not have.
The Xperia 5 II also adds 5G compatibility, which its predecessor does not have, but this technology is still in its infancy and I have not been able to test whether it works well or not.
Software and features
The Sony Xperia II comes with Android 10, although the update to Android 11 should be available soon. Sony usually uses a fairly simple Android skin , and this mobile is no exception. It is quite similar to the Android Stock version of Pixel phones.
With that said, there are several small changes to the software that you will notice in the user interface. Among them we find the Cinema Pro and Photo Pro apps, which allow you to better control the photos and videos you take with your Xperia 5 II.
The name ‘Pro’ is justified: you can’t easily start using the apps unless you have some technical knowledge, which explains why Sony has decided to include them as separate apps.
Unfortunately, these are not the only apps that cannot be uninstalled. Others like Facebook, Netflix or Call of Duty: Mobile are not usually considered as bloatware , and many people who buy this mobile will end up using them.
But I just think that Sony could have given us the option to remove them from the device. At the very least, you won’t have to worry about them taking up a lot of space, as you can increase storage with a microSD card.
There are other small changes to the software . ‘Side Sense’ is on the right side of the screen, which allows you to quickly open certain apps or start multitasking . It is similar to the Edge panel of Samsung mobiles, but it does not make as much sense having a flat screen.
It also has a battery saving mode called ‘STAMINA’, while in screen settings, Creator mode gives the screen a more cinematic quality.
The cameras of the Xperia 5 II have hardly changed from its predecessor. The triple rear configuration consists of a 12 MP wide angle, a 12 MP ultra wide angle and a 12 MP telephoto lens.
I like that Sony has decided not to include more macro or depth sensors, which sounds great on paper but does not provide any benefit in practice.
The Photo Pro app allows you to customize the image settings you want, just as you would with a mirrorless camera . It is something that I would recommend if you want to take professional photos, since the automatic mode of the standard camera app is somewhat unstable.
Exposure was the point I had the most trouble with, often blurring the background or losing detail in the darkest areas of the image. In open spaces, the results were better, somewhat saturated but with excellent dynamic range.
Despite the absence of a macro lens, the close-up images are impressive, although you also get good results when shooting buildings. I liked that the main camera app uses artificial intelligence to automatically detect what kind of scene it is and adjust the image accordingly.
That means you don’t have to search through the menus until you find the option you want. This includes night mode, which works well when brightening the image, albeit at the cost of a more detailed result.
Photos with the 8 MP selfie camera were generally impressive, offering good detail and accurate colors. Interestingly, this lens tends to perform better with exposure.
The Xperia 5 II is also capable of capturing video up to 4K at 120fps. With 1080p on, the presence of IOS means that the recordings are very stable, although it takes a while to find focus if you move the camera.
This mobile includes a 4000 mAh battery, the same one that we found in the Xperia 1 II and somewhat higher than the 3140 mAh cell of last year’s Xperia 5.
This is reflected in the benchmarks , as the Geekbench 4 and PCMark battery tests achieved a mark of 12 hours and 15 minutes and 15 hours and 5 minutes respectively. When using the mobile for a long period of time, these results appear accurate.
I was able to use it for about two days with moderate use before having to charge it, even with the 120Hz option turned on.
I did find that it did not offer very good idle performance. Often times, I was without using my phone for a couple of hours, and even so, the battery percentage had dropped considerably.
The mobile is compatible with a 21W fast charge, but in the box you will only find an 18W adapter. Still, this one allowed me to charge from 0% to 48% in 30 minutes, which means you can fully charge it in just over an hour.
One of the big differences with the Xperia 1 II is that it does not support wireless charging. Personally, it is not a big problem, but I understand that for some it will be, especially since there are mobiles that cost much less than they do offer this feature.
Price and availability
The Sony Xperia 5 II costs € 899, with a single configuration of 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. That’s € 100 more than the launch price of the Xperia 5 from the previous year, which points to it being increasingly premium .
Among its most attractive alternatives we find the OnePlus 8T , the Samsung Galaxy S20 and the Oppo Find X2 . It is not that the Xperia 5 II does not have a good value for money, but it is that these phones offer more for what they cost.
In a world where many smartphones look alike, it is admirable that Sony decided to make a different one. In 2020, it is difficult to find a screen without a notch and a 3.5 mm jack port , but after using the Xperia 5 II I would like more mobile phones to have it.
There’s a lot to note, which makes it a great upgrade from the previous year’s model. The nice 21: 9 OLED screen has a feature that we don’t even find on the Xperia 1 II: 120Hz. Performance is excellent, while the front stereo speakers are exceptional.
However, it is not all good news. The cameras are a bit disappointing unless you know how to use the Photo Pro app, while the sheer amount of bloatware taints what would make for an excellent software experience . It doesn’t support wireless charging, a notable absence at this price.
There is no doubt that the Xperia 5 II has its audience, but it is unlikely that it could lead to a sudden surge in sales of Sony smartphones .
- Operating system: Android 10
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
- Graphics card: Adreno 650
- RAM memory: 8 GB
- Storage: 128GB (expandable to 1TB)
- Display: 6.1 ”OLED CinemaWide (1080 x 2520, 21: 9, 120 Hz)
- Rear camera: 12 MP triple camera (wide angle, f / 1.7, 24mm, IOS) + 12 MP (telephoto, f / 2.4, 70mm, 3x optical zoom, IOS) + 12 MP (ultra wide angle, f / 2.2, 16mm)
- Front camera: 8 MP camera (f / 2.0)
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1, 5G, stereo headphones, port jack 3.5mm
- Water resistance: IP65 / 68
- Battery: 4,000 mAh (21W fast charge)
- Dimensions: 158 x 68 x 8 mm
- Weight: 163g