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Sony Xperia 5 II buyer's guide: A compact powerhouse worth considering
The Sony Xperia 5 II is the company’s second-generation version of its “premium mainstream” phone. It sits just below last year’s Xperia 1 II as well as last year’s Xperia 1 III and 5 III.
Sony made lots of bold claims about the Xperia 5 II, which are centered on its speed and size. The company is aiming squarely at photography, gaming, and media buffs as the Xperia 5 II’s prime customer segment. But does it live up to the hype and should you actually buy it?
We’ve listed everything you need to know in this Android Authority buyer’s guide to help you make an informed decision.
Sony Xperia 5 II: At a glance
The Sony Xperia 5 II is Sony’s second take on a pint-sized flagship, with the first one being the original Xperia 5 that was launched in 2019. It’s a slim, average-sized phone that proffers to deliver all the power of a flagship in an easy-to-use piece of hardware.
Sony said the Xperia 5 II was “built for speed” and “made compact.” More specifically, it was built for gaming speed, imaging speed, and performance speed, and made for “perfect hand and pocket fit.” In order to meet these marketing milestones, Sony gave the phone a high-end processor and specs. It cut very few corners and made every effort to make the phone a totable tower of power.
Sony spared no superlative when announcing the phone, but 2019’s Xperia 5 was not the beast phone Sony hyped it to be. We found it to be less than compact and not as fully featured as the more powerful Xperia 1 series. Has Sony found the right mix in the Xperia 5 II? Let’s have a look.
Is the Sony Xperia 5 II worth it?
In the case of the Xperia 5 II, Sony’s lofty claims seem to be justified. It’s an impressive device both in specs and everyday use, with a few features that other phones can’t match.
The tall and skinny design might look awkward at first, but it improves the hand feel of the phone, making it easier for everyday use. It’s not exactly small, but it’s a welcome change over huge phones like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Apart from that, Sony cut no corners on hardware. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and packs a high-quality 120Hz screen. Other essentials are also ticked off down the list, like great battery life and camera performance. There’s even a headphone jack!
It is a bit pricey with its launch price of $949, but you truly are getting best-in-class performance from the Xperia 5 II for a phone released in 2020. And since it’s been on the market for a bit now, its price has come down a bit.
Just keep in mind that the Xperia 5 III has already been released, and its successor is due any day now.
What experts are saying about the phone
In Android Authority‘s Sony Xperia 5 II review, our reviewer Eric Zeman came out impressed. He called it “Perhaps Sony’s best phone ever” and gave it an Editor’s Choice award. This means we considered it one of the best phones on the market in 2020.
The premium smartphone market is as crowded as ever, but Eric thinks it stands out due to its unusual aspect ratio. “He wrote: The Sony Xperia 5 II truly captures the flagship experience in a somewhat more compact form factor.” The movie-like 21:9 aspect ratio gives it an excellent hand feel compared to its direct competitors. Plus, far more content and apps support it now than last year.
The Sony Xperia 5 II is one of the best no-compromise small(ish) flagships you can buy.
Apart from that, Sony simply nailed the rest of the hardware. Specs are all top notch, and the inclusion of a headphone jack is a nice surprise for 2020 flagships. The triple camera setup is also a solid performer, with Sony’s expansive pro mode available for more tech-savvy photographers.
In a second opinion, Robert Triggs thought that Sony is “definitely onto something with the 5 II,” but thought it fell just short. Although an improvement over previous entries, “There are still lingering issues and it doesn’t represent the absolute best value for money on the market right now.” He argued that the iPhone 12 at $799 and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE at just $699 might represent a better value.
The only major drawback in either review was the price. $949 certainly isn’t too expensive for a modern flagship, but if it were reduced by just $50 it would have been the device to beat. Even so, it’s a great option for photographers, videographers, gamers, and just about anyone in between. It’s one of very few no-compromise small(ish) flagships you can buy.
Other reviews around the web
To give you the best overview of the Sony Xperia 5 II, we looked at what reviewers from other publications had to say about it.
- Jon Porter of The Verge loved the design of the Xperia 5 II, even if it won’t turn heads. He also enjoyed the advanced camera controls, but ultimately knocked points for not supporting 5G in the US, writing “you have to want these advanced settings to justify the Xperia 5 II’s relatively high $949 price tag in the US.”
- James Peckham of Techradar compared the Xperia 5 II favorably to previous efforts like the Xperia 1 II. Despite cutting a few features for size, such as a 4K display and wireless charging, it’s one of Sony’s best phones to date. “If you’re looking for a smaller-package smartphone with top-end specs, the Sony Xperia 5 II could prove an excellent choice.”
- Patrick Holland from Cnet wrote that the Xperia 5 II is “the best Sony phone in years.” Like a few other reviewers, he was critical of the “boring” design and the inclusion of a dedicated Google Assistant button. This extra button gets in the way of most phone mounts, which is a shame since it’s aimed at more serious photographers.
|Sony Xperia 5 II|
120Hz refresh rate
240Hz touch scanning
21:9 aspect ratio
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
Adreno 650 GPU
128 or 2565GB
Ultra-wide: 12MP, 16mm
Wide: 12MP, 24mm, f/1.7 aperture, PDAF
Telephoto: 12MP, 70mm, PDAF, OIS
Eye AF, 20fps tracking
4K @ 120fps
3.5mm headphone jack
360 Reality Audio
Dimensions and weight
158 x 68 x 8mm
Are the Sony Xperia 5 II’s cameras good?
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, 16mm
- Wide: 12MP, 24mm, f/1.7, PDAF
- Telephoto: 12MP, 70mm, PDAF, OIS Eye AF, 20fps
- 4K at 120fps
Sony went all out on the Xperia 5 II’s camera setup, with a three-lens setup on the back that offers impressive results.
In previous years, Sony has borrowed imaging tech from its Alpha line of cameras and this year is no different. The Xperia 5 II adopts a triple 12MP system for its standard, wide, and telephoto lenses. The focal lengths mimic those of certain types of lenses, such as a 16mm wide-angle, 24mm standard, and 70mm telephoto. They all rely on Zeiss lenses with real-time eye autofocus for both humans and animals.
The sensor is much bigger than last year’s phone at f/1.7, which allows it to perform better in low light. The camera relies on Sony’s Bionz engine and has the ability to shoot bursts at 20fps with continuous autofocus tracking. The phone can shoot in RAW+JPEG mode for the ultimate in editing flexibility.
For even more versatility, the Sony Xperia 5 II has two separate camera apps. One offers a standard point-and-shoot experience that most users expect from smartphone cameras. The other is a “pro” app that lets you fully customize settings like you can on one of Sony’s Alpha cameras. This will be overwhelming for most everyday users, but it’s a nice touch for photography enthusiasts.
As for the results, they are a step above Sony’s previous offerings. Photos have a distinct film-like quality. The color and grain in the photos are reminiscent of old-school Kodachrome pictures, for better or worse. Check out more picture samples in our Sony Xperia 5 II review, or see full size images in this Google Drive folder.
Sony made a lot of noise about the Xperia 5 II’s video performance, and most of it was warranted. The phone shoots excellent video, again with the option of using a Cinematography Pro app. For normal users, this will be too complicated, but there are eight preset “Looks” that can give your video more character.
How is the Sony Xperia 5 II’s battery life?
The relatively small size of the Sony Xperia 5 II means it can’t pack the world’s biggest battery, but it still has a respectable 4,000mAh power cell. That’s significantly larger than its predecessor’s 3,140mAh battery, and the results show it.
In our testing, we regularly got eight hours or more of screen-on time per day. Granted, those results were with the screen set to 60Hz. When set to 120Hz the phone still made it to the end of the day but needed a top-off before breakfast. There’s also a built-in Stamina mode to eek out a bit more juice when away from the charger for extended periods.
The Xperia 5 II supports 21W rapid charging, which isn’t the fastest but will top you off in just over 90 minutes from dead. The only missing feature is wireless charging, which is a bummer for those invested in the tech.
How about performance?
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
- Adreno 650
- 8GB LPDDR5
- 128/256GB UFS 3.0
The Xperia 5 II sports the 2020 flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, which is more than powerful enough. It’s not quite at the same level as the enhanced Snapdragon 865 Plus or the newer Snapdragon 888, or even the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, but it’s still good enough for the vast majority of people. Paired with 8GB of RAM, the phone powers through all daily tasks with ease.
See also: Best Snapdragon 865 phones
A big part of that performance is down to the 120Hz display, which is buttery smooth. Even the most demanding games look incredible on the 21:9 screen, and Sony’s Game Enhancer tool makes it easy to customize the experience.
The base model packs 128GB of UFS 3.0 storage, with a 256GB model available in certain markets. It’s one of few phones that still supports microSD cards for expandable storage, which is great to see.
It’s not all good news though, as the Sony Xperia 5 II doesn’t support 5G in the US. It does, however, support it in other parts of the world, making the decision even more puzzling.
Competition and alternatives
Competition in the sub-$1,000 space is high. You’ve got solid offerings from just about every major player, including Samsung, OnePlus, Google, and even Motorola.
From Samsung, it’s worth looking at the Galaxy S20 Plus or the Note 20 for devices with similar specs Each of these phones is about the same price as the Sony Xperia 5 II. The biggest difference will be the size. Both Samsung’s are bigger than the 5 II.
If you want something newer, the Galaxy S21 series is the way to go. The regular Galaxy S21 is cheaper than the Xperia 5 II, and a couple of hundred dollars more gets you the Ultra A great camera and a faster processing package in the Snapdragon 888 is what you get with the new Samsung flagships. You can also look at the latest Galaxy S22 series, which may be on par with the Xperia 5 III’s price since the phone is still quite expensive at some retailers.
The OnePlus 9 is a less-expensive option that’s also a bit larger than the Xperia 5 II. OnePlus’ efforts in this affordable flagship space are laudable and we really liked the OnePlus 9. Then there’s also the latest OnePlus 10 Pro.
You can’t discount Google. The Google Pixel 5 may not come with the fastest processing package, but it is one of the best camera phones you can get. It is also quite a lot cheaper than the Sony phone. Then there’s the even cheaper Pixel 5a and the affordable Pixel 6.
Then there are Sony’s 2021 flagships, the Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III. Both cost more since they are newer, but they offer a bit more as well. However, the latter device still isn’t available in the US, but it should hopefully go on sale soon.
Where to buy the Sony Xperia 5 II
The Sony Xperia 5 II is available unlocked in the United States from retailers like Amazon and B&H. Pricing for the 128GB model is $949, although B&H offers a substantial discount — see below. No retailers currently carry the 256GB variant.
For users in the UK, you can snag a dual SIM black or blue version of the phone for £790. In mainland Europe, the phone retails for €899, with black, blue, and grey colorways available to buyers on the continent.
Q: Does the Sony Xperia 5 II support 5G?
A: Yes, it supports sub-6GHz 5G networks, though not in the US.
Q: Does the Sony Xperia 5 II have a headphone jack?
A: Yes, it includes a headphone jack as well as advanced codecs for processing sound.
Q: Does the Sony Xperia 5 II support wireless charging?
A: No, it doesn’t. It charges at a speed of 21W via USB-C cable and an optional power supply.
Q: Does the Sony Xperia 5 II have dual-SIM capabilities?
A: No, it does not.
Q: Does the Sony Xperia 5 II have a microSD card slot?
A: Yes, the phone supports expandable storage.
Q: What storage variants is the phone available in?
A: The phone comes with 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of internal storage.
Q: Does the device have stereo speakers?
A: Yes, the phone has two front-facing speakers that generate high-quality stereo sound.
Q: What colors is the Sony Xperia 5 II available in?
A: The phone will come in just one color in the US: black. However, it’s also available in black, blue, and grey in Europe.