Sony revealed the Xperia 5 II in September, a second-generation version of its “premium mainstream” phone. The Xperia 5 II follows last year’s Xperia 5 and sits below the Xperia 1 II in the Sony family tree.
Sony is making 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. Can it find an audience in these multimedia lovers?
We have all the basics handled in this Android Authority buyer’s guide to help you form an early opinion.
Sony Xperia 5 II: What is it?
The Sony Xperia 5 II is Sony’s second take on an affordable flagship. The company revealed the original Xperia 5 in September 2019 and thus this sequel arrives right on time for the 2020 holiday shopping season. 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 says 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 top 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 last year’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 dive into the specifics.
What are the Sony Xperia 5 II’s features?
Sony centered the Xperia 5 II around three tentpoles: imaging, gaming, and performance.
The phone is a slim, tall slab. Sony markets the phone as compact, but we disagree. It’s the exact same dimension as last year’s Xperia 5, which we called “not so compact” in our review. It’s certainly smaller than many of today’s uber flagships, but it’s not a dainty device, either. That said, the 5 II is a Gorilla Glass 6 and aluminum sandwich that carries an IP68 rating, offers a headphone jack, and supports expandable microSD storage. You’ll find dedicated camera and Google Assistant buttons, as well as a USB-C port, stereo speakers, and a pleasing piano black finish.
Sony likes to borrow 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.
The phone is no video slouch. Sony paired with CineAlta so the phone can shoot at the 21:9 cinema ratio with advanced color reproduction. Moreover, it can handle 4K video capture at speeds up to 120fps for ultra-smooth slow motion. New USB tethering allows owners of the Sony A7S III camera to send files via USB-C to the phone for FTP upload.
What about gaming? Well, let’s start with the display. The screen measures 6.1 inches across the diagonal and has a 21:9 aspect ratio — something Sony pioneered with last year’s Xperia 1, 10, and 5 phones. Sony has upped the game (pun intended) by jumping to a 120Hz refresh rate with 240Hz sampling rate. That means scrolling and other on-screen action will be smooth, while the screen will be more responsive to touch input. The screen is available in two modes: standard mode for gaming and media consumption, and creator mode for photography and videography. The latter mode is more accurate with respect to color so creators can see exactly what their content will look like as a finished product.
Whether you use headphones or the built-in speakers, you can expect top-notch sound from the device, says Sony. Sony goes on to extol the virtues of its sound processing, which should deliver balanced stereo sound from the speakers, as well as upscaled goodness from just about any audio codec. We’ll reserve judgement until we hear for ourselves.
The last tentpole is performance, and it’s an easy one for Sony to address. The phone ships with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor. This is the standard version of the chip, not the “plus” variant that has higher clock speeds. Even so, you should expect the phone to be quick. A new graphene sheet inside helps dissipate heat more evenly across the phone, so it won’t get as hot as last year’s Xperia 5 did. The phone has 8GB of RAM, which is a bit less than we’d like to see at this price point, but at least the phone is available in 128GB and 256GB variants.
Related: Best performing phones
On the power front, there’s a much bigger battery inside the Xperia 5 II, which has improved from 3,180mAh in last year’s phone to 4,000mAh in this year’s phone. Sony says it was able to fit a 25% bigger battery in the same-size chassis by shrinking other components. Using an optional 21W charger will net you a 50% charge in just 30 minutes. The included charger takes 35 minutes to reach the same 50% mark. No wireless charging, however, which is a shame.
|Sony Xperia 5 II|
120Hz refresh rate
240Hz touch scanning
21:9 aspect ratio
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865|
Adreno 650 GPU
|Storage||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
|Audio||3.5mm headphone jack|
360 Reality Audio
|Dimensions and weight||158 x 68 x 8mm|
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. Each of these phones is about the same price as the Sony Xperia 5 II. The biggest difference will be the size. Both Samsungs are bigger than the 5 II.
The OnePlus 8 Pro 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 8 Pro.
You can’t discount Google. The Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL may have been discontinued already, but they are still viable competitors if you can find them. What’s more, the Google Pixel 5 is primed to make its debut later this month.
See also: The best phones of 2020
Last, there’s the Motorola Edge Plus. Motorola’s $999 flagship is a beautiful piece of hardware that gets nearly everything right. More importantly, it’s often on sale for $799.
Where to buy the Sony Xperia 5 II
Preorders for the Sony Xperia 5 II open up on September 29. The phone will be available unlocked from Sony.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy. Pricing for the 128GB model is $949. Sony did not share pricing for the 256GB variant. The on-sale date, however, is not until December 4 so you’ve got a bit of a wait ahead of you.
For users in Europe, you can snag the device a little earlier than that. Preorders are now live on Sony’s eStore partner store. Those in the UK can book a dual SIM black or blue version of the phone for £799 (~$1,026). Shipping kicks off on October 15. In mainland Europe, the phone will retail for €899 (~$1,056) and will be shipped to customers from October 19. Black, blue, and grey colorways are available to buyers on the continent.
We expect to review the phone just ahead of launch, so look for more content concerning the Sony Xperia 5 II to arrive just ahead of the holidays.
Top Sony Xperia 5 II questions and answers
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. Sony has not said how much (1TB, 2TB, etc.)
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 will the Sony Xperia 5 II be available in?
A: The phone will come in just one color: black