The trend with smartphones is that bigger is better, or that’s what they want you to think. To me, bigger means more expensive, and that doesn’t always translate into better. Some of us just don’t need huge phones, but often the trade-off with a smaller phone is less performance, battery power, and a mediocre screen. That’s not the case with the Sony Xperia 5 II. This is a small phone that packs the features and power of a much larger phone. Built for gaming, media creating, and media consumption, the Sony Xperia 5 II is a powerhouse that fits comfortably in your pocket.
The new Sony Xperia 5 II looks very much like the original Xperia 5. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to notice the difference, even upon close inspection. Sizing seems to be the same, button layout the same, and even the camera elements on the back seem to be the same. The only real difference I see here is that on the camera on the back, it says ZEISS on it and the front display looks a tiny bit different.
Not to say that’s a bad thing because the design of the Sony Xperia 5 II is pretty nice. It’s got curvy edges, rounded corners, and glass on both the front and rear. Like with most Xperia phones, all the buttons are located on the right-hand side. This includes the volume buttons, the combo power-fingerprint reader, camera button, and Google Assistant button. Some people might not like all the buttons on one side, but it does make them easier to reach with just your thumb.
I’ve said this before, but I wish other manufacturers would have a dedicated camera button on their phones like Sony does. It just makes photo-taking more natural and more like a regular camera. The placement of this is perfect in conjunction with where the cameras are located. Holding the phone horizontally very much feels like a point-and-shoot camera.
The Sony Xperia 5 II also brings back the audio jack for those who are still using wired headphones and earbuds. The original Xperia 5 had removed this, but it’s back again like it was on the Xperia 1 II. The speakers on the Xperia 5 II have also been moved where both speakers are now front-facing, making this better for media consumption without headphones.
Lastly, we can always appreciate the fact that the sim/memory card tray can be easily removed with your fingernail. There’s no need for a special sim tool to pop it out. The tray also doubles as a dual sim tray as well.
Overall, the design of the Sony Xperia 5 II is very clean and everything a modern smartphone should look like. While the display isn’t edge-to-edge, I appreciate not having any cameras cut into the display. I also like that the display doesn’t curve out over the edges which can make handling a phone difficult sometimes.
While very similar to the larger Sony Xperia 1 II, there are some differences in specs and hardware. First, let’s list a few of the more notable specs below, and then after we’ll talk about what’s different.
- Google Android 10.0
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform
- 8GB RAM
- 128 GB storage
- 4,000 mAh Battery
- USB Power Delivery (USB PD) fast charging
- 6.1″ CinemaWide Display, FHD+ HDR OLED (2520×1080)
- 120Hz Refresh Rate, 240Hz Motion blur reduction
- 12 MP (24mm) + 12 MP (70mm), OIS + 12 MP (16mm)
- 8MP Selfie Cam
- Stereo Speakers
- Dolby Atmos
- Qualcomm aptX HD audio
- Bluetooth 5.1 wireless technology
- Water-resistant (IP65/68)
- Corning Gorilla Glass 6
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
Performance-wise, you’re looking at the same Qualcomm 865with 8GB RAM. Internal storage is now 128GB UFS however instead of the 256 that was in the Xperia 1 II. Luckily, you can still expand storage up to 1TB with a microSDXC card. What’s also interesting here is that the Sony Xperia 5 II also has a 4000mAh battery despite its smaller size.
One major difference here is the display. While the Sony Zperia 1 II had a 4K display running at only 60Hz, the Sony Xperia 5 II only has a FHD+ HDR display (2520×1080) but is capable of running at 120Hz. You’d be hard-pressed really to see the difference between the 4K display and FHD+ display, but you will notice a significant difference with the refresh rate. Everything here just seems more fluid and smooth with the higher refresh rate
If you’re a fan of wireless charging, you won’t find it here. While the Sony Xperia 1 II had it, the Sony Xperia 5 II doesn’t. Most likely they didn’t have the space for it. While this seems to be a notable omission, I’m sure there are a bunch of you out there who still don’t make use of it and would gladly forgo it for the smaller size.
The Sony Xperia 5 II runs Android 10, but has Sony’s launcher mainly running the show. The main addition to that is called “Side Sense.” Side Sense allows you to double-tap the side of the screen to bring up a shortcut menu with favorite apps, multi-window shortcuts, and other important shortcuts. It’s kind of neat to use, but most likely you’ll have to adjust the placement of the shortcut as well as the sensitivity of how it launches. Side Sense works a little bit better here on the Xperia 5 II and it’s mainly because of the size of the phone. It’s just easier to reach all the shortcuts as this truly is a phone you can use one-handed.
The Sony Launcher also has a Multi-Window feature allowing you to easily use two different apps at once. Only certain apps work though so you’ll have to play around with it to see which ones do and don’t.
The Sony Launcher allows for multiple users which I haven’t really seen to much on other smartphones. I guess this would be good if you had small children who wanted to use the device too, so you would set them up with their own home screen so they don’t go messing around with yours.
The launcher also has landscape mode for the home screen which is interesting, but not generally useful. You can also use all of Android’s new gesture navigations if you choose, or stick to the old three-button navigation bar.
The Sony Launcher might not be to everyone’s liking, but it’s also not terrible either. It’s workable and customizable enough where you should be able to get it to where you like it.
Lastly, while the Sony Xperia 5 II comes with Android 10, it is expected to get Android 11 pretty soon.
The cameras in the Xperia 5 II feature ZEISS optics which it didn’t have last year. There are three rear cameras feature a 16mm, f2.2 lens, a 70mm f2.4 lens, and a 24mm f1.7 lens. Each is mated to a 12MP sensor. The 24mm lens even features 3x optical zoom. This is pretty much the same as the Xperia 1 II, it just doesn’t have the 3D iToF sensor.
In terms of photo quality, it’s mainly what you’d expect from a flagship phone. Quality is good and the Xperia 5 II does a fairly good job with colors, exposure, and white balance. I did notice that focusing was a little off however when trying to snap a photo of something fairly close.
Below are some samples.
Check out more samples here on my Flickr album.
As you can see, the photos are pretty good. Very good quality with lots of detail and colors. I should mention that these are taken in full auto mode as well as the fact that there is no HDR mode you can choose manually. It seems to do it on its own. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results.
I should note that there are two photo apps. The regular camera app works just fine while the Photo Pro app gives you a bit more control over how you take your photos. This functions almost like how a real camera would function so ultimately it’s up to you what you use. Both seem to produce similar quality photos.
Sony has marketed much of the Xperia 5 II towards gaming and rightfully so. The Xperia lineup is the official phone of the Call of Duty: Mobile World Championship Tournament 2020 which is why it comes pre-loaded with the game. I will say that the Xperia 5 II handles games beautifully with no hiccups at all and playing games at 120Hz refresh rate is a joy. It’s very responsive too and the 21:9 screen ratio plays nicely with any game you throw at it.
The smaller size of the phone makes gaming a joy as well as it’s much easier to hold, this goes for both landscape and portrait mode games.
Sony’s software also includes a Game Enhancer which allows for various functions. You can record gameplay, take screenshots, and search for information about the game you’re playing. There’s also a Focus setting where you can hide notifications while you’re playing, lock the navigation bar and adaptive brightness, and disable the camera key. You can even free up available RAM for gaming. Lastly, you’re able to adjust the Game Mode for more performance or better battery life, or anything in-between.
There honestly hasn’t been much in terms of issues. The only thing I can really think of is that the screen isn’t quite as bright as I’d like it to be, mostly when I’m outdoors in bright sun. Indoors, the screen is perfect but when you’re outside, it can be a tad hard to see. This is my only real complaint.
The speakers on the Xperia 5 II are also quite good and having them relocated to the front means you won’t be covering up one of them anymore while holding the phone or gaming. This was a good decision by Sony and hopefully they continue this line of thinking with their future devices as well.
Aside from the screen being too dim in sunlight, everything else is just about perfect. This is one of the best phones that Sony has made. Even though it’s smaller than many new flagships, this is a pint-sized flagship that deserves its shot in the spotlight.
The Sony Xperia 5 II is a near-perfect phone. I like this even more than the larger Xperia 1 II despite not having a 4K display or wireless charging. The Xperia 5 II is just such a joy to hold and use thanks in part to its smaller size. I had forgotten just how nice it was to use a smaller phone and one where I didn’t need two hands to operate.
Aside from the size, the Xperia 5 II was capable of handling any app I threw at it. Performance is great for gaming and the 120Hz display keeps it all running smoothly. While not 100% perfect, it’s near close to it and is one of the best phones I’ve had the pleasure of testing out this year. The only minor negative might be the price. While cheaper than the Xperia 1 II, it’s still a little steep at $949.99. If you can overlook the price however, you’ll find that the Sony Xperia 5 II is a very good phone worthy of a spot at the top.
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