Sony Xperia 5 II review: the right tool for the right jobs

More than every other smartphone I’ve used this yr, the Sony Xperia 5 II looks like a tool. It’s not simply that it has a really understated design (although this positively performs a component), it’s that Sony’s complete method is to provide you as a lot management over the telephone as potential. Control over the way it appears to be like, and sounds, and takes images and video.

Like any tool, although, you get extra out of the Xperia 5 II once you’re ready to place extra in. A very good workman by no means blames their instruments, in spite of everything. But I’d wager that the majority people who find themselves paying $949 (£799 / €899) for a telephone are most likely trying for a tool that’s ready to fulfill them midway, and might deal with most jobs on default or automated settings. That’s what I need to see if the Xperia 5 II can accomplish.

The Xperia 5 II goes on sale on December 4th in the US, and is out there in Europe from this week.

I can not overstate how a lot I like the Xperia 5 II’s design. The mixture of Sony’s trademark 21:9 side ratio with a barely smaller 6.1-inch show in comparison with the bigger Xperia 1, makes for a pleasantly slender telephone that matches in the hand properly with out feeling cramped to make use of. This display screen is simply 1080p this time round, however at this dimension I don’t assume you’re left wanting further decision.

At the high and backside of the show you’ll discover bezels a bit larger than many different flagships choose for as of late, and which means there are not any notches or hole-punch cutouts to talk of. You get a stereo pair of succesful front-facing audio system which sound much less echoey than their downward-firing rivals.

Up high you’ll discover a headphone jack, which is a good inclusion and virtually exceptional in a premium-priced smartphone as of late, and round again there’s an understated digicam bump housing the telephone’s principal, ultrawide, and telephoto lenses. If you need a telephone that’s assured to not flip heads then that is most likely it. Like I stated, it’s a tool.

Plus a headphone jack up high.

As properly as quantity controls and a side-mounted energy and fingerprint sensor combo button, there are each devoted digicam shutter and Google Assistant buttons on the aspect of the telephone. Given Sony’s images ambitions for the 5 II, I’ll permit it the bodily shutter management, however the Google Assistant button feels pointless — particularly ready that’s too low to be handy to press.

The Xperia 5 II’s display screen’s side ratio makes it arduous to succeed in the high of the display screen when utilizing it one-handed, however you get much more helpful display screen actual property throughout many apps like Twitter or Gmail. Personally, I like that it provides me sufficient house to split-screen my Aeropress recipe generator app with a stopwatch app for making espresso, however I’m most likely the just one doing that. Beyond its side ratio, the HDR-compatible OLED display screen is shiny, colourful, and a pleasure to observe movies on, and its 120Hz refresh price means it feels easy and responsive to make use of.

Internally, except for the increasingly-rare microSD storage growth, you’ll discover a typical array of specs for the value, together with a Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage (there’s additionally a 256GB model, however it’s unique to Asia), and a 4,000mAh battery. There’s no assist for wi-fi charging, an annoying omission at this value, and when you’re shopping for the telephone in the US then there’s additionally no assist for 5G (in Europe you get sub-6GHz assist, however no millimeter wave).

Given the state of 5G protection at the second, our recommendation tends to be that it’s not price paying further for 5G if a cheaper telephone in any other case matches your wants. But on the flip aspect, when you’re paying $949 for a telephone at this level in 2020, then it appears a bit ridiculous for it to to not assist 5G. The telephone has the specs to deal with most of the jobs you’re going to want it for right now, however no 5G in the US means it may quickly fall behind.

I didn’t encounter any battery issues with the Xperia 5 II. The telephone simply obtained me via a day of working from house that includes loads of Twitter, Slack, Gmail, and YouTube use, with round 40 to 50 % of cost left once I plugged it in at evening.

Sony’s tackle Android 10 is restrained, and primarily consists of supplying you with further settings to tweak. (The firm was unable to substantiate when an replace to Android 11 would possibly arrive.) Sony provides you a wild quantity of management over the telephone show’s white steadiness settings, for instance, and there’s a Dolby Atmos EQ menu in the settings if you wish to tune how the telephone’s audio sounds. There’s lots you possibly can customise to make the Xperia 5 II the right tool for your wants.

I wasn’t a fan of the variety of apps that come preinstalled on the telephone, nevertheless. That contains apps like LinkedIn which may be disabled however not simply uninstalled. It’s particularly annoying when a lot of the Xperia 5 II is designed to place management into your arms.


There’s one too many buttons on the telephone’s right aspect.


A 21:9 show provides you extra choices for split-screening.

Sony’s method to smartphone images is twofold. First, when left to its personal units, it tends to prioritize accuracy over vivid, colourful pictures. That usually ends in a much less punchy trying picture than you get from most telephones, however you possibly can all the time tweak the picture in enhancing after the reality.

If you need to absolutely do issues your personal means, Sony can also be ready to allow you to. Its professional images mode provides you enormous quantities of management over how you are taking images, supplying you with an expertise modeled after its standalone mirrorless Alpha cameras. There are numerous controls to dig into if you’d like them, however they could really feel too concerned for somebody who simply needs to level their telephone at a gaggle of associates and get a pleasant {photograph}.

First, although, let’s discuss {hardware}. The Xperia 5 II contains three rear cameras; a principal digicam with a big 1/1.7-inch sensor, an ultrawide digicam with a 124-degree subject of view, and a telephoto with 3x optical zoom. What’s good right here is that all of them have the similar decision, 12 megapixels, which suggests you don’t see a marked change intimately once you change between them.

In daylight you get detailed pictures, however these can typically look a bit flat. It’s accuracy over pleasure. Weirdly, the exception to this appears to be folks, the place Sony’s handset appears to need to brighten your pores and skin and easy it out, even with the digicam’s “Soft Skin Effect” possibility turned off. Even when you’re utilizing the normal digicam app, you continue to get a responsive eye auto-focus system, and burst capturing of as much as 10fps. I discovered the mixture of quick eye-tracked autofocus and burst images nice for photographing pets specifically.

Low mild images is the place Sony’s method to images is most blatant. By default, the digicam app gained’t brighten your evening pictures a lot that they appear to be they had been taken in daylight. Instead, you get correct images that the digicam takes a second to course of every time. It’s a really completely different expertise from a telephone like the Pixel 4, the place you possibly can faucet the shutter button and instantly get a transparent, shiny photograph, even at evening.


The professional images mode provides you a wealth of controls.

Swap over to the superior images mode and a complete wealth of choices opens up. There are white steadiness, auto-focus, publicity, burst capturing, flash, and HDR settings aplenty, letting you management virtually each side of your images. It’s sufficient you can get nearly any look for your images when you’re ready to place the work in, together with making evening pictures look clear as day. But the complete course of is usually a little concerned, and it’s irritating when you’re somebody who simply needs to whip out their telephone and reliably get a crisp, clear shot each time.

You get the same stage of management on the subject of filming video, the place you have got the possibility of recording at as much as 120fps slow-motion in 4K. I used to be notably impressed with the focus pulling settings, that are enjoyable to mess around with. For the most half, although, I feel most individuals will probably be proud of recording video in the common digicam app.

You can get good pictures out of the Sony Xperia 5 II, however you typically should work to get them to look the means you need. Its cameras are highly effective instruments, however they’re not going to do the work for you.


It’s not a telephone that’ll flip heads.


It may be arduous to succeed in the high of the display screen when utilizing the telephone one-handed.

Sony has a really explicit thought about the type of telephone it needs the Xperia 5 II to be. Although it matches a lot of its flagship rivals by way of specs, its most attention-grabbing options encompass the quantity of management it provides you. There are superior digicam options and audio visible modes to actually tailor the expertise to your wants.

But I feel it’s a must to need these superior settings to justify the Xperia 5 II’s comparatively excessive $949 price ticket in the US. At that value it ought to actually embody 5G assist in addition to wi-fi charging. These trade-offs is likely to be extra worthwhile at a lower cost, however not with a near-thousand-dollar price ticket. In Europe I feel the €899 / £799 value makes much more sense given you get 5G assist, however the lack of wi-fi charging stays.

Sony’s Xperia 5 II looks like a really succesful tool, however it’s costly and typically makes you’re employed to get the most out of it. That makes it the right tool for loads of jobs, however not essentially the right tool for a smartphone’s job.

Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge


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