Premium Sony telephones just like the Xperia 5 II are onerous to assessment. They’re made for a really particular demographic — one so particular as to comprise roughly zero % of the market. They’re made for individuals who need each area of interest options like a bodily shutter button and options that was widespread however now aren’t, like headphone jacks, expandable storage, and shows with out notches or hole-punches.

And that is fantastic! For those who’re a member of that subset of a subset of customers, you may most likely just like the Xperia 5 II very a lot. However the telephone prices $950, which, after a barn burner of a 12 months for very competent telephones that value $800, $700, $600, and fewer, is a bitter capsule to swallow. That super-premium pricing plus the corporate’s refusal to assist aggressive options like wi-fi charging and 5G connectivity — more and more widespread even within the mid-range — nearly ensures Sony will not transfer many of those telephones.

Design, {hardware}, what’s within the field

The Xperia 5 II is a really well-built telephone. Its petite 68-millimeter width — narrower than even the pleasantly compact Pixel 4a — and stable building give it a really good really feel within the hand. However being a Sony telephone, it is tall — only a hair shorter than the Samsung Galaxy S20+. I do not know why Sony’s clinging so tightly to the 21:9 show facet ratio; there’s mainly no content material that natively matches it precisely, and that additional half-inch or so of vertical house when viewing an app or web site is not particularly worthwhile. However the smaller the telephone is, the simpler that design quirk is to stay with, and I usually like dealing with the 5 II. The display itself is nice, too: it is a 1080p OLED with a 120Hz refresh price. There are slim bezels on the high and backside of the display to accommodate the selfie digital camera and stereo front-facing audio system.


The selfie digital camera is in a superb old style bezel.

The telephone is a glass sandwich, with a shiny Gorilla Glass 6 rear panel and a cultured aluminum body. That offers it a smooth, premium look, however it additionally makes the telephone exceedingly slippery; it slides off any floor you set it on that is not completely stage. Sony had the foresight to use an oleophobic coating, at the very least, which helps restrict fingerprinting. Nonetheless, shiny glass appears to be on the best way out because the smartphone end du jour, and I will not miss it when it is gone. It is particularly vexing right here as a result of it is fully for present: the Xperia 5 II would not assist wi-fi charging.


The 5 II’s Assistant secret’s considered one of 5 buttons on its proper edge.

On the best edge, there are a whopping 5 buttons: quantity keys, a mixture energy button and fingerprint sensor, a devoted Google Assistant key (which, sadly, cannot be reprogrammed), and a two-stage shutter button. The highest edge has a headphone jack that I want have been on the underside, which homes solely a USB-C port and a microphone. Like many different Sony telephones, the mix SIM and MicroSD tray on the 5 II’s left edge is cleverly engineered to be detachable with out an ejector device, which is a neat contact.

Within the field, there’s the telephone itself and the usual literature, plus an 18-watt USB-C PD brick with a C-to-C cable and a reasonably good pair of three.5-millimeter earbuds.

Software program, efficiency, and battery life

Sony’s telephones do not include any heavy-handed software program elaborations, and I very a lot admire that about them. Outdoors of a customized always-on show, some multitasking options, and an simply disabled “facet sense” menu, you are roughly taking a look at inventory Android 10. There aren’t even any duplicate system apps; Google’s apps are the defaults for many actions. That features the dialer, full with what’s most likely my favourite Pixel function: name screening.

The sunshine customizations Sony does deliver to the desk are fantastic. Facet sense helps you to double-tap a piece on the sting of the display to deliver up a customizable grid of apps and different shortcuts, and you’ll simply change which apps are proven on the highest and backside of your display whereas multitasking. For those who hate these options, facet sense will be disabled, and you’ll simply ignore the extra multitasking choices.

Left, heart: Facet sense. Proper: You’ll be able to simply cycle via which app you need on all sides of multitasking view.

With the tried and true 2020 flagship combo of a Snapdragon 865 and eight gigs of RAM, the Xperia 5 II simply handles multitasking, video games, you title it — it will probably go toe-to-toe with nearly another telephone from the previous 12 months. The 5 II does mainly every little thing you possibly can count on an Android telephone to do with out placing up a fuss.

I say mainly something as a result of it is lacking one function you’d count on out of an 865-equipped system: just like the Xperia 1 II earlier than it, regardless of packing all the required {hardware}, the 5 II lacks the certifications required to function on 5G networks. For those who’re shopping for a telephone at this time that you simply intention to maintain for 2 or three or extra years, you are going to need 5G by the top of its lifespan. Performance apart, this telephone begins at an MSRP of $950, and never wringing each doable ounce of potential out of its {hardware} is sort of insulting. There are $400 telephones with 5G.

Fortuitously, even with the show set to 120Hz, battery life is stable. Most cost cycles noticed me via about six hours of display time, which, throughout stay-at-home life, is fairly comfortably two days of mixed-use for me. For those who bumped the refresh price right down to 60 and babied it, I would not be shocked for those who might squeeze eight display hours out of the Xperia 5 II’s 4,000 mAh cell. It helps wired charging at as much as 21 watts by way of Energy Supply 3.0 and comes with an 18-watt USB-C energy brick. It would not assist wi-fi charging, although, which at this worth level is patently ridiculous.

Cameras

Sony makes the digital camera modules in tons of telephones from varied producers, together with these present in Pixel telephones. It additionally makes a number of the greatest DSLR and mirrorless cameras you should buy. With these imaging chops, you’d count on images from its flagship telephones to blow you away.

And the photographs the Xperia 5 II kicks out are fairly good! With sufficient mild, element is sharp, and colours are pretty correct (if a contact under-saturated), particularly from the first digital camera. Low-light photographs are fairly spectacular, too, even when they take only a beat too lengthy to seize.

However the Xperia 5 II is not fairly in the identical league because the leaders in cellular pictures, the Pixel and the iPhone — and each the Pixel 5 and the iPhone 12 begin at costs nicely beneath the 5 II’s. That is to say nothing of the even-less-expensive Pixel 4a and iPhone 12 Mini, which additionally outclass Sony.


Sony’s low-light mode is sluggish, however it captured a whole lot of mild on this shot taken in a principally darkish room.

Sony tries to distinguish itself right here with the inclusion of each a two-stage shutter button and a reasonably feature-rich guide pictures mode. Now, I am no stranger to Actual Images™; I shoot utilizing an interchangeable-lens mirrorless digital camera with guide settings on a regular basis. However after taking part in round with the mode, I am at a loss as to who it is actually for.

You’ll be able to set a bunch of parameters like focus, ISO, publicity, and white steadiness by hand. It may be enjoyable to device round with, and it does allow some artsy photographs you would not be capable to get on auto, however the concept that this function is a promoting level — one thing that makes the 5 II price lots of of {dollars} greater than similarly-equipped competitors — is simply foolish. I am unable to think about any skilled photographer goes to purchase this telephone and use it for work, and the truth that it is so costly negates any worth it may need had as a instructing device for budding shutterbugs.


Photograph Professional, Sony’s guide mode.

I am not down on the thought of a guide mode on precept, however it’s not a motive to purchase this telephone over another. In case your high precedence is a Sony digital camera that matches in your pocket, you may decide up a used late-model RX100 for lower than the value of an Xperia 5 II, and it will take higher images.

Do you have to purchase it?

In a vacuum, the Xperia 5 II is an efficient telephone: it is nicely constructed, it is a sturdy performer, and it takes good images. For those who like compact units, it is actually a greater telephone than the Xperia 1 II, which had a 60Hz show and an are-you-serious $1,199 MSRP. However I would not purchase it.

It is unimaginable to evaluate a telephone’s worth with out evaluating it to options. If it’d gotten the 5G certifications, jammed a wi-fi charging coil in there, and knocked $100 or so off the value tag, Sony might’ve had a winner on its fingers right here. However in a world the place you will get a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE for $699, or an iPhone 12 Mini for $729, or a OnePlus 8 Professional for $799, charging $949 for the Xperia 5 II is bananas. These telephones take fantastic images, too, carry out in addition to or higher than the 5 II, they usually all have 5G and wi-fi charging — which ought to actually be givens in any system north of $600 by now. With the Xperia 5 II (and, to a lesser extent, the Xperia 1 II), Sony was near constructing a telephone that may fulfill each the area of interest viewers that is come to fervently love its units and mainstream high-end smartphone customers, however it selected not to try this, for causes I am unable to start to guess.

For those who worth the precise mixture of the 5 II’s distinctive options like its tall, slim physique, bodily shutter button, uninterrupted show, and headphone jack, stay your reality and decide one up. On its face, it is undoubtedly not a foul telephone. However contemplating the corners that have been reduce relative to similarly-equipped options, I am unable to actually advocate it at $949.

Purchase it if:

  • Its precise function set speaks to you.
  • You catch a superb sale.

Do not buy it if:

  • You count on all the fashionable bells and whistles.
  • You’ll be able to stay and not using a headphone jack and a shutter button.

The place to purchase:

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