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Sony Xperia 5 II review

The Sony Xperia 5 II features great specs and ZEISS optical technology – but how does it perform when put to the test?

Sony Xperia 5 II review
(Image: © Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

Our Verdict

Sony's latest offering is the Sony Xperia 5 II, an easy-to-hold body packed with plenty of great high end tech. Featuring ZEISS optical technology, a long-lasting battery and a gorgeous top-quality screen, the Sony Xperia 5 II is a strong contender in the increasingly competitive smartphone market.

For

  • Great for photography enthusiasts
  • Beautiful high-quality display
  • First Sony phone with 120Hz refresh rate screen

Against

  • Quite expensive
  • Confusing array of buttons
  • Real-time Eye AF could focus quicker

The Sony Xperia 5 II is the latest smartphone offering from Sony, following up from the previous generation, the Sony Xperia 5. The original Xperia 5 showed promise, offering an interesting counterpart to the flagship Sony Xperia 1 line with some great camera features in a smaller body. However, we found that the Xperia 5 didn't quite offer the value for money that we would have liked to have seen. 

Fast forward a year and the Sony Xperia 5 II has appeared, offering an upgraded chipset and camera. However, while the specs may have taken an encouraging leap forward, so has the price. 

Just as in the previous generations, the new Sony Xperia 5 II has inherited some of the most interesting features from the recent Sony Xperia 1 II and placed them in a smaller body. However, there are a few specific differences that might sway potential customers in one way or the other. While the Xperia 1 II features a 4K display, the Xperia 5 II only has a Full HD Plus screen. However, on the other hand, this is actually the first Sony phone to feature a screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. This means that games are smoother and makes scrolling through apps a more responsive experience. 

So, is the Sony Xperia 5 II worth the $799 / £699 price tag, or should users shy away from investing their hard-earned cash on this latest Sony phone release? We've put it to the test to find out.

(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

Sony Xperia 5 II: Specifications

Dimensions: 159 x 68 x 8mm
Weight: 163g
Display size: 6.1" 21:9 CinemaWide display
Display resolution: FHD+ HDR OLED 2,520 x 1,080
Camera: ZEISS quality lenses with ZEISS T+ Coating, Triple camera unit with 12MP 24mm f/1.7 , 12MP 70mm f/2.4 and 12MP 16mm f/2.2, 8MP f/2.0 front camera
RAM: 8GB
Internal memory: 128GB/ 256GB
External memory: microSDXC support up to 1TB
OS: Android 10
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G
Battery capacity: 4,000mAh

(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

Sony Xperia 5 II: Build and handling

At 6.1", the Sony Xperia 5 II offers a smaller profile than the 6.5" screen of the Sony Xperia 1 II. However, it does retain the cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio display, which makes the phone itself feel fairly small in your hand – even though you still have quite a bit of screen to play with. 

The phone itself feels pleasant to hold – not too heavy, but sufficiently weighty enough to not feel like it'll fly out of your hand at a moment's notice. It has four buttons on the right hand side of the phone, including conjoined volume buttons, a lock button complete with a fingerprint scanner, a Google Assistant button and a camera shutter button. 

The amount of buttons can make the side feel a little busy, especially when you're still getting used to the phone and you can't quite remember which button does what. This is something that users will eventually get used to, but we do wonder why Sony didn't place a couple of the buttons on the other side of the phone to balance it out. 

The fingerprint scanner on the lock button works well, as we didn't have any trouble unlocking the phone at any point. We also liked the camera shutter button as well, as it brought an extra ergonomic flair to the phone. Being able to feel a physical button underneath your fingertips does give a certain amount of reassurance that doesn't quite exist with an on-screen shutter button.

Meanwhile, the bottom of the phone features a USB-C charging port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which will please users who missed the jack on the previous Xperia 5 generation. 

The Sony Xperia 5 II is water-resistant to a depth of 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes with an IP65/68 rating. It also features Corning Gorilla Glass, which should help keep the phone protected. 

Sony Xperia 5 II: Camera

One of the most interesting additions to the Sony Xperia 5 II is the triple camera unit with ZEISS imaging technology. With the success of the Sony Alpha camera line, it's not surprising that Sony wants to capitalize on being the only company producing both cameras and smartphones. 

The Sony Xperia 5 II has three rear cameras, including a 16mm f/2.2 12MP super wide angle, a 70mm f/2.4 12MP telephoto and a 24mm f/1.7 12MP wide angle. It's interesting that Sony isn't trying to chase the massive megapixel counts of other photography-focused camera phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro. While certainly headline-grabbing, an 108MP camera phone doesn't necessarily mean that you'll get better image quality than a 12MP camera phone – especially if the physical size of the sensor doesn't increase. 

Rather than focusing on megapixel counts, Sony has instead turned its attention to using ZEISS T* coating for reduced reflection on the lens elements of the cameras. This is designed to help reduce reflections and improve contrast. Another exciting aspect of the Sony Xperia 5 II's rear camera unit is the Real-time Eye AF, which is capable of working on both humans and animals. This is designed to automatically focus on the eyes, even if one eye is covered or the person is moving quickly.

We enjoyed using the Sony Xperia 5 II's rear camera, finding that all three lenses captured sharp and colorful images. We were particularly impressed by the HDR technology that the phone employed – as seen in the photo below. 

(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

Many 'proper' cameras would struggle to get the correct exposure in this kind of lighting condition. While the Sony Xperia 5 II will be employing HDR technology to achieve this effect (and 'proper' cameras don't tend to use technology like this), lesser phones wouldn't be able to capture detail in the sunlight and detail in the shadowed foreground plant.

However, we got slightly more mixed results when testing out the Real-time Eye AF. We found that the camera was able to accurately detect the eyes of our subject (occasionally switching to the entire face at some points). However, this didn't seem to necessarily translate into achieving an accurate focus. Essentially, the camera would place an AF box over the subject's eye, but we'd have to wait longer for it to actually focus correctly.

In most situations, this wouldn't necessarily be a problem. However, if you were photographing a fast-moving subject, such as a pet or a small toddler, then you might find that the phone will struggle to keep up. 

See the difference between the ultra wide angle, wide angle and telephoto lenses below.

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The Sony Xperia 5 II's ultra wide camera

The Sony Xperia 5 II's ultra wide camera (Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)
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The Sony Xperia 5 II's wide camera

The Sony Xperia 5 II's wide camera (Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)
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The Sony Xperia 5 II's telephoto camera

The Sony Xperia 5 II's telephoto camera (Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

Sony Xperia 5 II: Performance

While the Sony Xperia 5 II might have seemingly missed out on Qualcomm's top-of-the-line chipset, the Snapdragon 865 5G does offer plenty of power to keep the Xperia 5 II chugging along nicely. We found that the Xperia 5 II was able to open and load apps quickly, with no experience of any lagging.

The Sony Xperia 5 II has the same 4,000mAh battery that the Xperia 1 II has, which provides plenty of power to see you through the day. While the 5 II doesn't have the same wireless charging capabilities as its larger counterpart, it does feature 18W fast-charging that is able to get the phone to 50% charge in just 30 minutes with the charger supplied in the box (the Xperia 5 II also supports 21W fast charging as well, but a separate charger would need to be purchased for this). 

Sony Xperia 5 II: Sample Gallery

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(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)
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(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)
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(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)
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(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)
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(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

Sony Xperia 5 II: Verdict

If you're a photographer who's also looking for a strong camera performance from your phone as well, then the Sony Xperia 5 II might just be the phone for you. There are plenty of manual controls that users can experiment with to create the perfect exposure – but the auto settings are also pretty impressive too.

However, even if you're not too fussed about having a tip top smartphone camera, the Sony Xperia 5 II is still a great phone that packs a punch. If you've been interested in the Sony Xperia 1 II, but have been put off by the size, then you might also find your interest piqued by the Xperia 5 II. Its smaller size means that you can more easily stow it away in your pocket, compared to larger phones. 

The one area where potential customers might be put off is the price. While it's cheaper than its larger counterpart, the Xperia 1 II, the Sony Xperia 5 II's $799 / £699 price tag still makes it quite the investment. However, we would say that the standard of specs that you get for the price makes the Xperia 5 II good value for money. 

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