Sony Xperia 5 II review - Do not be fooled by its name, the Xperia 5 II (pronounced "Five Mark Two") is the little brother of the Xperia 1 II , the Sony flagship launched in early 2020. Marketed at $ 1093, this device also belongs to the category of high-end smartphones. It differs in particular by its more compact format and its screen with a refresh rate of 120 Hz. Its triple camera module, very versatile, is also highlighted by the Japanese manufacturer.
For two weeks, we made the Xperia 5 II our main smartphone. We tried to understand why Sony represents less than 1% of the mobile market today and, above all, if this difficult situation forces it to lower its quality requirements.
A format close to perfection
When we unboxed the Xperia 5 II, we were first won over by its format. Very narrow (6.8 centimeters), the Sony smartphone is extremely pleasant to use. Its rounded edges conform perfectly to the curve of the palm of your hand while its weight, at just 163 grams, makes it much lighter than most of the other mobiles released in 2020. It's pleasant.
To achieve this feat, Sony has simply reiterated a formula that has been unique to it for several generations, the long design. Measuring 6.1 inches diagonally, the Xperia 5 II's screen has a 21: 9 ratio, which is quite rare on the market (19: 5 is the most common).
As a result, the smartphone displays almost as much information as larger smartphones… in a format that is less tiring to hold. We really love it, even if, logically, not all the content is suitable.
16: 9 or 18: 9 videos, for example, leave large black bands on the sides, while some games do not support this format.
Another unfortunate point is that there are still massive physical borders at the top and bottom of the screen. Not very serious for a high-end mobile.
Full HD + definition rather than 4K (unlike the Xperia 1 II), the 6.1-inch screen of the Xperia 5 II is not among the best on the market, according to our laboratory tests. Its maximum brightness is only 541 cd / m 2 which is not really up to a device at $ 1095. In some scenarios, such as outdoors in the summer, you may have difficulty reading certain content on your screen. Another disappointing point, the color fidelity is far from the best on the market (Delta E by default of 4.62, Delta E in designer mode of 2.93). Fortunately, the use of an OLED panel saves the honor. The contrast ratio is almost infinite, which makes the screen sumptuous when a dark background is in the spotlight.
New to the Xperia 5 II over the Xperia 1 II, Sony is finally getting to the 120Hz refresh rate, like most high-end Android smartphone makers in 2020. However, we still feel like the Japanese manufacturer is not very proud of this characteristic, which it considers undoubtedly too greedy in energy.
120 Hz is an option hidden in the settings, not at all highlighted. We imagine that Sony does not want you to activate it but still offers it to respond to critics and really tech-savvy users.
A not always grandiose experience
Equipped with Qualcomm's powerful, high-end Snapdragon 865 processor, the Xperia 5 II is, on paper, a smartphone that shouldn't miss a thing. Unfortunately, and without being able to explain it very precisely, something is missing. This little extra that OnePlus, Pixel or even Samsung smartphones have is not present on the Xperia 1 II.
The system animations are not the most incredible, the settings are very basic, there are some funny preinstalled applications (Amazon, Sony Music, Game Optimizer) and, finally, we get bored very quickly of this smartphone.
Some amazing bugs, like the brightness that goes down by itself during GPS navigation, are also frustrating. We have the impression that Sony was content to use great components without really caring for the user experience which, once again, is not up to a smartphone at 899 euros.
Fortunately, all is not bad on this Xperia, far from it. The device performs very well in games, has a well-designed multi-window mode (the 21: 9 screen allows you to use two apps at the same time) and displays nice technical characteristics.
IP68 water resistance, super stereo speakers, expandable 128 GB storage, dual SIM port that can be removed with your fingernails (no need to look for a paperclip to change SIM card, which will delight frequent travelers post-pandemic)… The Xperia 5 II is pretty cool. Too bad its software is sometimes a little too reduced to a minimum.
Last regrettable point, at the time of writing this test, the Xperia 5 II runs Android 10 and is not yet compatible with Android 11, the latest version of Google's operating system. This phenomenon is a good illustration of the problem faced by Sony smartphones today. They are no longer the priority, which pushes the manufacturer to meet less serious deadlines. Too bad. The user experience is once again taking a hit.
Five buttons and a jack
In the smartphone world, the trend is to do away with buttons and ports. At Sony, it's the other way around. In addition to two buttons to control the volume and a power button (which also serves as a fingerprint sensor), the Xperia 5 II has two additional side keys, to the right of the screen. One is used to call Google Assistant, the other to take pictures. This last touch mimics the operation of certain cameras and leaves you some play to allow you to focus. A deep click takes the photo. It's quite funny.
Another welcome point, in addition to a USB Type-C port, the Xperia 5 II has a jack. This should delight audiophiles, an audience known to be Sony fans.
Finally, autonomy to match
After an Xperia 1 II frankly not very enduring, Sony is finally raising the bar. By default (that is, without touching the settings, which means that the screen refresh rate remains at 60 Hz), the device withstood 16:12 in our versatile battery life test, which is very satisfying. In video streaming (12:43) and in communication (11:55), the smartphone has also proved tough.
There is really the best at the Japanese manufacturer as long as you do not switch to 120 Hz where, logically, we lose a few hours. In use, we finished each day around 30%, which still required us to recharge it for the next day.
On the other hand, despite using a battery with a relatively small capacity of 4000 mAh, the smartphone recharges very slowly. The 1h57 required to fully charge it is not at all in line with the rest of the high-end market, closer to half an hour than two hours. In 10 minutes, we still recover 17%. It is after that the smartphone slows down.
A versatile triple camera module without magic
On the back of the Xperia 5 II, Sony is proud to remind you that the camera modules of its smartphones are designed in partnership with Zeiss. The smartphone has a 16 mm equivalent (ultra wide-angle), a 24 mm equivalent (main camera) and a 70 mm equivalent (telephoto lens with x3 zoom). All are attached to 12 Mpix sensors but only the main sensor has an aperture large enough for better night photos (f / 1.7 aperture). Unfortunately, there is still no dedicated night mode.
Let's be clear, the photos of the Xperia 5 II are not bad, far from it. However, here again they lack magic. A Pixel 4a at $ 424 does better in 90% of situations thanks to its software improvements. Here, we are often disappointed by the final rendering, much too bland.
Another regrettable point is that the ultra-fast development desired by Sony more often leads to difficulties of use than to real advantages for the user. We are often forced to refocus a second time, the smartphone having done anything.
Lucky for him, the Xperia 5 II is saved by its versatility. Its triple camera module is terribly efficient and gives you a real ultra wide angle and a real zoom, which not all smartphones do.
Their quality can once again be improved (especially at night) but Sony's offer is more than honest. There is still a pro camera mode that allows you to vary all the settings. Photographers will appreciate it, but do they really use this smartphone?
We also criticize the Camera application for lacking ease of use compared to those of the competition. The portrait mode and the button to take a selfie are for example put at the same level as the flash or the settings, they are not easily found.