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Sony Xperia 5 II Review: Unconventional Smartphone With Lots To Offer!

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Following a few months on from the arrival of the Sony Xperia 1 II, the Sony Xperia 5 II is a smaller, more affordable flagship phone that manages to retain most of its bigger sibling’s advantages. And yes, it still has a headphone jack.

As with its predecessor, the Xperia 5 II is a uniquely shaped device; Sony have kept the same 21:9 aspect ratio, but shrunk the screen down to 6.1 inches. It’s certainly easier to hold than the Xperia 1 II, which carried a 6.5-inch display, however it’s long enough that some will likely still find the same problems using the full range of the screen with one hand. That being said, it’s definitely more ergonomic than behemoths like the iPhone 11 Pro Max; the location of the fingerprint sensor on the right edge of the phone, for example, is a nice touch – right-handed users will find it sits where you’d naturally rest your thumb. Or at least that’s what I assume…I’m left-handed.

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And while the display is smaller than the Xperia 1 II, that doesn’t mean Sony has compromised on quality. The 450ppi screen offers one of the highest density displays on the market, and, in a first for Sony, the Xperia 5 II comes with a market-leading 120Hz refresh rate, although the 4K display found on the Xperia 1 II is missing here. At first I did wonder whether the unorthodox aspect ratio would change how videos looked in full screen, but I needn’t have worried – the sharp colours and incredibly smooth scrolling make this phone a pleasure to use, whether you’re on YouTube, playing games or doom-scrolling through Twitter.

As well as the display, the Xperia 5 II really goes all-in on audio. The phone comes with Dolby Atmos, front-facing speakers and a function where the phone can add vibrations in time with the audio for an ‘immersive sound experience’. This is actually pretty cool when listening to bass-heavy music, and, once you combine the audio quality with the high spec display, you’ve got the ideal phone for watching movies and tv shows. So if you spend a lot of time watching Netflix or playing Final Fantasy on your phone, this device has pretty much everything you could ask for.

That being said, some users might find a few of these features slightly redundant when it comes to everyday usage. I’d take a guess that most people don’t necessarily have their phone in their hands when listening to music, especially in the wireless age, and watching movies on smaller screens isn’t for everyone, so I did wonder how much practical use you’d get out of features like immersive vibration once it was no longer a novelty.

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In reality, the audio vibration is much more suited to gaming, and as you’d expect from the company behind PlayStation, there’s plenty here aimed at enhancing your gaming experience. The phone comes with PS5 and Call of Duty apps preloaded, as well as a Game Enhancer app which can be used to adjust the screen’s refresh rate to an equivalent of 250Hz and toggle between microphones and speakers. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the phone is explicitly aimed at a gaming market, but it’s clear that many of its key features – high quality display, immersive audio, efficient battery usage – lend themselves to mobile gaming. And with Sony needing to draw people away from the big smartphone names, leaning into their gaming reputation is probably not a bad idea.

To that end, there are signs that Sony is looking how its smartphones could operate as a lynchpin within its wider ecosystem of products – as well as the various gaming apps, the Xperia 5 II also comes with an Imaging Edge app that facilitates wireless image transfers and photo editing, clearly with more than one eye on compatibility with the company’s own DSLR cameras.

That being said, the Xperia 5 II has a seriously powerful camera of its own – an understated triple-lens setup on the rear offers three 12MP cameras – a main 24mm lens, an ultra-wide with a 16mm lens, and a 70mm telephoto sensor for 3x optical zoom. It can shoot 120 fps for 4K video, while the 8mp front camera also does the trick for selfies. The camera setup goes all in on customisation with PhotoPro and CinemaPro enabling users to sort out their own photography modes. These apps are clearly designed for people who know their way around manual photography setups, and the three different lenses take perfectly good shots in automatic mode as well. I spent a morning messing about various setups while out on a walk and felt the results spoke for themselves, while it handles night photography just as impressively. Oh, and there’s a cute nod to the classic point-and-shoot camera as well, with a button on the bottom right of the screen doubling up as a shutter when taking photos in landscape.

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Considering the cutting-edge specs I’ve run through already, some of the hardware choices made by Sony when it comes to this phone look comparatively old-school. There are some very noticeable forehead and chin bezels housing the selfie camera and front-facing speakers, and the company has resisted peer pressure by persisting with the headphone jack. Those of us used to phones with waterfall displays may also find the wider edges noticeable at first, but in this regard the Xperia 5 II display is more in line with where other brands are heading.

Perhaps the most glaring way in which the Xperia 5 II bucks the general smartphone trend is with the lack of wireless charging. The phone comes with NFC and even has built-in 5G, but there’s no wireless charging to speak of. Given how many top specs the phone packs in, it seems like this was likely a necessary sacrifice to keep the phone’s price in line with other flagship models. Nevertheless, the 4,000mAh wired charging does the job, charging with the in-the-box cable in under an hour and coming with the latest Android battery management technology. I comfortably got through a day and a half between charges, which is impressive given the demands of some of the features.

The phone uses a Snapdragon 865 processor with 8GB of RAM, and has more than enough power to breeze through everyday use, seemingly without putting strain on the battery. In terms of storage, you can choose between 128Gb and 256Gb, and there’s also a microSD port for additional storage if you need it.

As with the best Android phones, the system and display is infinitely customisable – you get as much as you put into it – although some of the more advanced features, including gesture control, are buried deep in the settings menus, so it helps if you know where to look. Sony has stayed with its own UI and there are a few unique apps, but on the whole they’ve stuck with most of the tried and tested Google apps.

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As Sony looks to return from the smartphone wilderness with its latest launches, this new offering doesn’t disappoint – aside from wireless charging you’d be hard-pressed to find something the Xperia 5 II doesn’t do just as well as the big-name brands. However, high spec phones come at a price, and this one carries a $799 price tag – the same ballpark as the iPhone 11. As a result, it’s hard to see Sony poaching any fans from Apple and Samsung on value, and it remains to be seen whether the genuine smartphone credentials Sony can rightly boast with the Xperia 5 II will actually cut through to the average buyer.

Still, if you know what you’re looking for when it comes to smartphone specs, and especially if you’re into mobile gaming and videos, then this might just be the ideal phone for you.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Topics: Technology, Review, smartphone, Sony

Hannah Smith
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