our full review and all our impressions of the smartphone

If you are looking for a small and powerful smartphone, you have little choice. Apple recently unveiled the iPhone 12 Mini. And on Android? There is the Xperia 5 II, successor to the Xperia 5 and worthy heir to the Xperia Compact. Based on the Xperia 1 II datasheet, it’s more of a gaming-oriented smartphone, according to Sony. Is it credible? Answer in this comprehensive test.

Earlier this year, we released the full review of the Xperia 1 II (known as the “Mark 2”, similar to Alpha cameras), Sony’s very high-end smartphone for the start of the year. Successor of the Xperia 1, this flagship has shown very good qualities, as much in terms of photo, screen and power. We gave it a very good rating (but not the maximum rating either) because its battery life was still not there, despite a nice improvement.

Read also – Apple iPhone 12 test: the worthy heir

A few months later, Sony put the cover back with the Xperia 5 II. Successor of the Xperia 5, it takes up the concept: a smaller Xperia 1, just as nervous, based on a very similar technical sheet. It’s obviously not the same, of course, but she retains the gist of it. Same chipset. Almost the same camera equipment. As much RAM and as much storage. A less precise screen, but more fluid. And, above all, the same battery promises better battery life. Thanks to these attributes, Sony says the Xperia 5 II is perfect for gaming. Is that so ?

This is a very ambitious promise. Faced with this observation, we will therefore answer three questions in this test. Can we really play with this smarphone? And does this smartphone offer a better grip than a gaming smartphone (the ROG Phone 3 for example)? And should you buy the Xperia 5 II if you are not gaming? Because video games aren’t everything!

Technical sheet

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Sony Xperia 5 II
Dimensions 158 x 68 x 8 mm
Weight 163 g
Screen 6.1 inch OLED
21: 9
449 ppi
1080 x 2520 pixels
Corning Gorilla Glass 6
120 Hz
HDR
Chipset Snapdragon 865 (7nm)
BONE Android 10
RAM 8 GB
Storage 256 GB
microSD Yes
Main sensor 12 MP wide angle f / 2.2
12 MP f / 1.7
12 MP telefoto f / 2.4
Carl Zeiss optics
Secondary sensor 8 MP
Drums 4000 mAh
Fast charge 21 watts
5G Yes
Connectivity 3.5mm jack
NFC
WiFi 6
Bluetooth 5.1
USB 3.1 type-C
Biometrics Edge fingerprint scanner
Water resistance IP 68

Price and availability

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The Xperia 5 II is already available. It has been marketed since October 16. Its price is 899 euros. It is therefore marketed 300 euros less than the Xperia 1 II. But it is sold 100 euros more than the Xperia 5. This price difference is, in our opinion, a consequence of the integration of the Snapdragon 865. Indeed, Qualcomm requires manufacturers to buy a 5G modem with this chipset, which was not the case with the Snapdragon 855.

The consequence of this price increase is twofold. First, the Xperia 5 II is one of the direct competitors of the iPhone 12 Mini (859 euros in 128 GB version, 979 euros in 256 GB version). Then, the Xperia 5 II will face competition from some very aggressive high-end smartphones. We’re talking about the OnePlus 8T of course, but also Xiaomi’s Mi 10T Pro 5G and Asus’ ZenFone 7 Pro. All are sold between 699 and 799 euros with a similar configuration.

The Xperia 5 II will also face competition from recent Chinese brands such as Oppo (Reno4 Pro) and Vivo (X51). But these slightly cheaper models are also less powerful.

Design

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The Xperia 5 II largely incorporates the new design language initiated by the Xperia 1 of 2019. Beautiful OLED panel on the front with rounded corners. Two borders, at the top and at the bottom of the screen, to house certain technical components, in particular the two front speakers. Flat back at the back with the photo module. Mineral glass and metal to form the dress. Once again, Sony is offering a very elegant product here.

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Almost all the technical elements are placed in the same places between the Xperia 1 and the Xperia 5. Power button (with integrated fingerprint reader), volume control and photo shutter on the right. SIM drawer on the left. 3.5mm jack port and secondary microphone at the top. USB Type-C port and main microphone at the bottom. Photo module very slightly protruding in the back, in the upper left corner.

Despite appearances, the Xperia 5 mark 2 isn’t exactly a smaller Xperia 1 mark 2. You will notice in our photos below that there are a few differences between the two phones. The first difference is the shape of the slices. Those of the Xperia 5 are rounded while those of his big brother are flat. The product therefore feels softer and less angular in the hand.

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Second difference, Sony has integrated an additional hardware button on the right edge. This is a dedicated button for Google Assistant. It is placed at an equal distance from the power button and the photo shutter. It’s not the easiest button to reach with your thumb. This is not a button that you use often, as it duplicates the long press on the circular virtual key on the Android interface. And unfortunately, it is not a button that can be configured for another function (such as quick setting or opening an application, for example).

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Below, the Xperia 5 II. Above, the Xperia 1 II

Finally, the last difference, the photo module, which remains vertical with rounded ends, has one less photo lens than the Xperia 1 mark 2 module: this is the ToF camera and its associated infrared emitter. We will come back to this in the section devoted to photography.

Whether you are used to a Sony smartphone or not, the handling of the Xperia 5 II is very pleasant. The various buttons integrated in the slices fall naturally under the fingers. The 21: 9 format allows easier use of the smartphone with one hand. However, be careful with slips: like the Xperia 1 mark 2, it slips between your fingers if your hands are slightly wet.

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Another interesting ergonomic detail, the drawer for the SIM card and the memory card can always extract without tools. So you can change your SIM card or increase the storage space in the phone in seconds. Sony has managed to deliver this ergonomic feature without sacrificing the waterproofness of the case. Well done Sony!

Screen

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Now let’s talk more specifically about the screen of the Xperia 5 II. Here, Sony chooses to keep practically the same panel as that of the Xperia 5. You will therefore find the same size, the same definition (and therefore the same resolution), the same ratio, the same backlighting technology, the same rendering engines. graphic and the same protective glass.

In fact, translate into a slab 6.1-inch Full HD + OLED (resolution of 449 pixels per inch) in 21: 9 format compatible with Triluminos and X-Reality. Of course, the display is HDR compatible. You also find a “designer” mode, as on high-end Bravia televisions, which adapts the colorimetry according to the content. This is a mode that is used especially with Netflix: it is the series or film that changes the color profile of the display and not the other way around (of course, this mode can be deactivated).

In addition to this creative mode absent from the Xperia 5, another difference separates the screens of the two smartphones: that of the Xperia 5 II benefits from a 120Hz refresh rate (note that it is not enabled by default). This is the first time that an Xperia has offered this feature. Sony explains that it made this choice to assume the video game positioning of the Xperia 5 II. Sony wants to offer more fluidity and more responsiveness.

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Sony even goes a little further by integrating its game mode a “240 Hz” mode which simulates a 240 Hz refresh in compatible games (like Call of Duty Mobile). For our part, we have not seen a clear difference. Maybe the experts at CoD Mobile would contradict us. Finally, note that the touch screen detects stress 240 times per second to be on par with the game mode.

In fact, what does that give? The screen of the Xperia 5 II reveals some very nice qualities. Deep blacks. A very well controlled brightness, but which will sometimes lack a bit of power outdoors, when the sun is very present. The colorimetry is mastered (which you might find a little cold compared to other AMOLED panels). The viewing angles are wide open. The screen is very responsive. This is a good display that doesn’t need to oversell its qualities.

Interface

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Once the smartphone is on, we arrive at the usual Sony interface, based here on Android 10. We now know her well, as she has not changed for almost two years. It is certainly minimalist, but it is also very elegant and flawlessly fluid.

You find quite logically two home screens (the new applications being positioned on the second), a screen for the news feed, a notification area and quick settings and the application drawer (with a search engine, but no dynamic suggestion). So far, no extravagance.

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The only distinguishing feature of this interface is the presence of a shortcut menu called ” Side detection “With the most commonly used applications, some useful quick settings, access to multi-window mode and one-hand mode. This is a great idea that you can also find with other manufacturers.

In the settings menu, again no big surprise. You will find a complete category for the screen that we saw in the previous section and a very complete battery category that we will see in the section devoted to the autonomy of the phone. You will also find the options related to Digital well-being and confidentiality.

And you finally find a part devoted to audiovisual connectivity. This is Sony’s strong point: offering their phones increased compatibility with Bravia TVs, PlayStation consoles, headsets and soundbars, etc. Dualshock 4, Android Auto, Chromecast, it’s all there.

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Pro Photo
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Cinema Pro

As for the pre-installed application, Sony made an interesting choice. The compulsory lot is quite small. But at the launch of the mobile, it offers you to choose the applications that concern you in two packs: that of Sony and that of Google. In the first, you will find Amazon (store and Prime Video), Sony News Suite, PlayStation App, Booking.com and Accuweather, etc. In the second, YouTube Music, Google One, Google Docs, Google Drive, etc.

The mandatory pack includes Netflix, Facebook, Call of Duty Mobile, Linkedin, as well as a music streaming service. In France, it is Deezer. Internationally, it is Tidal. There are three other preinstalled apps that are important. They are from Sony. And they concern two of the strong points of the smartphone: the game and the photo.

The first two are Photo Pro and Cinema Pro. They are used to disengage the camera from the Xperia 5 II and to manipulate all the settings. They are very comprehensive and rely on the interface of camcorders and Alpha devices. Regulars will therefore quickly find their marks. Note that Cinema Pro includes an exclusive mode in 4K HDR 120 frames per second inaccessible for the native photo application.

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The last application is Game Optimizer (see the three images above). It is an overlay that optimizes the performance of the smartphone for gaming. This is obviously one of the arguments put forward by Sony to justify the gaming positioning of the Xperia 5 II. This mode allows you to prioritize the performance of the phone for gaming, disable certain OS functions (navigation, notification, adaptive backlighting) and share content (screenshot and gameplay). The happiness of the gamer.

Performances

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Let’s move on to the performance of the Xperia 5 II. Because, who says gaming smartphone, says gaming platform. Here we find the Snapdragon 865 (and not the Snapdragon 865+) with 8 GB of RAM. It is the same platform as that of the Xperia 1 II. We therefore expected some similarities during benchmark tests. And that’s the case. We also expected to see the Xperia 5 II far behind the ROG Phone 3, the most powerful gaming smartphone tested in our columns. And this is also the case.

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On AnTuTu, the score is 540,000 points. On Geekbench, the score is 905/3345 points. On PCMark, the score is close to 10,000 points. And on Slingshot Extreme, the mobile reaches 7100 points. We also tested the Xperia 5 II with Wild Life: it gets 3720 points. On Wild Life Stress Test, he obtained very regular scores, with very little throttling (loss of performance over time).

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Note also that unlike other smartphones tested with the Snapdragon 865 platform, the Xperia 5 II manages to keep some control of the internal temperature. As you can see from the captures taken from the Wild Life Stress Test, the temperature of the chipset slightly exceeds 40 degrees, while the test lasts 20 minutes.

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To limit the heat, Sony explains that it has integrated a graphene layer to dissipate heat. There is obviously no active dissipation, only passive. It is the metal frame that mainly serves to take that heat out of the smartphone.

In game, the smartphone behaves very well. Promise therefore kept. We tried three fun apps. First Dead Trigger 2, of course. This one showed a very nice fluidity and responsiveness, even with the graphics settings at maximum. Then Dead Cells, where, again, the responsiveness was there. Finally Dolphin, the Gamecube and Wii emulator. And, like the Xperia 1 II before it, the little car from Sony has remained the master of the game. A good performance.

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We cannot close this game chapter without talking about connectivity with the PlayStation range. We obviously tested the streaming game with PS4 and Dualshock 4. The experience is always fun and refreshing. Be careful, however, of the saturation of your WiFi.

Autonomy

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What is the impact of this platform on autonomy? It is considerable, of course. But it could have been much worse. First of all, remember that the battery built into the Xperia 5 II is a model 4000 mAh. This is a much better capacity than that offered by the Xperia 5. And it is the same as that of the Xperia 1 II. This is already a great signal.

According to our tests, this battery holds 400 minutes in game, or 6 and a half hours continuously. Which is a good performance. Note that this test was carried out with the refresh rate at 60 Hz. At 120 Hz, you should expect battery life to drop by around 10 to 15%. However, despite this decline, the Xperia 5 II does better than its predecessor, the Xperia 1 II and some “smaller competitors” like the Galaxy S20 or the 2020 iPhone SE.

In other uses, the Xperia 5 II also performs well in autonomy, even if they are not the best. According to our calculations, the mobile offers a day and a half of mixed use (messaging, web, audio and video streaming and standby time). A fairly efficient Stamina mode saves a few extra hours if needed.

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Various strategic choices regarding the screen show that Sony has done everything to provide this product with good battery life. First, the 120Hz refresh rate is not enabled by default. Then, the definition of the screen is Full HD + “only”, while some direct competitors (Galaxy S20 for example) offer Quad HD +. Finally, the small weakness in the brightness is, in our opinion, made on purpose: thus, the panel consumes less.

We also find this strategy in the smartphone platform: by choosing the Snapdragon 865 and not the Snapdragon 865+, Sony is making a choice of reason here. The mobile is too small to dissipate heat. And, finally, the SD865 is enough to ensure very good fluidity throughout.

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On the charging side, the Xperia 5 II does not offer wireless charging, which would have impacted the battery capacity according to Sony. The phone is however compatible fast charge 21 watts, with the promise of charging half the battery in 30 minutes and the entire battery in 1.5 hours. We could not test this because Sony delivers 18 watt charger with his smartphone. This recharges half the battery in 40 minutes approx and the entire battery in just under two hours. It is very slow compared to some Chinese competitors.

Sony defends this choice by explaining that it prefers to extend battery life with a more respectful charge. The Japanese firm has also incorporated specific battery charging settings, such as adaptive charging, scheduled charging and blocked charging. There is also a mode that allows you to play with the charger plugged in, to power the phone without charging the battery. A good idea.

Audio

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The audio part of the Xperia 5 II is important, as it was for the Xperia 1 II. Several information should be noted for this part. Let’s talk about the 3.5mm jack return. After removing it last year, the port is making a comeback this year. It reappeared with the Xperia 1 II. It is therefore logical to see him again at his little brother’s house. Unfortunately, as with the Xperia 1 II, we’re not too keen on the location chosen for this comeback.

The Xperia 5 II comes with a pair of in-ear headphones who take advantage of this connection. They are very well made and, the icing on the boat, the connector is angled. It is less fragile and therefore less sensitive to the vagaries of life which damage the cable. The sound of these headphones is good. The microphone placed in the remote control offers good capture of your voice. Additional pairs of tips are supplied to adapt to individual morphology.

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If you use a headset, you may have the opportunity to take advantage of dedicated technologies built into the Xperia 5 II: Hi-Res Audio and 360 Reality Audio. The former improves dynamic range and the latter emulates 360 ° sound. Not all helmets support the latter. Compatible headphones (with active noise reduction) were offered during the pre-order period.

Another point about audio: the dual speaker. Legacy of high-end smartphones from Sony for almost 8 years (with the original Xperia Z), the Xperia 5 II integrates two speakers on the front. This is a great idea to enjoy audiovisual content for two. The sound from these speakers is good overall, although it lacks a bit of power. If you activate the setting Dolby Atmos, the speakers become more dynamic. Don’t hesitate to do it.

Finally, in conversation, the Xperia 5 II delivers a smooth experience. You can hear your correspondent well and he can also hear you, whether you are using the hands-free kit, the telephone receiver or the speakerphone mode.

Photo

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Let’s finish this long test with the photo part. Even if the Xperia 5 II is not positioned “Photophone” like its big brother can be, it does not deserve. On the contrary, it holds the comparison in many areas. Let’s remember its configuration before starting: the Xperia 5 II has three 12-megapixel sensors at the rear and an 8-megapixel sensor at the front. These three sensors are taken almost entirely from the Xperia 1 II. Two of the sensors are much larger than those of the Xperia 5 of 2019, promise of brightness.

What are these sensors? The first is accompanied by a 24mm stabilized lens opening at f / 1.7 and Dual Pixel autofocus. The second is hidden behind a 16mm lens (wide-angle and macro) opening at f / 2.2 with Dual Pixel autofocus here too. And the third is stowed behind a 70 mm lens (telephoto) opening at f / 2.4 with phase detection autofocus, optical stabilizer and 3x optical zoom. If you compare with the Xperia 1 II, the time-of-flight camera is missing, as we saw earlier.

What are the results offered by these three sensors? Overall, and this is good news, the photos taken by the Xperia 5 II are close to those of the Xperia 1 II. Let’s start with the main one, with 24mm lens. The details are plentiful. The smoothing is not too strong. And the brightness is well controlled.

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Main sensor. Automatic mode

As always, Sony favors more natural image processing and less emphasis on colorimetry. This means that you will have less vibrant (even fluorescent) colors compared to brands like Samsung. And the details are less in the shadows. So you get shots that really look like the real thing. If you are missing HDR, note that it exists in the app Pro Photo an HDR mode. See the difference below.

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Main sensor. Automatic mode
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Main sensor. Photo Pro application. HDR enabled

In portrait mode, the Xperia 5 II also offers great shots, where the subject is well isolated and background blur is under control. You have the option of accentuating or softening this effect with a slider. Thanks to permanent eye tracking and optical stabilizer, portraits are successful with virtually every shot. And despite the loss of the flight time camera, the shots will not be blurry. We even tried a few shots with a moving subject and it still looks sharp. On the other hand, if the light goes down, the absence of the ToF camera will be more noticeable.

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Main sensor. Automatic mode, portrait option activated

At night, the main sensor offers photos here too very similar to those of the Xperia 1 II when the subject is still (the absence of the ToF camera is felt). The 12 megapixel module captures a lot of light to provide a balanced result. There is no dedicated night mode in the Xperia 5 II, but night scene recognition that automatically activates night mode. Note that, even at night, the Xperia 5 II tracks the subject’s eyes (if any!) To reduce autofocus time.

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Main sensor. Automatic mode, night scene mode activated

The second sensor, with telephoto lens, offers photos very similar to those of the main sensor, with of course a little less brightness (especially at night). As with the first sensor, the colors are natural, without that artificial HDR touch. The details are present with the 3x zoom ratio. If you go up to 6x (3x optical plus 3x digital with pinch to zoom) you will naturally lose quality. The low definition of the sensor (12 megapixels) clearly has something to do with it.

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Sensor with telephoto lens. Automatic mode
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Left to right, top to bottom: wide-angle, main sensor, telephoto optical zoom (3x), telephoto digital zoom (6x)

The third sensor, with a wide-angle lens, also offers interesting shots, very slightly less bright than those of the main sensor. Again, you have balance, detail and a natural result. The colors are true. Note that the colorimetry of this sensor is similar to that of the main sensor. At night, the wide-angle sensor loses a bit, which makes sense. Note that lens distortion is often handled very well.

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Wide-angle sensor. Automatic mode

The self-portraits are of good quality, but are far from equaling some of the top performers. The balance of light is less perfect here. The pictures are sometimes a little blurry when the light is dimmer. Sony still has to work on this part. Hopefully it will be for 2021.

Last detail: Sony continues to integrate a hardware trigger to take the pictures. This is great in many situations. This makes it possible in particular to fix the focus (by pressing halfway) before taking the photo (to offset the subject for example), offering more creative possibilities. In the evening, it causes a few tremors that we would have done without. Fortunately, the virtual trigger also exists!

Conclusion

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The Xperia 5 II is a great little smartphone. He is nervous. It is fluid. It offers a good autonomy. He is handsome. Its screen has excellent characteristics (even if it lacks brightness). It does not deserve in photos, especially as it offers an experience dedicated to experts in the discipline. The Xperia 5 II is therefore a great achievement proposed. It is a smartphone that can take on your leisure activities, even if it is not a real gamer smartphone as we understand it.

Three hundred euros cheaper than the Xperia 1 II, the Xperia 5 II is a better deal than its big brother. More technologically reasonable, with strategic choices that make sense (Full HD 120 Hz screen and not 4K 60 Hz, for example), it can boast of being one of the best in its class: small high-end models where you also find the Galaxy S20, iPhone 12 Mini or the P40.

Of course, the Xperia 5 II doesn’t present the most powerful platform for gaming. There’s the ROG Phone 3 for that. He is also not the most enduring, or the best in photography. It also doesn’t offer the best value for money like the OnePlus 8T or ZenFone 7 Pro. But the Xperia 5 II offers a consistent and flawless experience, served by qualitative and easily recognizable ergonomics. Not to mention the integration into the Sony ecosystem, which is no small argument. For all these reasons, we recommend it.

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