Sony continues its update of its smartphone line to focus on photography and video with the new Xperia 5 II. It’s the smaller sibling of the very tall and strangely expensive Xperia 1 II, and this newer phone improves it in several respects. First, it’s cheaper to sell on September 29 for $ 949. The other big improvement is that Sony has installed a 120Hz panel with high refresh rates.
Oddly enough, however, Sony says it will not ship until December 4, and even more bizarrely, it will have 5G but will not work with 5G networks in the US – just like the Xperia 1
The basic idea of the Xperia 5 II is that it is a phone with a high 21: 9 screen, but it is relatively small at 6.1 inches. It sounds great, but since it is so loud, it only works for approx. 2.68 inches wide. It is a much more pocket-friendly phone than the Xperia 1 II.
It has relatively standard flagship specifications for 2020: a Snapdragon 865 processor, 4,000 mAh battery and the aforementioned 120Hz refresh rate display. Sony is also sticking with dual stereo speakers facing forward and a traditional headphone jack, both of which are formally classified as endangered species now. Unfortunately, there is no wireless charging.
In terms of cameras, the Xperia 5 II now has the standard three-camera array on the back. Sony’s focus on photography means that it prefers to label them with their 35mm focal length equivalents: 16mm, 24mm and 70mm.
Sony claims to be the first smartphone capable of recording slow motion at 120FPS in 4K HDR. I will be curious to see how it works and also to see if the Xperia 5 II improves the video quality in the previous one. Sony’s pro video app allows you to have a lot of control over video settings and package clips for projects for easier editing.
Really, however, the Xperia line’s claim of fame with the camera is with autofocus and capture speed. Like the Xperia 1 II, the Xperia 5 II has Sony’s best autofocus in the class, which can be locked to a human or a pet’s eye and keep the focus sharp at surprising speeds – up to 60 times per second. It can also record burst mode at 20 fps.
Perhaps the most interesting shooting feature is that you can set the Xperia 5 II to be a direct-bound upload machine for one of Sony’s newer mirrorless cameras. It does not equate to full USB internet sharing on a desktop, but it is much faster and more efficient than the usual Wi-Fi solutions offered on cameras these days.
Sony is also talking about the gaming features of the Xperia 5 II – and for the first time ever, I think an Android gaming phone might have features that are more than just gimmicks. Sony’s angle is that 120Hz refresh rate includes a 240Hz touch scan speed, but that’s not the big deal for me.
Sony has a game enhancement feature, like many phones, but its mode has some really useful features. This is not something I ever expected to write about game enhancement software on an Android phone.
You can set and lock the screen refresh rate, motion blur, and touch response speed directly. More interestingly, there is a power bypass feature – it lets you set the phone to draw power directly from a USB-C cable without charging the battery. It significantly reduces heat, which means all silicon can run better. Sony has also added a graphene heat sink to draw heat away from the motherboard.
All in all, the Xperia 5 II sounds like a fascinating phone with unique features and annoying drawbacks. But if you’ve deep inside Sony’s camera ecosystem, it might be a good choice. A better choice might be to wait for the Xperia Pro, which has been announced but still not detailed beyond a key shooting feature – using your phone as an external HDMI monitor for a camcorder. Probably before the Xperia 5 II launches in December, we have heard more.