Sony continues its line of smartphone updates to focus on photography and video with the new Xperia 5 II. It’s the smaller sibling of the very large and strangely expensive Xperia 1 II, and this newer phone does it better in several ways. For one, it’s cheaper, and it retails for $ 949 on September 29. The other major improvement is that Sony put in a 120Hz high refresh rate panel.
Oddly enough, Sony says it won’t ship until December 4th and, even stranger still, it will have 5G but won’t work with the 5G networks in the US – just like the Xperia 1
The basic idea behind the Xperia 5 II is that it’s a phone with a tall 21: 9 screen, but it’s relatively small at 6.1 inches. That sounds big, but because it’s so big, it’s only about 2.68 inches wide. It’s a much more portable phone than the Xperia 1 II.
It has the standard specs for 2020: a Snapdragon 865 processor, 4,000 mAh battery, and the aforementioned 120 Hz refresh rate display. Sony is also sticking to two front-facing stereo speakers and a traditional headphone jack, both of which are officially listed as endangered species today. Unfortunately there is no wireless charging.
In terms of cameras, the Xperia 5 II has the now standard three-camera array on the back. Sony’s focus on photography means they prefer to be labeled with their 35mm focal length equivalents: 16mm, 24mm and 70mm.
Sony claims to be the first smartphone that can record slow motion at 120 fps in 4K HDR. I’m curious to see how that works and if the Xperia 5 II improves the video quality in the previous one. Sony’s Pro Video app gives you a lot of control over video settings and lets you pack clips into projects for easier editing.
Really, the claim of the Xperia line to become famous with the camera lies in the autofocus and the recording speed. Like the Xperia 1 II, the Xperia 5 II features Sony’s world-class autofocus, which can capture a human or pet’s eye and keep that focus sharp at surprising speeds – up to 60 times per second. It can also take burst mode recordings at 20 frames per second.
Perhaps the most interesting photo feature is that you can set the Xperia 5 II as a directly connected upload device for one of Sony’s newer mirrorless cameras. It’s not the equivalent of full USB tethering on a desktop, but it’s much faster and more efficient than the usual Wi-Fi solutions offered on cameras these days.
Sony also talks about the gaming capabilities of the Xperia 5 II – and for the first time in ages, I think an Android gaming phone has features that are more than just gimmicks. Sony’s angle is that the 120Hz refresh rate includes a 240Hz touch scan rate, but that’s not a big deal to me.
Sony has a game improvement mode like many phones, but this mode has some really useful features. This is not something I would have ever expected to write about game enhancer software on an Android phone.
You can adjust and lock the refresh rate, motion blur and response speed of the screen directly. Interestingly, there is a power bypass feature that allows you to set the phone to be powered directly through a USB-C cable without charging the battery. This significantly reduces the heat so that all of the silicon can run better. Sony also added a graphene heat sink to help dissipate heat from the motherboard.
Overall, the Xperia 5 II sounds like a fascinating phone with unique features and annoying drawbacks. However, if you are digging deep into Sony’s camera ecosystem, this might be a good choice. A better choice might be to wait for the announced Xperia Pro, but it doesn’t go into detail beyond one important photo feature – using your phone as an external HDMI monitor for a video camera. We will probably have heard more by the time the Xperia 5 II launches in December.