Sony Xperia 5 II: small topper with a big price

The Sony Xperia 5 II is one of the most handy smartphones you can buy. The device combines its small design with high-end hardware and a solid suggested retail price of 899 euros. In this Sony Xperia 5 II review you can read for whom it is worth buying.

Sony Xperia 5 II

MSRP € 899,-

Colors black, blue

OS Android 10

Screen 6.1 inch OLED (2520 x 1080, 120 Hz)

Processor 2.8GHz octa-core (Snapdragon 865)


Storage 128 GB (expandable)

Battery 4,000mAh

Camera 12, 12 and 12 megapixels (rear), 8 megapixels (front)

Connectivity 5G, Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC

Format 15.8 x 6.8 x 0.8 cm

Weight 163 grams

Other 3.5mm headphone port, waterproof and dustproof

Website 7.5 Score 75

  • Pros
  • Handy and light
  • Powerful hardware
  • Extensive photo and video options
  • Nice screen
  • Negatives
  • Advertising apps cannot be removed
  • Update policy too short
  • No wireless charging

The Sony Xperia 5 II has been on sale since September 30, 2020 for a suggested retail price of 899 euros. You can buy the smartphone in blue or black (the variant I tested). The device is a smaller and cheaper version of the Xperia 1 II, which came out in the summer and has already been discussed on this site. Want to read back? Here you will find my Sony Xperia 1 II review.

Small is beautiful

Smartphones have become larger and heavier in recent years, mainly due to the larger screens and batteries. A large telephone offers advantages, but also disadvantages. Due to the higher weight, it is less comfortable to hold, is more difficult to operate with one hand and fits less easily in your trouser or jacket pocket. There are hardly any compact smartphones anymore. Google offers the smaller Pixel 4a and 5, but they are officially not for sale here. Apple's iPhone 12 Mini is the most portable smartphone at the moment, although the iOS software will hold back some.

Sony offers an interesting Android alternative in the form of the Xperia 5 II, which uses a 6.1-inch display with an elongated 21:9 ratio. The screen is therefore narrow and long and has small edges. The smartphone is pleasant to hold, at 163 grams, it is considerably lighter than almost all competitors and fits better in your trouser or jacket pocket. Because the display is longer than usual, you cannot manage the top corners with one-handed use. The Xperia 5 II is therefore not a smartphone that you can always use with one hand, but it is a lot more manageable than the average phone.

In the photos below you see from left to right the OnePlus 8T, Sony Xperia 5 II, Motorola Moto G9 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.

The Xperia 5 II is made of glass and therefore feels luxurious but also very smooth. The glass also attracts fingerprints and dust. The good thing is that the smartphone is water and dustproof and has a 3.5mm headphone jack. The latter is in 2020 a rarity on an expensive smartphone. The same goes for the physical camera button (on the right side), to quickly launch the camera app and focus and click. The power button – on the same side – contains a fast and accurate fingerprint scanner. The volume buttons are above it. The usefulness of the special button to start the Google Assistant escapes me, since this can also be done via the power button and software.


As mentioned, the Xperia 5 II has a relatively small screen of 6.1 inches. Fortunately, small is also nice. The display looks sharp due to the full-HD resolution and uses an OLED panel for beautiful colors and lower power consumption (than an LCD screen). It is nice that you can adjust a number of screen settings, for example to make the display cooler or warmer. The screen has a 120 Hz refresh rate, which means that the screen refreshes itself 120 times per second. This produces a smoother picture than a traditional 60 Hz display. iPhones still have a 60 Hz screen, while many expensive Android devices have now switched to 120 Hz. It is striking that Sony disables the 120 Hz refresh rate by default on the Xperia 5 II. I had to turn it on myself through the settings. The screen therefore works at 60 Hz as standard, which produces a less beautiful image but is more favorable for the battery life.


In terms of hardware, the Xperia 5 II is a typical high-end smartphone from 2020. The device runs on the widely used and powerful Snapdragon 865 processor, supplemented with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage space. This combination means that the smartphone feels very fast and plays all popular apps and games without any problems. Of course, the Xperia 5 II is suitable for 5G, which offers slightly faster mobile internet than 4G.

The 4000 mAh battery in the smartphone lasts a long day with the 120 Hz screen switched on. On the 60 Hz mode I got a day and a half out of the battery. Charging is only possible via the USB-C connection. It is not possible to charge the Xperia 5 II wirelessly; a feature that is built into all other premium smartphones. I think it's a loss, especially considering the solid selling price of the device. The included 18 Watt charger is also not that powerful, so it takes longer to charge the battery. The battery jumps from 0 to 40 percent in half an hour. In comparison, the OnePlus 8T fully charges in half an hour, thanks to its 65 Watt charger.


Like the Xperia 1 II, the 5 II has three cameras on the back, all with a resolution of 12 megapixels. The cameras are intended for normal photos, wide-angle images and three times zoom with little loss of quality. Nothing exciting, but the cameras work properly and shoot very nice pictures, especially when there is enough daylight.

Below you see two photo series shot in automatic mode via the regular camera app, with from left to right: normal, wide angle and three times zoom.

The photos below were shot with the main camera on auto mode via the regular camera app. The pictures are nice and sharp, show realistic colors and cope well with the bright sun behind the trees and clouds. The photo on the right was taken when it was almost dark. Since the standard camera app does not have a night mode, I shot on automatic mode and was surprised by this clear photo with quite a bit of detail and correct colors. A better inspection makes it clear that the picture contains noise and light sources are magnified. The Pro camera app is recommended in such a situation because you can tinker with important settings beforehand.

The Pro camera app offers many functions and settings to use the cameras as you wish. The same goes for the Pro Video app. Below you can see at a glance how the two apps work. The apps are for a niche audience, but very useful. In my opinion, competing manufacturers can learn a thing or two from Sony on this point.

I am less enthusiastic about the choices made in the standard camera app. There is no night mode, zooming cannot go further than three times, the button for the selfie camera is at the very top of the narrow screen; I find it all illogical and a huge contrast to the fine Pro apps.

Software and Update Policy

When it comes to software, Sony can - no, should - Sony learn from other brands as well. If requested, the manufacturer will let you know that the Xperia 5 II will receive Android updates for at least two years, both version updates and security updates. That is simply substandard. Most competing Android smartphones receive three years of version updates and three or four years of security updates, so they are complete and safe to use for longer. Apple gives its iPhones four to five years of updates and so runs all the way around Sony.

Sony's two-year update policy means that the $899 Xperia 5 II can count on Android 11 (which is already out) and 12, which will be released in 2021. A 199 euro Nokia smartphone also gets Android 11 and 12 and even a year longer security updates. If Sony wants to compete in the premium segment, it really needs to improve its software support.

Sony would like to install all kinds of apps when setting up the Xperia 5 II (see the screenshot above), but luckily you can uncheck the boxes. After the installation, it appears that there are still a number of apps on the device. These apps can only be disabled and not removed. These are Netflix, Facebook, Call of Duty, Tidal and LinkedIn. I don't think this form of advertising belongs on such an expensive smartphone.

Conclusion: Buy Sony Xperia 5 II?

The Sony Xperia 5 II is particularly interesting for those looking for a smartphone that is as compact as possible with good performance. The device is nice and handy, has a nice screen and excellent hardware. If you want to seriously photograph and/or film with your smartphone, the Xperia 5 II is worth considering because it offers more settings than competing phones. Still, I find it difficult to recommend the device wholeheartedly. This is mainly due to the short update policy and the suggested retail price of 899 euros. The Xperia 5 II is perhaps the best Sony smartphone of recent years, but not worth 899 euros in my opinion.

For 809 euros you can buy the even smaller iPhone 12 Mini, with better specifications and long-term software support. Samsung's Galaxy S20 is also an interesting alternative and costs just over 700 euros. The Google Pixel 5 is a compact and daring competitor for just over 600 euros, but is not officially for sale in the Netherlands.

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