Sony is refreshing its smartphone line to focus on photography and video with the new Xperia 5 II. It is the short sibling of the much longer and oddly expensive Xperia 1 II, and this new phone betrays it in many respects. It is cheaper, for one thing, going on sale on September 29 for $ 949. The other major improvement is that Sony has put in a high-refresh-rate 120Hz panel.
Oddly, though, Sony says it’s not shipping until December 4 and, even more strangely, it will have 5G but won’t work with 5G networks in the US – like the Xperia 1 II.
The basic idea of the Xperia 5 II is that it is a long 21: 9 screen phone, but it is relatively small at 6.1 inches. It looks large, but since it is so tall it is only 2.68 inches wide. It is a more pocketable phone than the Xperia 1 II.
It has fairly standard flagship features for 2020: a Snapdragon 865 processor, 4,000 mAh battery, and the aforementioned 120 Hz refresh rate display. Sony is also affixed with dual front-facing stereo speakers And A traditional headphone jack, both are now formally classified as endangered species. Unfortunately, there is no wireless charging.
For cameras, the Xperia 5 II has a three-standard camera at the rear. Sony’s focus on photography means that it prefers to label them with their 35mm focal length counterparts: 16mm, 24mm, and 70mm.
Sony is claiming to be the first smartphone to be able to record slow speeds at 120FPS in 4K HDR. I am 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 control video settings and package clips into projects for easy editing.
However, the Xperia line claims to fame with the camera with auto focus and capture speed. Like the Xperia 1 II, the Xperia 5 II features Sony’s best in-class autofocus, which can lock onto a human or pet’s eye and focus that fast with amazing speed – 60 times per second till. It can also shoot burst mode at 20fps.
Maybe the most interesting photography feature is that you can set the Xperia 5 II to be a direct tethered upload machine for one of Sony’s new mirrorless cameras. This is not equivalent to full USB tethering 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 I think Android gaming phones may have features that are more than just gimmicks. Sony’s angle is that the 120Hz refresh rate includes a 240Hz touch scanning rate, but that’s not a big deal for me.
Sony has a game enhancing mode like many phones, but its mode has some useful features. This is not the one thing I ever expected to write about game-enhancing software on Android phones.
You can directly set and lock the screen’s refresh rate, motion blur and touch response speed. More interestingly, there is a power bypass feature – it lets you set the phone to draw power directly from the USB-C cable without charging the battery. This reduces heat significantly, meaning that all silicon can run better. Sony has also added a Graphene heat sink to remove heat from the main board.
All in all, the Xperia 5 II looks like an attractive phone with unique features and drawbacks. But if you are deep in Sony’s camera ecosystem, then this can be a good option. A better option might be to wait for the Xperia Pro, which has been announced but still not expanded beyond a major photography feature – using your phone as an external HDMI monitor for a video camera. By the time the Xperia 5 II launches in December, we may have heard more.