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Sony XPERIA 5 II Review

A mid-level smartphone featuring technology from Sony's professional photography range.

Pros

  • Great control for photographers
  • 3.5 headphone jack
  • Nice and light

Cons

  • Pro photography app looks daunting
  • Accessibility section confusing

Sony is a brand that’s well known for its wide-range of technology, from TVs to sound systems to professional cameras. With the launch of the XPERIA 5 II, Sony has effectively managed to merge some of its best technology into a smartphone, with a stunning OLED screen, Dolby Atmos speakers, and borrowing camera technology from its Alpha professional range, Sony is looking to entice media lovers with its new XPERIA 5 II.

With the device pitched at just under £800, how does it compete with other high-end photography smartphones?

Let’s find out.

First impressions and design

Sony Xperia 5 II homescreen hero

At first glance the XPERIA 5 II has a simple sleek design. The phone’s back sports a three-camera setup, neatly placed on the right-hand side. The lenses mesh well into the device and look like a natural part of the body, unlike handsets like the Samsung Ultra, whose camera box approach is much more noticeable.

There are no major design flourishes that catch the eye as most of the attention has been given to the cameras.

At the top of the phone’s display sits the surprising addition of a 3.5 headphone jack. The jack is an endangered species in the modern mobile market, so it’s nice to see Sony hasn’t followed the trend and abandoned it completely.

The XPERIA has a 6.1 inch display and is surrounded by a thick black edge. The selfie cam sits top left of centre, hidden away by the border, meaning it’s unlikely to get in the way of your movie-viewing pleasure.

The power button and the volume button sit on the right-hand side of the frame, with the latter doubling as a fingerprint scanner. There’s also a button for Google assistant and one for the camera just below the power button.

The buttons and the fingerprint scanner are packed a bit close into the side of the phone, and can cause problems when adjusting the volume or using the scanner.

Despite hosting a relatively big display, the XPERIA 5 II feels light in the hand and comfortable to hold, due in part to there being hardly any bulk to the phone.

You should have no problem sliding it easily into your pocket.

Display

  • Good looking display
  • 120 Hz runs well
  • sound quality is excellent

Sony Xperia 5 II app screen hero

The tech giant has equipped its device with a 6.1 inch OLED screen which runs at 120 Hz, making scrolling look smooth and fast. The display resolution is a respectable 2520x1080 Full HD. Much like the rival S20 FE, there is no apparent way to change the resolution.

This shouldn’t be a massive problem for most though, as the screen holds its own. If you’re the type that likes bingeing the Netflix catalogue, then you’ll be happy.

Images are clear and bright enough that you won’t get screen envy. When comparing it with the rival Samsung S series it looks to be a pretty close call in terms of picture quality.

The phone’s Dolby Atmos speakers also impress, with clean and clear sound even at the highest setting. Good for blasting everything from the latest sci-fi epic to the entirety of Taylor Swift’s catalogue.

Camera

  • Pro Photography app provides more control for those that want it
  • Pro Photography comes with a learning curve
  • Simpler camera app available

Sony Xperia 5 II camera lens closeup hero

The camera is one of the XPERIA’s big ticket items, intended not just for the casual snapper, but the seasoned photographer. As such the phone comes loaded with two Sony photo apps.

The standard photo app allows you to snap straightforward pictures, take selfies, and apply special effects. You can also use settings like Portrait mode, and Panorama to get great looking photos easily.

Photo Pro, on the other hand, offers a lot more customisation when taking photos. You can adjust the white balance, change the JPEG settings, and alter the focus area colour. If you’re new to photography, the app might seem imposing, but as you get to grips with the craft it will begin to offer refreshing flexibility.

Both photo apps use the same three rear-facing cameras, each of which are 12 megapixels.

When using the XPERIA 5 II, our photos were possibly limited by the photographer’s abilities. Photos were well captured, with the colour looking accurate and clear.

As we switched to animal shots, the cameras appeared to struggle a little when trying to focus on its subject, with the dog sometimes looking like the Flash.

Some of the images seemed to lack a bit of sharpness, however, these issues might be resolved by a tweaking of the settings or just a more accomplished photographer.

Performance and battery life

  • Fast charging available
  • No wireless charging
  • Predicts what time it will run out of charge

Sony Xperia 5 II app tray

The II looks to be a strong performer in this area. Apps open with a flourish when called upon, and the 120 Hz setting is no trouble for the device.

The phone boasts 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. After the initial set up we spotted no significant lag or errors.

It was impressive to see just how quickly the integrated Google News boards activated when flicking to that screen. The almost instant load time puts other newsfeed screens to shame.

The handset sports a 4,000 mAh battery and the battery section helpfully predicts at what time the charge will hit zero.Obviously, this will vary depending on your usage. Occasional checks on messages and you should get over a day, while intense streaming will be significantly less. And the phone is no slouch in this department, even as we tried to run it down by watching a lot of Netflix.

The device offers a very strong battery, offering a potential 14 hours of running time. That being said, it’s still a good idea to charge it up at the end of each day.

To facilitate that, fast charging is available, but there’s no place for wireless charging. Sony claims that the phone can manage 50% of charge in just half an hour.

Accessibility

  • Basic Android accessibility features available
  • Odd layout

Hearing aid connection isn’t where you think it is Most of the basic Android essentials appear to be here, but if accessibility is your main concern then it’s safe to say there are better options elsewhere. Unfortunately, what should be a simple menu experience offers a degree of puzzlement.

Apps that have no relevance to accessibility sit in the section, while another service that should be there isn’t. This included a call recording app and virus protection software. So, unless the phone knows something we don’t about the apps, it’s bizarre that they’ve ended up in the Accessibility section.

To make matters worse, despite being listed as an option, hearing aid support doesn’t initially appear to be in the Accessibility section.

When we tried to use the search bar to locate it, Hearing aid support showed as being within Accessibility. However, when we tapped the searched option, no such support appeared.

We also attempted to search for ‘Hearing aid connection’ and got nothing back.

With assistance from the Android help page the route to connecting a Hearing aid became simpler. To connect the aid, you will need to go to ‘Device connection’ and then tap ‘Pair new device’ and select your hearing aid from the list. More info is available here.

It’s worth noting that Android’s help section refers to the menu option as “Connected devices” and the closest Sony has to this is ‘Device connection’.

The logic of the process seems reasonable after it clicks. However, it would be a lot more helpful if the system was intuitive to a user’s needs and gave guidance.

Is the XPERIA 5 II good for people with a visual impairment?

  • Screen reader
  • Select to speak
  • Magnifier
  • Colour invert

The vision section is easily the accessibility sections’ most well-stocked feature. As well as Screen reader and Magnifier, the setup also comes with a ‘Select to speak’ option which serves as a read aloud feature. When activated, the setting offers a simple interface allowing you to play, stop, forward, and go back easily. You can either have the screen read to you by pressing play or by loading the application and then selecting your starting point.

To activate ‘Select to speak’ you must first go into the Accessibility section and toggle it on. It can then be reached via the new accessibility button at the bottom of the screen.

Meanwhile, Magnifier is available in two forms, either via the accessibility button, or by triple tapping the screen. The triple tap option is slightly easier as it allows you to keep the option readily available while being able to easily tap in and out of the setting. You can move around the screen by pinching two fingers together, however you will have to be careful not to accidentally tap apps as you go.

Is the XPERIA 5 II good for people with hearing loss?

  • Mono sound
  • Ability to set audio balance
  • Live transcribe
  • Caption presentation preferences

There are only a few basic features in this area.

Mono sound takes sounds initially intended specifically for the left or the right ear, and channels it into one stream. Users can also set a bias between either the left or the right ear by using a slider.

Live transcribed, for its part, allows people with hearing loss to keep track of a conversation via large on-screen text. When the microphone is switched on, a person speaks and the text appears.

When we tested the software it provided very accurate results, even accurately transcribing a difficult name, Marcelo Bielsa. It is imperfect however and will make the occasional mistake. The software did well in a quiet room, but results are likely to vary as things get louder. Even so, Live transcribe is a useful tool to have at your disposal.

Is the XPERIA 5 II good for people with a physical disability?

  • Press and hold setting
  • Accessibility menu
  • Switch access

Physically, the XPERIA feels as light as a feather. At just 163g there shouldn’t be any trouble lifting the device, and if you have strong motor control it may be possible to use the telephone one-handed. The phone doesn’t feel too bulky and it is easy to grip.

The screen, however, is 6.1 inches which may still be too big for some to comfortably reach around it.

It is also worth pointing out that Sony has opted to go for a side button fingerprint scanner, as opposed to an on screen one. Meaning those who struggle with motor control may find it a challenge to set up and use this feature.

That said, the scanner’s setup is not a difficult process with very compliant software. It does however require multiple touches and swipes to the scanner, as well as having to turn the phone.

Once the setup is complete the user does not need heavy touches to make the system work. However, on some occasions you will have to swipe or touch the scanner just so in order to get it to work. Alternatively, you can just enter your chosen passcode.

Once you switch on the phone, a limited version of Switch access is available. Limited because, while it offers support for USB or Bluetooth devices called Switches, it doesn’t offer much else.

Typically, these specialist buttons can be used to trigger certain actions, such as scrolling through menus, triggering notifications, or the home button. Other phones, such as the Samsung S series, claim that you can use body and eye movements to trigger functions.

The Accessibility menu may also prove useful. For clarity, that’s a feature called Accessibility menu, in a general menu called Accessibility.

Glad we’ve cleared that up for you.

The confusingly named option allows a person to activate options which would usually be triggered by physical buttons or more complex touchscreen acts. This is instead achieved via a large menu, hidden behind the aforementioned Accessibility button at the bottom of the screen.

The feature must be turned on in the Accessibility section first though, and then with a couple of taps you can achieve things such as, taking screenshots, powering the phone off, locking the screen, or altering the brightness.

Touch and hold, meanwhile, is intended to ensure that a person doesn’t accidentally trigger a long press option. This setting only provides a short, medium, and long choice. There appears to be no opportunity for customisation nor any clear statement of how long each selection increases the press time.

In our testing, the long setting took about two seconds to trigger an app’s long press options. Hardly best in show, but there if you need it.

Value and verdict

Sony Xperia 5 II homescreen on hero size

If you are someone who harbours a desire to become a professional photographer, then the XPERIA 5 II is a great choice of smartphone. Not only does it give you more creative flexibility and control than other handsets, but will also serve as a good everyday device.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: sony
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