Sony is a name that is often left out of the conversation when it comes to the Android smartphone market. Nonetheless, the company is alive and well, although the number of phones they put out has seen a significant drop. Sony makes some excellent devices even if their phones have become more niche (and more expensive). The best Sony phone available right now is the Xperia 5 II, which is likely to change once the newer Xperia 5 III hits the market.
Best overall: Sony Xperia 5 II
Sony Xperia 5 II
We're on the cusp of seeing the latest Xperia 5 III hit the stores, but for now, the Xperia 5 II is the best Sony phone at this point. Even by today's standards, the second generation of the Xperia 5 series is a brilliant phone. Sony's trademark display quality is phenomenal, and the 6.1-inch OLED display on the Xperia 5 II doesn't disappoint with its silky 120Hz refresh rate and vibrant colors. The 21:9 aspect ratio means the phone is tall but comfortable to hold, thanks to its slimness.
Under the hood, the Xperia 5 II touts the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G chipset paired with 8GB RAM and 128GB / 256GB internal storage that can be increased via microSD. You get an IP65 / IP68 water and dust resistance rating, and amazingly, a headphone jack!
The phone's triple cameras have Zeiss optics, so the Xperia 5 II is a very capable photographer. Something that many won't be happy to settle for at the considerable asking price is the side-mounted fingerprint reader. At this price, an in-display sensor is highly expected. But apart from that, the Xperia 5 II is a wonderful Sony phone to possess.
Best value: Sony Xperia 10 II
Sony Xperia 10 II
Xperia on a budget
An Xperia isn't exactly a budget phone by nature, but Sony does offer a bang for your buck with the Xperia 10 II. They've cut a few corners to keep the price under $400, but thankfully the good bits are still there. Consider the 6-inch OLED display, for instance, or the phone's water and dust-resistant build. The Xperia 10 II is also a compact little thing that fits very nicely in your hands owing to the screen's aspect ratio.
Internally, you will find a Snapdragon 665 SoC powering the Xperia 10 II, an underwhelming 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of onboard storage. Amazingly, you still get perks like an audio port and expandable storage. There's also a fingerprint reader mounted on the side of the phone.
The 3,500mAh battery is pretty small and won't last you all day with heavy usage. Fortunately, the Xperia 10 II supports 18W fast charging and has QC 3.0 to make up for the small battery span.
Best for creative professionals: Sony Xperia Pro
Sony Xperia Pro
Cinematographer's best friend
Gather around videographers, photographers, and the like for the Sony Xperia Pro is a very niche delight. This phone features tools for a particular set of people in the cinematography line of work. The Xperia Pro packs incredible specs, such as a 6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED display that can be used as a monitor for your camera via HDMI. Yes, read that again. This phone has an HDMI port built-in!
There are some more features that creative professionals will find very handy. You can hook up your camera to the Sony Xperia Pro and live stream on YouTube while connected. To streamline the process, the phone has a Snapdragon 865 5G chipset so you can upload your video through a speedy 5G internet connection.
A big bummer about the Xperi Pro is its ginormous price tag. This phone costs about as much as a large 8K smart TV, yet it has the same cameras as the older Xperia 1 II. This might be a deal-breaker for many, but if you are a cinematographer, you won't find such features in any other phone.
Best for creators on budget: Sony Xperia 1 II
Sony Xperia 1 II
Discount Xperia Pro
If you're a creator but don't have the funds to splurge on a Sony Xperia Pro, the Xperia 1 II is your best bet. This phone has many of the perks of the Xperia Pro that cater to creative individuals in the industry at almost half the price. You still get a Snapdragon 865 processor, a stunning 6.5-inch 4K screen, 8GB RAM, and 256GB internal storage that can be increased via microSD.
The Xperia 1 II delivers Sony's renowned photography experience and Zeiss optics. You also get the same IP certifications as the Xperia Pro, a 3.5mm audio jack, a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, and an HDMI port to use the phone as a screen for your DSLR. Just like the Xperia Pro, the Xperia 1 II also has native support for Sony Alpha cameras.
If you're a creative professional on a tight budget, you can satisfy your appetite for the Xperia Pro quite nicely with the Xperia 1 II. You should definitely get the Xperia 1 II even in 2021 as the phone can stand its ground pretty well.
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While we wait for the latest and greatest Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III to launch, the Sony Xperia 5 II unabashedly holds its position as the best Sony phone in 2021. It's got flagship-level specs like a lightning-fast 120Hz OLED display and the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G processor. The Xperia 5 II will excel at any task you throw its way, be it gaming, photography, or media playback.
The Xperia 5 II brings all you need to the table: great memory specifications, a headphone jack, an IP rating, expandable storage, a stellar display, and an excellent camera setup. This is a truly premium phone with performance that matches that claim. Sure the Xperia Pro or Xperia 1 II offer exciting and unique features, but they're very niche and don't appeal to the vast majority. Not to mention, adding DSLR support and an HDMI port make the Xperia Pro and 1 II achingly expensive.
If for any reason, you won't or can't go for the Sony Xperia 5 II, our next best pick for a typical user would be the Xperia 10 II. We understand the plight of the common folk. Most people don't usually want to spend upwards of $1,000 on a smartphone. In such cases, the second-best Sony phone to buy is the reasonably priced Xperia 10 II with its gorgeous OLED display, water and dust resistance, 3.5mm audio port, and performance that will get the job done, but nothing extra.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Namerah Saud Fatmi is a freelance writer for Android Central. She has a passion for all things tech & gaming and has been an honorary Goodreads librarian since 2011. When she isn't writing, she can be found chasing stray cats and dogs in the streets of Dhaka or slaying dragons in the land of Skyrim. You can reach her on her Twitter handle @NamerahS.
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Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.