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Best Sony phones 2021: find the right Sony Xperia smartphone for you

Best Sony phones
(Image credit: Sony)

Wondering what the best Sony phones are? We don't blame you. The company's naming system doesn't exactly make it clear which the top-end handsets are, compared to the low-end ones. For instance, in recent times, Sony launched the Sony Xperia 5 II - a high-end handset with a smaller screen than its previous flagship device, the Sony Xperia 1 II

With the Sony Xperia 5 II also cheaper, it's no surprise that it now tops our list of the best Sony phones. 

There are still plenty of other Sony devices to choose from though, and many of them are quite impressive. Besides the aforementioned Xperia 1 II and Xperia 5 II, there's also the relatively affordable Sony Xperia XZ2, the small Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact, with plenty of others too.

You’ll find all the best options ranked below, complete with a rundown of what makes them so good and where their flaws lie. 

The next phones coming are likely to be the Sony Xperia 1 III some time in mid-2021, bringing upgrades on the company's current premium handset.

If none of these catch your eye, make sure to check out our other smartphones best-of-company guides. We've linked some of these to the side, to make things simpler for you.

Best Sony phones 2021 at a glance:

  1. Sony Xperia 5 II
  2. Sony Xperia 1 II
  3. Sony Xperia 5
  4. Sony Xperia 1
  5. Sony Xperia XZ3
  6. Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium
  7. Sony Xperia XZ2
  8. Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Best Sony phones 2020

Sony Xperia 5 II

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony Xperia 5 II

Like an Xperia 1 II, but smaller and cheaper

Specifications
Release date: October 2020
Weight: 163g
Dimensions: 158 x 68 x 8mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2520
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 4,000mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Great cameras+120Hz screen looks great
Reasons to avoid
-Still quite a high price-Antiquated unlock button

The Sony Xperia 5 II is basically a smaller, cheaper version of the Xperia 1 II. Sure, there are some differences beyond the screen size to get the price down, but the essence remains intact, and this phone arguably strikes a better balance between price and specs.

It has an excellent 6.1-inch 1080 x 2520 OLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, ensuring it feels smooth to use. Even the Xperia 1 II doesn’t have a refresh rate that high, so in at least one way the Sony Xperia 5 II has the specs edge.

It also has a great triple-lens camera, with 12MP main, ultra-wide and telephoto lenses, plus a high-end Snapdragon 865 chipset, and a decent build – which, thanks to the smaller size, is much easier to hold than the Xperia 1 II.

Read our in-depth review: Sony Xperia 5 II

Sony Xperia 1 II

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony Xperia 1 II

One of the best Sony phones

Specifications
Release date: May 2020
Weight: 181.4g
Dimensions: 165.1 x 71.1 x 7.6 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.5-inch
Resolution: 1644 x 3840
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB
Battery: 4,000mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Stunning display+Return of the 3.5mm jack
Reasons to avoid
-Difficult to hold-Very high price

The Sony Xperia 1 II shows the company listens to feedback, as it fixes some of the biggest issues of its predecessors while bringing a lot more to the table, and that's why it tops our list of the best Sony phones.

The Xperia 1 II - that's 'One Mark Two', as Sony seems to have taken naming inspiration from its Alpha range of cameras - has an impressive 4K display in a 21:9 resolution, three rear cameras that take great photographs, and a long-lasting battery that fixes one of the biggest problems with older Xperia phones.

Sure, the price is definitely on the high side, and the phone is too big for people with small hands (an issue the Xperia 5 II fixes), but if these aren't problems you'll mind, the Sony Xperia 1 II is the best Sony phone for you.

Read our in-depth review: Sony Xperia 1 II

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Sony Xperia 5

Honey, I shrunk the Xperia 1

Specifications
Release date: October 2019
Weight: 164g
Dimensions: 158 x 68 x 8.2mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2520
CPU: Snapdragon 855
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 3,140mAh
Rear camera: 12MP, 12MP, 12MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Hand-friendly size+Impressive processor performance
Reasons to avoid
-Unreliable fingerprint sensor-Screen is rather dim

The Xperia 1 might be Sony’s true 2019 flagship, but the Sony Xperia 5 is newer and arguably slightly better.

Sure, its screen is smaller and not quite as sharp, but it’s actually a more manageable size for many people, and still fairly large at 6.1 inches. The loss of pixels meanwhile is unlikely to be noticed unless you have the phone pressed against your eyeballs, as at 1080 x 2520 you still get 449 pixels per inch.

And in most other ways the Sony Xperia 5 matches the Xperia 1 – it has the same 21:9 aspect ratio that makes it great for movies, the same high-end Snapdragon 855 chipset paired with 6GB of RAM, the same amount of storage, and the same triple-lens rear camera.

Plus, the battery lasts slightly longer and the price is slightly lower. So if you want a high-end Sony handset and don’t fancy shelling out on a new model, then the Sony Xperia 5 is a top choice.

Read our in-depth review: Sony Xperia 5

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony Xperia 1

The Xperia 1 is one of the best Sony phones from 2019

Specifications
Release date: June 2019
Weight: 178g
Dimensions: 167 x 72 x 8.2mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 6.5-inch
Resolution: 1644 x 3840
CPU: Snapdragon 855
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 64/128GB
Battery: 3,330mAh
Rear camera: 12MP, 12MP, 12MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Useful 21:9 aspect ratio+Impressive chipset
Reasons to avoid
-Display max brightness is too dim-Battery life on the short side

It didn't look like 2019 was going to be Sony's year after the poorly-received Xperia 10 and 10 Plus, but the company knocked it out the park with the Xperia 1. It's a true premium smartphone, that utilizes the best parts of previous phones and charges it up with improved specs in loads of areas.

The Xperia 1 has a 21:9 screen, and now there's content to match. It's also got a dedicated film-making app for budding directors, that recreates the experience of using a Sony Alpha camera.

On top of that you've got three powerful cameras, a cutting-edge Snapdragon 855 chipset, and 4K screen. Although it is definitely on the expensive side, it's close to being the best Sony smartphone you can get right now.

Read our in-depth review: Sony Xperia 1

(Image credit: Sony)

5. Sony Xperia XZ3

The last of the Sony Xperia XZ range

Specifications
Release date: October 2018
Weight: 193g
Dimensions: 158 x 73 x 9.9mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 6-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 2880
CPU: Snapdragon 845
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 3,300mAh
Rear camera: 19MP
Front camera: 13MP
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly good screen+4K HDR video is excellent
Reasons to avoid
-Awkward fingerprint scanner-The camera is good, not great

The Sony Xperia XZ3 is getting on a bit but it's still a great Sony phone, offering up a great mix of features that are particularly handy if you're addicted to movies, TV shows and gaming on your phone.

The main feature on the XZ3 is its 6-inch HDR OLED display, with a QHD+ resolution, ensuring video looks great. If you have a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription, the HDR content offered by these services really shines.

There's enough power under the hood, and the camera on the back is a solid snapper, although it won't blow you away. On top of that it's no-where near as pricey as the Xperia 1 or 1 II, so if you're a Sony fan who doesn't want to blow the bank, this is a more viable option.

Read our in-depth review: Sony Xperia XZ3

(Image credit: Sony)

6. Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

A great Sony phone with a 4K display

Specifications
Release date: July 2018
Weight: 236g
Dimensions: 158 x 80 x 11.9mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 5.8-inch
Resolution: 2160 x 3840
CPU: Snapdragon 845
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 3,540mAh
Rear camera: 19MP + 12MP
Front camera: 13MP
Reasons to buy
+Bold, sharp screen+Good low light photos and video
Reasons to avoid
-Awkward fingerprint scanner-Big and heavy

There's just one spec you really need to know about the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium: it has a 4K display.

This isn't the first Sony phone to pack a 4K screen (it's actually the third), but it's newer than many such options. If you have a bank of 4K video, or have the right subscription on streaming services, no other non-Sony smartphone can offer you the clarity and detail on screen.

However if 4K content isn't your priority there are probably better Sony phones to suit your needs, so keep on reading!

Read our in-depth review: Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

(Image credit: Sony)

7. Sony Xperia XZ2

An older flagship which still has a lot to offer

Specifications
Release date: April 2018
Weight: 198g
Dimensions: 153 x 72 x 11.1mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 5.7-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2160
CPU: Snapdragon 845
RAM: 4/6GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 3,180mAh
Rear camera: 19MP
Front camera: 5MP
Reasons to buy
+Great sound quality+Feature-packed camera
Reasons to avoid
-Design not as desirable-'Only' Full HD display

The Xperia XZ2 is technically two flagship generations old (having been superseded by the Xperia XZ3 and then more recently by the Xperia 1), but it's only 18 months old itself and still has plenty to offer.

There's the HDR-supported QHD display, feature-packed camera, 4K HDR video recording and you can even capture super slow motion footage at 960fps in Full HD.

What's more, it's now more affordable than ever with several price drops since launch. The design isn't going to wow you, but at this price it's a reasonable compromise.

Read our in-depth review: Sony Xperia XZ2 review

(Image credit: Sony)

8. Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

A great Sony phone for those with smaller palms

Specifications
Release date: April 2018
Weight: 168g
Dimensions: 135 x 65 x 12.1mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 5-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2160
CPU: Snapdragon 845
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 2,870mAh
Rear camera: 19MP
Front camera: 5MP
Reasons to buy
+Solid camera+Great performance
Reasons to avoid
-Feels cheaper than it is-No headphone jack

Smartphones are getting bigger and bigger each year, and Sony phones are no exception - well, apart from the Xperia XZ2 Compact.

This dinkier device comes with a 5-inch display, which is small by today's standard, and it means the XZ2 Compact nestles nicely in the palm.

Don't be put off by its diminutive proportions though, as this handset packs the same power and camera as the larger, former-flagship Xperia XZ2 - ensuring it can still cope with most apps and games you throw at it.

Read our in-depth review: Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact