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The Sony Xperia 1 III review
It looks like Sony is back in line when it comes to smartphones. The Sony Xperia 1 III is the company’s latest flagship phone and while it certainly falls into the category of evolution rather than revolution compared to its predecessor, it’s another excellent handset worth considering if audio and video performance are important factors for you when choosing a mobile.
We loved the last generation Xperia 1 II, but here the design has been tweaked, the battery beefed up, the 4K display now has a 120Hz refresh rate, and there’s an improved chipset and GPU. Photography fans will also be happy with the inclusion of a periscope lens.
But crucially for us, Sony has taken even more performance out of the Xperia 1 III display and 3.5mm headphone jack (wireless audio is an option, of course), giving us even more reason to recommend it over what’s already an option. award-winning smartphone.
This is probably the most divisive thing about the Xperia 1 III, aside from the 21:9 aspect ratio, which is simply how much the handset costs at a whopping $1,299.99 / £1,199. Sony’s flagship smartphones have always had a hefty price tag, but this new version lets you use more than the iPhone 12 Pro Max or a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra at launch.
Personally, I was an everyday user of the older Xperia 1 II before I got my hands on the new version, so I knew where that money was going, but it’s still a great investment for the majority of people; well worth considering the price if you are thinking about choosing the ? phone up shortly.
At first glance, little has changed between last year’s model and the new Xperia 1 III. Both phones use a narrow 21:9 aspect ratio and thin bezels as opposed to the pinhole camera design – or Apple’s iPhone notch – found on other smartphones. This decision was made to load the stereo speakers on the front so that they lie clear and loud in the hand without sounding muffled – a trade-off that has traditionally always worked out well.
The Xperia 1 III features returning favorites that sadly disappear in flagship phones nowadays such as a 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable storage via Micro SD. If you missed these things on phones over the years, Sony has you covered.
The biggest visual difference this time around is the matte finish on the Xperia 1 III as opposed to the Gorilla Glass 6 found all over the previous model, combined with a different texture on some of the buttons as a result. The phone is now easier to hold without a cover and feels less slippery with daily use.
There is still the fingerprint sensor/power supply button on the side that has remained unchanged since the first model, but this time is accompanied by a dedicated Google Assistant button that, I’ll be honest, I’ve literally never used it. We found that this side-mounted fingerprint scanner was much more effective than some of the built-in screen scanners on other smartphones – our fingers were read easily and the Sony Xperia 1 III opened frequently up once we have it in our hands.
About everything tangible, the shutter button makes a return this time around, although it has a very different texture to the rest of the device, meaning it’s easy to find when you’re shooting.
Let’s be honest here, any phone in 2021 the Snapdragon 888 will run 5G mobile processor becomes an absolute beast for browsing applications and multitasking with a large number of software tabs open at the same time. The Xperia 1 III is no exception and – thanks in large part to its 120Hz refresh rate and 12GB of RAM – it really is the fastest, smoothest experience I’ve ever had on a smartphone.
It didn’t really matter what I was doing on the handset, I never experienced any signs of lag or stutter, even with the hundreds of different Chrome tabs open in the background while gaming or streaming 4K movies while gaming used to be. home and on the way. If 4K HDR OLED 120Hz panels become the standard on smartphones in the coming years, I will never go back.
One factor of some concern to users of this device is that the Xperia 1 III will receive only two years worth of security updates, but at least two versions of Android, as confirmed by Sony. It’s worth noting that other Android-focused smartphone makers, such as Samsung with its Galaxy line, have policies that cover its devices for four years — with Apple iPhones receiving updates for a total of between four and six years, depending on the hardware.
Playing games on this device was an absolute joy – and it gave me an excuse to go back to Call of Duty: Mobile and play a few games – which quickly transitioned into a couple of consecutive hours – with a K/D ratio I wish I could achieve on the PC/console versions. As you might imagine, the game ran flawlessly on the highest graphics settings with the 21:9 aspect ratio, giving me a good view of the action in front of me; even taking my grades up about 40% of the available real estate.
Softer titles were no less impressive on the Xperia 1 III, as I enjoyed getting the most out of more simplistic games like Two Dots and Progressbar95 as much as trying out the criminally underrated Deus Ex Go and the surprisingly elaborate Shadowgun: Legends for an eclectic combination that ran like a dream. It’s safe to say anything mobile title you throw in its path will be just as silky smooth
The proof is in the photos with this particular one phone, and four-camera setup – complete with Zeiss optics, Zeiss T* lens coating, and a 0.3MP 3D TOF sensor and HDR – work their collective magic to produce great images and video.
Gone are the two camera apps that came aboard the Xperia 1 II (stock Android and Photo Pro) with a new and improved Photo Pro standalone with a ‘Basic’ mode as a replacement. Now – when you press the shutter button button – you are brought into the action without dealing with the lesser featureset of stock Android snapping – although some directness of aim and shoot is lost.
If you want to get technical with these sensors, the Sony Xperia 1 III has a 70mm (f/2.3) and 105mm (f/2.8) optical telephoto lens, as well as a 24mm wide (f/1.7) and 16mm ultrawide ( f/2.2) for when you want to get some distance from your subject. The results speak for themselves. Cinema Pro is equally robust, but remains virtually unchanged from how it was with last year’s model.
It’s the continuous autofocus and Eye/Face tracking that pushes this camera system over other smartphones on the market because during my testing I was able to focus on my pet degu moving quickly and even capturing his eyes perfectly.
The ability to shoot in burst modes takes a lot of the guesswork out of trying to capture what would otherwise be extremely challenging – if not impossible – to do manually; one of the Sony Alpha camera’s best inclusions and certainly just as good here.
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