Sony created an interesting niche for itself earlier this year when it introduced the Sony Xperia 1 flagship and the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus mid-range phones. These 3 devices are one of the first to adopt the 21: 9 of aspect ratio for the display, putting them at odds with other latest devices on the market. Sony says this new display design is optimised for video content. That could be true, but little else is ready for the screen of the Xperia 1. Here is our review for the Sony Xperia 1 Review.
Sony Xperia 1 Review – Design
- 167 x 72 x 8.2mm, 178g
- Gorilla Glass 6
- USB-C audio
There is no doubt that the Xperia 1 stands out. With a super tall and unusually thin profile, the Xperia 1 is monolithic in its way. The screen with a 21: 9 aspect ratio requires the phone to take on a new shape, one that is slimmer than most comparable smartphones on the market. Although it was 4 months since I first saw the device, I am still not used to the lean appearance.
Your hand will love the narrow waist. The phone is easy to pair while you walk around. Reaching the top of the display with your thumb is an entirely different story. It is simply impossible for most people. My hand has never performed such gymnastics as an attempt to communicate with a phone like the Xperia 1. However, Sony has software to combat this problem.
These first impressions must not detract from the quality of the product assembled by Sony, which is top-notch. The Xperia 1 has a beautiful Gorilla Glass 6 on both sides, a robust aluminum frame, and (almost) all the specifications and techniques that you could ask for in a modern phone.
Sony Xperia 1 is one of the most seamless phones I tested this year. The frame is curved precisely to match the rounded glass front and back. The seams are correctly aligned, creating a tight seal where glass and metal come together. The polished shine is merely lush. You can get the smartphone in black or purple color options. I’m warning you, and the phone is sliding off your desk or table. Be careful where you place it.
Sony offers a whole range of hardware buttons to help you communicate with the Sony Xperia 1, all of which are on the right side. The bottom key is the dedicated camera button – something that is rare nowadays. Not too many phones choose the button for the hardware camera, and I am happy that Sony has retained it. The two-stage test has excellent action, although it is a bit small. However, I noticed that I accidentally tapped the button, and the camera started almost every time I put the phone in my pocket. This became very old very quickly. Ugh.
The next is the screen lock (power) button. It is a little further on the side and in a decent place. Sony was smart enough to place the fingerprint reader on the right side of the frame. It is a breeze for your right thumb to bypass the problematic placement under the screen. It is also undoubtedly more straightforward to find than a rear-mounted reader would be. The last thing you see on the right is the volume button. It works well.
One thing I appreciate about Sony phones: the SIM and memory card slot accessible for thumbnails. You will find it hidden on the top edge. Apart from the USB-C port, the only functional elements built into the bottom are two microphones. Let us not forget that the IP68 rating, which means that the phone can be in the water for up to 30 minutes up to 1.5 meters (~ 5 feet) before you have to worry. I let the device take a nap on the bottom of a bucket of water, and the phone is still running fluently.
Sony Xperia 1 Review – Display
- 6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED
- 3,840 by 1,644 pixel, 643ppi
- 21:9 CinemaWide aspect ratio
- X1 for Mobile
Let’s ignore the 21: 9 aspect ratio and drool over the fact that the Sony Xperia 1 has a 4K screen. Sony has flirted with 4K screens in the past, but this time around. The display of the Xperia 1 does absolutely everything you could ask for from a telephone. There is no notch, no perforation, just screen from top to bottom, edge to edge. The pixel range is absurd, the color range is insane, and the brightness is excellent.
With support for HDR, you better believe that I have streamed several Netflix movies. HDR content that supports the 21: 9 aspect ratio will shock you. The contrast range is simply fantastic. We are talking about the best video experience I have had on the smartphone. That is until you come across content, which is not 21: 9. Then you get black bars at both ends of the screen, and I’m not a fan of that. Although most non-21: 9 content is displayed on the center of the screen, some apps won’t stretch to fill the extra space below.
This is annoying at best. According to the flagship standard, you have total control over the color profile, blue light filter or night mode, resolution settings, and so on. The Xperia 1 has one of the best screens I have encountered this year, although the content needs to be caught up quickly to make the aspect ratio useful.
- Bluetooth 5 with aptX HD
- Dolby Atmos
- Stereo speakers
If you are a sound lover, Sony and LG smartphones are your best choice. The Xperia 1 may not have a 3.5 mm headphone jack (boo!), But it delivers on almost any other front. Stereo sound is reproduced when the earphone and bottom speakers work together. The music is pretty good when you tilt the smartphone sideways to watch movies. You can choose between the dynamic vibration of Sony, which will make the phone vibrate, similar to a game controller, for a multi-dimensional experience.
More often, this feature is fun, and other times, it’s just too much. The aptX HD Bluetooth profile means that Android fans get excellent audio quality from their compatible Bluetooth headphones. Sounds of cinema-quality come through roaring while retaining the fine details. This is supported by Dolby Atmos and DSEE HX, both of which have their controls for audio tweaking.
Sony Xperia 1 Review – Software
- Android 9 Pie
The Sone Xperia 1 comes with Android 9 Pie, the latest operating system from Google. The software skin from Sony is reasonably light. The most significant changes you will see are different background colors and some alternative fonts, compared to stock. Otherwise, it offers the typical home screen, app drawer, Quick Settings shadow, and pill-based home screen navigation. Xperia 1 has some unique functions. For example, getting to the top of the screen is a bit of a challenge.
Though there is a one-hand mode to save the day. Double-tap the start button, and the entire desktop shrinks. In this smaller form, it is slightly easier to reach the notification shadow. Double-tap again to make the screen normal again. Side Sense is similar to the Edge Screen from Samsung. Double tapping on both sides of the phone opens a small window with shortcuts to several important apps. It can be a little more reliable if you want to open it.
Split-screen multitasking works well on the big screen. Sony has introduced an all-new app for the Xperia 1 with which you can easily open and configure which apps appear on the screen. I like that you can create app pairs, of which you can open Gmail and Google Calendar or Chrome and YouTube together. Samsung’s Galaxy Note series has a similar function. There are several ways to adjust the software (environment display, lock screen clocks, themes) to your liking, and everything runs smoothly on the phone.
Sony Xperia 1 Review – Hardware and Performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 S0C
- 2.8GHz octa-core, 7nm process
- 6GB of RAM
- 128GB of storage
The use of the SoC made by Qualcomm by Sony is efficient and fast. I have never encountered performance issues with Xperia 1. It flew like a well-oiled machine, without any hiccups to complain about. The smartphone was fun to use. It devoured intense games, which include Asphalt 9 and Fortnite, both pre-installed, with verve. Sony has a Game Enhancer mode, which blocks notifications while playing. Such functions can also be seen on the OnePlus 7 Pro and Asus’ ROG phone.
Regarding benchmarks, the device scored well across the board. It routed almost all competing smartphones in 3DMark and GeekBench. It surpassed a respectable 87% of the phones on AnTuTu. You don’t have to worry about roadblocks with the Xperia 1. It will easily overcome them.
- 12MP wide-angle, f/1.6, OIS
- 12MP telephoto, f/2.4, OIS
- 12MP super-wide lens, f/2.4
- 8MP, f/2.0
- 4K HDR
The Xperia 1 has four cameras in total: 3 on the back and 1 on the front, like many modern flagship phones. With the different lenses, you can take standard, wide-angle, and 2x zoomed images. The camera app opens quickly with a firm push on the dedicated camera button. You can also open it by using the lock screen shortcut.
The controls of the app are what you expect from a modern flagship. This means many functions and modes that are accessible via buttons, switches, and drop-down menus. The intelligent automatic mode from Sony is the standard. This uses AI to determine what the phone is pointed to and adjust the camera settings accordingly. Focus it on the text, and you will see the word ‘document’ appear in the top left corner. The same applies to landscape, daylight, low light, and other scenes.
Apart from this, the standard included modes include portrait selfie, Google Lens, slow motion, AR effect, manual, creative effect, and panorama. These are all fairly standard. I would like to see a time-lapse mode, but unfortunately, not one is included.
With the three lenses, you can take standard shots, telephoto shots, and 137-degree super wide-angle shots. The wide-angle is so wide that it introduces clear optical distortion, as the examples below show. I like the flexibility that these three lenses offer, although competing phones keep the ultra-wide-angle in a more usable (and less distorted) range.
The selfie camera does a decent job. The selfie portrait software simplifies the recording of selfies. I think the bokeh shots have proper edges, but the blurring is a bit too intense. It’s hard for me to understand how a company like Sony, which has a rich history in imaging, can become such a mediocre camera on one of the most important devices of the year. The Galaxy S10, Pixel 3, and Huawei P30 Pro beat the Xperia 1 in terms of imaging.
Sony’s flagships have been able to capture 4K video for quite some time. The Xperia 1 not only records the high-quality video that I have seen in a specific time, but the multiple microphones also ensure excellent sound quality.
Sony Xperia 1 Review – Battery Life
- 3,330mAh Lithium-ion
- Xperia Adaptive Charging
- Stamina Mode
- USB power delivery
I am a bit surprised by the decision-making process of Sony regarding the battery.
To start with, a 3,330 mAh power cell is a bit small for a flagship. Many competing devices have batteries in the range of 3500 to 4000 mAh. Moreover, Sony dropped wireless charging – a significant no-no for a flagship in 2019 (especially for this price.) Then there is the 4K screen to consider. The Ultra HD screen has millions of more pixels that need to be illuminated than a Quad HD screen.
This is partly the reason why the Xperia 1 did not perform particularly well in our battery tests. Although I pressed the phone on most days from morning to night, it survived just over 12 hours in our web and video tests. Competing devices pass 14 or more hours in the same criteria. If there is one thing that the Xperia 1 does well, then it is the Stamina mode from Sony and fast charging. With the included charger, the phone is quickly switched on, and you can tweak endless power consumption to manage the battery life. You will find that you may need this.
Price and Conclusion
Let’s not fool ourselves: $ 949 is a lot of scratches for every phone. Apple, Huawei, LG, and Samsung all follow the $1000 line with their top quality devices, and Sony is here to say, “Me too!”.
Sony’s way through the smartphone market in the past decade has been full of peaks and troughs. I hoped the Xperia 1 would represent one of those peaks. Unfortunately, it is somewhere halfway up the hill. The smartphone’s hardware is excellent in terms of quality. You have almost everything you want: Gorilla Glass 6, metal frame, waterproof case, 4K screen, triple cameras, and more.
The Xperia 1 falls short in a few places, including battery life, camera performance, and general use due to the strange shape. Furthermore, there is not enough 21: 9 content (both videos and apps) to understand the expanded aspect ratio. Would I recommend this phone? Only for people who are specifically looking for something unique, or for people who emphasise media consumption. The price tag of $949 is just too high for what the phone delivers.
The Xperia 1 flagship from Sony competes with Samsung and LG on a spec-for-spec basis but falls short when it comes to real-world performance.
- High-quality hardware
- Blistering performance
- Impressive display
- Great for movies
- Excellent audio
- Odd shape
- Incompatible apps/content
- No wireless charging
- Mediocre battery life