Sony is looking to stand out from the crowd with its latest flagship - the Xperia 1. The company's new darling succeeds the Xperia XZ2 Premium, ditching the complicated naming system and offering a 21:9 aspect screen in a tall and slender frame.
This device sits at the very top of Sony Mobile's smartphone portfolio and it is all about the display. First 4K HDR OLED screen, first 21:9 ratio on a smartphone, but can it compete with the Samsung's and Huawei's of the Android world? Here are our first impressions.
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- 167 x 72 x 8.2mm,
- Purple, Black, Grey, White
Put the Sony Xperia 1 alongside its competition and it does stand out. Not because of a notched display, a sliding design or a punch hole front camera though. The Sony stands out for its height and slenderness.
The Xperia 1 is a super-slim smartphone, measuring just 8.2mm. While that number might sound pretty standard, the 167mm height makes the body of the Xperia 1 feel significantly slimmer. It will tower above its competition, but it's only 72mm wide, meaning despite that height, it's very comfortable to hold and it looks good too.
There's Corning Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and rear, delivering that premium finish we've become accustomed to at this end of the market. There's a vertical triple camera centralised at the top on the rear, while Sony and Xperia branding sit subtly in the centre and bottom of the flat back.
The front of the Xperia 1 is pretty much all screen, though there are still bezels present, unlike more recent flagship handsets. It's a slim forehead like the XZ3, and a whole different ball game compared to the XZ2 Premium which the Xperia 1 succeeds, though bezel-free would have allowed this handset to retain its new aspect ratio but in a slightly smaller form.
That said, Sony claims the bezel at the top allows for better connectivity so we won't complain too much, especially as a notch would likely have ruined the experience a 21:9 aspect ratio aims to offer.
On the right edge of the Xperia 1, there's a lot going on. The dedicated camera button Sony has long placed on its Xperia devices is present in its usual spot and there's the power button and volume rocker too. Below the power button is a fingerprint sensor - yes Sony has opted to stay clear of the in-display fingerprint sensor trend both Huawei and Samsung have adopted this year.
Sony fans might remember the company has opted for a side-mounted fingerprint sensor in the past, before it moved to rear-mounted on the XZ2, though this was within the power button. To avoid patent issues in the US, the side-mounted fingerprint sensor is now separate to the power button for the Xperia 1, meaning the US model will be the same as the European model. In other words, the US model will have a fingerprint sensor.
At the bottom of the Xperia 1, USB Type-C is present, along with a speaker. There is no 3.5mm headphone jack though - something the Samsung S10 devices all offer, as does the LG G8.
- 6.5-inches, OLED, 21:9 ratio
- 4K resolution
The Sony Xperia 1 is all about its display. It's a 6.5-inch display, like the new mid-range Sony Xperia 10 Plus, but it is OLED and has a 4K resolution with HDR - claimed to be the first to do so. The mid-ranger has a Full HD+ resolution, an LCD panel and it doesn't offer HDR by comparison.
We're pleased to see it stick with OLED, the XZ3 has a fabulous display so great things are expected from the Xperia 1. Sony's new flagship isn't just promising sharpness in the pixel department though, as aforementioned it has a 21:9 aspect ratio, which is the same aspect ratio you'd view a film in at the cinema.
Most competitors are now around 19:9 or 19.5:9, so that's where the extra height comes into play and Sony is using it to its advantage. The Xperia 1's screen isn't just about a more immersive viewing experience when it comes to watching content, there are also several software features being introduced to take advantage of the extra height too.
We'll go into more detail on software a little further down but one feature hoping to improve content viewing alongside the new aspect ratio is called Creator Mode. The aims to deliver content as close to how the director wanted you to see it. It means the Xperia 1 should ensure no oversaturation when watching films for example and this mode will be on by default.
The device we saw prior to Mobile World Congress was a pre-production sample so we weren't able to test the Xperia 1's display, but based on our experience of 21:9 with the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus, we have high hopes for it, especially with that 4K OLED.
- Triple rear camera
- 8MP front camera
- Certified by Alpha
The Sony Xperia 1 has a triple camera system on the rear, comprised of three 12-megapixel sensors. There's a wide lens with optical image stabilisation, a telephoto lens also with OIS and a third super wide lens.
It's the first time we can remember that Sony hasn't focused on megapixels - typically it has gone for at least 19-megapixels. It's also the first time it will use a triple lens camera, joining Samsung and Huawei.
The Xperia 1's camera system has been co-developed with Sony Alpha and certified by Alpha so where Huawei uses the Leica brand, Sony is pulling on its own Alpha brand to enhance camera results and attempt to offer something extra.
The company claims the Xperia 1 will deliver significant noise reduction thanks to an Alpha algorithm applied to a raw image, and it will also feature eye tracking autofocus, allowing you to better track a person you are taking an image of. In terms of video, the Xperia 1 will be able to shoot in 24fps at 21:9 and there's a new feature called Look for colour and gamut settings.
We weren't able to test how the Xperia 1 performs in the camera department as yet, though this is something we will place a lot of focus on when we review it in full. The Xperia XZ3 was an excellent device but its camera did let it down so it will be interesting to see how the new system works.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
- 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, microSD
- 3330mAh battery
- Dolby Atmos
The Sony Xperia 1 runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, though without the optional X50 5G modem so this handset is not a 5G compatible device. There is 6GB of RAM, coupled with 128GB of internal storage and there is microSD support up to 512GB. Users can also choose to opt for dual SIM instead of the microSD card.
In terms of battery capacity, the Xperia 1 opts for a 3330mAh cell, which is the same as the Xperia XZ3. Sony offers plenty of software features to enhance better battery life, such as its Stamina mode, though despite the Xperia 1's glass back, wireless charging is not supported.
The Xperia 1 comes with stereo speakers, along with Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res audio. It also offers Sony's Dynamic Vibration system that the company introduced on the Sony Xperia XZ2. We couldn't test the Xperia 1's performance during our time with it, but we will be sure to put it through its paces when we get it in for full review.
- Android 9
- Multi-window UI
- Side Sense
The Sony Xperia 1 will launch on Android Pie with Sony's bloatware over the top. This skin has been significantly reduced in recent years and while there are still a number of pre-installed apps and Sony overhauling several other apps, like camera, it is a much more refined experience than it used to be.
There are also numerous features that take advantage of the 21:9 aspect ratio, such as a new user interface (UI) called Multi-Window. The display allows for two apps to run simultaneously - one at the top of the display and the other at the bottom. There are also several ways to launch the split screen, including a simple long press of an app, followed by a tap of the multi-screen button. You can also ask Google Assistant to launch Album and Facebook in Multi-Window and there are options through Side Sense too.
Side Sense is a feature that launched on the Xperia XZ3 and has made its way to the Xperia 1. It allows the user to double tap the right side of the display, which will then present a box of your most frequent apps, offering easy one-handed control and quicker access.
A games enhancer feature meanwhile, allows users to choose Focus Mode when playing a game, such as Fortnite. This will stop pop-ups and notifications disrupting your play, as well as releasing RAM to ensure you get the most out of the device. There's also a search function that will allow gamers to search YouTube and Twitch for tips and tricks while still playing.
We weren't able to see the Xperia 1's software during our pre-MWC briefing as it was still a prototype as we mentioned, though we will dive deeper into it when we review the handset.
The Sony Xperia 1 is a little different and we love that about it. In a market where many flagship smartphones take on similar forms, it's good to see some variation. That 21:9 aspect ratio has some serious potential for those that love to watch films on their devices, as does that 4K HDR OLED display.
There's a couple of things we would like to have seen - an in-display fingerprint sensor and a smaller bezel at the top would have seen the Xperia 1 move with the 2019 trends.
Overall though, the Xperia 1 has some very promising features that we can't wait to test out properly. At £799, it undercuts many of the latest top-end flagships so if its performance is right, the Xperia 1 has the potential to be one of the best smartphone buys of 2019.