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(Pocket-lint) - Sony has made some substantial moves in recent years. Having been slow to evolve Xperia design, it has now hopped and skipped in a new direction over the last 18 months.

It first curved the back of its phone on the XZ2, pushed back the bezels on the Xperia XZ3 and then shifted to 21:9 for a new family of Xperia devices. The Xperia 1 is very much a flagship, while the Xperia 10 is there for those after a mid-range phone.

But the Xperia 1 isn't just a flagship, it's very much a replacement for the Premium devices - meaning it has a 4K HDR display along with that triple camera on the back. But can top-drawer specs keep Sony in the top flight of phones?

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Our quick take

The Sony Xperia 1 is dominated by that 21:9 display. It's the most interesting feature of the phone and the most rewarding if you watch a lot of movies and want the utmost detail. It's this feature that's different and stands apart from other handsets, even if the visual experience doesn't really seem to benefit from the 4K resolution and the leaning to a more natural colour balance makes it look a little bland in normal use. But none of that matters when you're engrossed in the latest blockbuster.

For all the cameras dotted across the back, it's here that Sony needs more work: the app just doesn't lend itself to a great experience and it's easy to point to better rivals that are often cheaper. The same can be said for the battery life: although we wouldn't want to make this phone any thicker given its size, that high resolution paired with so-so battery capacity doesn't see it outlast the now flagship norm.

Ultimately, the Xperia 1 is a very liveable handset. It has a lot of charm and there's real benefit to not following the normal trends. Being unique and distinctive gives it a little extra something. It's packed with power, it offers flagship qualities like waterproofing, but it just doesn't excel in every single department when it's so close to fulfilling its potential.

Alternatives to consider

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Huawei P30 Pro

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With a camera experience that will knock the Sony out of the park, the Huawei P30 Pro is one of the best smartphones you'll find. Yes, Huawei has had some disagreement with the US and that might cast a shadow over its future, but the company assures us there's nothing to worry about. 

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Samsung Galaxy S10+

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If you're spending big money on big phones, then Samsung has a flagship experience to relish. It doesn't quite match the Huawei for camera performance, but it has a mature Android skin, it's packed full of power and the display - while making no claims towards realism - continues to be one of the best on the market.

Sony Xperia 1 review: Breaking new ground?

Sony Xperia 1

4.0 stars
For
  • Great display for watching movies
  • Interesting design
  • Good quality of build
Against
  • Camera app isn't great and performance could be better
  • Battery life is a little short

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