(Pocket-lint) - Sony Mobile's Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus take the place of the company's Xperia XA range, sliding into the tough mid-range sector and set against the likes of the Motorola Moto G7 and G7 Plus.
The Xperia 10 is the smaller of the new Sony devices and like the flagship Xperia 1, it doesn't just come with a new name, it brings a new form-factor, featuring an even more elongated 21:9 aspect ratio display.
So does the long-form Sony Xperia 10 do enough to stand out; is it the mid-ranger to beat?
- Measures: 156 x 68 x 8.4mm / Weighs: 162g
- Colours: Black, Silver, Navy, Pink
- No IP65/68 waterproofing
The Sony Xperia 10 has a metal unibody in place of the Gorilla Glass finish found on Sony's flagship Xperia 1, offering a slightly less premium, non-waterproof device. It still offers a solid build quality in some nice colour finishes though. The curved corners and rounded edges make for a lovely looking mid-range handset, while the flat back is very 'Xperia' with only the Xperia XZ3 breaking the norm to offer a curved rear.
Like the Xperia 10 Plus (which we also review, here), the Xperia 10 is a tall device - much taller than competitors like the Moto G7. It's far narrower though, with a slender frame, making for a more interesting form-factor than many other mid-range handsets.
The Xperia 10's design won't be to everyone's taste but the 21:9 display breaks away from the current smartphone standard to offer something different. Despite its height, the Xperia 10 is manageable one-handed, more so than the larger Xperia 10 Plus and the Xperia 1. Software additions like Sony's Side Sense aid one-handed use too - but more on that later.
A raised dual rear camera is present on the rear of the Xperia 10, with Sony and Xperia branding also subtly visible beneath. The camera housing has a polished metal surround, which stands out on the brushed metal rear, offering a premium highlight to this sub-£300 device.
On the front, it's pretty much all display, aside from a large forehead above the screen housing the front camera and speaker. This means there is no notch to interrupt the display experience, as is found in the Moto G7 and G7 Plus, but it also means the Xperia 10 is taller than it needs to be, and you'll find images and video are off-centre as there is no bottom bezel at all.
There is a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top - something we are pleased to see as many manufacturers have done away with it, although some like Huawei are brining it back in the P30 - and there is USB Type-C at the bottom for charging.
The right-hand edge sees a power button, volume rocker and Sony has brought back a side-positioned fingerprint sensor, which is in a very natural position on this device (and far better than the low-placed rear scanner of before). Unlike past Sony devices, however, the side fingerprint sensor is positioned separately to the power button.
- 6-inch LCD panel, 21:9 aspect ratio
- Full HD+ resolution (2520 x 1080 / 457ppi)
- No Mobile HDR (High Dynamic Range) brightness
The Sony Xperia 10 has a 6-inch display, which is 0.5-inches smaller than the Xperia 1 and the Xperia 10 Plus. Like the 10 Plus, it opts for a Full HD+ resolution and an LCD panel, meaning you'll get much the same experience as the larger model but on a smaller scale, consequently making things a little crisper for the Xperia 10.
The premium Xperia 1 model offers an OLED panel which offers punchier colours; its resolution bumps up to nearly four times that of this review device; it also offers HDR; and it comes with a feature called Creator Mode which aims to ensure you see content the way the director intended you to. That's why you'll pay extra for the flagship experience, as the Xperia 10 lacks such features.
So what of this new elongated ratio? This 21:9 aspect is new to smartphones, though not new in general. It's the same ratio used for cinema content, with Sony claiming nearly 70 per cent of content is filmed in 21:9. We've seen 21:9 TVs fall by the wayside many years ago - Philips launched one - due to lack of demand.
In theory, this ratio means viewing content on the Xperia 10 should be more immersive than other smartphones, with no black bars present for compatible content, for example. In reality, compatible content isn't as easy to find as you might expect given that percentage.
Many TV series are filmed in 16:9, or 18:9 in the case of Netflix Originals, which means those black bars are well and truly there when you're watching things like Netflix's Disappearance of Madeline McCann, which sort of defeats the object of this phone.
Plus a lot of other content, like apps that you use daily, isn't in this format and so looks squeezed. Again, defeating the object of the phone's USP.
Compatible content looks really excellent though. We watched Venom on the Xperia 10 and the experience was fabulous, with the picture filling the tall display. Colours are good too with plenty of vibrancy, while text and images are crisp. Whites are nice and bright too, though brighter when the device is held upright compared to flat.
- Dual rear cameras: 13MP & 5MP
- 8MP front-facing selfie camera
- Bokeh effect via software
The Sony Xperia 10 comes with a dual camera on the rear, like the Xperia 10 Plus, though the specifications are different. The Xperia 10 combines a 13-megapixel sensor with a 5-megapixel sensor, and while it offers similar features to the larger model - including bokeh images and 4K video recording - it misses out on optical zoom.
Overall, the Xperia 10 performs well in good light. Images taken during the day offer good colour balance and detail, delivering results on par with others in this end of the market - like the Moto G7.
The Xperia 10 has extended shutter lag though. The Moto G7 Plus, which is cheaper than the Xperia 10, takes a picture almost instantly, while you'd likely miss the shot on the Xperia 10 because of the delay. It's a small delay but a noticeable delay nonetheless.
Low-light images aren't amazing either, with quite a bit of image noise and graininess appearing. The shots are still useable, but they aren't the best in the mid-range market, with the Moto G7 Plus offering better.
There is the option to shoot images and video in 21:9, which look great when viewed on the Xperia 10, filling the whole screen. Send them to someone else without a 21:9 screen and they look a little odd, though, surrounded by black bars when viewed the iPhone XS for example.
On the front, there's an 8-megapixel snapper that is capable of bokeh for those blurred background, pro-looking selfies. As with many smartphones, the blurred background effect is never perfect, but the Xperia 10 does a good enough job, even if our hair did often blend into the background a little more than we might have liked - something that could have be improved with a ToF camera.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 630, 3GB RAM
- 64GB storage and microSD expansion
- 2870mAh battery capacity
The Sony Xperia 10 comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 platform under the hood, which is a slight step down from the Xperia 10 Plus, as well as the Moto G7 Plus. There's also a slight reduction in RAM at 3GB compared to the Xperia 10 Plus's 4GB, though storage is the same at 64GB - and there is microSD support for storage expansion up to 512GB.
Overall, performance is good, though not as capable as Moto's offering given some lag and that shutter delay with the camera. Day-to-day performance is generally fine and this phone will be perfectly adequate for many, but the more fluid experience from the Moto G7 Plus is hard to ignore.
Games like Fortnite aren't compatible on the Xperia 10 due to incompatible spec, which is a shame given there is a special edition version for the Xperia 1 supporting the 21:9 screen, though you will find Asphalt 9, Arena of Valour and Marvel's Strike Force pre-installed on the 10.
Battery capacity is slightly low at 2870mAh, and we think this phone could have done with a larger cell. It will get you through the day no problem, but if you leave your home at 7am, you'll need a top up towards the end of an evening - especially if you're using this device to watch video, which is theoretically one of the reasons to buy this 21:9 handset in the first place.
The Xperia 10 offers software to help the battery last a little longer, including Sony's Stamina mode, but this device is not Sony's best in terms of longevity. It is fast-charging compatible though, so topping up for a long commute home isn't too much drama.
In terms of audio, the Xperia 10 comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack and it supports Hi-Res audio too. Speaker quality is average, though, and the Xperia 10 misses out on the Sony Dynamic Vibration system - which is a shame as this would have added a further dimension to watching movies and other content.
- Google Android Pie operating system
- Multi-Window UI dual app launcher
- Side Sense
The Sony Xperia 10 features Google's Android Pie operating system, but there is Sony bloatware over the top - so it's not stock Android like the Moto G7 Plus. However, the degree that Sony interferes with operations has significantly reduced over the years, offering a much more refined experience of late.
Some of Sony's software additions are great though. A new feature has been added to make use of the 21:9 aspect ratio display, called the Multi-Window user interface. This allows users to easily run two apps simultaneously - one at the top of the display and one at the bottom.
There are several simple ways to activate split screen, including long-pressing an app and selecting the split screen icon. We didn't find ourselves using the Multi-Window feature all that much - as with other phones, really, we don't use split screen a lot - though it's a useful feature to have. It works better when you are using apps that don't require a keyboard, as this takes up a third of the display, which then bumps the top app into the notifications bar.
The Xperia 10 also comes with Side Sense, a feature Sony introduced on the Xperia XZ3, allowing for easier access to frequent apps and better one-handed operation. It uses AI to deliver the apps you frequently use at specific times for easy access without having to swipe up from the bottom of the display for app access.
This is very useful for the taller display, though it is less accessible on the Xperia 10 than the Xperia XZ3 because of the Xperia 10's flat display. The Xperia XZ3 has curved edges, making Side Sense make, well, sense. On the Xperia 10 you have to tap the display, so it's a clunkier experience.
Aside from those enhancements, you get a pretty standard Android experience. Sony switches out a couple of apps for its own, like the Gallery, but on the whole, it's a good, clean experience with gestures at the button and Google Assistant on board, as you would expect.
For £299, the Xperia 10 gives you a lot of phone - mostly in the vertical sense, given the elongated 21:9 screen ratio. Its problem, however, is that it doesn't give you quite as much as other devices around the same price point - like the Honor Play or the Motorola Moto G7 Plus.
That said, the Xperia 10 has a great build quality, and it's an interesting prospect thanks to that 6-inch screen's 21:9 aspect ratio - it certainly makes specific movie content great to watch.
However, the big 'forehead' bezel is a distraction, and without much compatible content the phone's form factor is rendered a drawback much of the time. Add a so-so battery that's not the best in the mid-range sector, some performance blips like shutter lag, and the Xperia 10 struggles to stand out for lots of the right reasons.
Motorola Moto G7 Plus
The G7 Plus might have a notch but it offers a large screen with minimal bezel and a great design for the price. The camera delivers solid results, the battery life breezes through a day, while it offers clean software experience with no bloatware.
The Honor Play might not have that 21:9 form factor, but it offers an accomplished metal unibody design, an outstanding battery life, and there is plenty of power - including GPU Turbo for gaming extras. It's also £20 cheaper than the Xperia 10.