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Sony Xperia 1 Review

Sony Xperia 1 Review - Sony's flagship smartphone has a triple camera setup, advanced video recording and a large 21:9 screen, but will it perform, and can it keep up with the competition? Find out in our review.

| Sony Xperia 1 in Camera Phones

Sony Xperia 1 Review: Sony Xperia 1 Purple (7)


Quick Verdict

The Sony Xperia 1 offers a triple camera setup, plus a 21:9 4K HDR screen designed to be ideal for movie quality video recording and editing. Does the smartphone offer what's needed to keep up with Samsung and Huawei? The Xperia 1 gives a good try, but with an 8mp selfie camera, it falls behind the competition, and the lack of a dedicated night mode means the competition has the edge.

+ Pros

  • Dedicated shutter release button
  • Large high-res screen
  • Advanced video recording with Cinema Pro
  • Triple 12mp camera system 
  • Optical image stabilisation (wide and telephoto)

- Cons

  • Side-sense barely worked
  • Image quality disappoints compared to the competition
  • 8mp f/2.0 selfie camera is looking dated in today's market
  • Smaller battery than much of the competition


Sony Xperia 1 Review: Sony Xperia 1 Purple (6)

The Sony Xperia 1 is Sony's flagship smartphone, and is designed to match (or beat) flagship smartphones from the other big brands. The Xperia 1 offers 3 cameras on the back, all with 12mp sensors, and Sony looks to have put a priority on delivering high image quality from the cameras. 


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Sony Xperia 1 Features

Sony Xperia 1 Review: Sony Xperia 1 Purple (10)

The Sony Xperia 1 is Sony's flagship smartphone, and as such has their most advanced camera setup yet, borrowing technology from the Sony Alpha range, including BOINZ X image processors, and eye-detection auto focus (AF). There are three cameras on the back, arranged in a line, here's what they have on offer:

Sony Xperia 1 main camera features

  • 12mp f/2.4 ultra-wide, 1/3.4inch sensor (1um), 130degree, 16mm equivalent
  • 12mp f/1.6 main, OIS, 1/2.6inch sensor (1.4um), Exmore RS, G lens, 26mm equivalent
  • 12mp f/2.4 telephoto, 2x, OIS, 1/3.4inch sensor (1um), 52mm equivalent
  • BIONZ XTM for mobile
  • EyeAF (Auto-Focus)
  • 10fps with AF/AE

The Sony Xperia 1 is one of only a tiny handful of smartphones to have a dedicated two-step shutter release button.

Another of the Xperia 1's key features is the 6.5inch screen, with a wide 21:9 aspect ration, giving a "cinema" screen. This may not be to everyone's liking and it can take some time to get used to the elongated look and handling of the smartphone. However, "21:9 aspect ratio is the original format for movies and still the industry standard" according to Sony. 


The main flagship smartphones, the Xperia 1 is up against, include the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and Huawei P30 Pro, particularly as these smartphones also feature ultra-wide, wide (standard), and telephoto cameras:

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Sony Xperia 1 Huawei P30 Pro
16mp f/2.2 ultra-wide
12mp f/1.5-2.4 main, OIS
12mp f/2.4 telephoto (2x), OIS
12mp f/2.4 ultra-wide
12mp f/1.6 main, OIS
12mp f/2.4 telephoto, 2x, OIS
RGBC-IR sensor
20mp f/2.2 ultra-wide
40mp f/1.6 main
8mp f/3.4 (5x telephoto)
10mp f/1.9 selfie cam, with AF
plus RGB depth camera on front (Plus only)
8mp f/2.0 selfie cam 32mp f/2.0 selfie cam
6.4inch screen (3040x1440) HDR10+ 6.5inch screen (3840x1644) HDR10, 21:9 aspect (Cinemawide) 6.47inch 2340x1080 screen HDR
4K 60fps, 4K HDR10, 4K available with front camera 4K HDR movie recording, FullHD with front camera 4K 30fps, FullHD with selfie camera HDR?
960fps slow-motion 960fps slow-motion 960fps slow-motion
Waterproof Waterproof Waterproof
4100mAh battery 3330mAh battery 4200mAh battery


With the Sony Xperia 1, 4K video can be recorded as standard 4K (30fps) video, or as HDR 4K (30fps) video. 4K 60fps isn't available, and the highest resolution video with the selfie camera is FullHD. In these areas, the Samsung Galaxy S10e/S10/S10 Plus offer higher frame rates (4K 60fps), as well as higher resolution video from the selfie camera (4K with AF). 

The is an 8mp f/2.0 selfie / front facing camera, which sits in the top bar - it's the same selfie camera that you get in Sony's mid-range smartphones such as the Sony Xperia 10. There's another bar at the bottom of the screen, and Sony hasn't gone for an "all-screen" design, instead featuring top and bottom bezels, with a speaker in the top. 

Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth, and GPS is built-in as you would expect with a premium smartphone. There's a USB Type-C connection, but no headphone socket. Stereo speakers are built-in, with one at the top (front) of the phone, and another at the bottom, plus there's an active boost mode, which vibrates the phone to give extra feeling to music. 

Sony Xperia 1 Review: Sony Xperia 1 Purple (5)

Key Features

  • Triple camera setup: 12mp, ultra-wide, wide/standard, telephoto
  • 12mp f/2.4 ultra-wide, 16mm equivalent
  • 12mp f/1.6 standard, 26mm equivalent, OIS, G lens
  • 12mp f/2.4 telephoto, 52mm equivalent, OIS, 2x zoom
  • 8mp f/2.0 selfie camera
  • 6.5inch 4K HDR OLED screen, 21:9 "CinemaWide" display, 3840x1644 resolution
  • 10fps continuous shooting speed, with AF/AE
  • 4K HDR video recording, FullHD video
  • 960fps FullHD slow-motion video
  • IP65/68 Water resistant 
  • Side fingerprint sensor
  • Smartphone: 6GB RAM / 128GB storage
  • 3330mAh battery
  • Android v9.0 Pie
  • Available in black, purple, white, and grey
  • Buy now on Amazon UK, Amazon USA

Sony Xperia 1 Handling

Sony Xperia 1 Review: Sony Xperia 1 Purple (2)

Build quality appears to be very good with a solid construction, and glass on both the front and the back. However, because of this it's recommended that you find a case for the smartphone to protect it from accidental damage. 

The lenses / cameras in the rear do not appear to be entirely central within the rear camera section, which is a little disappointing. But not a really big issue in the grand scheme of things.

The camera app is easy to use, and easy to access with a shortcut on the main home-screen of the phone. You can easily switch between photo and video modes by scrolling to the side. The camera is quick to focus and quick to shoot.

There are a fairly small number of shooting modes built-in, with manual being one of them. Another, AR, is the Augmented Reality shooting mode, and there is a Panoramic mode, Slow-motion, as well as a "Creative Effects" mode. In standard mode the camera will automatically detect the scene and change to the correct scene mode in order to help you get the best photos, and this includes an automatic "Night scene" mode. If would be nice if you could select some of the scene modes yourself.

Side-sense is designed to let you tap the sides of the phone to take photos, however this only worked about 10-20% of the time. So you're better off using the shutter release button, or the on-screen shutter release button. The side shutter release button is a two-stage design, meaning you can half-press the button to focus, then fully press the button to take the photo.

Sony Xperia 1 Review: Sony Xperia 1 Purple (3)

The Xperia 1 offers a high resolution 21:9 aspect ratio screen, that looks great, as long as you can get used to the length.

The 6.5inch screen has a high resolution of 3840x1644, and this looks excellent, with shortcuts to let you use two apps at the same time on the one screen. The screen also looks good outdoors, although when taking 4:3 photos, there is a large border on each side of the image. There are options to shoot photos at 16:9, and 1:1 as well. 

In terms of performance, the smartphone is responsive and snappy in use.

GeekBench 5 scores are Single core: 739, 2813 multi-core. (Note scores can't be compared to Geekbench 4 scores). AnTuTu gives an impressive result of: 356405, which is up there with the best smartphones.

Sony Xperia 1 Review: Sony Xperia 1 Purple (4)

Battery life - The battery is rated at 3330mAh, which is much lower than most other flagship smartphones, however, Sony's battery management is impressive and particularly good at maintaining battery life when the phone isn't in use. However, there's no avoiding the fact that, in use, a 4100/4200mAh battery is going to last longer than a 3330mAh battery. If you're going to be away from a power source, we'd recommend getting yourself a portable power bank just in case.  

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