BARCELONA: SONY HAS BROUGHT OUT THE BIG GUNS with its latest flagship phone, the simply-named Xperia 1.
At MWC 2019, the company showed off the device, which is that's being championed for entertainment and content creation. We took a glimpse at the handset to see if Sony's posturing stands up to scrutiny.
Rocking a rounded rectangular design that's more comfortable to hold than Xperia devices of old, the Xperia 1 makes use of Gorilla Glass 6 on its back and front of its rather sizeable 167x72x8.2mm frame, with neatly curving metal edges to hold the glass in place.
Coming in four colours, ranging from a rather dull black to a sleek grey, bright white and glossy purple, the Xperia 1 certainly looks pretty pleasant; the purple is particularly fetching. However, given the Xperia 1 fits in a sizeable display, it does feel rather large in the hand.
It's not comically big and the rounded edges make it comfortable to hold, but one-handed tapping can feel a bit clumsy.
As is the case with most flagship Android phones, there's a USB-C port for various connectivity and carrying audio, as the 3.5mm jack is dead and buried on the new Xperia. However, IP68 water and dust resistance is present and correct.
The most significant feature of the Xperia 1 is its 6.5in 4K display that sports a rather wide and cinematic aspect ratio of 21:9.
And thanks to taking tech from Sony's Bravia TVs, the Xperia 1's display supports HDR for content that can kick out more contrast, brightness and colours, as well as the ability to effectively up-mix standard dynamic range content into HDR.
The bezels are pretty trim as well, though there's no notch or pinhole camera, so the screen isn't properly bezel-less, and there's still a noticeable forehead on the phone to hold the front-facing camera and speaker.
While the large screen does make the phone feel a little unwieldy, it certainly looks good. Colours are punchy and there's a good amount of brightness.
But that's to be expected as Sony has always been pretty good at displays and we've yet to see an OLED-touting Android phone with a sub-par screen.
Then again, Sony is touting the display as a standout feature but we're not convinced it's any better than the OLED panels on the iPhone XS and the Galaxy S10, nor does it have the rather attractive curve of the latter's Infinity Edge display. But we'd need more time and access to more content before we cast proper judgment on the 21:9 "CinemaWide" screen.
Performance, storage and battery life
Under the Xperia 1's hood sits Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 SoC, which has the standard ARM-based eight-core configuration, paired with 6GB of RAM. That promises plenty of performance to keep the phone ticking along for all manner of tasks.
We didn't get much of a chance to play with the phone, but we saw it running Fortnite at 60 frames per second and looking pretty good. So from that, and the fact that the 8-series Snapdragon chips are pretty nippy, we can be confident that the Xperia 1 has plenty of grunt in its electronic guts.
One thing that wasn't mentioned and seemed conspicuous by its absence was the lack of a 5G modem chip, such as the Snapdragon X50. While the likes of Samsung and Huawei are kicking out 5G phones, Sony seems a tad behind the curve here.
Storage comes in only one configuration; 128GB. But it can be expended by a further 512GB through the use of a microSD, which should be enough for even the most avid of photo keeper and app hoarders.
While we couldn't really put it to the test, battery life promised to be at least acceptable with the Xperia 1 sporting a 3,330mAh cell; hardly the largest around but it should get you through a day of use. There was no word on fast charging, though we suspect that the Snapdragon 855 will enable the phone to be pumped up with electrical juice at a decent pace.
Sony made quite a big deal about the Xperia 1's photography chops, with the triple lens rear-array offering a variety of snapping capabilities, from wide-angle shots to swish portrait pics with the evergreen 'bokeh' blurred backgrounds.
Specs wise, all three lenses are 12MP, with a 16mm wide angle lens, a 26mm lens and a 52mm telephoto lens. Supposedly borrowing tech and inspiration from Sony's proper professional cameras, the Xperia uses BIONZ X for mobile, which basically means all the lenses can play nicely together.
But the most interesting part of the cameras is, through the use of a smart algorithm, the ability to autofocus and adjust exposure automatically when tracking a subject's eyes. Such a feature is normally the domain of cameras pushing the £1,000 mark, so it's quite a thing to have in a smartphone.
Pro photographers will appreciate the Eye AF, but it also promises to make getting the focus right for people snapping portrait pics a doddle.
Round the front, there's an 8MP camera, but Sony didn't really mention much about this; we assume it'll have all the typical bits for taking slick selfies.
Sadly, we didn't get to put the cameras to the test as the Xperia 1 models on the Sony booth were locked on the lock screen. But we'd expect them to put in some impressive results.
That being said a lot of top smartphone photography comes courtesy of smart AI-powered software, which in the case of the Pixel 3 puts in some superb results. We'd have to give the Xperia 1 a proper test to see if its software can support its array of lenses.
Sony has pulled out all the stops with the Xperia 1 and it looks to be quite an impressive device.
The display could be a real selling point, especially if the cameras deliver the goods; tweaking pics on a large HDR display is quite an attractive prospect. And the potential performance for multi-tasking and gaming also looks promising.
At the same time, Sony isn't really doing a great deal different here, and with the Xperia 1 coming out in Spring at a price of £849, there's an argument to be had that it might end up being overshadowed by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy S10 5G.
Time with the phone will tell, so we'll pull in any scepticism until we've had a proper go with the Xperia 1. µ