It’s unfortunate that Sony’s compact yet accurate smartphone portfolio is overlooked given how remarkable the Xperia 1 III is in many respects.
Sony defies industry trends, which are sometimes quickly adopted by other smartphone OEMs, and the results frequently offer a totally different experience amid a sea of like devices.
One may anticipate that Sony needs to start following the crowd given the declining smartphone market share numbers in recent years. But if it happened, gadgets like the Sony Xperia 1 III would not be made.
At this point in 2021, we’ve seen just about every major smartphone manufacturer show their hand, but if you’re a die-hard Android supporter, Sony has quietly and without much fanfare placed down a royal flush. Let’s discuss why.
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Equipment andamp; Design The tall, slender, 21:9 aspect ratio is without a doubt the most noticeable and distinctive design feature of the revived Xperia line at this stage. There is nothing like this on the market, and in some ways, that makes it better.
The Xperia 1 III appears boxy from a distance, yet up close and in the hand, the harsh edges are softened, and the bevelled edges significantly improve overall comfort. After all, the phone is large, tall, and weighs about 190g. The frosted matte glass and these rounded corners provide excellent grip, but they also give the device a stealthy appearance that, like nearly all of Sony’s recent smartphone designs, gives the impression that it is trying to blend in despite its size.
The Sony Xperia 1 III, which has a 21:9 aspect ratio that favors height over width, is taller than many other smartphones at 6.5 inches. This isn’t a new Sony tendency, but it definitely buck the market’s trend toward chubby smartphones. The end result is a tall, lean body that stands out from other phones in a positive way. The Xperia 1 III is still very thick even though the sideways profile is relatively tiny.
There are numerous physical input buttons located along the right side of the flat bezel, including a volume rocker, power button, separate Google Assistant button, and camera shutter control. The camera shutter button is a useful addition that is conveniently located and has a wonderful tactile touch. In contrast, I didn’t think the Google Assistant button was useful.
99.9% of the time, I felt like I was accidently using it rather than intending to. True hardware purists will be delighted by the addition of a 3.5mm headphone jack and a dual SIM tray that supports microSD card expansion. In 2021, there won’t be another flagship-level smartphone available that offers such a variety.
I dislike the recessed, squishy power button since it devalues the otherwise extremely expensive finish and functions as a fingerprint scanner. The scanner’s quickness, accuracy, and satisfying buzz while unlocking into the Xperia 1 III homescreen are its saving grace.
With a 120Hz refresh rate, this extended screen is punchy, colorful, and every interaction is both smooth and accurate at the same time. Additionally, it has one of the few 4K UHD displays that are now available on smartphones.
Despite having the highest pixels of any smartphone, a 6.5-inch screen makes it difficult to distinguish between objects clearly. I’m not trying to downplay the experience, which is excellent; it’s simply that it isn’t significantly superior to a QHD screen of this size. The 21:9 aspect ratio and the 120Hz refresh rate, in my opinion, are more advantageous, but having a well-tuned 4K display is the cherry on top. However, given that the resolution is dynamic, there is a caveat. This confirms that, while this is a 4K panel, there may be occasional resolution dips.
You do have to give up some things in some places in order to gain in other areas because the phone has an ultrawide aspect ratio. Games that support large layouts are fantastic, and movies look fantastic in their natural aspect ratio. It does imply that the one-handed mode and side panel capabilities are useful in everyday use as all but the largest persons on the globe find it difficult to reach the upper extremities of the panel.
It’s also good to see a smartphone without a display cutout or one that doesn’t rely on curves to achieve a particular style. You can even find the long-dead notification LED in the upper-right corner. This exceptional flat panel even comes with front-facing stereo speakers that improve things even more.
The Sony Xperia 1 III boasts a Gorilla Glass Victus screen, however despite being placed carefully in pockets and on flat surfaces, I have managed to scratch the screen several times. Given how carefully I have handled and tested this review device, I can only presume that I have caught the screen on a pocket zip, but it was disappointing none the less.
Performance of software
You might fall in love with the Sony flavor if you enjoy lightweight Android. This is the closest thing you can get to AOSP without choosing an Android One smartphone. Instead of making significant UI modifications and tweaks for the sake of distinctiveness, the Xperia 1 III maintains the history of minor touches to improve the form factor.
The device was still running Android 11 at the time of this review, however it is very likely that we will soon receive the Android 12 upgrade. The experience is largely similar to the Pixel series, however there are certain pre-installed Sony apps and little third-party features.
Sony has its own App Pairs feature that was crammed into Android 11, and it works rather well. In my perspective, the one-handed mode on the Pixel phones is superior to the Reachability clone featured in Android 12. The Side Sense feature is a straightforward shortcut bar that enables you to customize apps or features to open fast without visiting several menus or even the app drawer, though I don’t find it to be quite as handy.
Here, there is some bloat. My gadget already has Netflix, Facebook, Linkedin, Call of Duty Mobile, Booking.com, Amazon, Amazon Prime Video, and a three-month free trial of Tidal pre-installed. While unpleasant, all of these may be uninstalled as needed so that you are not forced to use Sony copies of popular Google apps.
Given everything I tried, the Xperia 1 III never once felt sluggish or slow. With the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 engine and 12GB of RAM, this premium phone delivers all you could want and more. After extended video or gaming sessions, I did find that the back of the phone would feel a bit warm to the touch, but not uncomfortable. In fact, the 95% of the time when touching the phone was cool was astounding.
You may now use the Sony Xperia 1 III as an external monitor for specific Sony mirrorless cameras, such as the A7S III, thanks to a firmware update. I haven’t personally tried this out because I use Panasonic camera gear, but it sounds like a terrific way to make your smartphone into another daily tool without compromising key features. To accomplish this, a second cable is necessary.
The fact that just pointing and shooting doesn’t exactly do justice to photographs has been my main complaint with the Sony Xperia series camera setups in recent years. At 12-megapixels, you’ll get clear, spotless, and color-accurate shots, but what really surprised me was how little noise I could detect in pictures taken at all different focal lengths.
You may access the Alpha camera series toolset from your smartphone by opening the Pro settings menu. The precise controls offered here are superior to those found on nearly every other smartphone on the market if you care about adjusting and tuning with your phone and don’t want to carry around a dedicated mirrorless or DLSR camera.
As with the prior generations, I personally thought this was a little excessive. I only say that because I prefer to use a dedicated camera, but having such alternatives in addition to generally reliable auto settings is interesting. I’m not sure if there is a better manual control mode on a smartphone right now, but the Photography Pro app will be intimidating for beginners.
For true smartphone exploration, combine the precise pro-level controls with the tactile feedback of a dedicated shutter button. I still, however, only want respectable auto results, which the Xperia 1 III provides with surprisingly little dissatisfaction.
It’s a lot of fun to experiment with the dual periscope zoom lens, which has 70mm and 105mm focal lengths. As a result, just three back lenses are required, as opposed to the four required by many other smartphones.
Unfortunately, this only amounts to a maximum zoom of 12.5, which is insignificant when compared to devices like the Galaxy S21 series’ 100x digital zoom capabilities. However, even at the highest magnification level, photos do not degrade or become blurry as they would at a 100x maximum zoom on comparable smartphones.
The selfie camera was really the lone disappointment in my opinion. Although front-facing images are not bad, they lack a certain WOW factor, and this is true of the majority of Android phones currently on the market. It can also be mediocre at best when using the subject detection in Portrait mode with the selfie camera.
The available video modes are also quite amazing, however it’s important to note that there is absolutely no 4K 60fps shooting option. With the available triple camera arrangement, the video looks great and has a good dynamic range, vibrant colors, and reasonably clear moving images throughout the frame. But if you start zooming, the image could start to look a little grainy. Noise is nearly nonexistent when using the main wide camera here, which simply makes the situation worse.
Explore the Cinema Pro app if you want even more controls and precise video adjusting. You may record while using simple LUTs and having complete control over each lens’s aperture settings. Although it’s fantastic to have extra alternatives, I’m still undecided about this one. For the majority of people, decent auto mode selections are definitely preferable. If you like to experiment and want to use your smartphone to learn the fundamentals of cinematography, it’s still quite fantastic.
The 4,500mAh battery inside the Xperia 1 III never once made me feel let down, but I did want for a little bit more, which is more or less a testament to how excellent this phone is in every other area. I could push it as far as it would go in a day, but in most cases, I would end the day with 5–10% battery life left.
That didn’t happen very frequently because I could easily finish a typical day with 25–40% of the tank left and hit the charger. Using the various power saving settings, I am positive that I could extend the battery life of the Xperia 1 III to two days without losing any functions.
I discovered that the 30W charger recovered the battery quickly enough for one or two brief blasts per day, and I now prefer to charge my phone this way instead of all at once overnight. It was charged using a 30W OnePlus Warp wireless charger at what I can only guess was the fastest wireless speed possible. I’m not quite sure how this would translate into Watts, though.
LAST THOUGHTS One of the best alternative flagship smartphones in recent years was created as a result of Sony’s unwillingness to adopt other trends in the mobile market. The Xperia 1 III may have a terrible name and could confuse less informed customers, but it is a terrific, if expensive, smartphone.
The design stands out among many slabs you may choose from since it features a good camera with improved Pro controls that are nearly unmatched, a great screen, and a long battery life. That is plenty to check many buyers’ boxes, and for good cause.
Sony is glad to take a different tack when many other OEMs are giving up on connectors, expandable storage, and simply following one another. As a result, Sony quietly creates some of the best smartphones you can buy. The Xperia 1 III goes under the radar and stealthily unseats some of the largest companies at their own game without a marketing blitz and with very little sparkle and glamour that you normally associate with the best flagships on the market.