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Sony Xperia 1 hands-on review: for would-be Hollywood directors
Sony Xperia 1 MWC Hardware review 8 min read No comments

Sony Xperia 1 hands-on review: for would-be Hollywood directors

New year, new smartphone lineup. As is typical for Sony, the Japanese manufacturer is not only thrilled with the new mid-range series and its new entry-level smartphone, but has also announced the Xperia 1, the successor to the Xperia XZ2 Premium. However, Sony is switching the target group from photographers to video producers. We find out if the new Sony Xperia 1 will really be the dream smartphone for budding Hollywood directors in our first hands-on.

Another smartphone reaching the $1,000 mark

Making a film worthy of Hollywood is not cheap - movie cameras usually cost several thousand, if not tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, the additional costs for storage media, lenses, multiple batteries and co. are by far not included. With the Sony Xperia 1, film students or graduates of film colleges might be able to shoot their first short films at a reasonable price. For a measly 949 euro you get a smartphone on which almost the entire Sony Group, including the professionals from the Cinealta camera line have worked.

While the price of the Sony Xperia 1 is already fixed, its availability and launch are still in the dark. A sales launch is planned for the summer, typical for Sony's premium smartphone flagships.

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The Xperia 1 will be available in 4 colors when it goes on sale in summer 2019. / © AndroidPIT

Design: a nice step back

Before we get to the technical and special features of the new Xperia 1, we'd like to say a few words about the Japanese smartphone's appearance. After years of dreariness with the Sony design language, the mobile phone division of the Japanese group finally dared to take the step toward a new look last year. The whole design has become more curved and ergonomic. Unfortunately, the recent Xperias have gained a lot of weight, the peak was the Xperia XZ2 Premium, which weighed over 200 grams and was difficult to operate with one hand.

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Despite the elongated 21:9 format, the Sony Xperia 1 feels pleasant in the hand. / © AndroidPIT

For the 2019 Xperia smartphones, the Japanese designers have decided to slim the devices down again. The Xperia 1 has grown in height thanks to the new 21:9 form factor, while at the same time it has become slimmer and lost a lot of weight. All in all, the new design is reminiscent of the already adopted OmniBalance design of past Xperia smartphones. Even the fingerprint sensor has moved back to the side of the frame. Sony fans in the USA don't have to worry that the fingerprint sensor will be deactivated due to patent infringements, as Sony has placed the power switch separately under the biometric sensor as a precaution.

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The fingerprint sensor of the Xperia 1 is back in the frame, but without being integrated into the power button. / © AndroidPIT

The cinema in your pocket

When it comes to video content, Sony is in the fortunate position of having Sony Pictures as an in-house supplier for films. For the presentation of this content, Sony's TV manufacturer Bravia is also on board. Sony Pictures is incorporating the new 21:9 cinema format into the new Xperia 1, while Sony Bravia is delivering a mobile image processor on the X1, which optimizes the content for the notch-free 4K HDR OLED display.

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Without a notch, but with narrow bezels above and below the 4K HDR OLED display. / © AndroidPIT

At first impression, the videos loaded locally onto the Xperia 1 look very color-intensive and rich in contrast. The question remains whether this image will also be reflected in the final product. As soon as the Xperia 1 is available on the market, films, even if they are available in 21:9 format, should be able to be consumed via streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube and, of course, Sony Pictures.

Subjectively, the 6.5 inch display in 21:9 format is practical, because I reach all corners with minimum effort. With smartphones like the XZ2 Premium or the Samsung Galaxy Note9 you have to really stretch to reach the display corners.

Software for creating and consuming content

Sony of course ships the Xperia 1 with Android 9 and its own UI. More recently, Sony has proven to be quick in delivering monthly security patches and system updates.

As a small innovation, Sony has also added the Game Enhancer to the Xperia X1 and the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus, which we also tested. With it you can assign various system settings for all games, but also for each individual game. From the number of notifications to the performance level of the hardware, you can adjust the behavior of Xperia 1 during a game. It's also nice that you can record yourself on the front camera during an intensive game session and even comment on it. But the competition from Samsung, Huawei, Razer and Asus already offer similar modes on their smartphones.

A touch of Hollywood

A more interesting option is Cinema Pro. This new app is offered exclusively on the Xperia 1. Sony Mobile's programmers were inspired by the company's Cinealta series cinema camera division during development. Film industry luminaries like J ames Cameron, Oscar-winning Hollywood director of blockbusters like Avatar and Titanic, will be relying on Sony's Cinealta cameras in the future.

Basically, the application is a camera app designed for professionals. It offers a different layout than the standard app, so you can see all relevant settings like shutter, ISO, white balance and even audio levels at a glance. With the help of nine looks planned so far, different moods can be created in the video. You could say it's a filter. Unfortunately, the Sony representatives were unable to tell us at this point whether the range of looks would be extended at a later date.

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Actually works like professional camera software. / © AndroidPIT

Even if the app already gave a good impression during the hands-on, it is still far from finished. Unfortunately there is no possibility to level the sound.

Full power

To ensure that the new Sony smartphone makes optimum use of the high-resolution display and triple camera setup without constantly operating at its performance limits, the Xperia 1 is equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, one of the most powerful SoCs on the market. Sony Mobile also provides 6 GB RAM and 128 GB internal storage, expandable via microSD.

The Xperia 1 also supports LTE CAT 19 with up to 1.2 Gbit/s or 150 Mbit/s for rapid download and upload. How the smartphone will perform in our benchmark, of course, we'll let you know as soon as we get our final review device.

Camera: three focal lengths for one wow

Also at Sony Mobile, the trend is shifting toward more cameras. The main camera on the back now consists of three single 12 MP cameras with different focal lengths. With this setup, Sony can give the user a super wide angle with 16mm and f2.4, a wide angle with 26mm and f1.6 and a telephoto with 2x optical zoom, 52mm focal length and f2.4 to choose from.

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Three cameras for a beautiful and picture / © AndroidPIT

Unlike the Xperia XZ2 Premium, Sony does without a light-sensitive night mode with ISO 51.200, but only provides ISO 3.200 for the Xperia 1. Instead, there is now an eye autofocus, known from the alpha camera series next to the well-known PDAF. For portrait shots, an eye-oriented autofocus could theoretically be useful, but whether it is accurate is a question that we can only find out in the final test. We also need to check the continuous shooting of 10 frames per second including exposure and focus adjustments.

Super slow motion in Full HD with a maximum of 960 frames per second and also gimmicks like the fade in of AR figures and the scanning of 3D objects are taken over by the Xperia 1 from its predecessors.

Battery: average for Sony

The battery of the Xperia 1 isn't excessively large at 3,330. The Japanese manufacturer is still holding back somewhat. From experience, it will probably last a whole day with moderate usage. Nevertheless, the battery can be recharged quickly with the included 18 watt charger. Interestingly, Sony no longer relies on Qualcomm's Quick Charge, but on Power Delivery instead.


Sony Xperia 1 technical specifications

Dimensions: 167 x 72 x 8.2 mm
Weight: 178 g
Battery size: 3330 mAh
Screen size: 6.5 in
Display technology: POLED
Screen: 3840 x 1644 pixels (643 ppi)
Front camera: 8 megapixels
Rear camera: 12 megapixels
Flashlight: LED
Android version: 9 - Pie
Internal storage: 128 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.8 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 5.0

Early Verdict

Many things about the new Sony Xperia 1 will please the loyal fans: the design, for example, looks like a modern interpretation of the classic OmniBalance design language. The triple camera with three different focal lengths also appears practical for everyday use, as does the 21:9 form factor. Other things like the Cinema Pro video camera app and eye-focus still have to convince us in our final tests, the results of which, of course, will be available soon.

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