It is supposed to take over from Sony smartphones. After several years of successful models, but still a notch below the competition, Sony had struck hard at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2019. The Xperia 1 marked the renewal of the Japanese brand in the field thanks to an OLED screen at original format at least 21: 9, a triple camera module and the powerful Snapdragon 855 processor from Qualcomm. On paper, the Xperia 1 – marketed at a price of 1,000 euros – had everything of a racing beast. It remained to pass the review of our reviews. It is now done.
First impression once the device is out of the box and configured: its “form factor” is amazing. The proportions of the slab logically make it very elongated in hand. The design is unusual, but does not lack elegance. Especially since the finishes, as always at Sony, are simply superb.
Edge fingerprint sensor: the return
Good news for all those who appreciated this function so much, the fingerprint sensor is back on the right edge of the mobile. However, it is not integrated into the unlock button as was the case until the Xperia XZ1. Now, the space dedicated to the sensor is located just above this button and you just have to put your finger on it to unlock the device. It even works with the screen off. Unfortunately, its responsiveness is not up to par: it takes a good second before the smartphone displays the home screen.
Just above the sensor is the volume button, while at the bottom of the right edge is the camera shutter. Always as practical, it allows not only to focus by pressing it halfway during a shooting, but also to launch the photo application by keeping it pressed, same screen locked.
Excellent screen format
If it remains perfectible (in particular because of the low reactivity of its fingerprint sensor), the ergonomics is therefore rather successful. This impression is even accentuated by this screen, 21: 9. This format makes it possible to watch films without any black band at the top and bottom of the image. Logical since this ratio simply corresponds to that of CinemaScope, used in the vast majority of film productions. On the other hand, you will understand, we do not get the same result with television series, shot in 16: 9. With them, black bands will appear on the sides of the image.
But the Xperia 1 also takes a whole other advantage of this screen ratio, this time when using this smartphone vertically. It makes web browsing and viewing any timeline very enjoyable. A bit like when tilting a desktop monitor in portrait format, the slab of this smartphone can then display much more text or image than any of its competitors, thus avoiding constantly scrolling from end to end the displayed content.
Another advantage: we have more space to share the screen between two different applications. They are displayed simultaneously while sharing the space. Convenient for searching Google Maps or reading emails while listening to music on YouTube.
Finally, note that Sony has also experimented with a few game publishers to adapt their titles to this format. This is the case with Fortnite, Asphalt 9 and Arena of Valor, all three preinstalled on the Xperia 1.
The result is very convincing since this gives a very wide field of vision compared to the most common screen formats. What better identify attackers or less visible options usually. However, for the moment, very few games are compatible with this 21: 9.
We can also notice that the games run pretty well on this device. In none of them did we notice any jerking or slowing down. On the other hand, the AnTuTu 7 benchmark that we carried out translates a general score of 320,764 points, well below a good part of high-end smartphones also equipped with a Snapdragon 855, released in recent months (Thus, the Xiaomi Mi 9 wins for example the palm with a score of 371,956 points).
Far too greedy 4K
Surprising for a model that is also equipped with the Snapdragon 855, the Qualcomm SoC the most at the moment. The 4K definition of the screen which displays 3840 x 1644 pixels could have an impact on the GPU score (difficult for the graphics chipset to manage such a high definition!) And therefore by extension on the general score but it is not the case. This lower score remains fairly inexplicable. As we mentioned above, we did not encounter any particular difficulty during our game sessions and that’s all that matters. Unfortunately, this 4K screen has another impact on the operation of the mobile. Because this is the real downside of this Xperia 1, it is its autonomy. Among the reviews carried out by our laboratory, one of them speaks for all the others: a time of only 6.44 hours realized in video streaming. For comparison, the Xiaomi Mi 9, equipped with an equivalent battery of 3,300 mAh, had achieved in this review a performance of … 11 h 20.
Things are no better in our review of versatile autonomy which mixes a multitude of uses more or less greedy in resources. The Xperia 1 achieves a performance of 10 h 15 against 13 h 36 for its Chinese counterpart equipped with the same SoC and the same battery, but with a screen only Full HD + (2340 x 1080 pixels).
On the other hand, the OLED screen fully fulfills its mission in terms of display quality by offering infinite contrast, as the nature of its technology requires, as well as a high brightness of 624 cd / m2. It is more than enough to be readable in direct sunlight, but we are almost disappointed that Sony has not improved this brightness compared to the Xperia XZ3 (627 cd / m2). The Samsung Galaxy S10 therefore remains the champion of the Amoled with its brightness measured at 749 cd / m2.
Is Sony taking control of the photo?
Last big question: what about the photo and video quality of the device? The subject is all the more important since it is about Sony, a brand expert in these two disciplines (on cameras and cameras), which however does not manage to excel when it must integrate them into a smartphone. Expectations are even considerable with this Xperia 1, since it is the first Sony model to finally integrate a triple camera module.
First of all on video, Sony manages to provide very good quality images and above all with excellent stability. We can therefore be reassured on this point. The manufacturer also offers an application called Camera Pro. It takes advantage of the manufacturer’s experience in the world of professional cinema by proposing manual adjustments such as the choice of lens, ISO, white balance or the opening of the shutter.
A dozen filters are also available to personalize the images shot. They are directly inspired by calibration profiles used on Sony cameras in movie studios. If the intention is good, to offer such a complete application, one realizes however with the use that one ultimately launches this application very little on a daily basis. Not very intuitive to use, it requires that we spend a few minutes on its settings before being able to turn anything.
In photos, Sony has therefore made the effort to integrate the first triple camera module in its history into its Xperia 1. Three lenses are offered: a 16 mm aperture f / 2.4, a 26 mm at f / 1.6 and a 52 mm at f / 2.4. It is with them the perfect combination for taking very wide-angle (landscape), wide-angle (group photo) or portrait shots. Good point for Sony on this choice. We are less convinced by the switching time between the three modes which takes a good little second. It’s way too long compared to the competition.
Sony continues to progress over generations of smartphones, it’s undeniable. The problem is that the competition is clearly advancing faster than the Japanese brand. If this isn’t necessarily seen when images are viewed from the Xperia 1’s screen, it becomes glaring when viewing full-size photos on a computer screen.
Whatever the lens chosen for his shots, we realize that the result is not up to a smartphone marketed nearly 1,000 euros. The pictures are sorely lacking in detail. Better to keep watching them only on the device screen.
We love the ultra wide-angle lens, however, which is very useful for landscapes or even for photographing an interior. A functionality even makes it possible to limit the deformations inherent in such a lens. The option fixes the “fish-eye” effect to ensure that the perspectives are better respected.
Finally, let’s finish with the portrait mode that we hoped to be perfect, thanks to the arrival of these multiple objectives. Ultimately, this is not the case. The contours of a person are poorly understood, so the bokeh effect does not occur in the right place.
Evidenced by the example above where we can see that the back of the chair is poorly managed and even more so the cap on which appears a blur when there is no reason to find one at this place.
We also wanted to push the portrait mode to its limits by photographing a plant, it is not easy to cut out it is true … but that was the whole point of the maneuver! The result is a picture that is not at all convincing, full of aberrations.