Sony Xperia 1 Hands-On: A tall order of screen with extra cameras

It’s that time of the year again – the time when Sony reminds us that it’s not ready to throw in the towel yet. Тhat’s right! Mobile World Congress is about to kick off. In this 2019 edition, we find ourselves staring at a new, premium flagship offering from Sony – the Xperia 1.

With this successor to the Xperia XZ3, the company’s attempting to move away from the alphabet soup nomenclature and closer to media creators and consumers. With hardware and software pulled directly from Sony’s more successful businesses, film-making and 4K TVs, the Xperia 1 looks to turn a new page in Sony’s book of mobile.

World’s first 21:9, 4K OLED in mobile, still looks like a Sony

Sony’s received a lot of flak over the years for its obstinance to adapt during evolving design trends in mobile (among other things). Last year, we finally saw some rounded corners on an Xperia device with the XZ3’s body and screen, and while the new Sony Xperia 1 retains the edge-to-edge, rounded display, the body itself returned to a slightly more angular design – due, in part, to the 21:9 proportions of the display.

Sony’s no stranger to tall devices, though, previously packing on the extra length in favor of large top and bottom bezels. So, even with the more flowing, curved back and sides, the overall look of the Xperia 1 is still quite distinctively Sony.

Yes, 21:9 is quite a tall order for a phone, but minimal bezels help this monstrous 6.5-inch display fit in well, while the overall weight and balance of the phone do their part to make holding and using the taller Xperia 1 a little less awkward. It still takes some getting used to, though, not just for our hands, but for the software, as well. Android 9 Pie is meant to support aspect ratios of 18:9 and higher, but 21:9 may prove too much of a stretch for many apps.

This screen isn’t all size, though – it also knows how to use it. Becoming the first 4K OLED on a mobile device, the Xperia 1 surprised us in being first to anything, really. With this comes a bit of Sony’s Bravia technology, more specifically, a mobile incarnation of the X1 Engine that upscales content to 4K on Sony’s TVs. The company says this won’t just upgrade resolution, but also color and contrast on all videos, regardless of the app.

Top-notch internals and some new Sony software additions

As the Xperia 1 is Sony’s premium flagship device, we’re not surprised to find Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processor inside, paired with 6 GB RAM and 128GB storage. The phone ships with a relatively clean, Android 9 Pie interface harboring some proprietary experiences like “Side Sense” within. This gesture-driven side bar was first introduced on the XZ3, where we found it causing more annoyances than anything else, often getting in the way when it wasn’t wanted. On the Xperia 1, Sony wants to take advantage of the larger screen real estate by adding shortcuts for dual-screen apps to Side Sense – something we hope adds some use to this feature, as the shortcuts and gestures of yesteryear add very little. The company has also worked with Google’s Assistant to facilitate opening two apps at once with your voice.

Unfortunately, the units we got to play with were locked down for use, so we can’t yet tell you if Side Sense has gotten any better or if the Google Assistant shortcut is all that useful.

Game Enhancer is another new addition for Sony phones but a staple for other manufactures, like Asus. This app will add a library for your games, as well as an easy way to record gameplay, access game tips, and improve performance.

Three cameras, world’s first eye tracking auto-focus on a phone

In the quest to give creators the best tools for the job, Sony’s implemented a three-camera configuration on the Xperia 1 – much like the setup we saw on last year’s LG V40, and more recently, Samsung’s Galaxy S10’s. This triplet of 12 MP cameras includes a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens, and a super wide-angle to cover all your optical needs. All of these utilize optical image stabilization and electronic image stabilization, save for the super wide-angle camera, which only has EIS.

On the software side of things, RAW noise reduction during the shot has been improved with the help of up to 10 fps auto-focus and auto-exposure tracking. This, and the world’s first eye-tracking auto-focus should mean quicker shooting with better results. We've yet to see all the software tricks of this setup, but we hope this formula can best handsets like the V40 and the mighty Galaxy S10 in areas like shutter speed and accurate, sharp image capture across all cameras.

Sony wants you to film and edit like a pro

Video can be recorded in up to 4K HDR10 quality. While other phones can do that as well, Sony’s on-board editing tools aim to be the difference-maker. Cinema Pro affords users an editing suite powered by research and development from Sony’s own professional media and film-making businesses. The company says features like “Creator Mode” ensure consistent color reproduction to a similar level as master monitors – the hyper-accurate monitors used by professional film directors to see the most accurate imagery from their films. Other features like “Look” can then color grade videos in eight different options. A lot of this sounds quite reminiscent of LG’s Cine Video suite, so we hope that Sony’s deeper background in video production truly does translate to more meaningful results.


To say Sony’s Xperia lineup has an uphill battle in front of it is quite the understatement. The company has anticipated more decline in phone sales this year but despite this appears to still be giving its best efforts in the premium flagship category it holds so dear. That is admirable, even if its best efforts may seem a tad too little and way too late. Still, if the Xperia 1 can pull out some of the best photo and video – better than its competitors using Sony’s own hardware – then at least it will have delivered on the core promise its now making: creating a better device for users and creators.

Note: The Xperia 1 UI shown below isn't final.

Related phones

Xperia 1
  • Display 6.5" 1644 x 3840 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3330 mAh(24.8h 3G talk time)



1. adecvat

Posts: 646; Member since: Nov 15, 2013


5. umaru-chan

Posts: 371; Member since: Apr 27, 2017

Ugly jasssson is not happy that s10 is worse than x1.

18. Jason2k13

Posts: 1469; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

Notice umaru chan and Piyath are quiet about Sony and Samsung this year? Because they both know Sony is showing a bad flagship while Samsung and Nokia has stolen the show for early 2019.

11. hjl2345

Posts: 90; Member since: Aug 11, 2018

Nah, if you've been living under a rock, you're gonna know that nothing is going to change. The S10 will sell like hot cakes and the Xperia One will sadly not sell as much.

13. Valinor

Posts: 182; Member since: Mar 26, 2013

Samsung has proven itself for years. They have reached the point of "you know you are getting one of the best" Sony on the other hand keeps failing at certain areas. Im happy they finally added ois to their cameras. Now lets hope they can deliver on all the promises.

16. jellmoo

Posts: 2623; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Yes. I bet Samsung is absolutely quaking in their boots at this. Whatever will they do when this device steals dozens, DOZENS, of sales from them.

2. tiz_meh

Posts: 78; Member since: Aug 11, 2017

I'm a vivid Sony fanboy but this is ugly as ...

3. Clars123

Posts: 1078; Member since: Mar 16, 2015

Phonearena chose a splendid time to break the size comparison with their changes. But holy crap this phone is TALL af.

4. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 554; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

What an ugly and inconvenient aspect ratio.

6. User123456789

Posts: 1008; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

PA must be happy ... Sony is taking away nice stuff to use things seen on Samsung and Apple. Now Xperia is becoming just another copy... Front cam will be poor like iphone Xs. Audio will be worse experience like iphone. 1/2.6" is near 22% smaller than 1/2.3" Low resolution to fake details like s9 By the away, I have Apple stuff before I am called hater

23. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Stop pulling stuff out of nowhere. You act like u know everything about phones when ur comment proves u know little to nothing. New kid. Can't expect more from u.

25. User123456789

Posts: 1008; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Iphone fanboy detected

31. Penny

Posts: 1860; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

"Low resolution to fake details.." Care to explain that? Also, was it Samsung or Apple that brought an OLED panel to a phone and a plethora of their high end television technologies?

7. notfair

Posts: 755; Member since: Jan 30, 2017

3310 MAh battery for a 4K 6.5" OLED screen, I am certain that the battery will be horrendous. Did anyone mentioned that is taller then the Note 9?

10. User123456789

Posts: 1008; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

It has less than 500 ppi

22. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

4k display won't give u less than 500 ppi. It would be above 700 ppi.

26. User123456789

Posts: 1008; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

previous were 3840 x 2160, now 3840 x 1640.. It has almost 30% less pixels than other premium xperia...

27. AngelicusMaximus

Posts: 730; Member since: Dec 20, 2017

Wrong. It's 643.

34. Penny

Posts: 1860; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

OLED is more efficient than LCD, so might not be as bad as we think. Agree the resolution (especially with upscaling) can be a factor, but let's see how it does in tests.

37. ullokey

Posts: 179; Member since: Jul 28, 2015

Sony's battery optimization was always good, guess it will be the same here as well

8. amasog

Posts: 552; Member since: Aug 22, 2013

21:9. Very long. Very tall. Just like a remote control.

9. therons

Posts: 59; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

I loved it.

12. kiosk123

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 25, 2019

The first image in gallery is Xperia10, not Xperia 1!!!!

14. romeo1

Posts: 816; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

I'm actually getting excited for this device. Personally i would want a 16:9 device but i have to face that there won't be any high end device with that aspect ratio. The camera setup should be great if the xz2p is anything to go by. But the 4k oled for movies should be interesting and with the splitscreen being able to fit more information is very handy (one of the reasons i was already interested in 18:9 etc.)

32. Penny

Posts: 1860; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

More than just 4K, I'm excited by Sony bringing their television technologies into the fold! Having a 940D and 900F, I can tell you that their upscaling is going to make a difference on a phone with a pseudo 4K screen. Pretty much all media we normally view, which nowadays is generally 720p+, should look super sharp! Add to that Dolby Atmos and a proper OLED panel, and this thing should be the best media consumption phone on the market!

35. romeo1

Posts: 816; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

People always forget but sony had x reality engine before in their phones (until xperia xz3 ) which already upscaled content by filling in the missing pixels in real time (not just copying pixels like most brands), improved conrast and colors. But this new x mobile chip should be even better than that one.

17. sunnyfpy

Posts: 288; Member since: May 12, 2013

Already s failed Brand,,

19. Farcaster

Posts: 162; Member since: Apr 16, 2018

Along with LG, how can they be this awful. Are they even trying?


Posts: 442; Member since: Nov 21, 2016

3300mah battery, 6gb of Ram, no headphone jack, no wireless charging and releases months from now. That's all I have to say.

21. OneLove123

Posts: 1189; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

I like 21:9 just like at the movies.

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