Sony Xperia 1 III vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
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Design and Size
The Galaxy is a powerful device but also a bigger one: it is noticeably thicker than your average phone. The Xperia, on the other hand, looks surprisingly svelte: it has a much narrower profile for an easier grip, and it's thinner and of lighter weight too.
Both are also water protected with an IP68 rating, meaning they will survive a short drop in water, which is nice to see.
The Galaxy has the larger screen, but the Xperia -- the higher resolution
Equipped with high-end AMOLED screens, both the Galaxy and the Xperia have screens that look undeniably good. You also get a 120Hz fast refresh rate support on both, an expected feature in a 2021 Android flagship, for buttery smooth scrolling (the Galaxy, however, adjusts refresh automatically depending on the content, while the Sony is locked at 120Hz). Plus, both also support HDR. Check, check, check.
Then come the differences in resolution. You have 1440p on the Samsung, but the Xperia goes even higher at 4K. Yes, that might be a bit of an overkill for such a small screen, but if you look really up close you will notice how the Xperia is a bit sharper.
It's also up to you to decide whether you like the extra tall and narrow 21:9 aspect ratio on the Sony: its great for watching Netflix movies as those are usually shot in that format, but the more conventional 20:9 ratio on the Galaxy is more suitable for reading text and for most other content.
There is no significant difference in the performance power of these two as both are equipped with the latest and most powerful Snapdragon 888 chip.
Of course, unless you are buying the Galaxy outside of the US where it comes with a Samsung-made Exynos 2100 processor, which is just a bit slower and a bit less power efficient than its Snapdragon counterpart, and if that's the case, the Xperia does have a slight advantage.
Both come with 12GB of RAM on board which is plenty for keeping a bunch of apps in the background for quick multitasking.
Unlike previous Sony phones, the Xperia 1 III will work on Verizon and T-Mobile's 5G networks, but it does not support AT&T's 5G network and it also does not have mmWave antennas on board. The lack of mmWave support is not something that concerns us too much, but keep it in mind if you live in one of the few areas where there is mmWave coverage.
A battle of zoom masters
Sony has always had a reputation for making great camera phones, but it never had the latest, cutting edge features. Well, the Xperia 1 III changes that it with a triple camera system where one of the cameras is really something we have never seen before on a modern flagship: it's a camera with a variable optical zoom. The telephoto camera on the Sony is of the periscope kind, but unlike other of this kind, it has a physical element that moves inside, so you can switch it between a 70mm (about 3X) zoom and a 105mm (about 4.5X) zoom levels. To achieve a similar effect, the Galaxy has to use two completely different zoom cameras, one with a 3X zoom lens, and the other, a periscope camera with 10X zoom. So yes, the Galaxy still has the longer-range zoom, but the Xperia has an innovative and clever solution that saves up on space so you don't end up with a giant camera bump.
Here is a full breakdown of the camera specs on both phones:
Sony has already provided official camera samples and while we cannot yet compare photos directly between these two, it's obvious that Sony goes for more natural-looking colors, while the Galaxy gives you an image with boosted, vivid colors and contrast out of the gate. So these are two different approaches, and we cannot say which one is better, but if you are after getting more "realistic" photos, well... the Sony has the upper hand.
In terms of video recording, you get up to 8K video on both, but the Xperia shines with 4K120 HDR video that is great for slowing down in post and achieving some incredible looking slo-mos. On the video side, the Xperia also gets real-time eye-tracking auto focus, and Sony showed how the camera will switch focus the moment it sees a person turning toward the camera, which is definitely a pro feature from Sony's Alpha mirrorless cameras.
Battery Life and Charging speeds
- 4,500mAh battery for Xperia 1 III vs 5,000mAh battery on Galaxy S21 Ultra
- Sony 30W fast charging vs Galaxy 25W fast charge
Finally, these two have different battery sizes, and it's the Galaxy which stands out with a massive, 5,000mAh battery, larger than the 4,500mAh cell on the Xperia. This works out to more than 10% larger battery capacity, a considerable difference, but again that's only expected considering how much bulkier the Galaxy is.
We are yet to test the battery on the Xperia in detail, so expect to see this section updated with the results from our battery tests in the near future.
For charging, these two are definitely not among the very fastest out there: you get about a 50% charge in 30 minutes, and a full charge takes a bit more than an hour. The exact charging speeds are up to 25W on the Galaxy (and you have to buy a charger separately since you don't get one in the box) versus a 30W speed on the Xperia.
Both also support wireless charging which is a neat convenience.
Sony has always been about making premium devices, and even though we don't have official prices just yet, rumors point to a $1,200 starting price on the Xperia 1 III, on par with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Unfortunately, while the Xperia 1 III does support Verizon and T-Mobile 5G, it is not likely to be actually sold over at those US carriers, so chances are that it will remain a bit of a niche offering that you have to buy unlocked over at Amazon, Best Buy, B&H and the likes.
And here is a price comparison:
- Sony Xperia 1 III: $1,200 for 256GB
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: $1,200 for 128GB
At those prices, the Xperia will be a tougher sell since it is missing a bit in software features and brand recognition, but if that camera really, really holds up to the promise, it might just be a justified price.
So... with all this in mind, which one would you go for?