Sony’s Xperia 1 III is costly, performant, and perplexing

The Sony Xperia 1 III is a superb cellphone that I gained’t advocate to many individuals. As soon as once more, Sony has created a gorgeous gadget with some distinctive, marquee options like a 4K-ish OLED 120Hz display, nice photo-taking facilities like a bodily shutter button and a high-quality guide digital camera app, and top-notch {hardware} for leisure consumption, like twin front-facing audio system and an honest-to-god headphone jack. You gained’t discover that mixture among the many different big-name flagships available on the market.

However reader, it’s $1,300. That’s a $100 improve over final 12 months’s mannequin, and greater than an iPhone 12 Professional Max ($1,199) or a Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely ($1,249, however usually on sale for much less) with an equal 256GB of storage. That’s merely rather a lot to ask somebody to pay for a cellphone.

Our assessment of
Sony Xperia 1 III

Verge Rating

7.5 out of 10

Good Stuff

  • Good, high-res OLED 120Hz panel
  • A lot of guide photograph and video controls
  • Refined, minimalist design

Unhealthy Stuff

  • Quick timeframe for safety replace assist
  • Costly
  • Severely, it’s $1,300

Purchase for $1,299.00 from Sony

Purchase for $1,299.00 from Amazon

For that $1,300, you get a top-notch expertise on mainly each degree (aside from its comparatively brief security-support timeline), however I wrestle to see any a technique through which it units itself other than the established competitors. There are severe photograph and video recording capabilities inside the native digital camera apps, however nothing that may very well be thought of distinctive to Xperia or a must have.

All of it quantities to a really costly gadget that does a whole lot of issues properly, however and not using a robust worth proposition for anyone sort of individual.

Sony Xperia 1 III display, battery, and ergonomics

The Xperia 1 III’s display stands out amongst its fellow flagships each by way of its slimmer 21:9 side ratio and its larger 1644 x 3840 decision, which Sony calls 4K (it’s shut). It’s additionally an OLED panel, and this 12 months’s model presents a 120Hz most refresh price.

There’s no variability, sadly, so that you’ll want to decide on between locking it in at a regular 60Hz (the default) or that larger 120Hz price for the smoothest of clean scrolling experiences. Choosing 120Hz comes with a warning that the battery will drain sooner, and it does, however not unreasonably so. I saved it enabled all through my time utilizing the cellphone. Total, it’s a beautiful display, with a few notes: Auto brightness is typically a bit of squirrely indoors, and the panel itself doesn’t get terribly vivid open air. It’s nonetheless usable outdoors in vivid mild, however it could possibly really feel like a pressure to see what’s on the display.

Dieter was a fan of the Xperia 1 II’s look when he reviewed it, and I’m in settlement concerning the III: it’s a classy, understated design and I dig it. I just like the slight matte remedy for the again panel glass, and all-around construct high quality (together with its IP65/68 sturdiness score) measures as much as the flagship class with a metallic body and Gorilla Glass Victus on the entrance. The Sony branding is so unobtrusive it virtually disappears into the again panel, till the sunshine catches it, and the entire thing appears to be like at residence subsequent to an RX100 sequence digital camera.

I each like and dislike the cellphone’s distinctive tall-and-slim profile

The Xperia 1 III will get an upgraded 4,500mAh battery in comparison with the previous-gen’s 4,000mAh, seemingly a vital transfer given the 120Hz show. Battery life is satisfactory, not stellar. I averaged two hours of display time on a day of lighter use, which drained the cell to solely about 50 % by the tip of the day. I used to be involved about how it will maintain up on a day of heavier use recording some 4K video clips, however even in that case, the battery lasted by the tip of the day. I’d pack a charger or a backup if I deliberate on taking pictures video extensively, or on an extended journey day the place I anticipated greater than 4 hours of screen-on time, however for day-in-day-out use, the Xperia 1 III does advantageous. There’s additionally assist for 30W wi-fi charging.

I each like and dislike the cellphone’s distinctive tall-and-slim profile. It suits my hand extra simply, and it’s potential to succeed in your thumb throughout the display in one-handed use (overlook about reaching the far higher nook, although). However it’s additionally extra susceptible to slipping out of pockets. I do just like the fingerprint sensor embedded within the on / off button on the aspect; it’s fast and it doesn’t care if I’m sporting a masks.

Sony Xperia 1 III efficiency and software program

Spec-wise, the Xperia 1 III is a flagship by and thru. It makes use of a Snapdragon 888 processor with 12GB RAM and 256GB of built-in storage. There’s 5G connectivity right here, and in contrast to final 12 months’s mannequin, these within the US will be capable of benefit from it — so long as you’re on Verizon or T-Cellular. The Xperia 1 III doesn’t assist AT&T’s 5G, and there’s no mmWave assist, simply sub-6GHz on T-Cellular and Verizon.

Sony doesn’t have a agency security-support timeline for the Xperia 1 III however tells us that house owners can count on two years of assist. The cellphone ships with Android 11, and the corporate doesn’t have plans for future OS model upgrades. That places it properly behind Samsung’s and Apple’s assist insurance policies, each of which supply at the least 4 years of safety updates and a number of OS model upgrades. Contemplating its excessive price ticket, this can be a important shortcoming towards its friends.

Sony has geared up the Xperia 1 III with twin front-firing audio system and says they’re louder than these within the 1 II. Paired with the high-res OLED display, it makes watching movies a high-quality expertise. I used to be delighted after I heard a automotive offscreen and the audio tracked because it handed by the scene from the left to proper audio system. Possibly I’m simply impressed by these items, however I can see myself genuinely having fun with watching a film or a present on the Xperia 1 III, quite than as a final resort to stave off boredom.

Sony Xperia 1 III digital camera

Sony is a extremely regarded maker of cellular imaging sensors, and up to now few years has gotten extra severe concerning the digital camera {hardware} in its personal Xperia telephones. This 12 months’s iteration features a complete of three 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras, together with a telephoto lens with a folded-optic design that features two focal lengths: 70mm and 105mm equivalents. All three cameras, together with that telephoto unit, use a sensor with twin phase-detection autofocus, a know-how that helps Sony Alpha cameras obtain class-leading autofocus speeds. For those who’re a numbers sort of individual, right here’s the short rundown on the rear-facing digital camera {hardware} within the Xperia 1 III:

Sony Xperia 1 III rear cameras

Digital camera Decision Focal size (equiv.) Aperture Sensor Measurement Optical stabilization
Digital camera Decision Focal size (equiv.) Aperture Sensor Measurement Optical stabilization
Commonplace huge 12-megapixels 24mm f/1.7 1/1.7″ Sure
Telephoto 12-megapixels 70mm / 105mm f/2.3 / f/2.8 1/2.9″ Sure
Ultrawide 12-megapixels 16mm f/2.2 1/2.5″ No

There are three rear-facing cameras on the Xperia 1 III, together with a telephoto lens with two focal-length settings.

The Xperia’s Images Professional digital camera app now features a “fundamental,” auto-everything taking pictures mode because the default. Switching over to one of many semi-auto or guide modes brings up an interface resembling an Alpha digital camera’s fast menu. The essential mode is refreshingly minimal — there are fast shortcuts to completely different focal lengths, to show bokeh mode on or off, allow steady taking pictures, and entry flash settings, however not rather more than that.

Guide modes introduce much more management and extra show choices like a giant, stunning (to me, at the least) horizon degree. It is going to all really feel very acquainted to anybody who’s used a standard digital camera, particularly if that digital camera is a Sony. I like each the fundamental and superior taking pictures mode experiences, and a two-stage shutter button is a really welcome addition, however my one grievance is that there’s no actual on-screen indication when a photograph is taken. I dwell with all of my cellphone’s notifications and audio indicators on mute, so with out the audio cue, I missed it after I solely half-pressed the shutter on a number of events, pondering I’d totally pressed it.

I’ll admit that it took a minute for me to heat as much as the Xperia’s telephoto digital camera. I have a tendency to love a wider lens, and I’ve used too many dangerous or mediocre smartphone telephoto cameras to get too enthusiastic about them. However as soon as I began trusting it — particularly on the 70mm focal size — I began to actually take pleasure in utilizing it to layer foreground and background parts, or deliver extra consideration to a topic I can’t get nearer to. You already know, stuff you employ a telephoto lens for. The picture high quality gained’t put your devoted zoom lens out of labor, but it surely’s adequate.

There’s an inclination for smartphone telephoto lenses to only amplify the shortcomings of the small-sensor-small-lens combo working to create them, which manifests as ugly purple fringing or clearly smeary particulars. The photographs I took at 70mm are blessedly free from these artifacts, particularly in case you’re them at social media sizes. The 105mm focal size begins to look a bit of artifact-y, and particulars are noticeably comfortable, however so long as there’s loads of mild, photographs don’t look distractingly dangerous.

  • Taken with 70mm telephoto.

  • Taken with 70mm telephoto.

  • Taken with 70mm telephoto.

  • Taken with 70mm telephoto.

  • Taken with 70mm telephoto.

  • Taken with 105mm telephoto.

  • Taken with ultrawide.

  • Taken with 105mm telephoto.

  • Taken with 105mm telephoto.

  • Taken with ultrawide.

  • Taken with ultrawide.

That’s the great things. I’m rather less enthusiastic about one of many different marquee digital camera options on the Xperia: autofocus. Particularly, Sony’s twin phase-detect and monitoring AF applied sciences, which it has imported to the Xperia sequence from its Alpha vary. Don’t get me improper, Sony autofocus is wonderful. It’s why I personal a Sony digital camera. You’ll be able to see it at work within the Xperia 1 III when it effortlessly identifies a human or animal topic and tracks it round a scene, maintaining even when the topic turns away or turns into obscured behind one thing else. I’m simply not satisfied that it does a lot good right here.

First, it appears to contribute to some distracting autofocus fluttering between close to and distant topics in some conditions with the telephoto lens. Mixed with the inherently much less secure ergonomics of taking footage with a cellphone versus a devoted digital camera, it could possibly make for an actual problem making an attempt to get a photograph of one thing within the distance.

Taking closer-range pictures of transferring children and pets in dim circumstances might be a extra widespread use case for many individuals, and it’s one which no cellphone producer has been capable of crack simply but — together with Sony. In these conditions, twin phase-detect will sustain together with your topic, however that doesn’t imply you’ll get a pointy shot. Identical to each different cellphone digital camera system, it’s certain by the legal guidelines of small-sensor-small-lens physics. Conditions the place there’s simply not sufficient accessible mild to maintain shutter pace excessive sufficient will nonetheless end in some blur, regardless of how properly the topic monitoring is maintaining.

Identical to each different cellphone digital camera system, it’s certain by the legal guidelines of small-sensor-small-lens physics

In very low mild, the digital camera will assemble knowledge from a number of frames to create a brighter, much less noisy picture. This really occurs mechanically in darker circumstances, and doesn’t require a visit to a separate evening mode, which I admire. However it does require you to carry the digital camera regular for a second or two, and isn’t properly fitted to transferring topics.

Sony has included a darn good digital camera system on the Xperia 1 III, and it’s one I loved utilizing. I received to flex some creativity that I’d usually keep away from with a smartphone and reserve for when I’ve a devoted digital camera available. However it hasn’t discovered a manner but to bend the legal guidelines of optics and physics.

We famous in our Xperia 1 II assessment that quite than leaning into computational pictures the way in which Apple and Google have, Sony appears to be leaning into its conventional digital camera chops, making use of the know-how that has pushed the corporate’s mirrorless cameras to the highest of the sport. That strategy has paid off in some methods — an important native digital camera app, a surprisingly good telephoto lens — but it surely doesn’t at all times translate, and I’m unsure how a lot additional Sony can take that strategy.

Sony Xperia 1 III video recording

The Xperia 1 III can be properly geared up for the intense cellular video shooter, with as much as 4K / 60p recording and a local video app that features loads of guide management over video settings. You’ll be able to set shutter angle, manually set factors for pull focus, and apply one among Sony’s pro-video-esque shade profiles. I’ve no downside telling you that this was all manner over my head, however I performed with it anyway.

Your video information are related to tasks, and sure parameters like body price are preserved from clip to clip inside a venture. You even have the selection of recording to inner storage or on to a microSD card in case you don’t wish to deplete your cupboard space with 4K video information. I’m comfortable to report that the SIM tray the place the microSD card slot lives merely pops out of the aspect of the gadget, so that you gained’t need to seek out a security pin each time you wish to seize your card to switch information. That’s a pleasant contact, particularly in case you’re going to be taking that card out usually to switch footage to a pc.

There’s not a lot you are able to do in the way in which of modifying information — you possibly can trim them or seize a nonetheless body — in order that they’ll must be exported for something greater than that. It’s additionally potential to make use of the Xperia 1 III as an exterior monitor for video recording with a devoted digital camera (doesn’t must be a Sony), or to make use of it for live-streaming.

That is all rather more sturdy than any native video-recording choices you’ll discover on a Samsung, Google, or Apple flagship. For somebody who’s entrenched within the Alpha digital camera ecosystem, it may make sense as a compact, light-weight choice for recording clips, or as a part of a live-streaming setup. However there are additionally robust third-party apps and accent choices for cellular video shooters, particularly these utilizing iOS, which have benefited from years of improvement and use within the area. Whereas the Xperia packs extra of this into its native app expertise, it’s not precisely a singular proposition.

Within the Xperia 1 III, Sony has created a classy gadget that each appears to be like good and delivers flagship-level efficiency. It presents subtle digital camera {hardware} and software program and a beautiful high-resolution OLED that’s not fairly like the rest in its class. And but I’m struggling to consider anybody who can buy this cellphone over an iPhone 12 Professional Max or a Galaxy S21 Extremely.

There’s the fundamentals: for $1,300, you’d be getting a tool that’s more likely to solely see a few years of safety updates. And in case you’re on AT&T, you’re paying prime greenback for a 5G gadget that may’t entry the provider’s 5G community. It’s laborious to make a case for the Xperia simply based mostly on these details.

issues simply don’t add up within the Xperia 1 III’s favor

However suppose you propose on buying and selling in your cellphone in a few years anyway, and also you’re not on AT&T or don’t care about 5G (nonetheless an inexpensive response to have towards 5G proper now). The Xperia 1 III will ship an excellent picture-taking expertise with digital camera {hardware} nearly as good as the rest on the market proper now. You’ll get an important leisure consumption gadget, with good audio and a beautiful display. And in case you’re thinking about taking pictures video, you’ll have a robust device in your arms proper out of the field.

However none of those options go far sufficient above and past what you may get with an iPhone or Galaxy flagship to make the Xperia stand out. Issue within the shorter timeframe for gadget assist and uncertainty of any OS platform updates, and issues simply don’t add up within the Xperia 1 III’s favor.

Images by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Comply with Proceed: Sony Xperia 1 III

Each sensible gadget now requires you to conform to a sequence of phrases and circumstances earlier than you should use it — contracts that nobody really reads. It’s unimaginable for us to learn and analyze each single one among these agreements. However we began counting precisely what number of occasions you need to hit “agree” to make use of gadgets once we assessment them since these are agreements most individuals don’t learn and positively can’t negotiate.

To make use of the Sony Xperia 1 III, you need to conform to:

  • Google Phrases of Service
  • Google Play Phrases of Service
  • Google Privateness Coverage (included in ToS)
  • Set up apps and updates: “You agree this gadget may mechanically obtain and set up updates and apps from Google, your provider, and your gadget’s producer, probably utilizing mobile knowledge.”
  • Agree that you’re “conscious” of guarantee, security, and the existence of information prices.

The next agreements are optionally available:

  • Sony Xperia companies privateness coverage, which incorporates some “private knowledge” and “detailed diagnostics.”
  • Use location: “Google might gather location knowledge periodically and use this knowledge in any nameless manner to enhance location accuracy and location-based companies.”
  • Permit scanning: “Permit apps and companies to scan for Wi-Fi networks and close by gadgets at any time, even when Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is off.”
  • Ship utilization and diagnostic knowledge.

Moreover, if you wish to use the Google Assistant, you need to conform to let Google gather:

  • App data out of your gadgets.
  • Contact data out of your gadgets: “This knowledge could also be saved and utilized in any Google service the place you’re signed in to offer you extra personalised experiences. You’ll be able to see your knowledge, delete it, and alter your settings at”

Different options like Google Pay might require further agreements.

Remaining tally: 5 necessary agreements and at the least six optionally available agreements.

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