The Sony Xperia 1 is an eye-catching smartphone that comes with a beautiful screen, perfect for watching movies on the go.
With a 21:9 screen ratio, the Sony Xperia 1 is one of the tallest phones on the market right now.
First impressions and design
The first thing that strikes you about the Xperia 1 is how tall it is, its screen aspect ratio is 21:9, making for a big device that's great for watching content.
You'll find the camera and top speaker located at the top of the phone. It's a well designed - but not dainty - device, and it might be a tight squeeze in your pocket.
The Xperia 1 sports a translucent glass back available in Black or Purple. A Silver version, dubbed "Cool Grey" is currently exclusively available from Vodafone in the UK.
Both the front and the back are built using Gorilla Glass 6, all kept together by an aluminium frame with smooth, rounded edges.
Version 6 is the latest standard of Corning’s unique brand of reinforced glass and offers the highest level of shock and scratch resistance you can get on a smartphone.
*The buttons are very low down the side. Which makes sense given the size of the phone, but it can be hard to get used to a power button located in the lower third of the device *
All the buttons, together with the fingerprint scanner, are located on the right side of the Xperia 1 and their layout is a bit different from what you might find on other Android phones.
The volume rocker, fingerprint scanner and power button are in a line around the middle area of the right side.
Lower down, you'll find the camera button. Use it to launch the camera (press and hold), focus (light-press) and as a shutter button to take a picture when you're ready.
This camera button, once you get used to its position and timing, is an excellent way of taking pictures.
The position of the buttons may need a bit of adjustment time, especially the slightly awkward power/standby button, but once you've used the phone for a little while you shouldn't have any problems.
At the base, there is a reversible USB-C port that supports fast-charging, as well as the main speaker.
- USB-C and a single speaker. It's really loud but lacks sound depth.*
||Corning Gorilla Glass 6
||167 x 72 x 8.2 mm
When it comes to the screen, the Sony Xperia 1 is one of the best out there.
You'll be hard pressed to find a better phone than the Xperia 1 when it comes to watching movies
The massive 6.5" display has a 4K resolution for extremely crisp images, and OLED technology makes for vibrant colours and deep blacks.
The 21:9 aspect ratio is also what sets it apart from other flagships like the Huawei P30 Pro or the Galaxy S10+.
This cinema-like aspect ratio - "CinemaWide" - is the same width-to-height ratio used to record most modern blockbusters.
- If you like watching movies on your smartphone, the Xperia 1 is as close to the cinema as you'll get. Remember to pack some decent headphones too so your audio is as good as the brilliant display. *
You can also find more ways to enhance your movie watching experience in the Display Settings.
CineAlta, a Sony brand that specialises in professional video recording equipment, has helped develop a colour profile designed for high colour accuracy.
When enabled, the display adjusts the colours so what you see is as close as possible to what the director envisioned.
Despite the unrivalled performance with clarity and colour accuracy, the Xperia 1 screen falls slightly behind the likes of the Huawei P30 Pro when it comes to sheer brightness and viewing angles.
While the aspect ratio is perfect for movies, it might not be a great fit for other media. Many YouTube videos are recorded in 16:9, and casual games are not often optimised for these dimensions.
- The display is sharp and colours are vivid, but the brightness is lacking compared to some of its rivals.*
| Screen size | 6.5 inches |
| Resolution | 1644 x 3840 pixels; 21:9 ratio |
| Pixel Density | 643 ppi |
| Technology | OLED |
The three cameras at the back offer a good range of options to cover all your photography needs.
They are all 12MP in resolution and are made up of a Standard 26mm, a 2x zoom (52mm equivalent) and a 16mm Wide Angle effort.
Optical Image Stabilisation is available on both the standard and the zoom, and it does a great job of minimising motion blur.
Sony's smartphone cameras over the last few years haven't quite been up there with the best. The Xperia 1 changes all that with a big improvement in image quality and rich - but not overly saturated or artificial-looking - colours.
The triple camera setup puts the Xperia 1 in line with almost all other premium smartphones in the market
A realistic feel is an overall take away from using the camera, and while not exceptional, you'll get consistently good results.
The main camera makes the best of the available light sources without trying too hard to increase the luminosity at the expense of sharpness.
The camera interface has a simple layout, but can be a bit laggy at times
Dynamic range, another good measure of camera capabilities is also good but for best results, be mindful of scenes with a wide range of light conditions.
The Manual Mode is easy to use and Sony have packed a lot of features in. The interface is simple, and even if you've never thought about Exposure Value or White Balance, it's worth playing around with. The highlights are Focus control, great for photographing small objects, and the shutter speed that can be pushed up to 30 seconds for creative shots, like light trails.
The selfie camera at the front has a resolution of 8MP, which is pretty standard for phones at this price range.
The selfie cam does have a habit of defaulting to "soft portrait" mode if left on auto detect, however. Tapping on the ‘selfie options’ icon is all you need to do to get access to a selection of settings such as skin-smoothing.
More selfie options also include wacky effects like eye enlargement and face-thinning - fun for creating a cartoon-like version of yourself.
The CineAlta app is by far the most powerful video recording tool we have seen bundled on any phone. There is no editing tool included though.
Video capture is one area where the Xperia 1 shines. This phone is capable of recording 4K HDR footage which plays really well on HDR screens.
The feature that sets it apart is the CineAlta app, a professional-grade video interface. Separate from the standard camera, it gives you a level of control over video recording that is unrivalled by any other phone.
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||12.2 MP, f/1.8, 28mm
||8 MP, f/2.0
|Optical Image Stabilisation
Software, Performance and battery life
Interface and apps
The Xperia 1 comes with an easy-to-use Sony operating system running on top of the latest version of Android.
The interface is clean and will be familiar to Android users, and Sony has pre-installed plenty of useful apps.
Powerful specs and a large screen make the Xperia 1 a good choice for gamers. A dedicated app allows optimising the system for high-performance gaming.
You'll find Netflix, booking.com, Accuweather, as well as three of the latest games (Fortnite, Arena of Valor and Asphalt).
The games hardly use any storage as long as you don't activate them, so if Fortnite or Asphalt are not your thing, you can always tuck the icons away in a folder and forget about them.
- Worth getting familiar with the excellent multi-screen utility.*
With the Xperia 1, Sony has introduced a set of unique gesture controls that make using your device a bit easier. Tapping on the right edge of the screen opens "Side Sense", an on-screen overlay that gives you easy access to frequently used apps, one-handed mode, and split-screen mode.
Split-screen makes the most of the large display - you'll find it really simplifies tasks that require switching between apps.
The Xperia 1 comes with one of the most powerful processors in the market right now, the Snapdragon 855. This is the same found on the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Galaxy S10 and makes the Sony flagship a smooth operator when it comes to running both apps and games.
The Xperia 1 is packing 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space. If you're recording big video files and downloading plenty of games, you can increase the storage up to 1TB with a microSD card.
Asphalt 9 runs smoothly even at the highest graphics settings
The Xperia 1 comes with a 3330mAh sized battery. Casual use will take you comfortably to the end of the day, but things can get a bit tight if the screen is on for long sessions or you tend to use the camera a lot.
Wireless charging is not supported but fast-charging is - even with third party adaptors that supports the fast charge standard.
The battery will take you comfortably to the end of the day unless you run long sessions with the screen on.
||3000mAh (Pixel 3a) 3700mAh (Pixel 3a XL)
|OS and Version
||Android 9 (Pie)
Value and verdict
The Sony Xperia 1 is waterproof, built with premium materials, including the super-tough Gorilla Glass 6, and its powerful tech make it a snappy performer.
It's got a great camera, and while there are better snapper-phones out there, it's a drastic improvement on earlier Sony efforts - still photography comes out particularly well. And when it comes to video, it's one of the best you can buy.
Despite the shiny, smooth glass, the design is rather understated and this dark purple is a colour choice I'd happily live with
Its unique design and size may make the Xperia 1 more of a niche device. The 21:9 ratio is perfect for movies, but it can be difficult to use with one hand, and the position of the buttons may be awkward for left handers.
Priced at around £850 SIM-free, this is no doubt a premium phone that delivers on most of what it promises, but you might want to try it for size before purchasing.