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Sony Xperia 1 V Review: Trying To Reach The Market Giants

Source: Cnet

Reviewer: Pattrick Holand

sony xperia 1 v
The standout feature of the Sony Xperia 1 V is its 6.5-inch 4K 120Hz display, boasting an elongated 21:9 aspect ratio.

Sony Xperia 1 V Review

The Sony Xperia 1 V combines top features from previous Xperia 1 phones: a 4K high refresh rate display, expandable storage, advanced eye-tracking autofocus cameras, a 5,000-mAh battery, a hardware shutter button, and a headphone jack. Sony’s utilitarian design enhances the phone’s appeal. It offers various quality-of-life improvements for creative individuals such as photographers, filmmakers, musicians, and gamers, providing precise control over their content.

The phone features ribbed sides for improved grip, a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, and a durable Gorilla Glass Victus 2 screen. Rotating the Photo Pro and Video Pro apps between landscape and portrait modes is easy to use. Additionally, the imprinted texture on the glass back enhances its aesthetics and tactile experience. Despite its high price, it is not considered a luxurious phone.

The cameras deserve special mention. Apple and Sony have had a longstanding partnership, as Tim Cook highlighted in a Twitter post last December. The post featured a photo of Tim Cook in a pose reminiscent of Vincent D’Onofrio from Law and Order, observing iPhones being tested in a Sony camera lab. Sony camera sensors are utilized in iPhones, and often, these sensors make their debut in Xperia phones. The Xperia 1 V boasts a significant upgrade with a new sensor for its main camera. However, it is important to note that the sensors in this phone may not necessarily be used in future iPhones.

We’ve had the opportunity to use a preproduction Xperia 1 V, kindly loaned to me by Sony, for about a week. We must say, We’re thoroughly impressed with almost every aspect, particularly the cameras. Sony has taken its cutting-edge hardware to the next level by incorporating advanced computational photography techniques, akin to Apple, Google, and Samsung.

However, there is one drawback that casts a shadow over these impressive features. The Xperia 1 V comes with a hefty price tag of $1,400, which roughly converts to £1,110 or AU$2,070. If you find yourself wincing at that number, you’re not alone. And no, the phone doesn’t offer a folding mechanism. Surprisingly, the Xperia 1 V has accomplished something unimaginable: it has made the $1,200 Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra appear like a bargain. It’s important to mention that, apart from last year’s model, the Xperia is the sole known phone to feature a 4K 120Hz refresh rate display and a telephoto camera with lens elements that replicate the movement of a real camera lens. Both the S23 Ultra and the iPhone 14 Pro lack these features. However, both Apple and Samsung have found ways to produce stunning photos and videos that are on par, and sometimes even surpass, Sony’s quality, all without the exorbitant price tag.

Let’s be honest, a thousand or twelve hundred dollars is still quite a sum.

The Xperia 1 V presents a compelling opportunity for individuals who are considering it as an external field monitor and video recorder for a dedicated camera. It not only allows for live streaming from an external camera through the Xperia but now also enables recording of the video feed. What sets the Xperia apart is its 4K resolution display, distinguishing it from other external monitor recorders such as Atmos, SmallHD, or Blackmagic, which typically feature FHD displays. At $1,400, the Xperia offers a compelling value proposition when compared to the cost of buying a separate $1,000 iPhone 14 Pro and a $400 FHD display.

Preorders for the Sony Xperia 1 V will commence today at 8 a.m. PT, with official orders starting on July 28. Sony has added an attractive incentive for preorders, offering a complimentary pair of $180 Sony LinkBuds with each purchase, making the Xperia even more appealing.

The Camera of the Sony Xperia 1 V

In terms of hardware, three of the four cameras in the Sony Xperia 1 V remain unchanged from last year’s Xperia 1 IV. The front-facing camera captures 12 megapixels, while the rear setup includes a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens. Although not new, the telephoto lens stands out as a notable feature of the Xperia 1 V. With a variable telephoto lens, the phone offers an optical zoom range of 3.5x to 5.2x magnification. In comparison, the iPhone 14 Pro’s optical zoom is limited to 3x, with any further zoom relying on digital zoom. The Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, incorporates a 3x optical zoom camera and a 10x optical zoom camera, but anything between 3x and 10x zoom relies on digital zoom. The more a phone relies on digital zoom, the greater the risk of image degradation.

The telephoto lens on the Xperia enhances its versatility as a camera, surpassing the capabilities of the iPhone. Although it doesn’t offer the extreme 100x digital “space zoom” of the S23 Ultra, it still provides Samsung-like functionality for capturing detailed photos and videos from a distance. The Xperia 1 V, much like the S23 Ultra, could be the ideal phone for affluent parents. It excels at capturing up-close moments of their children during school plays, recitals, or soccer matches.

sony xperia 1 v camera info
A detailed shot of the camera bump on the Xperia.

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The highlight of the Xperia 1 V is undoubtedly Sony’s new 52-megapixel sensor for the main camera. Unlike the square-shaped sensors found in most phones, this sensor is wider. When capturing photos with other phones, the entire sensor is utilized, while videos are typically recorded with a 16:9 crop in the center.

Sony made an innovative move by widening the sensor, enabling videos to utilize the full height of the sensor. For photos, the sides are cropped, resulting in 48-megapixel images that are “binned” in groups to generate 12-megapixel photos. Additionally, the new sensor offers increased speed, enabling Sony to leverage advanced computational photography processing techniques.

These advancements result in the inclusion of a dedicated night mode and improved processing for medium, low light, and mixed lighting conditions. Throughout my week of using the phone, everything, except for the night mode, has fulfilled Sony’s promises. I am particularly impressed with how the Xperia captures photos with natural highlight roll-off.

Below, you can find a selection of my favorite photos taken with the Xperia.

sony xperia 1 v captured photo
The Xperia flawlessly captured the interplay of light and colors, as evident from the stunning highlights.

sony xperia 1 v captured photo
Peebles the cat peacefully napping, showcasing the impressive dynamic range captured in the photos.

sony xperia 1 v captured photo
A photograph of a plant in Salesforce Park, captured using the 3.5-5.2x telephoto camera

When comparing the Xperia to the iPhone 14 Pro, the results are quite impressive. Take a look at the photos I captured inside Peoples Barbershop in San Francisco. In Xperia’s photo, pay attention to the window and the man seated on the left. In the iPhone’s photo, the man’s head and neck are cast in shadow. Additionally, observe the sharper lettering on the tip sign to the right in the iPhone’s photo. However, it’s worth noting that the overall image from the iPhone appears to be over-sharpened when compared to the one captured by the Xperia.

Displayed below are photos of a dog captured outside a skate shop. I took these photos at 3.5x zoom on the Xperia and 3x zoom on the iPhone. Both images exhibit excellent texture in the dog’s fur. The Xperia’s photo showcases a natural out-of-focus background, thanks to its lens, while the iPhone’s photo retains focus throughout the background. Overall, both shots are commendable, but personally, I prefer the one taken with the Xperia. The dog appears more vibrant and stands out compared to the slightly flatter representation in the iPhone’s snapshot.

Now, let’s introduce the Galaxy S23 Ultra into the comparison. Presented below are photos of some baked eggs from Luna. In the iPhone’s photo, you may notice an over-sharpened effect, particularly noticeable in the bread. The colors appear slightly muted, and there is a mix of daylight coming in from the left side and warm overhead lighting. The iPhone’s white balance leans towards cooler tones. On the other hand, Samsung’s photo accurately captures the vibrant red color of the romesco sauce and achieves a more balanced overall color temperature. The Xperia’s photos, however, tend to lean towards warmer tones, resulting in slightly oversaturated colors. It’s interesting to note that Xperia chose to focus on the kale rather than the bread, aligning with the doctor’s recommendation for a healthier focus.

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Now, let’s venture into a dimly lit environment, such as the basement bar at Smuggler’s Cove. These photos were captured using the phones’ respective night mode capabilities. Among the three, my preferred choice is the one taken with the Galaxy S23 Ultra. While the Xperia performs well in managing shadows and colors, the movement of the bartenders during the capture process led to a blurry outcome with blown highlights.

In general, I appreciate Sony’s enhancements in computational photography for the Xperia. It proves to be successful in most scenarios. However, my tests also indicate Samsung’s superiority in night mode capabilities.

When it comes to video recording, the Sony Xperia performs on par with the iPhone 14 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra in well-lit conditions. However, in low-light situations, Apple’s exceptional video processing capabilities allow its videos to maintain superior quality. To see sample videos from each phone, I invite you to watch my review video of the Sony Xperia 1 V.

In addition to the extensive testing conducted, it is equally crucial to take into account the process of capturing photos and videos. This is an aspect where the Xperia surpasses the iPhone 14 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra. The Xperia caters to individuals who prefer to have precise control over the settings for capturing their photos and videos. It is not intended to provide a one-handed, point-and-shoot experience.

With Xperia’s Photo Pro, Video Pro, and Cinema Pro apps, you have the ability to finely adjust every aspect to achieve the desired look in your photos and videos. While there are third-party apps available for the iPhone and S23 Ultra that offer similar functionality, none have reached the level of Sony’s implementation. Photo Pro transforms the phone’s interface into an identical experience to Sony Alpha cameras. Additionally, the Xperia boasts a dedicated hardware shutter button on the right side, a feature absent in the iPhone 14 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Powering the Xperia is a combination of 12GB of RAM and the aforementioned Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, which delivers exceptional speed and responsiveness. Whether it was capturing numerous photos and videos or engaging in everyday activities like browsing social media and playing video games, the Xperia 1 V handled it all effortlessly. Much of this seamless performance can be attributed to the impressive capabilities of the processor. Our experience this year with other smartphones equipped with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, such as the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, further solidifies its commendable performance. In benchmark tests, the Xperia proudly stands alongside Samsung, Asus, and Vivo in terms of overall performance.

In terms of battery life, I found that the Xperia easily lasted through a full day on a single charge. However, it’s worth noting that the 4K display, particularly when set at a high refresh rate of 120Hz, consumes a significant amount of power. This leads me to question the decision to include a 4K display. While the resolution and smooth frame rate are undeniably impressive, opting for a QHD display could have potentially improved battery life and even lowered the overall cost of the phone. In reality, most users wouldn’t likely notice a significant difference in visual quality. Nevertheless, the Xperia is primarily targeted toward individuals who would appreciate the finer details, particularly those planning to utilize the phone as an external monitor recorder.

During CNET’s streaming video test, which involves setting the display brightness to 50% and streaming a video over Wi-Fi for several hours, the Xperia with its 4K 120Hz display demonstrated a decline in battery life. After one hour, the battery level dropped from 100% to 88%, and after two hours, it further decreased to 75%. To provide context, the OnePlus 11, featuring a QHD 120Hz screen, experienced a battery drop from a full charge to 92% after one hour and 85% after two hours during the same test.

When it comes to charging capabilities, the Xperia offers 30W fast charging support. However, it’s important to note that Sony does not include a charger or USB-C cable in the box. Nevertheless, during a 30-minute charging session using a 30W power brick, the battery level of the Xperia increased significantly from 25% to 73%. Additionally, the phone is compatible with wireless charging, and in a 30-minute test, the battery percentage rose from 58% to 85%.

Final thoughts on the Sony Xperia 1 V

The textured back glass of the Sony Xperia 1 V enhances grip and adds a touch of elegance to its overall appearance.
The textured back glass of the Sony Xperia 1 V enhances grip and adds a touch of elegance to its overall appearance.

As a fervent supporter of Sony’s Xperia smartphones, I wholeheartedly appreciate the continuous innovation and enhancements showcased in the Xperia 1 V. This device reflects years of dedicated efforts, specifically tailored to cater to the needs of artists and creative individuals. When viewed from this perspective, Xperia excels in delivering a multitude of features that align perfectly with the requirements of its intended audience.

Despite my appreciation for the Xperia line, I often find myself gravitating towards the more affordable 5 series. It’s worth noting that even the previous generation Xperia 5 IV, which still offers exceptional features, comes with a $1,000 price tag. The 5 series manages to inherit the majority of the remarkable specifications and capabilities from the 1 series, all while providing a more budget-friendly alternative without the hefty $1,400 price point.

Speaking from my own experience as a theater director and short filmmaker, the Xperia 1 V would have been a dream device for me. However, considering the financial aspect, it would have been challenging for me to afford one. In such a situation, I would have likely chosen to invest in a dedicated camera, such as Sony’s Alpha line of APS-C cameras, which could provide me with the professional capabilities I needed at a more manageable cost.

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