Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

THe looks a lot like the Xperia 1 III smartphone that came before. If it weren’t for the matte finish, it would be almost the same Last year’s Xperia 1 II. Sony has stuck to the cameras as well, while upgrading the screen with its unusually stretched smartphone form factor.

Again, this phone has been pitched to a special kind of smartphone buyers. This isn’t a bad thing, especially at a time when most smartphones – if they don’t fold – lack something particularly unique. At $ 1,300, Xperia 1 III Also an expensive phone. That’s a few hundred dollars more than an iPhone 13 Pro Max and usually close to the price set for Samsung’s flagship foldable. (Edit: Just as I finished this review, Sony has unveiled a new flagship smartphone, Xperia Pro-1 With a large imaging sensor, several attachments and a ট্যাগ 1,800 price tag.)


  • Cameras enabled by the feature-rich app
  • Fantastic 4K 120Hz screen
  • Classy matte finish


  • Much more expensive
  • Some may find it difficult to use unusual form factors
  • Medium battery life
  • Awesome selfie camera

If you’re tempted by the potential for unparalleled smartphone camera control – or just like the aesthetics of Sony’s hardware – there’s a lot to choose from.


Sony Xperia 1 III Review

Matt Smith / Engadget

I’m not sure if it matches Sony’s camera series or how smooth and underestimated it is with Mk.III, but I like what this phone looks like. Far from a black rectangular exterior, but it is certainly interesting. And this is despite the unusual screen ratio (21: 9), which makes the device more elongated than all other smartphones. Also, a new almost-matte finish adds a premium feel, which the Xperia 1 III claims at this price.

Mk.III claims to be the world’s first 4K phone with 120Hz refresh rate I’m splitting the hair here, but it’s 1644 x 3840 – so it’s not 4K like your TV, which would be 2160 x 3840. Presumably, everything on the screen looked incredibly crisp, and my interaction with the phone was also moderate. Smooth

The 6.5-inch OLED display continues to show Sony’s obsession with the display, and given the space, you’d expect it to look better than Samsung and Apple’s top devices. If you decide to turn on the high refresh rate, Xperia will not dynamically change the refresh rate to increase battery life. There are times when you just stare at the screen that you don’t need a 120Hz refresh rate.

Whether it’s Samsung’s Galaxy S21 and its dynamic refresh rate or the promotion of the iPhone 13 Pro, these two phones float between refresh rates as needed, reducing battery tolls. Unfortunately, once set, the Xperia 1 III’s screen stays at 120Hz.

The phone has a front stereo speaker, which sounds good. This is still a rarity for smartphones. As you might expect from Sony, it has support for almost all sophisticated audio formats, including its own 360 reality audio, high-resolution audio, and Dolby Atoms.

You need to find out which apps and services offer these upgraded audio experiences, as it is still a maze to discover how to play the highest quality music files. In that regard, Sony has stuck to the 3.5mm audio jack for another year.

Sony Xperia 1 III Review

Matt Smith / Engadget

On the right end of the phone is a fingerprint sensor built into the phone’s power button, a volume rocker, a two-stage camera shutter button and then another button, as Sony can. This invites Google Assistant but sadly can’t be assigned to another (more useful function). In the early stages of using the phone, I would often point out the mistake, powering up the screen instead of turning on the camera. Sometimes, I want to do the opposite.

Four buttons on one side is too much and by the time I finally get used to it, a dedicated voice assistant button seems completely unnecessary.

How I love Mk. III shows, but that long screen would be a struggle for some small hands. I think it’s a bit out of reach for the icons at the top of the screen and drop-down menus usually demand two hands. Although this form-factor makes me feel more comfortable in my hand and goes into my pocket more easily than Apple’s big Pro phone or Pixel 4a 5G.

Rounding out the list of features you want to see on a premium smartphone, the Xperia 1 III runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset, with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It’s a little more 5G-friendly, currently working with the T-Mobile and Verizon bands. However, there is no mmWave support or it will not work on AT&T’s 5G offer.

Sony has increased the size of the battery to 4,500mAh, making it significantly larger than its predecessor. Unfortunately, the Xperia 1 III struggles to survive all day, if you keep the screen running at least 120Hz. On days of heavy use, I need to recharge the phone in the evening. After downloading the settings from 120Hz I was usually embarrassed to use a day and a half, which is a pretty standard image for most high-end Android devices. The battery is big, yes, but so is the screen.

The cameras

Sony Xperia 1 III Review

Matt Smith / Engadget

It’s an open secret that Sony makes camera sensors for many smartphone makers. But until recently, it didn’t translate into a killer smartphone camera for his own phone. So if Xperia 1 II Sony is serious about its phone cameras, then Xperia 1 III is Sony becoming serious, focused and business-like at the same time.

Like the screen, Sony is adopting its own approach with three 12-megapixel cameras of different focal lengths. It has a new telephoto lens that can switch between 70mm and 105mm equivalent zoom. Sony says that the variable zoom lens helps it focus faster, which was true in my experience, although I found that there was a bit more ambiguity when using optical zoom max.

Along with the Mk.III, Sony has also added dual-phase-detection-autofocus pixels, which, combined with 20 frames per second, will provide a better opportunity to capture crisp shots in busy settings. You can tap to focus and the camera will Track Running issues, just like a digital camera touchscreen.

Sony has pulled together an interesting mix of (relatively) low-megapixel sensors and blended it with what it has learned from its camera series. Compared to what iPhone and Pixel phones do with computational photography and post-processing, Sony offers a more technological approach to capturing shots.

While testing the phone, I leaned too much on the “automatic” shooting mode, which works like any camera app on any smartphone. But like the Xperia 1 phone before, the Mark III comes with a pretty extensive Photography Pro app. Outside of Basic mode, you can tinker with shutter speed, ISO, color balance, and more.

I will admit that I am not the best photographer, and so anything that helps me get better shots, be it software support or higher light sensitivity, is appreciated. Outside of automatic, simplified camera mode, the Xperia 1 III has a learning curve. Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite match the experience of a Sony camera. I’ve wandered around for an aperture priority mode (so I can maximize the bokeh effect at low f stop), but it doesn’t exist. I was deceived into thinking that the Mk.III would work like a camera, but it is still a smartphone camera. You can adjust the shooting speed and ISO, but not the aperture. Sometimes, I feel that I am not skilled enough to make the most of Mk.III. I can take better pictures on other flagship phones, but I think it’s because of my own photographic errors.

Sony Xperia 1 III Review

Matt Smith / Engadget

The Xperia 1 III works great with face detection and often gets stuck on fast moving people and pets. However, when you are using the telephoto lens, the phone is seen too often in the front and background details. The usual curse of smartphone photography does not escape from Sony either. Low light conditions will still confuse autofocus, no matter how smart Sony is. There is no night shoot mode, which is intriguing in 2021.

Review the Sony Xperia 1 III camera sample
The Xperia 1 III photo is great for making sure the faces are in focus Although most of the picture is crisp, you can still clearly see the boat passengers at this distance.

Matt Smith / Engadget

The video captured by Mk.III was a delightful surprise, whether shooting in 4K or 1080p. I took the phone with me during the trip to Amsterdam and recorded the video in daylight and at night. The lack of rolling shutters, moving trams, and accurate lighting both when recording on dark roads fascinated me. The footage wasn’t too noisy or blurry, which you often see from many smartphone cameras when they try to compensate for the lack of light.

If you’re looking for more sophisticated controls, including video, Sony’s Cinema Pro app comes back, offering equivalent Pro controls but for video. You can choose shooting modes like 10-bit color and high frame-rate by playing with the built-in filter, shutter speed and even manual focus. You need to come to Cinema Pro with at least a pass understanding of what all these things do. I find it a bit complicated, but at least Mk.III provides enough screen space to tap into settings and adjust everything.

And a quick note on the front camera: It’s awful. Fuzzy, noisy and surprisingly low-specific, at a time when we are using more selfie-cams than ever before. This is an unusual camera miss for Sony.


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