The Sony Xperia 1 III smartphone is due to start shipping to customers this week after being announced earlier this year along with the Xperia 5 III. Courtesy of Sony, we were able to get our hands on the new phone a few days early so we could see what it can do. Here’s our hands-on review of the Sony Xperia 1 III.
The Xperia 1 III looks and feels very similar to the previous model, despite offering multiple upgrades. Like the 1 II, the new phone is quite long and narrow, with an impressive 6.5’’ 4K HDR OLED display. We had no issues using it with one hand, although admittedly there is lots of screen to stretch your thumb across.
Of course, the large display is totally worth it once you start gaming or watching a movie on the phone. Especially with the thumping built-in stereo speakers, which Sony reports are now 40% louder.
The phone has four buttons on its right side: a volume control, a power button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor, a Google Assistant button, and a camera shutter button with an embossed finish. There’s also a headphone jack on top of the phone; a nice touch given that most smartphone competitors no longer have them.
Another update implemented for the Xperia 1 III is its powerful new processing engine: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G Mobile Platform. The Xperia 1 II doesn’t support 5G in the US, and this is definitely one of its biggest flaws. In addition to remedying that, the new engine also helps power the 1 III’s impressive gaming and camera capabilities, which we expand upon below.
The Xperia 1 III features a dynamic triple-lens camera system that supports four focal lengths. There’s a 16mm F2.2 lens, a 24mm F1.7 lens, and a 70mm F2.3 lens, which also optically zooms to the fourth focal length, 105mm F2.8. All three lenses use ZEISS optical glass with an anti-reflective T* coating.
The Pro Photography app that comes pre-installed on the phone offers you almost complete control over the camera – if you want it. The new default shooting mode, Basic, can be used in landscape and portrait orientation, and offers a standard smartphone camera app experience. In other words, the 1 III handles everything automatically.
Basic mode is convenient, but experienced photographers will likely prefer one of the other shooting modes, which make the phone feel like a high-powered camera. In fact, this phone is a high-powered camera. As we mentioned, it even has its own shutter button. Shooting in Manual mode, you can easily toggle between the lenses and adjust settings such as the white balance, shutter speed, and ISO.
Sony cameras are known for their incredible autofocus capabilities. Testing it out on the Xperia 1 III, we found it lived up to expectations. Like the 1 II, the phone uses a 3D iToF sensor for fast, accurate autofocus, particularly in low light. The autofocus has been further enhanced due to new, 12MP Dual PDAF sensors built into each camera. They allow each lens to sustain faster and more accurate autofocus on moving subjects.
We were able to capture some really nice photos using the Xperia 1 III. In particular, we appreciated how simple the Pro Photography app makes it use the phone like a professional-grade camera. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced photographer or a beginner, you’ll quickly take to using the 1 III.
The Xperia 1 III also comes pre-installed with the Cinema Pro app, offering similarly advanced controls for shooting video. In addition to adjusting standard camera settings, the app allows you to toggle between eight different color settings. One of the color settings, VENICE CS, is particularly ideal for filmmakers who like to color grade their work.
Incredibly, the Xperia 1 III is also capable of shooting in 4K at 120fps for impressively high-quality slow-motion video. While the phone got a little warm while we were recording, it never stopped working or recording, and we were shooting intermittently over several hours. The footage we shot turned out great, and compared well to slow-motion video (1080p at 120fps) we shot on a Sony a7 III – a $1,998 prosumer camera.
The Xperia 1 III inherited several features from the Xperia 5 II that make it great for gaming. This includes a 120Hz refresh rate and 240Hz motion blur reduction that allows the phone to offer an incredible, blur-free gaming experience. The Xperia 1 III also inherited the 240Hz touch-scanning rate, allowing the phone to offer a precise and immediate touch response.
Playing Call of Duty on the Xperia 1 III was incredibly immersive and entertaining. Gameplay was intuitive and responsive, and it was easy to comfortably play for long periods of time.
Another update for the Xperia 1 III is a new 4,500mAh battery. Battery life is decent, although as you can expect, it drains quite quickly when you’re using the advanced capabilities of the phone consistently throughout the day. Thankfully, when using the charger included in the box, you can get the phone from 0 to 50% charge in just 30 minutes.
Price is arguably the biggest flaw of the Xperia 1 III. While there are certainly enough features to justify its $1,298 price tag, it does make the phone more expensive than popular competitors like the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S21.
However, it’s only a slight price difference; all three phones cost over $1K. Plus, if you purchase the Xperia 1 III before January 02, 2022, you’ll also receive 43,200 Call of Duty Mobile CP points (worth $540) and a pair of WF-1000XM3 wireless, noise-canceling earphones.
The portability and versatility of the Xperia 1 III make it a great option for anyone interested in photography or filmmaking. The phone can help you develop more advanced skills, and you don’t even have to carry around a full-size camera body. Similarly, experienced photographers will appreciate the advanced controls and capabilities offered by a smartphone, a device they likely need anyway in addition to their camera. Gamers and cinephiles have a lot to love about the new phone too.
Price may be a barrier for some, but if you’re also looking at similarly priced competitors, consider what you want from your next phone. For those looking for more than just a smartphone, the Xperia 1 III is a compelling choice.