With Xperia 1 III, you get the feeling of having a real laboratory of Sony technologies in your hands, integrated into a single instrument and designed to showcase their technical and photographic capabilities. A set of excellent solutions within a single body, just over 8 millimeters thick and with a design, we would define as iconic; we are actually in the third generation of a project that follows a directive that is “different” from many other competitors. To make sure it’s a special tool, we would dare to say that for most professionals and photography enthusiasts, available software and hardware tools are what make the real difference. But what is the price to be paid? Let’s know in this Sony Xperia 1 III review below.
Xperia 1 III is Sony’s most advanced smartphone to date, except for the Xperia Pro-I which is a product designed for professional vloggers and live streamers. With an actual price of $1,298 and limited sales in certain online stores like Bhphotovideo.com, Adorama.com, and Bestbuy.com are giving $100 OFF during Black Friday Sales. The device has to compete directly with a few flagships names in the market today, the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Until now, Sony smartphones have always gone their own way, different from the rest. Some would say Sony is stubborn and conservative, but what if one day Sony launches a phone with a notch display like the iPhone or uses a waterdrop notch display? We can’t really think of it.
Masculine and square, these are words that can sum up the design feel of the Sony Xperia 1 III. The body is tall like that of a supermodel, which is because the device’s screen follows Sony’s 21:9 “cinematic standard” aspect ratio.
If you look at the photos or read the other Sony Xperia 1 III review articles online, you’ll see that many people criticize the Xperia 1 III for being too long, but when we used it, so it doesn’t last much longer than Samsung S21 Ultra, just because the width is a bit narrow makes this body seem tall.
Sony says absolutely “no” to screen defects like notch, punch-hole, waterdrop notch, etc. With the Xperia 1 III, you’ll have a completely intact, spacious, and unobstructed screen. Anything with a perfect balance of up/down and left/right. The two sides at the top and bottom of the screen are a bit thick to accommodate a palm rest and integrate a stereo speaker system as well. And the front is protected by today’s latest Gorilla Glass Victus.
The rear design is the Xperia 1 III’s biggest change compared to the previous generation. Instead of glossy glass, the Xperia 1 III has a frosted glass back with an anti-reflective coating. Sweat and fingerprints are very limited on the device, but Sony’s rough approach also makes the device quite slippery. The back of the device is protected by Gorilla Glass 6 and not the front like Victus.
The main camera module of the device still follows the traditional style with the vertical lens, not following the trend of a horizontal camera module. Sony’s partner remains the famous Zeiss. The camera cluster is a bit protruding, but it’s nothing compared to the iPhone 13 Pro Max or the Samsung S21 Ultra. It is equipped with OIS optical stabilization for its main and telephoto cameras.
The Xperia 1 III’s design emphasizes caution and high-end, but that doesn’t mean Sony hasn’t made confusing decisions. Firstly, there is the fact that the company places 5 physical buttons on the right side of the machine, while there is nothing on the other side. Volume up and down, power key cum fingerprint sensor, dedicated camera key, and with that Sony decided to cram in a spare key to call it Google Assistant and it cannot assign any other function. The buttons have also different “convex”, leading to a slightly confusing feel.
Second, the Xperia 1 III has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is a welcome decision, but at the top edge of the device, only the USB-C port is located at the bottom.
The Xperia 1 III comes with a 6.5-inch OLED screen that supports a 10-bit color display, 4K resolution (as Sony says, screen resolution is 1644 x 3840 pixels), pixel density of 643 PPI, and 120 Hz refresh rate. On paper, the Xperia 1 III’s screen has the best features available today, no other device can match.
In real experience, the images displayed on the Xperia 1 III have high embossing, vivid colors, a high contrast range, and a flawless 21:9 screen that delivers a strong visual impact. The device’s maximum brightness is higher but slightly lower than the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung S21 Ultra. By default, the Xperia 1 III will run in “Creator Mode”, the picture mode with the most “standard” colors, plus the device “Standard Mode” also expands the color space to make colors brighter and more attractive. Over time, we think you should still choose Creator Mode instead of Standard Mode, even if you don’t do things like edit photos and videos so that the content appears most authentic.
The 21:9 “cinematic” ratio of the Xperia 1 III brings a truly different experience, and when using this tool, we got really excited while watching movies and entertainment videos. Unfortunately, there isn’t much pure 21:9 material, there were always two black bands on either side of most of the material we saw.
A small note about the scanning frequency of Xperia 1 III: The scan frequency of the device is fixed at 60Hz and 120Hz, not varying based on the display content like Samsung S21 Ultra or iPhone 13 Pro Max. In other words, even when you view still images, the device will keep the 120Hz refresh rate, which can cause the battery to drain faster. In addition, only certain applications can run at 4K 120Hz resolution, for most applications, Xperia 1 III will automatically switch back to Full HD+ resolution.
Sound is also a key aspect of the Xperia 1 III. The stereo speaker system delivers a surround-like feel, the sound quality is clear, and we can feel the sound passing from one speaker to the other. They combine that with the screen to make Sony Xperia 1 III the best entertainment device at the moment.
Sony Xperia 1 III is a flagship with the most powerful configuration today, that’s no doubt. The heart of the device is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip and 12GB of RAM. In theory, this handset from Sony can easily handle any task you set it to.
But in actual use, the Xperia 1 III heats up very quickly, especially with tasks such as taking photos, filming, and playing heavy games. The slim and lightweight design of the device could be the main reason, but it is undeniable that the manufacturers are having a lot of difficulties controlling the temperature of the Snapdragon 888 chip.
For example, with the AnTuTu application, the temperature of the device spiked to more than 7 degrees Celsius during the benchmarking process. The total score of the device is less than 650 thousand points, much lower than the power of Snapdragon 888.
This reminds us of the Xperia Z5. At that time, this smartphone equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 chip also had many temperature problems, leading to crashes and many other related problems. Snapdragon 810 then became a “stain” of Qualcomm.
In terms of software, Xperia 1 III comes pre-installed with Android 11, with an interface that is almost the same as the original Android, with little customization. The software experience is good, smooth with fast response speed.
However, our problem with the Xperia 1 III is that it comes pre-installed with a lot of bloatware and cannot be completely removed. We can understand apps like Asphalt 9: Legends, which is a collaboration between Sony and Gameloft to bring the 120Hz gaming experience to Xperia 1 III, but there are other apps like Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. For those who need to use it, it’s ok, but if there is no need to use those applications, it will be unnecessary redundancy.
As soon as you come in contact with the Xperia 1 III, you immediately have a sense of a different nature than usual, then by entering the full Camera Photography Pro application you are catapulted into the world of Alpha in an instant. Graphic look, settings, digital dial, all features that give an idea of a possible device, and the eyes of those who already use the excellent Sony Alpha cameras are blinking.
The icons are exactly what the brand uses on the mirrorless camera, the options available are actually many. The work Sony has done on this camera software makes us feel more like a compact mirrorless camera than a mobile device. Undoubtedly this is the best adaptation ever for a smartphone, and new optics come in support as well.
Take a look at the camera interface of the Xperia 1 III. The most Basic mode is still quite complicated compared to the simplicity of the iPhone. And if you accidentally switch to Auto mode, you will find yourself entering a new horizon: The interface changes to the horizontal, shooting with a trigger but no touch buttons anymore, many confusing numbers like ISO, aperture, focal length,… Not to mention other modes such as Aperture Priority, Manual Exposure, etc. all of them require users to have certain knowledge about cameras and photography. Does a person who has never taken pictures with a professional camera know that the trigger needs to be kept halfway to focus before the picture is taken?
Although we were also very excited about the ability to customize this camera during this Sony Xperia 1 III review, later, we found ourselves mainly using Basic Mode. If it were a camera, we’d know how to quickly set up, meter, focus, and shoot, but with the Xperia 1 III, it’s still more complicated to change those parameters and can sometimes miss moments. Moreover, Xperia 1 III is still just a smartphone, the camera hardware is limited in sensor size, pixel size, sometimes it does not require manual adjustment to improve the image, but what we need is the aid of new computational photography software.
During the Sony Xperia 1 III review, we found the device’s LiveView screen to be not very reliable. The image feels blurry when viewed through LiveView, reducing details like viewing a cropped image, but when it’s eliminated, the image is normal. Sometimes we watch liveview and don’t know if a subject is sharp or not.
With Auto mode on, the Xperia 1 III is good enough for true-color photos in good, sharp, and bright enough conditions. However, the weather was very bad at the time we took the pictures, so the pictures were taken mainly in indoor conditions.
The Xperia 1 III doesn’t have a dedicated Night Mode, but it will try to improve it by stacking images even when it detects a low-light scene. At that point, we need to focus on holding the camera steady to keep the image sharp. However, the Xperia 1 III’s low-light image quality doesn’t hold as much detail in bright areas.
The ultra-wide-angle camera on the Xperia 1 III has a large resolution of 12MP, so the image has better detail than other devices on the market, and the image is not distorted too much.
The Xperia 1 III’s telephoto camera has two focal lengths, 70mm and 105mm (equivalent to the 35mm system), allowing you to be more creative with your shooting angle. However, we don’t know if the problem is on our Sony Xperia 1 III review unit or the device itself in general, but sometimes it’s difficult to focus with this telephoto camera, the focus area is prone to jumping especially when there is another object in front of the subject. Maybe Sony will fix it with a software update.
The Xperia 1 III’s selfies and portraits are better than we expected, most of them can even be posted without any further editing. The background is naturally smooth, the subject is separate.
One thing we regret not having experienced much is the Xperia 1 III’s video recording capabilities with Cinema Pro software. It is a video recording software for professionals, with a full range of options like resolution, frame rate, focal length… videos are saved as projects for easy processing and workflow, more organized. It would be difficult for a non-videographer like us to understand what the Xperia 1 III has to offer with Cinema Pro.
The Xperia 1 III packs with a 4,500 mAh battery, an increase of 500 mAh over the previous generation. But given that the device is supposed to “carry” the Snapdragon 888 chip along with a 4K 120Hz screen. At first, we were not very sure about the usage time of this smartphone.
But in reality, the Xperia 1 III has exceeded its expectations. With a high average usage frequency, the device can be on-screen for up to 5-6 hours. Unless you plan to go out to shoot or record videos, you need to consider bringing a power bank, but if you only use it every day, rest assured that the Xperia 1 III can handle it.
Our Sony Xperia 1 III review unit comes with a 30W fast charger and is advertised by Sony to be able to charge 50% of the battery in 30 minutes.
When we charged, the first 30 minutes of charging is indeed very fast, up to 50%, but afterward, the device will charge more slowly, which is Sony’s way of maintaining long battery life. It took around 2 hours for the device to be fully charged to 100%.
All smartphone makers are now talking about only photography, they take good sensors and expect results to come automatically, But Sony has merged the two divisions Mobile and Alpha, and is bringing great solutions for mobiles like Real-Time Eye AF, Real-time tracking, and a dedicated BIONZ X processor. So the credit goes to Sony, which has been able to innovate and do it with style.
It is therefore useless to discuss the intrinsic value of this product, one who is capable of giving much and expects the same. Even in economic terms: $1,298 is a lot, the maximum that can be said for a smartphone that “doesn’t even fold”. The cost that we consider “reasonable” if the goal is limited to professionals or aspiring people who want a smartphone with better multimedia capabilities.
But if we go to the traditional consumer market, so the described agreement is a barely passable threshold, especially if we compare the Xperia 1 III with the more well-known models, which still manage to guarantee a very high standard, low temperatures, and longer battery life.
Sony has built its own substance into the Xperia 1 III, but it’s clear it’s not a product for the masses. The device has a distinctive design but looks unusually tall and has a lot of buttons. It has an excellent screen, but not a lot of content takes advantage of it. It has powerful camera hardware but requires users with photography knowledge. It can be said that it is a super smartphone, but only for those who like to learn and accept some limitations of the product.
So what do you think about this Xperia 1 III review? Let us know in the comment section below.