Test: Sony Xperia 1 Mark 3 – Fully charged

Sony continues to take its own path and differs in several ways compared to the main competitors. At the same time, I get the feeling that they are listening to criticism, because the Xperia 1 Mark 3 feels like a phone that has the potential to attract a slightly larger target group.

On paper, the Sony Xperia 1 Mark 3 feels a bit reluctant. It comes up with unique technical solutions, but does not really take into account which, if any, can have real benefit from the technology. In this way, Sony clearly takes its own path compared to the competition. We have a screen in long narrow format and also with 4K resolution and the idea is that we will watch feature films in full resolution. This is a clear compromise because it means that popular apps like Instagrams Stories are not really displayed optimally but with black edges, in favor of these 21: 9 movies, which in practice are quite few. Most of the content I find on Youtube, streaming services and movie stores is in other formats that on this phone are consequently displayed with black edges.

Custom Google interface

Sony’s interface is largely stripped down and close to Google, but there are some customizations and special features. Side Sense is one and it consists of a slider that is visible at the edge of the screen and that you can double-click to expand. Then you get shortcuts to your favorite apps or to one-handed mode or app pairs, so that you can open two apps in a shared window with one click. Quite simply a way to further utilize the long narrow screen.

The screen is, no matter what you think of the format, one of the clear strengths of the phone. This also includes the two forward-facing speakers which, because they sit a bit apart, not only provide good depth in the sound but also actual stereo effect. In addition to the large resolution I mentioned, the phone also has an increased refresh rate to 120 hertz, but if you want to save battery power, you can set it down to a more normal 60 hertz. However, the resolution cannot be changed, but is always in 4K. The screen is undoubtedly sharp and good, but you can ask yourself if 4K in a mobile phone is really needed. 4K combined with 120 frames per second can be a challenge for battery life, for example, something we see in our battery test. To some extent, it feels like technology is not really adapted to the context it is in and I get a similar feeling from the camera. On paper, impressive specifications that still do not really contribute as much actual benefit as one would have liked.

Not quite a hundred

The cameras in the Sony Xperia 1 Mark 3 are, as I said, another example of technology that does not fully come into its own. The phone can undeniably take good pictures in many situations, especially portraits and tricky motifs in backlight, it is good at, but when it comes to pictures in lower light or zoom pictures, it is behind the competitors. Xperia 1 Mark 3 is better than its predecessors from Sony when it comes to dark images but does not have much to oppose when we compare with the best competitors from Xiaomi, Huawei or Samsung. And the same goes for zoom images, especially at longer distances because competitors have invested more in that area, despite Sony’s variable telephoto lenses.

Instead of using their own high-resolution sensors that Sony sells to many of the competitors on the mobile side, they have chosen lower resolution, according to Sony themselves to be able to prioritize fast autofocus and other features clearly inherited from the company’s camera department. The phone focuses quickly and accurately, but is not completely reliable anyway. When I take portraits, the viewfinder shows that the focus is on the face or even specifically on the eye, but if I take pictures in burst mode, where the camera fires all the time with continuous autofocus, the images may still be blurred. Same thing with object tracking that should follow moving motifs. For example, when I take pictures of a cat, the object trace gets stuck on the grass next to the cat while the cat itself becomes blurred. These techniques are intended to get sharp images of moving motifs, perhaps especially children or animals, but are thus no guarantee of getting sharp images in all situations.

While the Sony Xperia 1 Mark 3 clearly still outperforms its competitors in some respects, it is at least as clear that it is inferior in others. The panorama mode, for example, has clear problems adapting the exposure to the entire subject and often produces completely overexposed images, a problem that competitors overcame several years ago. It feels a bit like Sony’s camera technicians are treating the Xperia as a stepmother. The features from the camera world that are introduced in Xperia are not completely adapted to the context and others that we take for granted in a mobile are missing. For example, good panoramic mode and the portrait effect with a blurred background. It has been said that the Xperia 1 is a phone for creators and enthusiasts, but I want to point out that the problems Sony is trying to solve with the Xperia 1 Mark 3 are in many cases problems that the competitors have already solved. It also turns out that pushing in technology from system cameras is not necessarily the right way to go.

Professional exterior

In any case, the look of the Xperia 1 Mark 3 gives the impression of being more of a work tool than a designed everyday consumer electronics product. Even in the hand, when we pick up the phone from the box, it feels like a high quality phone. Our test copy is consistently matte black (the phone comes in black or purple) and the page is populated by four buttons. A physical camera trigger, a direct button to Google Assistant, and then a physical fingerprint sensor, unlike the ones integrated in the screen glass that almost all competitors have, and finally a volume button. Sony’s stubbornness also shows up at the top of the phone, where as usual we avoid both sensor panel and camera holes in the screen, but instead get selfie camera and sensors placed at a proper distance outside the screen. They are located above the screen, which makes the phone even slimmer than it otherwise would have been. A little for better or worse. Up there are also sockets for 3.5-millimeter headphone jack.

Sony has profiled itself as one of the mobile brand for those who create creatively, photographers and filmmakers then for example, but they also want to attract gamers and the phone has the advantage that the screen is not disturbed by camera holes or the like and that it is of course high quality. However, more distinct gaming mobiles from Asus / ROG and Lenovo have greater potential. You can have different opinions about the long narrow format. Of course, this means that the phone does not have to be so wide and thus easy to hold in the hand, but at the same time this high format is difficult to use to the maximum, even if Sony insists on using it for two apps simultaneously in a split screen.

A lot of what makes the Xperia 1 Mark 3 unique are things that do not necessarily add value. The high-resolution screen contributes to poorer battery life, the functions the camera has borrowed from more advanced system cameras do not live up to our expectations and then the overall impression suffers, even if the phone can do a lot.

Questions and answers

How is the performance? The combination of Snapdragon 888 and screen with 120 hertz refresh rate makes both the theoretical and the perceived performance good, but the phone can get a little hot, including when we film and take pictures in burst mode.

What makes Sony unique? Mainly that they stubbornly hold on to the screen in 21: 9 without sensor panel or holes, fingerprint sensor in the button on the edge instead of in the screen and that they have their own camera solution. ‘

Who is the phone aimed at? In discussions after the launch, there has been talk in some quarters that this is the best phone for “semi-professionals”, or “enthusiasts”, but in practice, when we look at application by application, especially in photography, film and gaming, Sony is proving difficult to outperform its competitors despite this focus.

An alternative: The best

For photos, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra recently won our camera test and Sony is noticeably behind. If you are instead into gaming, there are both ROG and Lenovo as better alternatives.

Test image

The autofocus can be fast and accurate like here, but it is far from flawless, as other images in this series of images prove.


Source: Mobil by www.mobil.se.

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