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Sony Xperia 1 in the test: the smartphone for Netflix junkies

Sony Xperia 1 im Test: Das Smartphone für Netflix-Junkies

 

tl; dr: The Xperia 1 is ideal for Netflix with its 21: 9 UHD OLED display. The integrated Creator mode ensures great colors. Sony is also making great strides in its triple-camera debut. On the way, but the battery and the brightness remain. The high price is also a hurdle.

About three months after the presentation at the MWC 2019, the Xperia 1 is in the starting blocks. The new top model relies on a bulging data sheet, which for both Sony and for the entire smartphone market with debuts and innovations. This includes, among other things, the first triple camera in a Sony model, but also the first UHD OLED display in a smartphone at all.

Therefore, the manufacturer emphasizes these two features particularly emphatically. Both should also meet professional demands in terms of color space and fidelity as well as versatility. Especially with the camera Sony has worked much more intensively with its own camera department, as was the case with previous smartphones. For further equipment, the manufacturer relies on high-end components such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and 6 GB RAM.

With a price of 949 euros, Sony reaches the top shelf in the market. However, the relatively late market launch also means a whole series of well-known competitors.

Technical data in comparison

It’s a Sony

Anyone who has followed the development of Sony smartphones in recent years will immediately identify the Xperia 1 as one. The design language is reminiscent of, among other things, the Xperia XZ3 (hands-on), experiments omitted by the manufacturer. As a result, there is no notch or mechanical parts for housing the front camera, but instead a narrow frame above the screen. Sony and its counterpart on the bottom can not keep up in the race for the biggest screen-to-body ratio. The edges are not really big, especially as a small “chin” at the bottom of all current smartphones is visible and thus only the upper frame dances a bit out of line.


Sony Xperia 1 in the test
Sony Xperia 1 in the test

Sony Xperia 1 in the test
Sony Xperia 1 in the test

Sony Xperia 1 in the test
Sony Xperia 1 in the test

The choice of materials follows the design of Sony’s long-term scheme and that of most other manufacturers. This results in a classic sandwich of glass and metal. The glass front and back are held together by an aluminum frame. This is slightly rounded and merges seamlessly into the two glass covers. In contrast to the previous Sony models, the back is not bulbous, but largely flat and slightly rounded and flatter only at the edges to the frame. Due to the 21: 9 display, the smartphone is very long, but narrow. The aspect ratio is unusual, but in everyday life so far practical in that the Xperia 1 fits very well in the hand. In portrait mode, it can be easily held with one hand and also shows a lot of vertical content. With one hand, the model can only operate in the lower part, in everyday life, almost always a second hand is needed.

Finally slim and light again

The fact that the Xperia 1 is fundamentally so ergonomic is also due to the comparatively low weight of 178 g and the slim profile with a height of 7.2 mm. In comparison, the Xperia XZ2 Premium (test), Sony’s last UHD model and dual-camera debut, with 236 g and almost 12 mm height looks like a block of long-forgotten smartphone time. The triple camera on the back is placed in the middle of the upper third and protrudes slightly out of the case. Due to the central position and the very small hump this does not interfere with resting on flat surfaces. The very slippery case, however, may already be.

Impeccable workmanship

The processing of the Xperia 1 is above reproach. All transitions are clean and gaps are minimal, which ensures almost at the lateral transitions between the front or back and frame almost for a unibody feeling. All openings and slots are precisely punched out. Unlike virtually every smartphone manufacturer, Sony relies on tool-free handling in the SIM slot, which also houses the memory card. As a result, the drawer can simply be pulled out of the housing with your fingers and replaced. A SIM needle is not necessary. The corresponding seals are installed, so that despite the notch for the fingernail no water or dust should penetrate. The Xperia 1 is protected by IP68.


Sony Xperia 1 in the test
Sony Xperia 1 in the test

Sony Xperia 1 in the test
Sony Xperia 1 in the test

All buttons Sony houses on the right side. Here as well, the manufacturer stays true to the SIM tool drawer without tools and, in addition to the volume rocker and the power switch, also installs a dedicated two-stage camera button. The buttons all provide a rich pressure point, but are comparatively slim and small, so they sink a bit on the length of 16.7 cm. Nevertheless, they feel good. An advantage of the small size at least for the camera button, because when using the smartphone in the right hand of this triggers not accidentally and does not bother the thumb on the ball of the thumb.

Fingerprint sensor back on the side

A comeback celebrates the side-mounted fingerprint sensor. In the predecessor models this has migrated to the back, but fell there especially by an unfortunate positioning. Unlike in the past, however, the fingerprint sensor and power switch on the Xperia 1 are disconnected. In the US, Sony delivered its then smartphones with the unified solution without a fingerprint sensor because it had come to patent problems. This may explain the separation in the new top model. The fingerprint sensor works reliably, but has problems with wet fingers. Sony does not use new solutions, such as a sensor in the display, for which the OLED panel would be technically available.

Cinema format in the trouser pocket

With much emphasis Sony advertises the display of the Xperia 1 and does not save on superlatives. The panel combines OLED technology with UHD resolution and HDR and is unique in this combination on the smartphone market. Also in the past, Sony, for example, last on the Xperia XZ2 Premium, set on the UHD resolution. So far, however, this always happened in conjunction with an IPS screen. The resolution of the Xperia 1, however, is not a classic UHD with 1660 × 1640 pixels in 16: 9 as its predecessors, but 1,644 × 3,840 pixels in the aspect ratio of 21: 9. Unlike the Motorola One Vision (test), the display of the Xperia 1 is free from interruptions, the front camera integrates Sony in a small frame above the display. With the much more elongated aspect ratio, the manufacturer aims at the consideration of films and series, especially the cinema is 21: 9. In addition, Sony advertises compatible content on Netflix, which – assuming a subscription – are then also available in UHD and HDR. Apart from corresponding content, in addition to Netflix or Prime Video as in the photo app from Sony, the smartphone but in everyday life is not the native resolution dar. So Sony has already proceeded in the past.

Sony Xperia 1 in the test
Sony Xperia 1 in the test
Sony Xperia 1 in the test
Sony Xperia 1 in the test

But the aspect ratio should also benefit games and multitasking. The list of adapted titles is still manageable, but with Asphalt 9: Legends and Fortnite Sony could already win two big names for themselves. In terms of multitasking, the company sees the 21: 9 format as suitable for split-screen use, allowing two apps to run side-by-side without being too small. In addition, the manufacturer emphasizes the color fidelity of the Xperia 1 with the help of the Creator mode and the image processor “X1 for Mobile”. In interaction, colors are to be displayed accurately and according to the concept of production. The Xperia 1 supports the ITU-R BT.2020 and DCI-P3 color spaces as well as the D65 standard illuminant. The image processor is also responsible for calculating and adjusting videos that do not meet parameters such as resolution or dynamic range.

Display settings of the Xperia 1
Display settings of the Xperia 1

Class colors in Netflix via Creator mode

Behind the many marketing is depending on the content and application also a visible added value. When Creator mode is enabled within Netflix, content does not appear to be significantly altered by the bank, but some movies and series add brilliance, color accuracy, and contrast. Overall, the presentation looks powerful, but in no way oversaturated. The pictures are extremely sharp and the contrasts are excellent. This is not only due to the OLED technology alone, which displays a true black, but above all to the color matching and depending on the content also to the additional adjustments of the Creator mode. For example, in the “New Girl” series, this brought out more visible content through an optimized contrast, calmed the colors and made for a natural, sharp and brilliant presentation that looked in part like a print. Since the Creator mode at the time of the test only in Netflix, but not in Prime Video grabbed, looked the picture in “New Girl” at Netflix better than Amazon. Also on “Chef’s Table” or “Wonder Woman” the mode desaturates the colors and makes them more compatible. In this way, the colors are much more realistic and, thanks to improved contrasts, sometimes more details are revealed. In HDR content, however, the smartphone can bring less impressive improvements to light.

Not all changes are directly noticeable, some only on closer inspection. But even at first glance – depending on the content – the changes can be seen in a generally optimized picture. The use of the creator mode is recommended in any case, the factory is automatically switched on compatible apps. Optionally, it can also be activated continuously. Not only, but also thanks to the Creator mode, the display of the Xperia 1 in multimedia consumption is a force. But without weaknesses, Sony’s panel does not come along.

Brightness at a moderate level

On the one hand, the viewing angles are not ideal, while large areas of white content suffer from a slight blue cast with a different perspective. By default, white balance is set to “cold” in standard mode, resulting in a very bluish white point of around 8,400 Kelvin. In the past, Sony has often installed very bluish calibrated displays. Why the manufacturer makes this again on the Xperia 1 and the focus on color fastness, is unclear, especially since the Creator mode, the white balance significantly warmer, although from the point of view of the white point still not ideal, sets.

But not only the white point, the brightness suffers from the factory under the blue cast. The maximum brightness reached the Xperia 1, unlike other OLED panels, both in automatic mode and manually. As in the case of the OnePlus 7 Pro (test), the brightness increases with low white content in the overall presentation (“Average Picture Level”, APL). Ex works at 100 percent APL, the Xperia 1 achieves only a brightness of very low 349 cd / m². The maximum value increases to 403 cd / m² when only one third of the screen is filled with white. In the settings, the white balance next to “Cold” can be set to “Medium” and “Warm”. In everyday life, “medium” is the best choice. The white point is significantly more neutral at around 7,600 Kelvin and the brightness increases between 381 cd / m² (100% APL) and 445 cd / m² (33% APL).

Less white = more brightness

Overall, this also means that the best choice for the Xperia 1 is still far behind the competition. Even with 100 percent APL, the OnePlus manages 585 cd / m² in automatic mode, the Samsung Galaxy S10 + (test) reaches 524 cd / m² and the Huawei P30 Pro (test) has a similar size of 531 cd / m². The Apple iPhone Xs Max (test) even achieves 644 cd / m² with a white point of about 6,900 Kelvin.

Immersive with matching content

Undoubtedly, the screen of the Xperia 1 convinces in its intended use for multimedia content, partly in multitasking and surfing. 21: 9 movies and TV series are immersive and the edges of the smartphone are thin enough to allow for a relatively deep immersion. Even games look even more enthralling across the entire width. In photos, when viewed in full screen details and brilliance comes out. For long vertical lists or websites, the smartphone also shows a lot of content and uses the aspect ratio very efficiently. Sony also focuses on split-screen multitasking, which is easy but does not always offer added value, because conversely, a lot of scrolling is required to reach the goal. Also, not all apps scale to full size, albeit a few like benchmarks. Content in 16: 9 or even 4: 3 look lost due to the large edges around it.

On the next page: Throttling Snapdragon 855, slim UI

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