Wednesday 24 April 2019

Tech review

Sony Xperia 10, €329

The Sony Xperia 10’s main feature is its narrow form factor
The Sony Xperia 10’s main feature is its narrow form factor

Sony's new mid-range phone is interesting and distinctive, although not necessarily for the reasons Sony is marketing.

It's apparent right away that the Xperia 10's main feature is its narrow form factor. It's a good bit 'skinnier' than almost any other phone on the market. This means that you can wrap your hand right around it - something you can't do on almost any other large-screen smartphone. The result is that it's easier to use one-handed than rival devices, with more of the six-inch display reachable by your thumb. (In my case, it's about three-quarters of the entire screen compared to around half on most six-inch handsets.)

Having tested it for a few weeks, this is probably the main reason to consider it over rivals from brands such as Huawei, Samsung, Motorola or Xiaomi.

However, it's not the primary reason that Sony designed it this way. Instead, this form factor was chosen purportedly to make it seem like a more perfect fit for movies that now use a 21:9 aspect ratio. This size, which is more like a 'letterbox' format than the squarer formats we used to watch on our tellies years ago, apparently amounts to around 70pc of new films on Netflix.

(But not television series, which are still mostly made to fit a slightly boxier 16:9 or 18:9 format.)

So Sony, which is trying to reposition its smartphones as higher-class audio-visual accessories rather than simply Android slabs, is positioning the Xperia 1 as something of a cinephile's tool of choice.

Does this work? Somewhat. As this is a lower-to-mid-range phone, it doesn't quite have the specs to compete with your Samsung S10 or iPhone Xs. It sports an LCD display rather than an Oled one, for example. Even if that screen does deliver an impressive 457 pixels per inch, it's still a beat behind what you'd ultimately choose to watch a movie on among currently available devices. That said, we'll remind you again that this less than half the price of most flagship Oled models.

I watched the recent Marvel movie 'Venom', filmed in the aforementioned 21:9 size, on the device. It looked great. But when I went to watch stuff on YouTube, or TV series on Netflix, the video sizes were more conventional 16:9.

The result is that they were significantly smaller than they might be on a regular smartphone.

There are some other compromises. If you're looking at Instagram, sometimes images are curtailed, especially in Stories. But the skinny display is put to good use in other ways. It feels a lot more natural to split the screen, top and bottom, which you can do.

Other things that will vary according to taste (but which I liked) include the side-mounted fingerprint reader.

While there are two rear cameras (13-megapixel f2 and 5 megapixel f2.4), Sony has taken the decision not to make the second lens an optical zoom. Instead, it's there to add depth of field to photos. I can see why they've made this choice, as portraits of people - probably a more appreciated result from a phone camera - look great when this feature is used. But I miss the optical zoom - I find it very useful for landscape, street and other scenarios. On the Xperia 10's big brother, the 6.5-inch Xperia 10 Plus, there is an additional optical zoom.

This device comes with 64GB of storage memory, which is just about the minimum you would want these days. In terms of power, I found it to be adequate but noticeably laggier than premium flagship handsets. It sometimes takes a half-second extra to rotate a window or switch apps. Again, this is to be expected at the price.

The battery life is only average. Sony says that it has added extra power management to the phone's operation, but I usually ran out by teatime. Physically, the battery is 2,780mAh, which is slightly smaller than an iPhone Xs battery and much smaller than a Samsung S10's. Even within its own price bracket, there are phones with significantly larger batteries.

While the Xperia 10 retains a modest 'forehead' bezel, there is no appreciable 'chin' with the display reaching almost down to the bottom of the device. It extends out to the sides, too, making three of the four sides 'all-screen'.

Overall, the Xperia 10 is an interesting, fairly unique Android phone. Its ideal user is someone who is sick of straining their thumb to get to parts of the screen they can't reach but who still wants a large display for movies at a relatively budget price.

It may not suit heavy social media users, as video (in particular) will be appreciably smaller than on rival devices.

Indo Business

Also in Business