I'm going to leave decorum at the door and open by saying how much I love the form factor of the new Sony Xperia 1 II (that's "one mark two" to you, dear reader). It's the first thing that struck me when I pulled it out of the box, and after a couple of weeks of use, it's still hands-down my favourite thing about the new handset from Sony. It's long, you see, longer and narrower than the iPhone 8 Plus that I'm familiar with, and while I was curious to start with, by the end I was a true believer.
The unit has a nice, solid heft to it, a side effect of its wide-screen friendly dimensions, and it weighs in at 181 grams. Respectable and not too heavy. However, incased in this elegant shell is a fully-featured smartphone that did everything I asked of it and more, with great camera features, accessible software, and strong performance when gaming.
In terms of dimensions, you're looking at a 166×72×7.9mm unit, and the shape of the handset may well prove to be a little divisive. I really loved its angular design as it felt like holding a phone of old, but I see the potential for people to prefer a more compact solution. The length does make it hard to safely keep the phone stored on your person at times, for example, it kept slipping out of my pocket while I was driving. Of course, if you were planning on keeping it in a bag or purse, you'd have no such issues.
The Xperia 1 II is powered by Android 10 and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor with 8GB of RAM, but the real draw is the screen. With its lovely 6.5" 4K OLED display you get a really strong array of colours when watching videos, with deep blacks and HDR. While it may not offer the same 90hz screen that some of its premium rivals do, it's still quite a thing to behold (and the motion blur feature does somewhat compensate for the 60hz refresh rate). What's more, because the front-facing camera is hidden in the bezel at the top, there's no invasive punch-hole compromise. I'll get to the camera in a bit, but in terms of gaming and watching movies, the 21:9 aspect ratio makes the Xperia 1 II a very tempting proposition.
I was able to sync the phone to a DualShock 4 controller and I used a clamp to hold the handset in place while I played Fortnite (I've played that game on so many platforms that it has become a convenient point of comparison). I don't want to outright say that the Xperia 1 II gave me an edge because the sample size of games played is so small, but the wide viewing angle offered by the screen meant I had a good overview of what was happening, the steady frame-rate meant for a smooth experience, and I was competitive in all the games I played (which isn't always the case). There's also the option to link to your PS4 and remote play your console games, and while it was tough to make out the ball when playing FIFA 20, for example, the input lag was just about minimal enough for us to play something that didn't require extreme precision and razer sharp timing.
Watching videos is also great thanks to the quality of the screen and its 21:9 CinemaWide profile, and if you're looking for a device to watch movies on while you're sitting on the train during an extended commute, you couldn't do much better than this. Dolby Atmos is supported, and the aforementioned motion blur tech helps create a crystal clear image. Similarly, if you're looking at the pictures that you've snapped yourself, they look great on the OLED display.
Which allows me to elegantly segue into discussing the cameras. There's a neat auto-focus feature that rapidly tracks the eye movements of animals or people, and the results are impressive. Indeed, if you're after a phone with a quality camera, look no further, this one has three 12mp lenses stashed away on the back of the handset (16, 24 and 70mm respectively) with the ability to take shots at 20fps via continuous burst shooting. In fact, the device comes with a range of features that will please dedicated photographers, including the ability to record footage in 4K HDR (at 24, 25, 30, and 60fps) as well as manually-control sensor sensitivity, shutter speed, and white balance (among others). The included software seems pretty good too and although I can't claim to be a pro photographer who knows how all the tools work, I took a couple of nice snaps nonetheless.
Cameras are important to some people, but audio is key for others, and this is another area where I noted impressive performance. First and foremost, after a couple of years of wireless headsets and lightning adapters, it was lovely to have the option to use a headphone jack (it's a throwback feature that I'm now reminded I really miss on my iPhone). What's more, Sony hasn't held back on the speaker front, with decent stereo speakers now in the front of the handset. Of course, I wouldn't recommend listening to music that way unless you had no other choice, but it's perfectly acceptable and has enough punch for you to listen to a podcast or whatever. Audiophiles will probably also enjoy the 360 Reality Audio, Sony's neat audio solution that sees a virtual soundscape bring songs to life and ground you in the auditory experience. I listened to a lot of music on both an older pair of Bose SoundLink IIs and a more recent pair of Sony WH-1000XM3s, and I have zero complaints. If you're a big music fan and your mobile phone is a part of your sound system, the Xperia 1 II has a lot to offer.
Of course, there are a number of additional features that you'll want to know about. For example, the battery life is good thanks to a 4000mAh battery (I got a good couple of days out of each charge) and there's wireless charging for those who want it. There's a fingerprint sensor (but no facial recognition). The handset comes with 256GB storage and there's room for up to 1TB thanks to microSDXC support. It's also set up for 5G (although not in the US, so please bear that in mind). It's even waterproof, I'm told. Finally, there's a great little multi-window feature that lets you have two windows open on the screen at the same time, one on top of the other, which is great if you're trying to multitask.
There's a lot to like about the Xperia 1 II, but for me, it all comes back to that elongated screen. It's great for scrolling, so if you're a big Twitter or Reddit user, you'll no doubt take pleasure from the additional screen space the design offers. It's also a great option if you're serious about using your mobile device to do things beyond making phone calls, such as gaming, watching movies, and listening to music. In fact, phone call quality was one of the less impressive aspects, with an annoying little click in the background whenever the signal quality dropped. It wasn't a huge problem though and if you don't live out in the swamps like me, signal issues will be much less prevalent anyway. Then, the only stumbling block is the price. At a cool £1,100, the Sony Xperia 1 II isn't cheap. It is, however, an excellent phone in nearly all respects, and I liked everything from the camera through to its bold, angular design. It won't be for everyone, given the price and its dimensions, but I really like this phone and I'm not looking forward to giving it back.
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