What Hi-Fi (UK)
SONY XPERIA 1 II
One thing’s for sure, you get a heck of a lot of phone for your money these days, even allowing for the rise and rise of flagship handset prices. These are pocket computers of almost unimaginable function and performance – and it’s the level of performance rather than the number of features that really excites us. In these three examples, we have genuine reasons to celebrate.
The Sony Xperia 1 II does all manner of clever things and the specification sheet remains a mind-bogglingly complex mix of acronyms and outlandish claims (explained fully in our reviews), but thankfully the performance jumps on offer here are much more exciting. And the best news is that, with the latest Xperia phones, these improvements are mainly in the realms of audio and video.
It’s clear with the design of the 21:9, 4K OLED screen that Sony wanted to deliver something spectacular with video – and it’s a resounding success. It’s no mean feat to leave either the iphone or the Galaxy handset in the shade but the levels of detail and realism, the balance of the colours and the depth of the black levels, are a real step above.
Resolution isn’t the be all and end all – either on smartphones or televisions – but the quality offered by this screen when given 4K content is really quite astonishing. If you’re someone who doubted whether you’d watch video for any length of time on a 6.5in screen, you should check out this Sony and have your mind changed. And yes, you can see the difference with 4K.
Of course, there’s the sound quality too. Clear, intimate and musical, with impressive timing, this phone really does run dedicated hi-res music players close – and there’s no denying the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack pleases those of us with high-quality headphones.
Happily, the usability, battery life and camera quality are all of a standard that befits this phone’s AV acumen. All told, the Xperia 1 II is a comfortable and deserving winner.
Most people will probably find themselves in either the Apple or Android camp, which means Sony’s most direct competition here comes from the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. It’s a worthy adversary, offering a more traditional shape – there’s no 21:9 screen – plus Samsung’s familiar and slick UI. In the hand and for basic operation, it’s as good as any, and indeed many may prefer it.
But while the video performance is dynamic and colourful, and the camera is excellent with its headline-grabbing zoom, we can’t help but have our eyes and ears turned by the Xperia 1 II, which comfortably steals a march on it when it comes to consuming media.
Then there’s Apple’s iphone 12 Pro Max. Apple has always delivered class-leading audio and video performance, and this model is no different. But for once, it has its work cut out when it comes to music and movies in comparison with the Xperia 1 II. The 12 Pro Max might be the best phone Apple has ever made, and iphone fans will be more than happy with it, but for the ultimate AV handset right now, we have to choose the stunning Sony.