Hands On With Sony Xperia 1: When Ultrawide Goes Too Far

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Sony's new premium smartphone is not the Xperia XZ4, but instead the Xperia 1. The company decided to drop the XZ name, and letters altogether for this new smartphone, largely because it is a much larger upgrade to the Xperia XZ3 than Sony has done in quite some time. Not only is Sony upping the aspect ratio to 21:9, but it has also changed the game when it comes to mobile photography.

With the Xperia 1, Sony is sticking with a somewhat common form factor. It's a glass and metal slab, and it is indeed slippery. However, it is not quite as wide as some of the other smartphones on the market. Instead, it is much taller. Sony is calling this "the Ultimate Wide". It's wider than just about any other smartphone. Most others are between 18:9 and about 19.5:9, so it's not too far off from some others out there.

What Sony has done though is virtually eliminated the chin, and then the forehead is still there, but much smaller – it's actually larger on the mid-range Xperia 10 and 10 Plus smartphones. So if you were put off by Sony's large bezels, that's not an issue anymore.

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With a 21:9 aspect ratio, it makes multi-window in both portrait and landscape even better than before. In landscape, you can have two square windows, so you can watch a video on one side and then use Instagram or something in the other window. In portrait this is great because you can have a video at the top and still use Twitter in the regular 16:9 or even 18:9 window. Making multi-tasking even better.

Sony is working with a lot of the big streaming companies – Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Netflix – to optimize their content for this screen. A lot of movies are shot in 21:9 in the first place, and then cropped when they make it to DVD or to streaming services. So with a 21:9 aspect ratio here, you're getting the movie the way it was intended.

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When it comes to the camera, Sony is also stepping up its game. And it's about time, honestly. Sony makes the lenses for just about every smartphone on the market, but every smartphone can beat a Sony smartphone camera, which is pretty sad. But that won't be true much longer. Largely thanks to the Alpha team now working with the mobile team. You're going to see some pretty incredible stuff on the Xperia 1.

On the back of the Xperia 1, Sony is using a triple camera setup, with three 12-megapixel sensors. There's a super-wide lens at 16mm, a wide at 26mm and then a tele-zoom at 52mm. Now the "wide", isn't really that wide. It's about 2mm shorter than a traditional smartphone lens. So you're basically getting wide, normal and telephoto.

Sony is giving photographers a lot more control on the Xperia 1, with "Cinema Pro". Something that was not explained a whole lot, that will happen later this week. But think of manual mode for video, but on steroids. This is also coming to still photos. Sony has taken its Alpha team – responsible for some of the best cameras on the market – and brought some of that tech over to the Xperia 1. Unfortunately, Sony isn't letting the cat fully out of the bag yet.

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Unfortunately, we were not able to test out the camera at this preview event with Sony. We were also not able to check out the software at all. This is because there is still a lot to explain, when it comes to the camera and software.

The display, even though we didn't get to see much of it, did look really incredible. This is a 4K HDR OLED display, the only phone in the world with a 4K display, only phone with an HDR display and of course the only one to feature all three specs in the same display. As you can imagine, this display looks incredible, and it's going to be great for watching 4K YouTube videos.

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The Xperia 1 might be the best phone that Sony has ever done. All of the issues that have plagued Sony smartphones in the past, are not fixed or gone completely. The Xperia 1 is going to be coming to the US in May. No pricing has been announced, but where this is the "premium" model with that 4K HDR OLED display, it's not going to be cheap.