Sony's Xperia 10 Family Brings Flagship Features To The Mid-Range
Sony's mid-range smartphones have usually been pretty decent. The main issues are usually either the price, or the specs for that price. With the new Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus, it appears that Sony has hit a happy medium for the mid-range. But that doesn't mean that these are the best smartphones you can buy for $350 or $420 respectively.
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Sony's Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus look different from every other phone on the market. That is because these are much taller. With a 21:9 aspect ratio. A feature that it also debuted on its flagship Xperia 1 this year.
The 21:9 aspect ratio is very tall. Even though it's really not that much different than most other 2018 and 2019 smartphones that were between 18:9 and 19.7:9 aspect ratios. Sony claims that by going this tall, it means that you can do more multi-tasking. For example, having a video in the top portion and then still having an app in essentially "full screen" at 16:9, instead of a much smaller aspect ratio. Movies are also shot in 21:9 natively, and then adapted for streaming services. With these phones you'll be able to watch those movies in their original format - Sony has begun working with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube in regards to this. But currently, there's not much 21:9 aspect ratio movies or videos available to watch.
When it comes to multi-tasking, it is a pretty cool way to be able to have two apps open at the same time, instead of it being two smaller versions of those apps. And the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus can both handle that pretty well, which might be a bit surprising given the Snapdragon 630 and 3GB of RAM in the Xperia 10, and the Snapdragon 636 with 4GB of RAM in the larger Xperia 10 Plus.
Sony does do a pretty good job at making this taller display easier to use, one-handed. Which is more important on this phone than most of the others that have launched in the past few years. Simply double-tap the home button and it'll shrink the display. You can choose which side it is on, by default it goes to the right side. But if you tap the arrow on the left side of the screen, it'll move over. Sony also allows the user to adjust the size of the display, whether you want it larger or smaller than it already is. It's still a 21:9 display, just a smaller version of it.
Sony's build quality continues to impress
The Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus are some of the only smartphones you will find on the market that actually are made of metal, and feel like they are much more expensive smartphones. Sure, most of the $700+ smartphones are now made of glass. But by going with a metal unibody on these two smartphones, it means that these are not quite as slippery and can actually take a drop.
Sony has also put the buttons in essentially the perfect spot. With the power button, fingerprint sensor and volume rocker on the lower two-thirds of the phone. The fingerprint sensor is about smack dab in the middle. This makes it very easy to actually use it, when you are holding the phone with one hand. The power button is above that and the volume rocker below it.
With the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus, Sony did decide to make the fingerprint sensor stand out, instead of it being the power button. This actually makes it easier to find, without looking too hard. And it's out of the way, for those that don't want to use it. With fingerprint sensors that are embedded in the power button, typically that means the button is flush on the side, making it tough to actually find the power button and fingerprint sensor. So it's a good idea by Sony to do it this way.
Perhaps the most important part of the build quality on the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus is the fact that it does use a USB-C connector. A lot of mid-range smartphones still use micro USB (because it is cheaper). It's good to see Sony actually go with the more popular connector these days. The other aspect, which is arguably more important, is the headphone jack. It's at the top of the phone, where it belongs. Though these days, many would be happy just to have a headphone jack on their smartphone. It does also support HiRes audio, like the more expensive Xperia 1.
Sony continues to embrace Stock Android
In the last few years, Sony has been moving towards a more stock Android approach on its smartphones, and that is definitely evident on the Xperia 10 lineup. Sony says that its customers wanted a more vanilla Android skin, and it also allows Sony to push out updates faster - something the company has been getting better at.
With the Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus, you're getting Android 9 Pie out of the box, and it runs pretty nice on these two smartphones. The lack of processing power or RAM is not an issue, but it shouldn't be with these two. Android does a good job at adapting to the 21:9 aspect ratio display here. Nothing has really been "broken" during our time reviewing the Xperia 10 or Xperia 10 Plus. Though multi-window could use some changes.
With multi-window, it is nice to have a video playing in the upper part of the screen and having something like Twitter in the bottom half. But if you open up YouTube, start playing a video then go to recents to open up a new app for the bottom half of the multi-window, YouTube goes to picture-in-picture. It takes a few extra steps to get a video in the top section and an app in the bottom section. Sony (or rather Google, since this is mostly stock Android), should also add a button to swap the windows in multi-window. Something that Samsung has had for many years now.
Battery life is decent, not spectacular
Battery life on both smartphones are decent. They will get you through a day, but don't expect to get seven our eight hours of screen on time, or even two day battery. Sony did equip both of these with somewhat small capacity batteries, at 2870mAh and 3000mAh respectively. However, if you do use the included battery STAMINA features that Sony has, you can likely get close to that two day mark. But remember, that will delay notifications, and basically keep your smartphone from being, well, "smart".
Luckily, if you do need to quickly charge either the Xperia 10 or Xperia 10 Plus, you can do so with a Quick Charge 3.0 charger, as both do support it. That means you can fully recharge the phone in about 90 minutes (a bit less on the Xperia 10).
Cameras are good, but not great
Sony has equipped both the Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus with dual cameras, but surprisingly, they are quite a bit different. The Xperia 10 has a 13-megapixel main sensor with a 5-megapixel depth sensor. While the Xperia 10 Plus uses 12-megapixel and 8-megapixel cameras. The photos you get out of both of these are pretty similar. You won't notice much of a difference between the Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus.
The cameras on both smartphones are, well, decent. These aren't going to blow you away, they aren't going to compete with the Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S10 or even the upcoming Huawei P30. That is why it's important to remember the price tags on these smartphones. The Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus will offer up some pretty good pictures, good enough for sharing on Facebook and Instagram. A lot of the time, the images were actually more than decent. It of course, struggled when it came to low-light.
Somewhat surprisingly, it does actually feature slow-motion. It does not do the full 960fps that many of the recent flagship smartphones offer, instead it is capped at 120fps. Which still looks pretty good, but 960fps makes it a whole lot slower (and cooler). It is also still stuck at 720p resolution. So as long as you have plenty of light (ideally outside, during the day), you're going to get some great slow-motion video out of the Xperia 10.
When it comes to cameras, mid-rangers like the Xperia 10, usually make it an after-thought. But that doesn't seem to be the case with the Xperia 10. It may actually be one of the best cameras on a smartphone in this price range. It's not the best camera out there, but it does all the basics quite well.
The Best Mid-Range Smartphones Around
The Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus are pretty decent smartphones. These aren't going to win any smartphone-of-the-year awards, not that you'd expect something in this price range to do that. But in a world where smartphones are now hitting four figures, getting something for between $350 and $430 is a breath of fresh air. Sony is finally bringing some real contenders to the sub $500 space.