The Sony Xperia 1 II is a smartphone full of possibilities and has everything on board for the photographer and music lover. It must be even better and faster. We test the Sony Xperia 1 II in this extensive review.
Sony Xperia 1 II review
With the new Sony Xperia 1 II, Sony hopes to become more popular in the smartphone market again. The Xperia 10 II was already released recently, which we discussed in more detail in the Xperia 10 II review. Now it’s time to test the comprehensive high-end Sony Xperia 1 II. Can Sony compete with this?
Sony includes a charger in the sales package, along with a headset and a large stack of paperwork. Nothing else. As far as we are concerned, at least for the money of the Xperia 1 II could have been a (silicone) case.
Design, display, and interface
What is immediately noticeable with this Xperia is that the screen is a lot longer than that of competitors. This is because Sony still opts for a 21: 9 aspect ratio, making it a bit narrower, but longer. Incidentally, this does not have to be a disadvantage, the device lies well in the hand. You can only operate with one hand if you have large hands.
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The Sony Xperia 1 II has a 6.5-inch display at the front. This is a 4K HDR OLED screen and so you can expect the best image quality. Not satisfied with the default settings? Sony gives you the opportunity to adjust various settings of the screen. Consider, for example, the white balance. The minimum brightness is certainly sufficient, and the maximum brightness is also excellent. The screen is easy to read in direct sunlight. We do notice, especially after unlocking, that the brightness sensor is sometimes a bit upset. In the early morning, he will shoot to maximum brightness. Good morning.
It is striking that Sony uses a panel with a refresh rate of the well-known 60Hz. This while many other manufacturers provide their high-end smartphone with 90Hz or even 120Hz. You notice the difference, but personally I don’t find it very disturbing. For a long time, we did not even know better, and the 60Hz panel from Sony is of good quality. Is a hefty price and would have been nice if Sony had also offered this option.
In terms of design, we see that Sony has preferred its own design. The screen edges do not continue on the sides and the bezels are still clearly visible. Is it disturbing? Certainly not, but personally I find the design less exciting than other high-end devices. On the other hand, the phone feels rock solid. In addition, Sony is even equipped with an LED notification in the top right corner. We haven’t seen that in a while.
On the left is the slot for the SIM card and memory card. On the right, we find the volume key and the fingerprint scanner. This fingerprint scanner also serves as a power button and we will come back to this later in the Xperia 1 II review. The device is also one of the few smartphones that have a physical shutter button for taking photos. On top, there is the 3.5-millimeter connection for a headset, on the bottom Sony has placed the USB-C connection.
The back houses the 12-megapixel triple camera. The back is quite smooth, which is due to the glass housing. We would definitely recommend a case for this device, otherwise, it will easily slip out of your pocket or pants. It’s not as bad as with the LG Velvet, which is presumably because the corners of the Xperia are slightly angled.
The interface on Sony devices is close to Google’s Android skin itself. However, Sony has made a number of changes and optimizations that give it its own ‘touch’. With a swipe upwards you open the menu where you can find the installed applications. A swipe down opens the quick settings and notifications.
Sony also offers an Always On Display on the Xperia 1 II, where you can immediately see at a glance what the time is and whether any notifications have been received. If desired, it can always or only be displayed with new notifications. The manufacturer calls this option ‘Active display’. You can also adjust various settings for the lock screen (such as clocks). You can also open two apps in one window at the touch of a button, for example from a notification and there is the ‘side sensor’ with which you have direct access to apps and quick actions. You can easily operate this with one hand.
Communication and multimedia
Calling and texting, we do a lot less than chat via WhatsApp, but the Sony Xperia 1 II is doing fine. We do not experience annoying side effects when calling with the phone and the volume can be loud enough. Sony provides the Xperia 1 II with the Google Phone app and for sending messages there is the Android Messages app. Typing is standard with the Gboard keyboard.
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The Sony Xperia 1 II is equipped with the Chrome browser with which you can surf the net at lightning speed. As with the Xperia 10 II, we notice with the 1 II that the WiFi signal is somewhat weaker than with competing devices. In practice, this means that with a weak WiFi signal, the Xperia will switch to the mobile data network faster.
This Xperia is portrayed as a real powerhouse for the use of multimedia. For this, the device is equipped with various tools. There is a 3.5-millimeter connection for a headset and there is a set of stereo speakers. Let’s start with the latter.
I have had a lot of smartphones in my hands in recent years. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Sony Xperia 1 II’s speakers deliver the very best sound quality I’ve ever heard in a smartphone. The volume can be very loud and also sounds perfect at full volume to listen to. High and low tones have a good balance and the audio comes ‘pure’ from the speakers. Definitely a big plus for the Xperia 1 II.
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This Sony is ideal for watching a video or film. The beautiful 4K OLED screen splashes the colors of the screen, they are rich in detail and so the brightness can be nice and high. You can also adjust some screen settings such as the white balance or color display. We have not come across an option to adjust the resolution yourself.
Sony also includes the game Call of Duty, so you can spend some hours on this fighting game. According to Sony, this game shows that the Xperia 1 II guarantees an optimized gaming experience. For the music lover, Sony gives you 90 days of free access to music service Tidal. Too bad you have to enter your credit card or PayPal immediately.
Sony is a large and well-known name in the field of photography. For a long time, the company has been able to score well with its (SLR) cameras. In addition, the vast majority of lenses in smartphones come from Sony. However, the cameras that we saw in the Sony smartphones themselves were not always of great quality. The competitors often had an advantage, strange, because Sony can do it.
If we look at the information from Samsung, it becomes clear that Sony has put an important focus on the camera with the Xperia 1 II. The phone is equipped with three lenses of 12 megapixels each. The standard 24mm lens has an aperture of f / 1.7, the 16mm wide-angle lens has an aperture of f / 2.2 and the 70mm telephoto lens has light sensitivity of f / 2.4. The latter also allows you to zoom without losing quality. However, that’s not all, because Sony has packed the camera app with various functions.
However, if you want to get the most out of your photos, you can get started with the Photo Pro app from Sony itself, which is included on the Xperia 1 II. The possibilities that you get with that application are endless. If you have an SLR camera, you will recognize many of these functions. From choosing the metering, adjusting the ISO, determining the focus area, adjusting the exposure, and many other options.
For example, it is possible to quickly adjust the white balance mode to the situation or even fix your own white balance setting. You can find it all in the Photo Pro app. This application is therefore mainly intended for those who want to get even more out of photography and not for those who want to take a photo ‘just as fast’.
One of the powerful features of the camera is the autofocus. Sony promises that, but we also notice that in practice. The subject is focused on a fraction of a second. The Xperia 1 II does just fine. About 70 percent of the viewfinder, there are 247 focus points, quite a few. You can also take burst shots at up to 20 frames per second, including autofocus. This results in many and sharp photos. The Xperia 1 II also remains sharp, according to Sony, it continuously focuses automatically and calculates the exposure 60 times per second. Everything revolves around speed.
We have of course tested this feature extensively, with a radio-controlled car. This was super fast and so we introduced the Xperia 1 II to this. By holding the camera button in the Pro app, the phone shoots a lot of photos, sometimes tens of times. Then you can either keep them all or choose the best. You can also make an animation of it. The result is certainly impressive! We have put this down for you below.
What we do find remarkable is that macro photography is not really possible with Sony. You have to take a lot of distance from your object if you want to focus the phone on it and we think that’s a pity for a camera-phone.
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Where the Xperia 1 II is super fast in focusing, it is less fast in taking pictures. The phone needs more time to save a photo, you notice because in the meantime you can not quickly take a few more photos. There are two ways to take photos, with the shutter button on your screen or with the physical shutter button on the side.
We saw that in recent times the cameras in smartphones are getting better, also in the cheaper price range. What about the photo quality with the Sony Xperia 1 II? Let’s assume that you can take beautiful photos in almost all circumstances with this smartphone. The phone captures colors and details perfectly. In addition, with backlighting, the image is absolutely not dark or much too light, which we still often see with smartphones. It is clear that with the Sony camera we sometimes see slightly less saturation than, for example, with LG and Samsung. However, the photos do look realistic to reality.
If you want to take a beautiful picture of a flower as a macro, then the Xperia is not the right camera for this. Simply because, in our opinion, you should distance yourself from your subject just too much. Nevertheless, the photos you take of a flower, for example, look neat. Beautiful details, sharp and full of color. We note that focusing is fast, but with a lot of variation in the landscape (such as a full wall of flowers), you notice that it sometimes focuses incorrectly.
In conclusion; Sony Xperia 1 II has a great camera with which you can do everything, partly due to the extensive Photo Pro app. We do find that the phone seems to be a bit more sensitive to a blurred image, but we miss a real macro mode that allows you to get much closer to your subject. In the evenings, photos are not special on average. In addition, photos ‘out of hand’ are much too often moved in the late hours. As far as I am concerned, it does not stand out above the competitors, and so the device is put on the market. As far as we are concerned, Sony can still improve on that.
Below we have placed a photo taken with the Sony Xperia 1 II. Do you want to view many more photos taken with the device? No problem. You will find an extensive collection in the online photo album.
The Sony Xperia 1 II is equipped with an 8-megapixel front camera. This lens has an aperture of f / 2.0. In terms of specifications, therefore, not particularly special. The front camera works nicely; delivers good images with correct colors and sufficient sharpness.
Making videos is also fine with the Xperia 1 II. The phone has a special pro app not only for photography. With the Cinema Pro application, you can take complete control of the video camera yourself. You can adjust the style, like the resolution, the fps, ISO, switch between the lens, white balance, shutter, and focus. You can also immediately see whether you are filming straight, thanks to the integration of a spirit level. The possibilities are endless in this and a must for the avid filmmaker.
If you are more of an ‘average filmmaker’, you can of course also use the ‘standard’ camera app on the Sony. Here you also have the option to set different options. If you film in 4K or Full-HD 60fps, certain functions are not available. When switching between the normal lens and the wide-angle lens is not possible, you have to determine that before you start filming. Zooming is possible.
Below we have prepared two videos for you. The first is a video sample in 4K, the second is in Full-HD at 60fps. It can clearly be seen that it looks ‘calmer’ and is better stabilized. The quality is excellent in both cases. Many details, a good balance in contrast and true-to-life colors.
Performance and other possibilities
The smartphone is equipped with a Snapdragon 865 processor. It is clear that there is no lack of strength here. Onboard the Sony Xperia 1 II we also find 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. This internal memory can be expanded with a memory card of up to 2TB, so you can save a lot on the device. The phone performs its tasks quickly, but due to the 60Hz refresh rate of the screen, it does not feel as smooth as, for example, the OnePlus 8 Pro. However, the device is far from slow. We do notice that the Xperia heats up quite quickly.
However, we also find a lot of bloatware on the device, applications, and games that are already set up from the factory. Consider, for example, the game Call of Duty or LinkedIn. Not necessary. Users can easily choose to download certain apps or games. These can only be turned off, but not removed from the phone.
The fingerprint scanner is on the side of the Xperia 1 II. This is striking because almost all other high-end smartphones have it integrated into the screen itself. Sony, therefore, opts for a different solution. We have been walking around with Sony in recent weeks and to be honest, the fingerprint scanner is not always pleasant to use. He does not regularly recognize the finger. We experience this with several fingers. In other cases, unlocking takes a little too long again. We suspect that Sony can still solve this with a software update.
Face recognition cannot be found on the device, something that we also noticed when reviewing the Sony Xperia 10 II. Face recognition is seen as not the most secure method, and with the latest Android 10 update, Google has removed this option for (new) devices from Android, unfortunately.
Sony regularly rolls out updates for the Xperia 1 II. As it stands, the smartphone will receive a monthly security update. However, Sony is very vague in giving information about the updated policy. Sony has a good reputation when it comes to updates, but more information could certainly have been provided here.
The Sony Xperia 1 II has a built-in 4000 mAh battery. Charging is done via the USB-C connection or wirelessly. If you opt for wired charging, this is done at a speed of (only) 18W, while other manufacturers already offer speeds of 30W and 40W. For a high-end device, this loading speed is somewhat on the low side. The phone also supports wireless charging and can be charged on any Qi charger. This is slower than with wired charging.
How’s the stamina of the Sony Xperia 1 II? We get through the day with slightly above average use, but with this use, more than one day is not possible. If you take it easy, you will be able to do it for about 1.5 days with a full battery charge. We note a very neat screen-on-time of 4.5-5.5 hours, depending on how the device is used. A great performance.
Sony knows with the Sony Xperia 1 II to put a large, extensive smartphone on the market. The device has a beautiful screen, astonishing sound quality, and a very extensive camera. In addition, this Xperia has a good battery life and offers everything you need.
The phone is presented as a smartphone that has the best of the best in front of the camera. While all resources are indeed available, the camera is not distinctive enough to stand out from the competition. For example, the autofocus is very fast, but it takes longer to take a photo because the processing takes place in the foreground and not in the background.
All in all, Sony proves that it wants to participate seriously in this segment, but it asks a hefty price for it, something that other manufacturers also do. With Sony, you now get a wireless headset for free, which is insanely good.