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YES you heard that right, Sony is still releasing smartphones – and despite flying under the radar, they’re not half bad.
Last year, the Japanese tech behemoth released the Xperia 1 III, a chunky mobile that boasts a camera that’s said to be one of the best on the market.
The Xperia 1 III is a pricey bit of kitCredit: Sony
I’ve given the gadget a whirl over the past week to see what it’s really like and whether it’s worth that knee-wobbling £1,199 pricetag.
What is the Sony Xperia 1 III?
Launched in August 2021, the Mk. III is Sony’s latest flagship smartphone, boasting impressive specs that rival the latest Samsung and Apple mobiles.
In line with a number of recent Sony mobiles, the gizmo is camera-focussed and boasts an unusual, elongated shape to help it stand out from the crowd.
It’s an expensive bit of kit, too, coming in at a similar price to Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra and Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Those are two of the best phones money can buy right now, meaning Sony’s offering has got a lot to live up to to justify its price tag.
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The Mk. III’s standout design feature is the taller-than-average, 6.5-inch OLED display.
It boasts a 21:9 aspect ratio, making the phone exceptionally long compared to the standard 16:9 ratio sported by most mobiles.
That lengthy chassis is sure to turn heads on the bus or train and is perfect for watching movies, big-budget dramas and anything else filmed in widescreen.
While it’s got a lot of screen retail, the front of the device noticeably lacks the gorgeous all-display face of the top-end Samsung and OnePus mobiles.
Instead, the Mk. III’s selfie camera and other front-facing sensors are housed in a black bar above the screen that’s pretty hard to miss.
At the bottom, a similar chunk of dead space forms a noticeable chin. For a phone at this price, I’d be hoping for something a little more stylish.
Flip the phone over, and you’ll notice that its beefy camera system is housed in a vertical array that juts out a fair distance.
I think it looks sleek and is a nice break from the square arrays seen on the latest iPhones and Google mobiles.
Sony tops it all off with a classy matte finish, which helps give the phone a premium feel.
The Mk. III’s primary feature is the camera system (more on that later), but it has plenty of other bits and pieces worth shouting about.
For one, the display is excellent, with Sony claiming it’s the world’s first 4K phone with a 120Hz refresh rate.
It’s vibrant and responsive, while high-intensity games and movies are buttery smooth thanks to that high-speed refresh rate.
Elsewhere, the phone’s chipset has been upgraded to the Snapdragon 888 5G.
It helps the Mk. III work at breakneck speed and handle those more energy-intensive tasks and apps.
To help handle that extra workload, there’s a larger, 4500mAh battery inside, an upgrade on the 4000mAh in last year’s model.
In my experience, the battery didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped as the Mk. III frequently struggles to last an entire day.
There are settings you can fiddle with to correct this, but then you lose out on many of the phone’s most eye-catching features.
To help you out, Sony has included fast-charging capabilities for 50 per cent power in 30 minutes. The phone also supports wireless charging.
Now we come to the Mk. III’s main selling point and likely the reason most people will buy it over other pricey smartphones: The camera.
It’s got a triple camera set-up with a 12MP main lens, a 12MP telephoto lens, and a 12MP ultra-wide.
Sony says the snapper borrows plenty of technology from its Alpha camera range – so you know it’s top quality.
You can tell that Sony’s engineers have poured blood, sweat and tears into the camera app, in particular.
They’ve given users more options than you shake a stick at. It’s at times a little overwhelming if you’re an amateur photographer like myself.
Through the intricate Photography Pro app, the Mk. III can customise everything from shutter speeds, ISO, colour balance and pretty much anything else.
It’s fun to play around with and offers control if you’re a keen photo nerd who doesn’t want to carry around a heavy, expensive DSLR everywhere you go.
I, however, frequently found myself sticking to the phone’s excellent automatic mode, and was happy with my results.
I’m not the world’s best photographer so can do with all the help I can get, and the mobile managed crisp, clear photos even with my unsteady hand.
Price and final verdict
The Mk. III is a great bit of kit with top-end specs – but it’s let down by its price tag.
Coming in at a steep £1,199 (or $1,300), it costs the same as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and £150 more than the baseline iPhone 13 Pro Max (£1,049).
Those are undoubtedly better phones that offer buyers more for their money than the Mk. III.
For me, Sony’s mobile is great for camera obsessives who want as much control over their smartphone snapper as they do their high-end cameras.
For anyone else, it’s difficult to see how they would justify spending this much on a phone when they could get a better experience elsewhere.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
The phone’s biggest selling point is its customisable cameraCredit: Sony
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