Sony Xperia 1 II Smartphone In Depth Review

Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone in-depth review with analysis of display, speakers, color, battery capacity and charging.

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Tshaka Armstrong
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March 02, 2021
6 min read

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I am PDA, that's Pocket Digital Assistant, years old. So today's review comes with a side of nostalgia. In the early days of PDA innovation, Sony put out some killer hardware under the name, Sony CLIÉ. And today, one of my all time favorite reviews was the supersized phablet for that time at least, Sony's 6.4 inch Xperia Z Ultra. And now I have in my hands, the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone, does it live up to its innovative lineage? Let's find out.

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Premium product at a premium price

One thing Sony has never shied away from is giving you a premium product at a premium price point, coming in at a little over $1,000. You're going to have to decide by the end of this review, if the premium in the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone is worth the premium in your wallet.


I'm going to tell you now the phone makes a very compelling argument, starting with this six and a half inch, 4K, 1644 by 3840 display and the 21 by nine aspect ratio, meaning it's tall and narrow.

Sony makes its first statement, all eyes on me. And they should be supporting HDR10, the high 643 pixels per inch density looks amazing when it comes to scaling text and content down to size. It gets small and dense, but it is clear and crisp.

The colors for still images are beautiful. If you're like me and into anime and superhero wallpapers, you're not going to be disappointed as you look at 4K wallpapers on your Home and Lock screen. This display is powered by a few different settings in the display menu, more on that in the moment.

As rich as the colors reproduced are, “The Witcher” was a bit dark, not unwatchable dark. I tried it with the cine settings on and off to see if it would make a difference and it did not.

Of course, “Our Planet” looked beautiful and cartoon content looked great, but I thought I'd also give a couple other films a look. Specifically because not only do you get a magnificent display, but this phone actually has front-facing stereo speakers.

So, I hit Amazon Prime and I looked at a few pieces of content and it did indeed appear a bit dark. I looked at “Gangs of London”, episode one on two different devices, both with OLED displays and the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone was definitely darker. Both displays were set to max brightness. I tried the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone with the display set to Creator mode and in Standard mode with Video enhancement on and off. I wanted to chalk this up to the OLED having deeper blacks. But like I said, tested it against other panels.

This issue isn't uncommon though, I've seen it on other panels where they were OLEDs and were a bit darker than some other OLEDs I've looked at. This is only a potential issue where shows have darker or low light scenes.

Anything else you watch on this panel is beautiful. And right now this is one of the few 4K UHD HDR10 displays on the market.

Speakers and sound

Overall, the entertainment experience on the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone is pretty fantastic because you also get dual stereo speakers, which are among the loudest I've tested. Peaking at almost 80 decibels with an average of 74 decibels while watching my control for these sound tests, the Urban X Trailer.

Unlike almost every other phone on the market, the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone's speakers are both on the front of the phone. Listening to “The Witchers'” banquet hall scene you get all the well-layered stereo image that the sound designers on the show intended.

And that's both from the speakers and from earbuds or headphones. Speaking of intention, the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone is one of the closest devices to what a pro model should be. And not just because you get the three and a half millimeter audio jack up top.

Cashing in on the connection to the Sony Alpha Pro line of cameras and even one of my dream filmmaking cameras, the Sony Venice, the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone takes a different approach to audio and video capture than some of the top flagship competitors.


In many modern day phones you're going to get cameras which rely on computational photography or a trained computer intelligence to make your pictures perfect. At least according to what their idea of perfection is.

With the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone you're going to get a serious pro mode in both the video and still image capture along with raw image capture. So you can tune the images to your idea of perfection.

You get the Photo Pro and Cinema Pro modes and as you can see, there's going to be a bit of a learning curve if you aren't already familiar with using a DSLR or mirrorless camera. If ISO, aperture and focal length are unfamiliar terms to you, that's okay. If you want to get a bit more serious with your smartphone photography, you're in the right place. This is a great jump off point for creating your own looks, for showing people the world through the lens as you see it. It's going to take just a little bit more work than a phone whose camera has no pro mode and ones that do all the thinking for you.

One of my favorite aspects of Cinema Pro is the fact that you have the option to utilize the color science of the Sony Venice line of filmmaking cameras. Which is my dream camera as I alluded to before. Now, I know it isn't the exact same thing, but I like where their head's at with this one.

Also the Cinema Pro mode has some seriously pro features like the ability to lock two points of focus and utilize focal ramping to move between the two as your depth of field changes. Really cool stuff. I could do a whole review on just these camera features alone, but have no fear. The cameras do offer Automatic mode, which will help you through that learning curve. Bottom line though, you're going to get some pretty solid photos and videos out of the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone.

The one thing missing though, which you'll find on most modern phones or a lot of them anyway, is the Night mode. I did take the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone out and shoot at night at Candy Cane Lane and in relative darkness, it was not bad at all. The image stabilization is quite effective. One of the areas that I love about Sony is their drive for innovation. They always did some very cool things with their PDAs, so it's wonderful to see what they've done with the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone. Specifically with their overlay or their OS on this device.

User experience

Let's get into the user experience. The display on Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone is tall, but narrow so it's easier to one hand. Matter of fact, it feels great in hand, but it may still be tall for some people. Enter Side Sense, similar to edge apps on Samsung, I actually like this implementation more. It's dope. Run through the tutorial on the phone so you can get used to it.

And once you do, you can access shortcuts to the apps you choose from any screen or app, access multi-window as well. Speaking of multi-window with a phone this tall, the multitasking multi-window feature really shines on the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone.

You know what else shines? A charging indicator light in the upper right-hand corner of the phone, a nice touch. And the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone is full of nice touches. The SIM tray is more accessible than any other phone I've used.

Figuring that the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone is going to be used by people who want to shoot a lot of video, a lot of photos, they might be removing the micro SD card frequently. The SIM tray memory tray has a tab on it, which allows you to simply pull the tray out with no need of a SIM tool. Other refinements include a side button, which you can customize. I currently have it set as a camera shutter and love using it for that purpose.

One thing I have to admit that I generally do not care for on phones, the side-mounted fingerprint reader, which the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone has. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I actually liked this implementation.

Not that it's particularly different from others, but the size of this phone puts the scanner right where my thumb sits on my right hand and right where my index finger hits from my left hand. In other words, the slim builds of this phone puts this scanner naturally where my fingers will hit it from either hand, nice.

Battery size and charging

Rounding out the feature set, you get a 4,000 Milliampere Hour battery, which supports wireless charging and rapid PD charging which will get you to 50% charge in 30 minutes. The phone is also IP65 or 68 water resistant.

Final thoughts

So my final thoughts, the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone is one heck of an experience. You won't be disappointed by anything this phone has to offer, if you can weather the cost. This one is retailing at full cost for $1,099.

Despite that though, the Sony Xperia 1 II smartphone is good for business. It offers some things other phones don't, which ultimately means that it offers the market and you more options. And that's never a bad thing.

Hey, if there's anything about this phone that I didn't answer in my review, any questions you may have, go ahead and leave those in the comments below, I'll get to them. We don't take it lightly that you've spent your time watching with us. I'm Tshaka Armstrong for Look forward to chatting with you, connecting with you on the next video.

Tshaka Armstrong
Written by
Tshaka Armstrong
Tshaka is a nerd and Griot. Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer, and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

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