Retailing at an eye-watering £1,199, the Sony Xperia 1 III is a flagship device that excels at pretty much every task that you throw at it. Some of its strapline features include a 4K HDR OLED screen, a trio of 12MP cameras, and a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 system chip. Competition is, of course, very steep when it comes to premium smartphones, so does the Xperia 1 III have what it takes to capture the attention of Apple and Samsung loyalists?
The Xperia 1 III has a really clean look as its 6.5" display pretty much stretches from corner to corner and its buttons and cameras are neatly tucked away. Something that I really appreciated is that its reverse side is coated in a frosted glass finish, which looks and feels great, and it doesn't feel like it would shatter too easily. I personally just moved from the Xperia 5 II, and the glass on the back feels almost the same as the screen itself, so there's always a sense of anxiety that it could shatter if I was to drop it.
I was pleased to see that the device still sports a 3.5mm jack for wired headphone use and the sim card, just like on the Xperia 5 II, can easily be removed and replaced by popping a cover on its side. Along with a volume switch/ zoom control, the handset also has a fingerprint sensor for quick unlocks and there is also a switch that instantly brings up Google Assistant - a useful feature if your hands are full. Additionally, there's also a light that displays when you have unchecked notifications and there's a physical button that can be used for taking photos and videos, so you don't have to adjust your hand position.
Whilst I found its screen size to be great for gaming and watching movies (I'll get to that later), I found that it wasn't overly comfortable for general use. The handset feels like a middle ground between a one-handed and two-handed device and I never found it a comfortable fit when using it either way. In terms of weight, it was noticeably heavier than my Xperia 5 II, but I still think it light given the tech onboard. For reference, the dimensions of the phone are 165 x 71 x 8.2 mm and it weighs 186g.
Underneath the hood is 12GB RAM and powering the device is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 system chip. In terms of internal storage, there are two different options: a 256GB base model and a 512GB model that retails for the more expensive price (you can even expand the storage further using the microSD slot). Performance-wise this phone is an absolute beast, as it would handle any game or app that I threw at it and it ran flawlessly even with many apps open at once. Surprisingly, performance wasn't even halted when snapping together two apps and using them simultaneously.
When it comes to the screen, the Xperia 1 III comes with a 4K HDR OLED display, which utilises BRAVIA HDR remaster technology to allow for a richer range of colours. This really is one of the best displays I have seen on a smartphone and I even found myself favouring it over my own TV when watching 4K content on YouTube and Netflix. There's even the opportunity to toggle on a 120Hz refresh rate that allows for some really fluid when texting and scrolling through web pages and social media feeds. The 120Hz refresh rate though, whilst silky smooth, is a huge drain on the battery, so I'd encourage you to use it sparingly.
A negative that I did notice with the phone is that it was fast to generate heat. With my phone sitting on my desk and out of the sun, I was given an overheating warning on several occasions, and when gaming at times, I had to put it down to avoid scorching my hands.
In terms of the battery the Xperia 1 III includes a 4500mAh battery, which is an improvement from last year's model which had a 4000mAh battery. The phone comes with a USB-C fast charger and by using this, you can receive as much as 50% battery life from a 30-minute charge. In terms of longevity, I found that the phone would last me pretty much an entire day out of the house without draining, but this was through standard use and I wasn't playing games or using any photo or video editing software. The phone also features reverse charging, so you can use it to power up a smart watch or ear buds if you have enough juice.
The Xperia 1 III comes equipped with a trio of 12MP cameras (wide, ultra wide and tele zoom) and these are discreetly placed on the rear of the phone and look a lot more attractive than many of its competitors such as the iPhone 12. On the front of the device there is also a front-facing 8MP that fits very neatly onto the front of the device and doesn't look like it has been applied by a hole-puncher. Switching between these rear lenses is as simple as a push of a button, making it effortless for you to frame a shot in seconds. Whilst I found the rear three to produce some really crisp results, I was personally surprised by the front-facing camera as it looks really sharp and not noticeably grainy like the Xperia 5 III.
The 21:9 screen here is a great fit for gaming. Not only do games look gorgeous on its display, but it provides plenty of room for your thumbs and fingers, which is great for games like Call of Duty mobile and Asphalt 9 where you need to remain hovering over the screen. The built-in Game Enhancer software is also a handy feature, as you can capture videos, adjust the game's settings, and take screenshots without exiting an application. What I found really handy too is that it can be used to quickly snap Google or YouTube to your current game, which is perfect if you are stuck and in need of some desperate advice.
The only slight issue that I noticed when it came to gaming is that the phone supports DualShock 4 controllers, but not the PS5's DualSense controller. This is pretty strange considering that the device comes directly from Sony itself and other smartphones including the most recent range of iPhones support this functionality. Perhaps this can come in the future, via a firmware update, but it's still a pretty strange omission from the get-go. I did, however, test using remote play to broadcast my Xbox Series to the phone, and playing games in this manner I found to be a great alternative to using my TV due to the quality of its display.
With its gorgeous 4K HDR OLED display and beefy specs underneath the hood, the Sony Xperia 1 III stands tall as one of the most technically impressive smartphones on the market. Despite the steep price tag and the fact that the handset seemed to be prone to overheating, I found it to be a great all-round device whether I was playing mobile games, watching movies, or taking photos and recording videos.