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Sony Xperia 10 Plus initial review

There are a few trends already taking off for smartphones in 2019. We’ve seen punch hole cameras, slider phones, in-display fingerprint sensors and smaller notches. Sony is stepping aside from those trends though and creating its own: the 21:9 aspect ratio display.

Three smartphones have been announced at Mobile World Congress 2019, all of which offer 21:9 screens. The Xperia 1 is the flagship, while the Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus are the mid-rangers replacing the Xperia XA line. Here are our first impressions of the Xperia 10 Plus.

Design

  • 167 x 73 x 8.3mm, 180g
  • No IP65/68 rating
  • Black, Silver, Navy, Gold

The Sony Xperia 10 Plus is a tall and slender device like the top-of-the-range Xperia 1, though it switches out the Gorilla Glass rear for metal. That’s not to say the Xperia 10 Plus feels cheap, it just doesn’t offer the same premium finish the Xperia 1 does and it’s not waterproof either.

Like the Xperia 1 though, the Xperia 10 Plus is nice and slim at 8.3mm and its narrow width means the 167mm height is more than manageable. A small bezel is present at the top of the screen so there’s no notch or punch hole camera interrupting the display, though this does mean the device is perhaps 5mm or so taller than it could have been.

On the rear, there is a horizontally-aligned dual rear camera in the centre at the top, while Sony and Xperia branding are subtly placed in the centre and at the bottom, respectively. On the right-edge, there is the dedicated signature camera launcher button at the bottom, coupled with a power button, volume rocker and a separate side fingerprint sensor.

Sony has previously placed the fingerprint sensor within the power button on past devices, but introducing it separately means no patent issues in the US. It means the rear of the Xperia 10 Plus is clutter free too and while an in-display sensor would have been great to see, it was always unlikely at this price point especially as the Xperia 1 didn’t offer it.

Overall the Xperia 10 Plus has a nice design. We prefer the glass finish of the Xperia 1 but it’s great to see the 21:9 aspect ratio form factor transfer down to the mid-range. The rounded edges and flat back are very Xperia, though we can’t help but miss the edge-to-edge display that the Xperia XA range originally launched with.

Display

  • 6.5-inches, LCD, 21:9
  • Full HD+ resolution
  • No HDR

The Sony Xperia 10 comes with a 6.5-inch 21:9 screen, like the Xperia 1. The difference with this mid-range handset is Sony opts for an LCD panel and drops the resolution to Full HD+, meaning it won’t be as sharp as the premium device.

It is also protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5 rather than 6 and it doesn’t support mobile HDR either. You’ll also miss out on a few of the Xperia 1’s features, such as Creator Mode that aims to ensure the content you view is as the director intended.

What’s important though, is the Xperia 10 Plus still offers that 21:9 aspect ratio despite being almost half the price of the Xperia 1. This aspect ratio is the same as what you would see a film in at the cinema, therefore providing a more immersive experience as far as mobile viewing goes.

Our time with the Xperia 10 Plus was limited but we can certainly see why a 21:9 aspect ratio might appeal. Images and footage both look great on the wide display and although Full HD+ is relatively low for this size, it wasn’t noticeable during our first look. We will be sure to test the display out further when we get it in for review though.

Cameras

  • Dual rear camera (12MP+8MP)
  • 8MP front
  • Optical zoom and Bokeh

The Sony Xperia 10 Plus comes with a dual camera on the rear made up of a 12-megapixel sensor and an 8-megapixel sensor. Optical zoom is offered, along with Bokeh effect images – the popular blurred background images. The front of the Xperia 10 Plus features an 8-megapixel snapper.

We weren’t able to test out the camera of the Xperia 10 Plus, but while we aren’t expecting the performance to be on par with the premium Xperia 1, it’s good to see dual cameras on the mid-range.

Until this year, Sony only offered a dual camera setup on the XZ2 Premium. Unlike the Xperia 1, there is no Alpha certification on the Xperia 10 Plus’ cameras but the Xperia 10 Plus does offer 4K video recording.

Hardware

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
  • 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, microSD
  • 3000mAh battery

The Sony Xperia 10 Plus is a mid-range device and therefore it’s not expected to come with a flagship processor. Instead the Xperia 10 Plus offers the same specifications as the Motorola Moto G7 Plus – a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 platform, supported by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage with microSD support up to 512GB.

The battery capacity stands at 3000mAh, which is a little smaller than the Xperia 1, though there’s a much lower screen resolution to power. Sony’s battery saving features like Stamina are also on board the Xperia 10 Plus as many Sony fans would expect.

In terms of audio, the Xperia 10 Plus has a 3.5mm headphone jack – a feature the Xperia 1 misses off its list – coupled with support for high-resolution audio. There’s no Sony Dynamic Vibration system on the Xperia 10 Plus though – a feature that launched on the Xperia XZ2 adding vibration when watching content, offering a little extra. It would have been good to see it on the Xperia 10 Plus to go with that wider screen.

Software

  • Android Pie
  • Multi-Window UI
  • Side Sense

The Sony Xperia 10 Plus launches on Android Pie with Sony’s software skin over the top. Over the last few years, Sony has stripped back its skin, offering an experience that is closer to stock Android. There are still a few extras however and Sony does still adapt a few apps including the camera.

Like the Xperia 1, the Xperia 10 Plus has a few software functions to take advantage of that 21:9 aspect ratio display though. There’s a new Multi-Window user interface that allows for two apps to run simultaneously – one at the top and one at the bottom of the screen.

There are several ways to launch apps into the Multi-Window UI, one of which is Google Assistant, while another is a simple long press on an app icon followed by a tap of the split screen icon. It seemed to work well based on our brief experience with it.

Side Sense is also on board the Xperia 10 Plus. This is a feature that first arrived on the Xperia XZ3, requiring a double tap on the side of the display to launch a user’s more frequent apps. It made one-handed operation and access to frequently used apps much easier and it also learned which apps we used when. We loved it on the Xperia XZ3 so we are pleased to see it come to the Xperia 10 Plus.

First Impressions

The Sony Xperia 10 Plus brings a new form factor to the mid-range smartphone market, as the Xperia 1 does in the flagship sector. The 21:9 aspect ratio is interesting, especially for those who love watching content on their mobiles.

The plastic finish means the £150-cheaper Moto G7 Plus might be a strong competitor though. It offers a glass rear, the same hardware specifications and a higher resolution dual camera. The display is a little smaller though, it has a notch and the overall handset is wider than the Xperia 10 Plus so it might not suit everyone.

For £429, the Xperia 10 Plus certainly offers something to consider for those who want the 21:9 aspect ratio but not all the bells and whistles offered by the Xperia 1. We will let you know how it performs when we review it in full to see whether half the price means half the performance.

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