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Sony Xperia 1 V review: Sony tweaks its unique pro-phone formula

Our Rating :
£1,298.39 from
Price when reviewed : £1299
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Another distinctive multimedia powerhouse from Sony, though one or two stubborn quirks keep the Xperia 1 V from true greatness


  • 21:9 4K screen well suited to movie content
  • Improved, powerful camera system
  • Thoughtful design tweaks


  • Still expensive, though not such an outlier
  • Runs a little too warm
  • Charging speed too slow for such a premium phone

It might not have “Pro” in the title, but Sony’s Xperia 1 series has been turning out the truest pro-focused phones on the market for four successive generations now. And with the Sony Xperia 1 V, you can make that five.

The company has stuck to its guns, with a singular approach to design and a familiar “everything but the kitchen sink” spec list. This time around, that includes an overhauled camera system that improves low-light and point-and-shoot performance, which have always been relative weak points for the brand.

Sony Xperia 1 V review: What you need to know

It should surprise no-one to learn that the Xperia 1 V is another iterative update from Sony, and it probably won’t disappoint too many people, either. While the Xperia 1 V package is broadly similar to previous phones in the range, it still looks and feels like nothing else on the market.

Specs such as a 6.5in 4K OLED 21:9 display will be nothing new to those familiar with previous models, but by the same token you won’t find such a thing in any non-Sony-branded phone.

The biggest improvement this time around is to the Xperia 1 V’s camera system, which features a new, significantly larger and more sensitive main image sensor, as well as superior computational photography. The Xperia 1 IV’s unique variable zoom telephoto camera also returns.

Elsewhere, you get the expected generational bump in performance, with a new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor ensuring parity with the rest of the 2023 flagship crowd. Stamina has remained broadly the same, with a 5,000mAh battery and support for up to 30W wired charging.

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Sony Xperia 1 V review: Price and competition

There’s a positive way to look at the Xperia 1 V’s pricing and a negative way to look at it. On the good news front, Sony is one of very few manufacturers not to have bumped up the price of its latest flagship.

Taking off those rose-tinted glasses, this is still an extremely expensive handset at £1,299. That makes the Xperia 1 V one of the most expensive non-foldable phones on the market, though the aforementioned price freeze has brought it more in line with the key competition.

It’s only £50 more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, for example, while the equivalent 256GB model of the iPhone 14 Pro Max actually costs £10 more. The Xiaomi 13 Pro is £200 cheaper, but it could be argued that the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is the more direct competitor, and that phone isn’t even being sold in the UK.

Really, it’s a lower sub-tier of flagship phone that makes the Xperia 1 V (and indeed the rest of the elite class) seem expensive these days. Is Sony’s pricey flagship really £350 better than the Google Pixel 7 Pro? And is it a whole £500 better than the OnePlus 11? For the tiny niche of media-obsessed photography nerds that it’s aimed at, the answer will likely be yes. But what about for most people?

Sony Xperia 1 V review: Design and key features

The design of the Sony Xperia 1 V remains broadly consistent with previous models in the range. Squint and you’d struggle to tell the phone apart from the Xperia 1 IV, III or even II, for that matter.

Dimensions of 165 x 71 x 8.3mm and a weight of 187g are very similar indeed to the previous model, as is Sony’s flat-edged design language. This is another unusually tall, narrow brick of a phone with an unapologetically industrial finish. My test model came in a slightly drab black, which is more like a dull dark grey, but you can also specify the Xperia 1 V in khaki green or platinum silver.

Sony once again goes above and beyond on the water and dust certification front, with an IP65 rating to go with the more common IP68 rating. Suffice to say, the Xperia 1 V is guaranteed to stand up to more types of water ingress than most of its rivals.

Once you go hands-on with the Xperia 1 V, however, you’ll notice a pronounced textural difference to the Xperia 1 IV. That starts with a new etched Gorilla Glass Victus rear cover, which takes on a coarse, dimpled finish. The result is that it perhaps looks and feels a tad less sleek than its predecessor, but on the flip side it’s also a whole lot grippier and less prone to fingerprint smudges than before.

The phone’s flat frame, too, has taken on an altogether rougher texture, with multiple thin grooves running the length of the phone. To my eyes, this makes the phone look more industrial and “pro”, and it further aids grip. I felt much less precious when taking the Xperia 1 V out of my pocket to take a quick snap than I did with any of its predecessors.

The front of the phone offers a familiar media-focused sight, with slightly thicker than average top and bottom bezels housing the phone’s selfie camera and strong front-firing stereo speakers. With no hole punch notch eating into that Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2-coated display, the audio-visual experience is completely unimpeded. It remains a simultaneously familiar and refreshing design decision.

Sony is one of the few ultra-flagship phone makers to still include a 3.5mm headphone jack, reflecting the Xperia 1 line’s pro media-consumption focus. Support for 360 Reality Audio and LDAC further emphasise the Xperia 1 V’s audiophile credentials.

The company has also persisted with its unique two-stage physical camera shutter button on the lower right-hand edge of the device, located some way away from the combined power/fingerprint button. This is a much more satisfying way to shoot, as well as serving as a reliable camera shortcut.

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Sony Xperia 1 V review: Display

Sony doesn’t appear to have mixed things up at all with the Xperia 1 V’s display, which is perfectly understandable – the Xperia 1 IV’s display was brilliant, and quite unlike any of its competitors. Once again, we’re looking at a 6.5in AMOLED screen with an unusually wide 21:9 aspect ratio, and an even more unusual 4K (3,840 x 1,644) resolution.

That 21:9 aspect ratio contributes to the phone’s tall and thin feel in general operation. The shorter aspect ratio used by Sony’s rivals (generally around 19.5:9) makes for a more comfortable experience with things such as web browsing and general home screen navigation, although it’s easier to reach both sides with your thumb here. Sony’s approach yields stunning results when viewing ultra-widescreen video content, though your average YouTube video will leave thick black borders on either side.

Similarly, that 4K resolution is only applicable in certain situations. In most scenarios, the display will max out at a 1080p or Full HD+ resolution, and will only switch to 4K when it detects the appropriate UHD video content being played. Such video content looks noticeably sharper here on the Sony Xperia 1 V than on, say, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra or the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

There’s a 120Hz refresh rate option here, though you’ll need to activate it in the Settings menu, and there doesn’t seem to be any automatic or variable refresh rate option. This seems somewhat out of step with the 2023 flagship crowd, but that’s Sony down to a tee.

Colour accuracy is broadly in line with last year’s Xperia 1 IV, which is to say it’s very good indeed. I recorded a Delta E colour variance of 1.31 in the phone’s Creator display mode, which targets the BT.2020 colour gamut, as well as an sRGB gamut coverage of 96.5% and a gamut volume of 97%. I also recorded a peak measured luminance of 631cd/m² with autobrightness turned off, which is again similar to the Xperia 1 IV. That’s bright enough, though nowhere near the iPhone 14 Pro Max and its eye-scorching ilk.

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Sony Xperia 1 V review: Performance and battery life

If Sony has gone with the crowd on anything with its Xperia 1 line, it’s through always picking the fastest off-the-shelf chip available. In this case, that means Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, together with a healthy 12GB of RAM as standard.

General performance is unimpeachable, with silky navigation, speedy app switching and pause-free fingerprint unlocking. Our standard selection of CPU and GPU benchmark tests yielded similar results to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, with a slight advantage for the Samsung phone perhaps reflecting its slightly higher clock speed.

There’s just the one spec here in the UK, with 256GB of storage. That’s fine, though it’s perhaps not up to the bleeding edge Pro spec that you’ll find elsewhere. Still, the provision of a microSD slot (up to 1TB) is rare in a flagship.

Despite Sony’s claims of a 60% bigger diffusion sheet, I did still observe the Xperia 1 V running a little warm under load – and occasionally when not under any particular load at all. It never got uncomfortably hot, but it still got toastier than I would have liked, and on one notable occasion that heat was accompanied by a dramatic drop in battery life that left me on 1% an hour or so before bed time. This has been a warm summer, in patches, so maybe I caught the phone on a particularly muggy day.

Stamina in general isn’t an issue. Sony bumped up the battery capacity to 5,000mAh with last year’s model, which was a welcome improvement, and the Xperia 1 V sticks with the same sized cell. Once again, a day of intensive usage (about five hours of screen-on time) would generally leave me with around 15% left.

That improved heat dissipation, in conjunction with the more efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, did yield some measurable improvement, too. In our standard looping video test, the Xperia 1 V lasted about 50 minutes longer than the Xperia 1 IV, though it’s still about half as long as rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and the iPhone 14 Pro Max. This more than likely comes down to the way Sony enhances and upscales video content to look better on its beautiful 4K display.

Charging is the same disappointingly mediocre 30W maximum as before, which gets the Xperia 1 V from empty to just shy of 50% in 30 minutes. A full zero to 100% charge took me 1hr 41mins, which is hardly rapid.

Sony Xperia 1 V review: Software

Something we don’t always focus on a great deal, but which is deserving of a mention from time to time, is how Sony approaches software. The heavy custom UI of Samsung, Xiaomi, Honor and the rest isn’t applied here, with a philosophy more in line with Motorola, Asus and, of course, Google.

This means that you’re getting a relatively faithful take on Android 13, with the same basic menus, icons, fonts and layout as you’ll find on a Pixel phone. Sony gives you its own clock widget and wallpapers, but they’re tastefully minimalistic, and of course can be changed at will.

That’s not to say that Sony hasn’t crammed in lots of its own apps. There are two video capture apps, a Music app, a Game enhancer app and more. Most justify their inclusion with a very clear function. The Window Manager app, for example, lets you utilise that 21:9 screen to run two apps simultaneously in split screen, as well as offering a Side Sense menu for easy one-handed access to your favoured apps.

The inclusion of third-party apps such as Facebook and Linkedin is slightly irritating, but the provision of a three-month Tidal subscription makes perfect sense within the context of the Xperia 1 V being a serious multimedia device.

Sony Xperia 1 V review: Cameras

After several generations of triple-12MP camera systems, Sony has shaken things up with the Xperia 1 V. In comes an all-new 48MP main sensor that applies pixel binning to achieve sharper 12MP shots.

At 1/1.35in, this new sensor is 1.7 times larger than the Xperia 1 IV’s. What’s more, thanks to a technological advance that places the photodiode and transistor on separate layers, this larger sensor is supposedly even more sensitive to light. Throw in claims of a fresh emphasis on computational processing, and the Sony Xperia 1 V is said to be twice as capable in low light. There’s still no dedicated Night Mode button here, but the default basic mode will explicitly detect night-time scenes and increase shutter times accordingly.

Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that Sony has applied lots of artificial brightening to low light shots. In fact, if you’re accustomed to shooting with other phones such as Google’s own Pixel line, you might find night shots with the Xperia 1 V a little murky. I prefer to view them as more natural, capturing more of the inky shadows of a dark scene, though it still sits below its peers for sheer low-light clarity.

This limited intervention approach applies to the entire photographic experience. Shots taken in the phone’s Basic mode are some of the most natural that I’ve seen, with Sony resisting the urge to ramp up colours or contrast to Instagram-friendly levels. This can make shots feel a little drab and lifeless, with the lack of an aggressive HDR mode occasionally blowing out highlights or failing to pull out detail from shady areas. Generally, though, this results in final shots that are more representative of reality.

Naturally, the Xperia 1 V’s strength here is in its Pro-level manual settings, which remain as dizzyingly comprehensive as ever. No other phone gives you as much fine control over your shots, and focus peaking is now an option, too. But even as a point-and-shoot experience, the Xperia 1 V is fun to use, not least thanks to its physical shutter button. Sony has even made it so that the UI rotates when shooting in portrait view.

The Xperia 1 V also retains the novel variable zoom function from the Xperia 1 IV, letting you move smoothly between a 3.5x and 5.2x zoom. You can extend beyond this, but things look rather noisy at 10x. Sony’s hybrid zoom algorithms simply aren’t up there with Samsung, Xiaomi, Honor and co. Its 12MP ultrawide, meanwhile, is pretty good, largely matching the natural tone of the other sensors and minimising edge distortion.

Once again, the Xperia 1 V is a fine video recording device, with two dedicated recording apps incorporating stacks of manual controls. It maxes out at a crisp and smooth 4K 120fps, and Sony has even added an extra mic that’s dedicated to capturing your subject’s speech while the others focus on environmental sound.

The 12MP front camera is capable of capturing decent selfies with plenty of detail and balanced colours. Again, Sony’s more natural tone is adopted here.

Sony Xperia 1 V review: Verdict

Sony has turned out another brilliant pro-leaning flagship in the Xperia 1 V. The notchless 21:9 4K display is unique for its widescreen movie potential, while this is also the best-equipped smartphone for audiophiles thanks to the rare inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The biggest improvement this year is to the Xperia 1 V’s camera. With a much larger main sensor and improved image processing, Sony’s camera has some point-and-shoot smarts to match its peerless manual setup, while low-light shooting is also improved.

Technically, Sony hasn’t fully addressed our main criticisms of the Xperia I IV. At £1,299, it’s still very expensive (though no longer an outlier), it can still run a little warm, and the 30W charging speed remains way too low for a phone of this calibre.

For a relatively small niche of flush media-enthusiasts, however, the Sony Xperia 1 V is flat out the best option on the market.

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