It’s déjà vu for Sony’s latest mid-ranger, which exhibits some familiar strengths and weaknesses
- Spectacular battery life
- Solid build with IP65/IP68 rating
- Better priced than before
- Slow charging
- Poor performance
- Screen still only 60Hz
The Sony Xperia 1 V was another impressive flex from a company with unmatched manufacturing expertise, but let’s call it what it is: a £1,300 proof of concept. Regular people are more likely to cast their eye over the Sony Xperia 10 V.
In fact, its price of £400 has emerged as the smartphone sweet spot in recent years, with popular phones such as the iPhone SE, the Pixel 7a and the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G all hovering around that price. Sony can always be trusted to do things a little differently, and it’s going to need to if it wants to stand out.
Such alternative thinking hasn’t always served Sony well in the past. Last year’s Sony Xperia 10 IV seemed to have a strange set of priorities, asking you to make certain fundamental compromises that other leading mid-range handsets simply didn’t. Despite some encouraging progress, I’m not sure Sony has learned its lesson, either.
Sony Xperia 10 V review: What you need to know
Sony might do things differently to its rivals, but its smartphone principles are remarkably consistent. The Sony Xperia 10 V is another well-built, block-shaped plastic phone that aims for solid practicality above all else, with a little video playback special sauce drizzled on top.
It’s even lighter than the Xperia 10 IV, despite having the same large 5,000mAh battery, while its 6.1in FHD+ 60Hz OLED display is now fractionally bigger and significantly brighter. Also new to this model is a set of front-firing stereo speakers.
The phone is powered by exactly the same Snapdragon 695 processor as its predecessor, but there’s progress in the camera department with a larger, more pixel-packed 48MP wide sensor. Once again, that’s backed by an 8MP 2x telephoto and 8MP ultrawide.
Sony has really cut down on its packaging in recent years, too, but that sadly means you don’t get a charger in the box this year.
READ NEXT: The best smartphones to buy
Sony Xperia 10 V review: Price and competition
We felt as if the Xperia 10 IV was slightly overpriced for what it offered, so it’s good to see that Sony has gone in the opposite direction to its rivals and has made the Xperia 10 V cheaper than its predecessor. The sole 6GB RAM and 128GB storage model available in the UK costs £399, which represents a £30 reduction.
It’s a good job, too, because Sony is facing up to some formidable competition. Google is responsible for our favourite mid-range phone of 2023, the Pixel 7a, though Samsung is also right in the mix with the Galaxy A54 5G. The Honor 90 offers a particularly classy alternative, while the Poco F5 aims to provide flat-out performance above all else.
All of those rivals cost £449, however, while the new OnePlus Nord 3 costs even more at £499. This represents an interesting inversion of last year’s scenario, from accusations of the Xperia 10 IV being overpriced to the Xperia 10 V now feeling like a slightly cheaper alternative.
Sony Xperia 10 V review: Design and key features
Sony hasn’t messed with its design language one bit. This is another rectangular block of a phone, with broadly flat surfaces and an unfussy all-plastic composition.
The Xperia 10 V looks and feels reassuringly tough and, sure enough, it survived a hard tumble from chest height onto vinyl flooring without so much as a nick. Besides that solid plastic body, the use of Gorilla Glass Victus (which is unusually tough for a cheaper phone) on the front surely helps. Comprehensive IP65/68 water and dust certification is the icing on this particularly well-structured cake.
Despite what a tough customer it is, the Xperia 10 V has got lighter, weighing a mere 159g. Together with compact 155 x 68 x 8.3mm dimensions, it pretty much disappears into your pocket when not in use.
It’s a little drab looking, especially in my test model’s Black shade, but you can also specify it in White, Sage Green or Lavender if you want something more expressive.
One improvement over last year’s design is the inclusion of dual front-facing stereo speakers, which goes some way to justifying those chunky top and bottom bezels. They’re not particularly loud or punchy, however, and I found that I needed to crank them up to around the halfway mark in normal YouTube video-watching scenarios.
READ NEXT: The best budget smartphones to buy
Sony Xperia 10 V review: Display
Sony has improved the Xperia 10 V’s display compared to the 10 IV, but not in the way that we would have thought obvious. It’s a slightly larger 6.1in FHD+ OLED (up from 6in), and it’s a lot brighter. Sony claims a 50% increase, and I measured an impressive luminance of 613cd/m2 with auto brightness turned off.
Once again, this is an unusually tall and thin display, with a 21:9 aspect ratio. This makes it well suited to widescreen movie playback, though most video content still subscribes to the 16:9 aspect ratio.
Colour accuracy is on point for media playback, too. Using the more natural Original mode colour calibration, I recorded a 98.5% sRGB gamut coverage and a 103.1% gamut volume, with a strong average Delta E score of 1.34 (the closer to 1 the better).
For all its unique and improved elements, however, the Sony Xperia 10 V display continues to disappoint in one fundamental area. It still suffers from a sluggish 60Hz refresh rate. For this sort of money, only the iPhone SE and the Pixel 6a dip so low, and they’re both borderline obsolete at this point.
Sony Xperia 10 V review: Performance and battery life
I’m disappointed that Sony has stuck with a sluggish 60Hz display refresh rate, and I’m only marginally less disappointed that the Xperia 10 V still runs on the same tired Snapdragon 695 5G CPU as before.
Poor performance was one of the big flaws with the Xperia 10 IV, and so it proves here. Paired with that sluggish display, this processor – which is commonly found in much cheaper phones such as the £279 Poco X5 – serves up a disconcertingly wallowy feeling. The phone unlocks a beat too slowly, homescreen animations scroll past without any snap or crackle, and there’s a slight sense of lag to everything.
Benchmark results bear this out, with the unsurprising news that the Xperia 10 V is just as slow as its predecessor. This means that it’s fallen even further behind the mid-range competition, which have all got faster.
Compared to the Pixel 7a in particular, with its snappy 90Hz display and flagship-grade Tensor G2 chip, the Xperia 10 V simply doesn’t feel like it’s fighting in the same weight class. Sony’s choice of 6GB of RAM is ample, so that’s not the issue here, and you get a solid 128GB of internal storage, too.
As disappointing as the Xperia 10 V’s performance is, there’s one area in which it continues to excel. While other mid-range phones pack large 5,000mAh batteries, I dare say none of them can match the Sony’s staying power.
You’ll often see the term “two-day battery life” bandied around as the sign of a rare phone with excellent stamina, but the Xperia 10 V blows way past that. I was able to get through a full 48-hour period in between charges, with 7hrs 22mins of screen-on time – we’re not talking light usage here – and I was still left with 24% to play with.
Sure enough, the Xperia 10 V blitzed our regular looping video test, lasting a staggering 29hrs 33mins. That’s pretty much identical to the previous Xperia 10 IV, unsurprisingly, and several hours longer than the closest mid-range competition.
This multi-day potential makes the Xperia 10 V’s slow charging speeds and lack of a charger in the box easier to live with. Once again, Sony doesn’t state a maximum charging speed, but using a 65W Samsung charger I was able to get from zero to around 40% in 30 minutes. That seems a little speedier than last year’s model, but it’s still not fast.
Sony Xperia 10 V review: Cameras
Sony deserves praise for once again giving us three proper cameras on the Xperia 10 V. What’s more, the third one isn’t a pointless depth or macro sensor making up the numbers. You get a wide camera, an ultrawide camera and a 2x telephoto camera.
The main camera has received an upgrade, with Sony swapping out the 1/2.8in 12MP sensor of the Xperia 10 IV for a larger, more pixel-dense 1/2in 48MP sensor. You get the same pair of 8MP sensors for ultrawide and 2x telephoto shots as last year, however.
In general, 1x snaps look good, with decent detail, solid exposure and a nice natural colour tone. Sony’s low-intervention image-processing approach means you won’t always get the same pop that other manufacturers provide, which can make overcast days look a little dark and drab. But in general, it’s a pleasingly clean, unfussy approach.
Night shots are merely OK. OIS makes a welcome return, and Sony’s software will smartly pick out low-light scenes, but it won’t brighten the scene too much. On the one hand, this leads to shots that tend to look more like the scene from your memory. On the other hand, that relatively small sensor can’t quite scoop up enough light to offer sufficient detail, and overall it falls well short of the Pixel 7a.
The ultrawide is fine most of the time. It lacks a little fine detail, as you might expect, especially towards the edges of the frame, but its colour tone is a reasonable match for the main sensor. Except for the occasions when it isn’t. On one or two instances, my ultrawide snaps took on a weird sickly yellow hue compared to the cooler tone of the main sensor.
While the telephoto camera uses a humble 8MP sensor, I found the 2x shots I obtained from it preferable to those of the Pixel 7a, which crops in on its main sensor. Google applies some clever tricks to get its zoomed-in shots looking broadly similar to its 1x shots, but there’s just no disguising the fundamental shortfall in sharpness when compared to the Xperia 10 V’s dedicated solution.
There’s a passable 8MP selfie camera around the front, which can take reasonably vibrant shots in perfect lighting conditions, though it can still suffer with blown-out highlights when said conditions aren’t nice and even.
Haunting the whole camera experience, however, is that same sense of lag that I complained about with last year’s model. There were too many instances where there seemed to be a tiny pause between pressing the shutter button and getting a response.
READ NEXT: The best mid-range smartphones to buy
Sony Xperia 10 V review: Verdict
The Sony Xperia 10 V has exactly the same key strengths and weaknesses as the Xperia 10 IV did last year. Factor in a nigh-on identical design, and it’s pretty much impossible to waver from our previous, rather middling verdict.
We really shouldn’t still be talking about a 60Hz display here, nor should the Xperia 10 V be stuck with the same mediocre processor as its predecessor. Those two elements might lead to class-leading stamina, but they also leave the phone feeling sluggish and somewhat unresponsive.
Yes, the phone has improved in certain ways, with a much brighter display, stereo speakers and a better main camera. But Sony would have been better served to apply its resources to the areas where the Xperia continues to fall well short of the mid-range elite.