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Sony Xperia 10 II review: A mid-range monolith

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
319
inc VAT

Sony’s new mid-range smartphone has the makings of greatness. The trouble is, so do most of its rivals

Pros 
Good battery life
Attractive design
Brilliant 21:9 OLED display
Cons 
Troublesome camera
Average performance
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Having pared down its smartphone naming method by reverting to a simple numbering system, Sony has flipped and made things just as confusing as they were before. The Xperia 10 II is a fine case in point, and it’s not the only phone from the Japanese tech firm to get the Roman numeral treatment either.

Xperia 10 II is a bad name for a phone, and nobody can deny it. Thankfully, the phone itself is rather good, and a marked improvement on its predecessor. However, in a market dominated by titans like Xiaomi and Samsung, this affordable Sony smartphone might struggle to stand out.

READ NEXT: The best mid-range smartphones

Sony Xperia 10 II review: What you need to know

The follow-up to the Sony Xperia 10, which was released in 2019, the Xperia 10 II is a mid-range Android smartphone powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor. Whereas the Xperia 10 used a double rear camera, the Xperia 10 II has a triple setup led by a 12MP, f/2.0 module, alongside a zoom lens and wide-angle camera.

The Xperia 10 II has a 6in OLED display with an unusual 21:9 aspect ratio and 2,520 x 1,080 (FHD) resolution. All of Sony’s current smartphones use these long-tall screens, which Sony says is most useful for viewing Netflix content without intrusive black bars above and below the screen.

At the moment, there’s only one configuration of the Xperia 10 II. In addition to the Snapdragon 665, it has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which can be expanded up to a maximum 1TB via microSD, although these currently cost the same as the phone itself.

Sony Xperia 10 II review: Price and competition

The Xperia 10 II costs £319, placing it at the more affordable end of the mid-range market. You can buy it upfront from Amazon UK or on contract for as little as £13/mth from Sky or Vodafone. For reference, the Xperia 10 II’s predecessor, the Sony Xperia 10, launched at £299 in 2019. £20 isn’t much of an increase, considering the Xperia 10 II has an extra 1 GB of RAM, double the storage, a faster processor and an additional rear camera.

In terms of price, the Xperia 10 II’s closest rival is the Google Pixel 3a. Released in mid-2019, you can buy a brand-new model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for £329 from Amazon. It still holds up as one of the most well-rounded mid-range phones you can buy and, as for the camera, it still stands unopposed.

For something closer to £300, you can’t do much better than the Samsung Galaxy A51. Currently only £299 from Amazon, it’s a competitively-priced handset with a great screen, plenty of power and a fantastic quadruple rear camera.

Sony Xperia 10 II review: Design

With its screen off, the Sony Xperia 10 II bears more than a passing resemblance to the obsidian monolith from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a tall, slender and entirely black handset with subtly rounded corners, and measures 157 x 69 x 8.2mm. The body is made of plastic but is sandwiched between protective layers of Gorilla Glass 6.

This slick surface, both on the front and back, makes it one of the most slippery phones I’ve ever tested. It nearly slipped from my palm on numerous occasions and managed to slide off the (flat) armrest of my sofa several times while I wrote this review. Suffice it to say, you’ll definitely want to get a case for the Xperia 10 II. Happily, the phone has IP65/68 water and dust resistance, so it can withstand the occasional splash.

The Xperia 10 II’s display has slender bezels either side, with thicker bars at the top and bottom. The selfie camera is housed in the upper bezel, along with the ear speaker. The triple cameras and LED flash on the back of the phone are arranged in a column in the upper-left corner – the camera module juts out from the chassis ever so slightly.

The phone’s main speaker is set behind the bottom edge of the phone, where you’ll also find the USB-C charging port. A 3.5mm audio jack is located on the upper edge. On the right are the volume controls and power button, which doubles as a thumb reader for unlocking the phone. The left edge has a pull-out SIM tray with one Nano-SIM slot and one hybrid (Nano-SIM or microSD) slot.

Sony Xperia 10 II review: Xperia UI

Like other Sony smartphones, the Xperia 10 II runs Xperia UI, which is based on the latest version of Google’s Android OS – currently on Android 10. It offers an experience that’s not far off stock Android, with minimal bloat. Now, Sony does attempt to push a selection of its own apps on you during setup, but you can simply deselect to avoid installing them.

If you’re used to Android then navigating the phone’s UI won’t feel much different, though there are a few Sony quirks. The most unusual, but useful, feature is Side Sense, a navigation bar locked to the right edge of the display that lets you launch two apps, one above the other, inside of a 21:9 multi-window. For instance, you can run a YouTube video while taking notes in Google Docs, or browse emails while updating your calendar simultaneously.

Side Sense’s controls are a bit fiddly but, once you get the hang of it, it’s a useful tool to have at your disposal. If you aren’t getting on with it, then you can simply deactivate it within the phone’s display settings.

Sony Xperia 10 II review: Display

The Sony Xperia 10 II’s crowning feature is its 6in 21:9 OLED display. It’s got a Full HD 2,520 x 1,080 resolution with a pixel density of 457ppi, and it looks absolutely fantastic. There are two display settings to choose from, either “standard” or “original”, with the former being the default.

Our calibration tests revealed that the “original” setting offers a more true to life experience. Covering 98% of the sRGB gamut, with a gamut volume of 100% and an average Delta E of just 0.82, it’s one of the most colour-accurate smartphone displays we’ve ever tested. Although the “standard” mode isn’t quite as colour accurate, it’s still the more visually pleasing of the two settings, because in “original” mode the screen takes on a warm tint that makes colours appear washed out by comparison.

The OLED panel has a contrast ratio of Infinity:1, so colours and textures are distinct and vivid, seeming to leap out from the display. No matter what’s on screen, images are incredibly sharp. The Xperia 10 II has a weak maximum measured brightness of 351cd/m2, which is well below the Xperia 10’s 532cd/m². It’s still possible to view the screen under direct sunlight, but you have to make sure you’re looking at the display dead-on.

Sony Xperia 10 II review: Performance and battery life

Sony has equipped the Xperia 10 II with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor, which is clocked at 2GHz, as well as 4GB of RAM. The Snapdragon 665 is comparatively weaker than chipsets such as the Snapdragon 710, which powers the similarly-priced Xiaomi Mi 9 Lite (£329) and Realme 3 Pro (£179).

As a result, performance is middling. In the GeekBench 5 CPU benchmark, the Xperia 10 II hit single-core speeds of 313 and multi-core speeds of 1,399. Granted, this is much better than the Xperia 10 managed last year, but compared to its rivals, it’s not an amazing result. The Xperia 10 II is only marginally faster than the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 and Samsung Galaxy A51, both of which are much cheaper.

In gaming terms, the Xperia 10 II is notably weaker than Google Pixel 3a and the Galaxy A51, having only managed an average of 16fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 on-screen test, and 20fps in the off-screen segment. It’s still able to run some of the more demanding Android titles without too much hassle, however, so long as you don’t mind tweaking a few settings.

In PUBG: Mobile, you can play at the High frame rate setting provided you drop the graphics down to Smooth (the lowest tier). Meanwhile, in Call of Duty: Mobile, I was able to play five games in a row, with graphics and frame rate both set to High, without any heating issues or noticeable frame drops.

The biggest gap in performance between the Xperia 10 and the Xperia 10 II is in battery life. Where the Xperia 10 made it just 9hrs in our standardised battery rundown test, the Xperia 10 II lasted nearly 20hrs. That’s much more in line with what we’d expect from a modern mid-range smartphone and guarantees all-day use on a full charge.

Sony Xperia 10 II review: Camera

Not that long ago, a triple camera on an affordable smartphone would be a major talking point. That’s not the case these days, especially when you can find quadruple camera setups on sub-£200 smartphones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9, which has a whopping 48MP primary snapper.

Sony has gone for a more modest rear camera configuration on the Xperia 10 II, consisting of a 12MP (f/2,0) module, an 8MP (f/2.4) 3x zoom lens and an 8MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide camera. And, on the front, there’s an 8MP (f/2.0) selfie camera. The rear camera can capture video in 4K at 30fps, while the selfie camera manages 1080p at 30fps.

Before I get into the camera quality, I’ll address Sony’s camera software, which isn’t particularly intuitive. There’s a busy toolbar at the top of the screen, which includes flash, brightness and aspect ratio options, but the HDR setting is buried within the camera’s manual mode. When shooting in the default auto mode, the camera makes constant adjustments depending on the lighting or distance of the subject, but HDR never seems to kick in automatically. More annoyingly, whenever you exit the camera app it reverts back to auto.

^ Non-HDR

The Xperia 10 II’s camera struggles with light, regardless of whether there’s too much or too little. The exposure shifts frequently and often dramatically, and you need to tap around on the viewfinder to fix the lighting. This can turn what should be a simple action into quite a fiddly process, especially when photographing small objects up close. There’s no macro camera, but there is a digital macro mode which kicks in if you hold the phone close enough. The camera’s auto-focus abilities left me wanting, too.

^ HDR

While testing the Xperia 10 II’s camera, I also took photos using my Google Pixel 3a and then compared the same shot on both phones. Invariably, the Pixel 3a took better photos, with superior detail, more natural-looking colours and fewer exposure issues. Google’s handset is much more pleasant to use, especially since the Xperia 10 II’s viewfinder has a slight delay when readjusting the camera. Taking HDR photos on the Xperia 10 II is a bit of a drag too, as they can take over five seconds to process when shooting.

^ Macro

Of the non-HDR photos I captured outdoors on the Xperia 10 II, most appeared washed out, lacking vibrancy and clarity. Overexposure within clouds was another big problem. The HDR mode looks better: it’s brighter, with higher contrast, and the exposure issues are dealt with nicely. Having said that, even non-HDR photos taken with the Pixel 3a look sharper and more lifelike than the Xperia 10 II’s HDR shots.

^ Low light

In low light shots, there’s simply no comparison between the two phones. The Xperia 10 II’s results are grainy and full of noise and excess shadow, and the camera fails miserably at capturing texture detail. Colours are also way off; greys come out purple at times, while red and green tones lack vibrancy. Shooting in “Night Mode” helps to brighten images slightly but it adds several seconds of shutter lag.

Sony Xperia 10 II review: Verdict

Unless you desperately want to watch 21:9 cinematic content on your smartphone, in its true full-screen aspect ratio and undisturbed by letterbox bars, then you probably shouldn’t buy the Sony Xperia 10 II. It’s not a terrible phone by any means, with a fantastically accurate OLED display, robust build quality and decent all-around performance. Placed up against rivals like the Google Pixel 3a and Samsung Galaxy A51, however, the performance of its Snapdragon 665 is underwhelming.

Moreover, its troublesome camera software is simply not up to scratch at this price, and its photo quality is worse than we’ve come to expect from even some budget handsets. In the end, despite Sony making some solid improvements over the Xperia 10, unfortunately, it isn’t enough for the Xperia 10 II to become a serious mid-range contender.

Sony Xperia 10 II specifications
ProcessorOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 (4x2GHz, 4x1.8GHz)
RAM4GB
Screen size6in
Screen resolution2,520 x 1,080
Pixel density457ppi
Screen typeOLED
Front camera8MP (f/2.0)
Rear camera12MP (f/2.0), 8MP 2x zoom (f/2.4), 8MP wide (f/2.2)
FlashLED
Dust and water resistanceIP65/IP68
3.5mm headphone jackYes
Wireless chargingNo
USB connection typeUSB-C
Storage options128GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wi-Fi802.11ac
Bluetooth5
NFCYes
Cellular data4G
Dual SIMYes (shared with microSD)
Dimensions (WDH)157 x 69 x 8.2mm
Weight151g
Operating systemAndroid 10
Battery size3,600mAh

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