After months of waiting, we’ve finally got our hands on the Sony Xperia 1 II and first impressions are very good. This is an Android phone that does things a bit differently and looks to offer certain buyers a viable alternative to the behemoth Samsung Galaxy S20 series.
Take the screen, for instance. Sony remains the only manufacturer using a 4K OLED panel on its phone and it’s easily one of the sharpest out there as a result. It is also taller than just about every other phone thanks to the 21:9 aspect ratio, giving it a far more cinematic feel.
Sony also decided against packing the camera sensors with 48, 64 or even 108-megapixels, focussing instead on using its Alpha camera smarts to set the snappers apart from the crowded marketplace.
But it’s a far smaller decision that has really caught my eye and got me all misty-eyed about phones from a few years ago. Instead of copying pretty much every Android phone in 2020 and using a fingerprint sensor buried underneath the display, Sony has stuck with a physical sensor built into the power switch on the side.
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Since they were first introduced on phones a couple of years ago, in-display sensors have caused me constant issues. The optical versions used on phones like the OnePlus 8 Pro are fast but require the portion around the sensor to light up before they can be used, while Samsung’s ultrasonic variety take an age to unlock.
You know what works just about every time? A proper, traditional physical sensor. I loved having TouchID back when I reviewed the iPhone SE 2 a few months ago and using the Xperia 1 II reminded me again just much better this option is.
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There are, of course, some drawbacks – though none of them are that noticeable on this Xperia. As it’s embedded inside the power key, it doesn’t ruin the clean look of the back and it doesn’t need to be placed below the display on the front. It might limit how thin the phone can be but, again, that’s not an issue with the flat sides and boxy design Sony has gone with.
Until these in-display sensors are as fast and as reliable as the physical alternatives then I just don’t see them as a proper replacement.
Elsewhere, the Xperia 1 II is shaping up to be great Android phone – even if we haven’t finished our full review yet. The 4K OLED HDR screen paired with the tall 21:9 aspect ratio is excellent for movies (though the lack of a fast 120Hz panel is a shame) and the in-depth camera controls plucked from the brand’s Alpha cameras offer plenty of opportunities to get ace pictures. It packs all the usual specs we’d want in an Android flagship costing over £1000 too, including the Snapdragon 865 chipset and 5G support.
Fast Charge is our weekly mobile-focussed column, where we look at the latest rumours and how we feel about the smartphones we’re using.