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Sony Xperia 10 III Review

Verdict

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The Sony Xperia 10 III gives you a beautifully balanced design, clean software, and a rounded camera offering. But it faces an even more competitive mid-range field than its predecessor.

Pros

  • Tidy, balanced design
  • Crisp AMOLED
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Mediocre performance
  • Display only 60Hz
  • Painfully slow charging

Availability

  • UKRRP: £399
  • USAunavailable
  • EuropeRRP: €429
  • Canadaunavailable
  • Australiaunavailable

Key Features

  • 21:9 OLED displayThe distinctive tall screen is great for video
  • Battery lifeThe endurance here is great thanks to a 4500mAh battery
  • Clean AndroidSony’s version of Android is good looking and free of bloat

Introduction

Last year’s three-strong Xperia II range offered tantalising glimpses of a resurgent Sony, one that’s willing and able to corral its formidable but scattered expertise to produce great smartphones. 

By far the least impressive of those three phones was the mid-priced Sony Xperia 10 II, in more ways than one. While it was neat and tidy enough, it failed to compete with its sub-£400 contemporaries or excel in some key areas.

Now the Sony Xperia 10 III is here with a similarly classy package, added 5G support, and one or two tweaks to the formula. At a new higher price of £399 / €429, is it good enough to go toe to toe with the likes of the Poco F3 and the OnePlus Nord? Here’s what we found testing it.

Design and screen

  • Classy and unique look
  • 21:9 OLED great for movies, a bit cramped for everything else
  • Only a 60Hz refresh rate

Mid-range phones don’t tend to be that pretty, but the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G recently showed that cheap needn’t mean nasty.

To be fair to Sony, the Xperia 10 II proved something similar in 2020, offering the kind of poise and class that seems to come from a higher level of phone entirely. The Sony Xperia 10 III follows the same path.

It’s another clean, symmetrical, undemonstrative handset with little in the way of frippery. Just about the most ostentatious thing about it is the superfluous addition of a dedicated (and sadly unmappable) Google Assistant button on the right hand edge.

Sony Xperia 1 III Back-angle-1

On the opposite edge sits another touch that’s unique to Sony – a SIM tray that doesn’t require a tool to remove. This is heaven if you’re someone who’s constantly juggling SIMs, and there are two neatly separated SIM slots to boot.

Otherwise you’ve got Gorilla Glass 6 sandwiching what appears to be a metallic frame. That’s another classy touch at a price point where shiny plastic gets an all-too-frequent outing. Our Black model is the stealthiest of the lot, but you can also get the Xperia 10 III in White, Blue, or Pink, depending on your region.

The phone’s forehead and chin are a tad thicker than you might be accustomed to, but the fact that they’re equally proportioned counts for a lot. Most importantly, it enables Sony to stash the selfie camera in the top bezel rather than a cut-out notch, making for a completely unbroken display.

In hand this is quite a small phone, with a slim but proportionally tall footprint of 154 x 68mm, and a modest thickness of 8.3mm. It weighs just 169g, too, which is quite light for a phone this size.

I found it really does feel very well built, and that point is driven home by an IP68 dust/water resistance rating. That’s far from a common spec to find in a phone this far south of £700.

As per Sony’s preference, the Sony Xperia 10 III features a side-mounted fingerprint sensor. It’s not as showy as the in-display alternatives, but in my experience it generally proves to be quicker and more reliable. Here there’s a definite sense of lag, but that seems to reflect the phone’s sluggish performance rather than a shortfall in Sony’s biometric tech.

Sony has lived up to its audio-centric reputation with a headphone jack on the top of the device, but it blots its copybook somewhat by not including stereo speakers. Both the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G and the Poco F3 offer this for around the same money, so pricing is no excuse. This means audio quality isn’t as powerful, so you’ll definitely want to use earphones if you want to watch video on the phone.

The Sony Xperia 10 III’s display offers mixed blessings. It’s not the biggest screen on the market at 6-inches, and when you factor in that extra-tall and thin 21:9 aspect ratio, things like web content can look a little cramped. But widescreen movie content and games look great, especially with no annoying selfie cam islands or curved edges to distract your attention.

Sony Xperia 1 III Front-hold-2

A resolution of 1080 x 2520 (FHD+) means that the picture is nice and sharp for the size, while OLED panel technology means that colours really pop. The default offerings of ‘Original’ and ‘Standard’ are perhaps a little warm and cool respectively, but it is possible to fine-tune things in an impressively nuanced White Balance menu.

The biggest letdown here by far is the provision of a miserly 60Hz refresh rate. Rival phones at this price will often give you the option of 90Hz or 120Hz, making for a much more fluid navigation experience. 

With the Sony Xperia 1 III going above and beyond the call of duty with its own 4K 120Hz provision in the super-flagship space, it’s a shame that the Sony Xperia 10 III couldn’t similarly lead the way for lower-mid-range phones. Yes, Apple is still using 60Hz in its expensive flagships, but overall this feels like a bit of a missed opportunity and will put off buyers coming off competing high refresh rate phones.

Camera

  • 12MP sensor fine in good light, terrible in low light
  • Sluggish shooting speeds
  • Telephoto lens

Sony appears to have changed very little with the Sony Xperia 10 III’s camera set-up. Just like its predecessor you get a nicely balanced three-camera system with no superfluous depth sensors or macro lenses. It shouldn’t feel like such a breath of fresh air, but it does.

Sony Xperia 1 III Camera-UI

This is led by the same 12MP 1/2.8″ wide sensor as the Xperia 10 II, albeit this time with a brighter f/1.8 aperture. Backing this once again is a pair of 8MP 1/4.0″ sensors, one a 2x telephoto and one a 120-degree ultrawide.

It probably shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the shooting experience itself is pretty familiar. Based on my tests, you’re getting a fundamentally sound performer in general daylight conditions and an underwhelming offering elsewhere. 

In general, when taking basic photos I found Sony’s even color science is the camera’s defining feature. It lets the phone capture realistic images which is rare in the mid-range market where hyper-exaggerated colors are in vogue. Some people will find this approach a little dull and disappointing, and shots taken with the Xperia 10 III certainly aren’t as immediately Istagrammable as, say, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G. But others will prefer Sony’s more naturalistic ‘as you see it’ philosophy.

Not that the main Xperia 10 III camera is technically superior. It can still struggle with balancing the tone of a scene, and with HDR. On bright days, highlights such as bright skies will tend to be blown out, while on particularly muggy and overcast days I found that many of my shots were dim and murky.

It’s particularly disappointing to see that there’s still an issue with the time it takes between hitting the shutter button and the camera app responding. Like the Xperia 10 II, it’s all very sluggish, which could conceivably lead to you missing those opportunistic snapshots. Again, when the Sony Xperia 1 III has pretty much the fastest camera around, it’s a shame that its affordable brother hasn’t been built in the same image.

The Ultrawide camera

It’s really good to see a dedicated telephoto sensor here, though. Rival efforts such as the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G, the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, and the OnePlus Nord all omit such a component. The results are far from spectacular, with a tone that’s notably cooler than the main sensor, alongside the obvious step down in detail. But merely having a proper telephoto option rather than employing a cropping algorithm is a victory in my book. 

2X zoom

The 8MP ultrawide seems to get closer to the main sensor when it comes to tone, if rather more on the warm side. But things also get a little soft and fuzzy, especially towards the edges. This is normal in a more affordable phone, of course, and it’s far from the worst example I’ve used.

Again, this is all fine for an affordable phone. Only the Google Pixel 4a really offers an outright compelling photographic experience at this money, and that phone’s missing a fair few bells and whistles of its own.

Shooting at night is a bit of a wash out with the Sony Xperia 10 III, unfortunately. Using the included Night mode yields extremely grainy, fuzzy shots, and extreme low light scenarios are a complete sludgy mess. Sony’s natural approach ensures you don’t get the freaky brightening of some rival affordable phones, which can pay off when using the mode in less extreme or artificially lit situations, but you’ll have to think hard about your framing and keep a very steady hand.

There’s no OIS here, which doubtless contributes to this failure. While that’s far from a given at this price, it’s not unheard of either: the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G features OIS, for example, and takes way better night shots into the bargain.

Selfies from the Xperia 10 III’s 8MP front camera are a little on the soft side, and they also tend to struggle with HDR implementation. Portrait selfies, in particular, seem very hit and miss with their implementation and yield weird edge artefacts. You’re much better off hitting the bokeh control button for the main camera and switching control to the volume key for your arty self-snaps, awkward as that may be.

On the video front, the phone is capable of 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps. Again, a lack of OIS means your footage isn’t going to be the steadiest.

Performance

  • Snapdragon 690 a big improvement, but still not particularly competitive
  • 6GB RAM a 50% boost from last year’s model
  • Sony’s take on Android 11 is clean and considered

Sony has given the Xperia 10 III a considerable speed boost over last year’s Xperia 10 II, courtesy of a newer Snapdragon 690 5G chip and a 50% increase in RAM to 6GB. 

Given that performance was Trusted’s biggest issue with the Sony Xperia 10 II, this can be seen as an essential move from Sony. In day to day usage, it’s definitely an improvement, despite the lack of a fluid display refresh rate.

But it still doesn’t quite feel fast enough for the money in an even more competitive field. The facts and figures back that up: a Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 1717 positions it behind more modestly performing rivals like the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G and the OnePlus Nord, let alone the flagship-bothering Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G and Poco F3 which can add more than 1000 to that score.

It’s an even worse story on the GPU front, with 3DMark scores that place the Sony Xperia 10 III below considerably cheaper phones like the Oppo A54 5G and the Realme 8. It’s not a good look in a £400 phone.

In practical gaming terms, PUBG Mobile defaults to Medium and High Refresh Rate, which is pretty normal for the current £400 crop. It’s not the smoothest experience, but it’s perfectly adequate.

Elsewhere there’s a decent allowance of 128GB internal storage – double the Xperia 10 II’s provision – and you can still expand that through a microSD slot. Another addition to this year’s model is 5G connectivity, which makes the Xperia 10 III rather more future-proof.

Android 11 runs well on the Sony Xperia 10 III, helped no end by Sony’s careful take on Google’s mobile OS. There’s way less of the unwanted apps, the clunky icons, and the clumsy customisations than with most of its mid-range rivals.

Sony Xperia 1 III Notifications

Where Sony does go the extra mile, it’s generally well considered. Take, for example, the ability to run two apps one on top of the other with a double tap of a side-bar button, taking full advantage of that unusually tall display.

It doesn’t work anywhere near as well as on the larger, sharper, more fluid screen of the Sony Xperia 1 III, but then that phone is three times the price. This is a solid take on that premium feature.

I should note that I observed a weird bug with the Xperia 10 III whereby embedded videos were weirdly stuttery and almost slow motion. Hopefully that gets fixed with a near-future firmware update.

Battery life

  • 4500mAh battery is a big upgrade
  • Moderate use gets you two days of juice
  • Slow 7.5w charger included

Sony has wisely fitted the Xperia 10 II with a much larger battery than before. Moving to a 4500 mAh cell (up from 3600 mAh) is a smart move, if only to pay the infamous 5G tax.

The result of this larger battery, alongside that small 60Hz display, is that the Xperia 10 III lasts an awful long time in between charges. I found that I was able to get through a 15 hour day with around 5 hours of screen on time, and still have about 50% left in the tank.

Sony Xperia 1 III Back-angle-2

Yes, the potential for two days of usage on a single charge is very real, and it’s something the far more expensive Sony Xperia 1 III can’t get close to. That two day potential will rapidly disappear if you go heavy on the media, or spend a lot of time flitting between ropey 4G and 5G networks, but then that’s the case with any phone.

While the Sony Xperia 10 III apparently supports 30W charging, you don’t get that provision in the box. Instead, Sony has provided a really slow 7.5W power brick. I recorded an excruciating 0 to 50% time of 1 hour 12 minutes, and just under 3 hours (2 hours 57 to be precise) for a full 0 to 100%.

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Should you buy it?

You want a stylish, symmetrical design: The Xperia 10 III’s design is uniquely clean and balanced, with no notch and an appealing hand-feel

You want a fluid screen: It’s quite possible to get a 90Hz or 120Hz OLED display in a phone of this price, so the Xperia 10 III’s 60Hz effort feels a little sluggish

Final Thoughts

The Sony Xperia 10 III is a uniquely equipped mid-ranger with a polished design, an unusually wide (and blissfully unobstructed) OLED display, and stellar battery life. But its performance falls well behind similarly priced rivals, and combined with the lack of a suitably fluid display, there’s been a disappointing lack of progress in some fundamental areas.

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FAQs

How good is the battery life?

Very good. You can get two days of life out of a single charge

Is this phone 5G?

This phone supports 5G

What software does it run?

Android 11, with Sony’s light custom skin on top

Trusted Reviews Test Data

Geekbench 5 single core
Geekbench 5 multi core
1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)
30 minute gaming (intensive)
30 minute gaming (light)
1 hour music straming (online)
1 hour music streaming (offline)
Time from 0-100% charge
Time from 0-50% charge
3D Mark – Wild Life

Specs

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
CA RRP
AUD RRP
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
Video Recording
IP rating
Battery
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Resolution
HDR
Refresh Rate
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Chipset
RAM
Colours

Jargon buster

mAh

An abbreviation for milliampere-hour and a way to express the capacity of batteries, especially smaller ones in phones. In most cases the higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last but this isn’t always the case.

5G

Offering faster download and upload speeds when compared to 4G. Great for game streaming and HDR video playback. Not supported everywhere yet and speeds vary wildly.

OLED

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. It’s a display made up of self emissive pixels, each of which can create its own light. A bright pixel can sit next to a dark pixel to help create deep black levels and high contrast beyond that of traditional displays. The lack of a backlight also means these displays can be thinner than other types of TVs.

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