Sony Xperia 1 III review

GSMArena Team, 05 July 2021.

4K and 120Hz in one display for the first time

Top-end Xperias have pushed the boundaries of display technology for as long as we can remember, typically in directions different than what others are doing. The 1 III takes Sony's unique 4K resolution and adds a 120Hz refresh rate - so the first 4K 120Hz OLED panel in the smartphone world.

Update July 13th, 2021: At the time of publishing this review we were under the impression that the screen cannot output 4K at 120Hz. Sony reached out to us to clarify that the hardware is capable of delivering that.

With further testing, we were able to confirm that the screen automatically switches to 4K resolution as soon as you start playing back any video - regardless whether you have the 120Hz screen mode ON or not.

We didn't have much luck with any other use case though. Whether we were just poking the regular UI or web browsing in Chrome, or checking out photos in Google Photos - the phone's screen always ran at 1096 x 2560px.

Sony Xperia 1 III review

Behind the '4K' moniker, you get a 3840x1644px resolution - the 4K UHD you know, but in 21:9 aspect ratio - it's the same exact resolution as previous Xperia 1s. Pixel density on the 6.5-inch diagonal works out to an unrivaled 643ppi - when you get it to actually work in 4K.

Sony Xperia 1 III review

The Xperia 1 III's maximum brightness tops out at 560nits in adaptive brightness mode and 356nits when operating the slider manually - in the out-of-the-box Standard mode. This result isn't competitive against rivaling high-end offerings.

It's nice that the higher number is also achievable even without high ambient light in Google Photos and possibly in other multimedia apps. Higher brightness for smaller patches of the display area is potentially possible as well, for HDR applications, but that's not something we can reliably test for.

Update: Creator mode allows a slightly higher maximum brightness of 620nits in a selection of whitelisted apps - we tested Google Photos and Chrome and Firefox. This has been the case on previous Xperia phones, too. To better reflect this behavior, we've updated the brightness table with these new max numbers.

Display test 100% brightness
Black,cd/m2 White,cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia 1 III 0 354
Sony Xperia 1 III (Max Auto, Creator mode) 0 620
Sony Xperia 1 II 0 333
Sony Xperia 1 II (Max Auto, Creator mode) 0 611
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G 0 458
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Max Auto) 0 1023
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G 0 459
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Max Auto) 0 883
Apple iPhone 12 Pro 0 802
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 0 822
Xiaomi Mi 11 0 498
Xiaomi Mi 11 (Max Auto) 0 926
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra 0 514
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (Max Auto) 0 943
OnePlus 9 Pro 0 525
OnePlus 9 Pro (Max Auto) 0.038 871 22921:1
Oppo Find X3 Pro 0 493
Oppo Find X3 Pro (Max Auto) 0 774
vivo X60 Pro+ 0 477
vivo X60 Pro+ (Max Auto) 0 816
Asus Zenfone 8 Flip 0 518
Asus Zenfone 8 Flip (Max Auto) 0 735

Dealing with color reproduction on the Xperia 1 III is the same as any recent high-end Sony. There are Creator and Standard modes for 'Image quality', with further 'White balance' adjustment options that include Warm/Medium/Cool presets, as well as RGB sliders for extra granular tweaking.

Creator mode, when it recognizes sRGB content, is capable of rendering it very accurately - we measured an average dE2000 of 1.5. That's with the white balance to Warm - the default Medium setting results in a slightly noticeable blue shift.

Our testing software couldn't trigger Creator mode to switch to the DCI-P3 color gamut, so the color accuracy results we get aren't representative of the phone's behavior with actual content made for that color space. You should be alright using with any application where color is important.

Standard mode (the out-of-the-box setting), meanwhile, delivers a punchier output that doesn't necessarily aim for accuracy; there's a provision for auto Creator mode engagement in Standard mode, so that phone can switch accordingly when presented with compatible content.

Display settings - Sony Xperia 1 III review Display settings - Sony Xperia 1 III review Display settings - Sony Xperia 1 III review Display settings - Sony Xperia 1 III review Display settings - Sony Xperia 1 III review
Display settings

The Xperia 1 III's display is HDR capable, and we got HDR streams from popular sources like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube.

As we observed last year on Sony's first phone with a 120Hz display, the Xperia 5 II, the way the Xperia X 1 III handles its refresh rate is very straightforward. A single toggle in settings enables the 120Hz mode, and you'd be getting that refresh rate pretty much across the board with little to no activity-based or app-based switching. Notable exceptions include the camera viewfinder and Google Maps that do force 60Hz mode, as does video playback in Google Photos (but not in the streaming video platforms mentioned above). Such a non-adaptive approach is potentially more taxing on the battery, though the savings achieved with the adaptive implementations on competing phones are hard to quantify.

As for games, from the Game Enhancer utility settings, you can switch the refresh rate for the display to 120Hz for titles that can go above 60fps - it's at 60Hz by default. You can also force it to 120Hz regardless of whether you know for a fact that the game itself supports a higher frame rate - just to be sure. That's done on a per-game basis and is buried several levels in the Game Enhancer, so it's not the most intuitive implementation.

Sony Xperia 1 III battery life

The Xperia 1 III has a 4,500mAh battery inside, an increase over the 4,000mAh number of last year's model. It's the same capacity as the OnePlus 9 Pro, but slightly less than what the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Mi 11 Ultra have (those have much larger displays, though).

In our testing, the Xperia returned unremarkable results for endurance - a rating of 82h.

The 9 hours we clocked in Wi-Fi web browsing (with the display set at 120Hz) are the particularly underwhelming number.

The nearly 13 hours of video playback (at 60Hz) is closer to what we'd call okay, though still lower than pretty much all competitors.

The 22:42h voice call longevity is on the low end of the spectrum as well, though at least standby turned out relatively good.

Sony Xperia 1 III review

Our battery tests were automated thanks to SmartViser, using its viSerDevice app. The endurance rating denotes how long the battery charge will last you if you use the device for an hour of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. More details can be found here.

Video test carried out in 60Hz refresh rate mode. Web browsing test done at the display's highest refresh rate whenever possible. Refer to the respective reviews for specifics. To adjust the endurance rating formula to match your own usage - check out our all-time battery test results chart.

Charging speed

The Xperia 1 III is bundled with the company's XQZ-UC1 adapter, a 30W unit that supports USB PowerDelivery in both PDO (5V/3.0A, 9V/3.0A, 15V/2.0A) and PPS flavors (3.3V/3.0A - 16.0V/1.85A). It's the same charger that the Xperia 10 III is listed to support but doesn't get as standard. Buying it separately will set you back a hefty €50/£50, so it's nice that you get it in the Xperia 1 III's box.

Sony Xperia 1 III review

Update July 30th, 2021: At the time of publishing this review, our testing showed slower charging times for some reason (42% in 30min). After a recent retest with the provided 30W charger, we clocked 50% charge in the first 30 minutes and a full charge from flat in 1:50h.

The new results we got are in the same ballpark as other high-end devices like the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max when it comes to the 30-miunte result, but still relatively slow. The typical Sony approach to charging prioritizes long-term battery health. They claim that after three years of daily charging, the battery's capacity wouldn't dip below 80%, thanks in part to this relatively conservative charging curve.

30min charging test (from 0%)

Higher is better

  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    100%
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    99%
  • Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
    89%
  • vivo X60 Pro+
    84%
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    83%
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    55%
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    54%
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G
    54%
  • Asus Zenfone 8 Flip
    53%
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    50%
  • Sony Xperia 1 II
    46%
  • Sony Xperia 10 III
    20%

Time to full charge (from 0%)

Lower is better

  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    0:28h
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    0:32h
  • Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
    0:37h
  • vivo X60 Pro+
    0:42h
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    0:50h
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    1:11h
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G
    1:12h
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    1:32h
  • Asus Zenfone 8 Flip
    1:40h
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    1:50h
  • Sony Xperia 1 II
    1:51h
  • Sony Xperia 10 III
    2:58h

The Xperia 1 III supports wireless charging, and the Wireless Power Consortium database entry says it adheres to the Extended Power Profile for a maximum input power of 15W.

Speaker test

The Xperia 1 III has a stereo speaker setup with both units facing forward - one is below the display, the other - above it (that one is also the earpiece). As is common on Sonys, the phone has a correct-side-up landscape orientation - the buttons must be on top. So it won't switch channels based on the accelerometer's input and will feed the left channel through the earpiece even if you've got it the other way around ('you're holding it wrong' kinda situation).

Bottom speaker - Sony Xperia 1 III review Earpiece is always left channel - Sony Xperia 1 III review
Bottom speaker • Earpiece is always left channel

The Xperia earned a 'Good' rating for loudness in our test, one notch below most competitors. The 1 III is a bit lacking in the low end, where the Mi 11 Ultra is notably boomier, but the Xperia makes up for it with clean vocals and sparkly treble. The symmetry and parity between the two speakers is also much appreciated.

Use the Playback controls to listen to the phone sample recordings (best use headphones). We measure the average loudness of the speakers in LUFS. A lower absolute value means a louder sound. A look at the frequency response chart will tell you how far off the ideal "0db" flat line is the reproduction of the bass, treble, and mid frequencies. You can add more phones to compare how they differ. The scores and ratings are not comparable with our older loudspeaker test. Learn more about how we test here.

Reader comments

BEST PHONE EVER!!! Really worth its price, it's stormy fast and smooth, I like the design, it fits in hand perfectly, like it's sticking to your hand. Display is perfect, 4K, brigth, sharp as razor. Battery life is super, it goes 1 day. I d...

  • Morphsis

I've just brought an Xperia 1 III, after using it for some 2 weeks, I found the CPU temperature always stands comparatively high at 45-5O C", whereas my another gadget of Samsung Ultra 21 just at 28-30 C" !

  • Anonymous

Just wondering about the bloatware FB, Netflix, Tidal and Amazon app, can you remove them or only disable?