Sony’s series of Xperia devices is somewhat of an oddity in the smartphone world. Ten years ago this was far from the case: thanks to a stellar series of Xperia smartphones, Sony was a big player in the Android sector. That all fell apart in the late 2010s due to confusing branding and the company pumping out too many smartphones in short succession, and it's been attempting to regain that spark ever since.
While we don’t see many Sony smartphone users in the wild, here at What Hi-FI? we’ve been consistently impressed by the relaunch of Xperia devices that began with the Xperia 1 in 2019. Sony has come a long way since then, now on its fifth generation of Xperia smartphones consisting of three models; the flagship Xperia 1, the mid-range Xperia 5 and the entry-level Xperia 10 – the one we’re here to talk about today.
Last year’s Xperia 10 IV thoroughly impressed us, offering practically unmatched AV performance at the price. It even took home an Award for its stellar performance. Now a year on, we have the Xperia 10 V, a modest upgrade over last year’s model, but an upgrade nonetheless. Does it live up to its predecessor? And can it once again deliver portable music and movie excellence at a fraction of the price of its bigger and much more expensive sibling, the Xperia 1 V?
At £349, the Xperia 10 V is somehow even cheaper than its predecessor, which launched at £429. There is one slight issue, however, and that’s regarding availability. Much like the 10 IV, this new model is once again not officially launching in the US or Australia, so we’ll have to approximate prices at roughly $430 / AU$670.
The Xperia 10 V is still a much cheaper option than the Xperia 1 V though, with that flagship model retailing for £1299 / $1399. That being said, the 10 V is by no means as premium when it comes to build and features, as we shall see.
Not much has changed since last year when it comes to the Xperia 10 V’s build. It’s still 100 per cent plastic, which is expected at this price point. As plastic phones go, the Sony is a particularly nice one to hold, with smooth edges and backing that make it comfortable and easy to grip. It’s also astonishingly light at just 159g, making comparative devices feel like lead weight with their aluminium and glass enclosures.
It’s available in four finishes; Black, White, Lavender and Sage Green, with the last two colour options offering a more vibrant pastel finish – something to consider if you prefer to stay away from traditional monochromatic mobiles.
Screen size 6.1 inches
Screen type OLED
Screen resolution 1080 x 2520 (449 ppi)
Finishes x 4 (Black, White, Sage Green, Lavender)
Operating system Android 13
The Xperia 10 V is IP68 dust and water resistant, which means it should survive a quick splash in a pool, and is technically rated to last up to 30 minutes in a metre of water – although as ever it’s up to you whether you decide to take it swimming or not. A nifty design feature on the Sony phones that doesn’t get enough love is its SIM tray. It can be ejected by just using the thumbnail port and doesn’t require one of those pesky (and easily lost) SIM ejector tools.
Up front is a 6.1-inch display in Sony’s trademark 21:9 aspect ratio. We’ll talk about the benefits this brings for watching movies momentarily, but first let's focus on usability. It’s a double-edged sword to be truthful, as while the skinnier display is easier and more comfortable to hold and use with one hand on the horizontal axis, it is a bit trickier to accomplish vertical swipes from the top of the display.
Back to the rear of the device, you’ll find a triple camera tucked neatly into one corner with a small flash unit on the back. Moving around to the sides of the phone we have a combination power and fingerprint sensor button, volume controls, a USB-C port for charging and data, and a 3.5mm headphone jack – bravo to Sony for keeping this alive on its phones.
One aspect of the phone’s build that we have to complain about is haptics. Due to the lightweight plastic build, the entire phone rattles and buzzes whenever it attempts haptic feedback, making typing a somewhat jarring experience. Interactive haptics can be disabled in the menu, but there is no option to instead reduce the strength, which would be more appreciated.
Internally the Xperia 10 V is very similar to its predecessor. It’s using the exact same Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G chip as last year’s phone, with the same 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There does appear to be an upgraded model with 8GB of RAM in some regions, although the UK doesn’t appear to be included. If 128GB of storage isn’t enough, you can upgrade storage via the Micro SD slot up to 1TB if you wish.
Day-to-day performance on the Sony is acceptable, it’s certainly not as responsive as the Xperia 1, but at this price, we wouldn't expect it to be. It’s running Android 13 currently, although we anticipate an update to Android 14 will be coming soon. While there’s no discernible stuttering within the operating system and apps often load quickly, we do have concerns about the longevity of the device considering it is using an ageing processor.
Moving onto the display, the Xperia uses an OLED panel with a 1080p resolution, a pixel density of 449, and a 60Hz refresh rate. It supports HDR and reaches a maximum of 624 nits peak brightness. For the money, this is an admirably specced screen, and it's specially impressive that it's an OLED.
Sound features are also plentiful on the Xperia, with plenty of functionality for wired and wireless audio. High resolution audio is supported through the 3.5mm headphone jack and wirelessly through the LDAC Bluetooth codec, as well as support for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio immersive format and Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec. One of the biggest upgrades for the Xperia 10 this year is the introduction of stereo loudspeakers, directly addressing one of our few qualms with the prior generation. The Mark V uses a front-facing stereo pair, with a combination loudspeaker and earpiece arrangement that is much more powerful than last year’s measly mono speaker. The one downside is that this additional power does result in the chassis of the Xperia vibrating when the volume is cranked up.
Camera performance also gets quite a noticeable boost this year, with a 48MP main sensor replacing the 12MP one on the 10 IV. The telephoto and ultrawide lenses remain at 8MP. In practice, the images that the 10 V captures aren’t anything particularly great, with a definite lack of detail and depth, and colours tend to look a bit washed out, but it gets the job done in a pinch. The front-facing 8MP camera is equally flat and noticeably grainy, making this a hard pass overall for budding smartphone photographers.
Finally, the phone uses the same 5000mAh cell as its predecessor which, when combined with the fairly low energy processor, 60Hz screen and 1080p resolution, provides easily a full day of use. It also supports 5G for faster mobile data speeds which makes it ideal for streaming music and movies if you have an appropriate data plan.
We’ve yet to come across an Xperia phone that doesn’t impress in the picture department, and the Xperia 10 V is no exception. Much like its predecessor, the Sony offers ludicrous picture performance for the price, making it the most cinematic phone we’ve seen for the money.
Starting with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Disney Plus, the Sony’s OLED panel immediately shows its strengths, offering convincing, deep blacks combined with excellent contrast that creates a stunning display of space permeated with plenty of pinpoint stars. The gleaming planet in the distance of the shot looks solid and there’s a welcome sense of three-dimensionality to the image despite it being a fairly simple shot.
As Director Krennic’s shuttle enters the atmosphere of the planet, we are introduced to a stunningly bright and punchy vista, as the sun gleams on the crashing waves. There is subtle variation in the blue of the sky that is captured nicely on the Xperia. In fact, colours in general are a key strength of the 10 V. There’s a warmth to the beige tones within the Verso family homestead and skin tones benefit from this too, with a richness that doesn’t extend to ruddy or overdone.
Detail-wise, the Xperia 10 V continues to impress, as the finer wrinkles on Galen Erso’s face are nicely defined, as well as the folds on the villainous Krennic’s cape. As Krennic enters the foreground of the scene, we once again get to appreciate how solid the image is, and how three-dimensional it feels. Outlines of characters are clean without looking unnaturally sharp, which helps to create this depth effect.
Moving onto Avatar: The Way of Water, also on Disney Plus, the intense battle sequence towards the end of the film provides us with a chance to study motion on this device. Despite the hectic camera movements and lots of fast-moving subjects on screen, the Xperia refrains from stuttering and motion remains smooth and cinematic. This film also affirms much of what we felt from Rogue One, including the vibrant colours and excellent clarity.
Overall, the Sony Xperia 10 V excels in the picture department, making it tricky to think of anything around the same price that can rival its performance.
Sonically, the Xperia 10 V sounds better in some regards, and much the same as its predecessor in others. The big difference is the 10 V’s speaker performance, which is heavily improved over last year. As we’ve already established, Sony has upgraded the budget Xperia to include a stereo speaker set-up like its more expensive siblings, and it's a worthy upgrade.
While it won’t be the best way to listen to music, watching a section of Avatar using the built-in speakers proves more than acceptable, with clear dialogue and a much fuller and richer sound compared to last year’s 10 IV. Bassier sound effects such as explosions are a lot more impactful and present, and the Xperia 10 V can now better balance volume without sounding distorted, thin and harsh.
Moving onto headphone audio, it’s a similar story to last year. Listening to James Blake’s Limit To Your Love using the 3.5mm wired audio input, we’re treated to a rich, detailed and dynamic performance that betters most Android phones that cost triple its price. It offers a spacious and warm sound that keeps Blake’s vocal natural and emotive while giving it plenty of room to breathe amongst the piano and subsequent bass effects.
Sony has delivered yet another compelling budget Android phone with the Xperia 10 V. Its picture and sound performance are hard to believe when we take into account how little it costs and, while it may not offer cutting-edge internal specs and the camera is hardly class-leading, it's comfortably the best budget phone on the market for movies and music.
- Picture 5
- Sound 5
- Features 3
Read our review of the Google Pixel 7a
Also consider the OnePlus 11 5G
Read our Nothing Phone (1) review