Most smartphone manufacturers don’t release midrange models in the US, simply because they don’t sell well. Sony is one of the few companies willing to buck the trend with its recently released Xperia 10 ($ 349.99), but it doesn’t make a strong case for the overlooked segment. The Xperia 10 simply doesn’t represent a worthy value compared with what you can get from a handful of similarly priced phones on the market.
Design and Display
The Sony Xperia 10 stands out amongst the sea of cookie-cutter smartphone designs. It’s long, thin, and maintains some of the design
The back of the phone is made of a thin polycarbonate shell that wraps around to meet the screen. While it looks sleek, it feels cheap for a $ 350 phone. A prominently placed flash sits at the very top of the back panel. Below it is an oblong camera module for the dual sensors that juts out ever so slightly from the body. There are also prominent Sony and Xperia logos. The phone is available in black or silver in the US.
At the top of the
The 6-inch LCD has a 21:9 aspect ratio and a 1,080-by-2,560-pixel resolution. Pixel density comes in at 463ppi. Our tests found colors to be slightly undersaturated in all modes, though you can easily adjust the white balance in the settings. The phone is bright enough to use in direct sunlight without problems.
Sony calls its 21:9 aspect ratio display Cinema Wide, for multimedia streaming and shooting video. The company says the aspect ratio is the industry standard for filming movies and television, but that statement appears to be only half true. Most movies display without issue on the screen, but we had problems with many TV shows. A Sony representative confirmed most television shows are shot in 16:9, which means you must choose between large black bars on either side of the screen or an extremely cropped image. We also found some apps do not render properly on the phone and leave a large black bar at the bottom of the display.
Network and Audio
Like its larger sibling, the Xperia 10 Plus, the Xperia 10 comes unlocked and works on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. It supports LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/25/28/29/66. Band 71 is absent, so T-Mobile customers in rural areas might have patchy coverage. The phone performed well on the T-Mobile network in busy downtown Manhattan, with speeds of 38Mbps down and 28Mbps up.
Call quality on the 10 is passable. We noticed some clipping and minor static in test calls. Noise cancellation blocks out most loud sounds, though we could hear some voices in the background when standing on the street. At 83dB the earpiece will work well in most conditions, though we did have a hard time hearing the other party on a crowded street.
Wi-Fi is supported on the 2.5GHz and 5GHz bands. Bluetooth 5.0 is on board for audio and wearable connectivity. There’s also NFC for wireless payments and contact sharing.
The two bottom-firing speakers on the Xperia 10 leave a lot to be desired. We recorded peak volume at 83dB, which should be loud enough for conference calls or multimedia streaming, but using the speakers at full volume is a staticky and tinny experience. That said, the Xperia 10 does have a 3.5mm jack as well as Qualcomm aptX HD audio for Bluetooth headphones.
The Xperia 10 shares the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor and 3GB of RAM as its predecessor, the Sony Xperia XA2. It has 64GB of storage with 48GB available out of the box. If you require additional room, you can add up to 512GB via the microSD slot.
Performance is mediocre. In our tests, we found apps took a few seconds to open. When more than a half dozen apps were open, multitasking slowed significantly, and we even experienced a crash when switching between the camera app and the browser. The Xperia 10 scored 5,101 on PCMark 2.0, a suite of tests that emulates normal daily tasks. That’s lower than the similarly priced Nokia 7.1 (6,224) and the less expensive Moto G7 (6,181).
The X10 also isn’t good for gaming. We tested it by playing Asphalt 8. Initially opening the app took upward of four minutes. Gameplay was plagued by skipped frames and the occasional stutter. On a positive note, battery life depleted by just 11 percent during an hour of gameplay.
Speaking of which, a 2,780mAh battery powers the Xperia 10. While Android Pie and Sony have battery-saving features baked in, we still found the battery life on the X10 to be underwhelming. During our lab test, which streams video at full brightness over Wi-Fi, the battery depleted fully after 5 hours and 30 minutes. That falls well behind the less expensive Moto G7 (9 hours, 58 minutes). If you’re willing to sacrifice performance to squeeze out more battery life, there are Stamina and Ultra Stamina modes available. High-speed charging is also available with the included power brick, but there’s no option for wireless charging.
The Xperia 10 has a rear dual-camera array with a 13 MP primary sensor with an f/2.0 aperture and a secondary 5MP lens with an f/2.4 aperture for depth mapping. An 8MP selfie camera with an f/2.4 aperture sits in the bezel atop the display.
Sony has made a few tweaks to the stock camera app. The main difference is that the camera can shoot photo and video in 21:9 for wide-angle shots. There are several modes for more creative shots including Portrait Selfie, Creative Effect, a beauty filter, and a skin softening function that’s enabled by default in the settings.
We found the rear cameras to be acceptable in daylight. Full-size images show some blurring and loss of detail, but the dynamic range is good. In low-light settings, however, image quality degrades quickly. Our low-light shots are blurry and there is significant background noise.
The front-facing camera is also acceptable in daylight. Color accuracy is good in our test shots, but there is a noticeable loss of detail when viewing images at full size. Low-light photos are poor, with lots of noise and blurring in the foreground.
The special camera features are a mixed bag. The skin softening looks natural and does a good job defining faces without looking overly processed. The beauty filter doesn’t work as well as on the Xperia 10 Plus, but you can still tweak eye size, facial shape, and skin luminance with ease. Both Bokeh and Portrait modes are a disappointment, with uneven background blurring and even blurring of the subject in a few test shots.
The Xperia 10 ships with Android 9.0 Pie with Sony’s custom UI. Sony adds some useful changes to the phone, like Side Sense, a feature that allows you to quickly access frequently used apps and settings from an icon on the side of the screen. But there are a few apps that feel redundant, like custom Gallery and Music options.
Sony has a
It’s nice to see another midrange phone on the market, but the Sony Xperia 10 doesn’t do anything to advance the category. Other than the display, little has changed between it and its predecessor, so it feels like you’re using last year’s phone. If you’re a Sony fan, the Xperia 10 Plus offers better performance and marginally better battery life and costs just $ 70 more. But we prefer