The Xperia 10 V is close to the mark for a good mid-range phone, but it falls short thanks to a bunch of details that aren’t up to standard. What’s good, like the design, interface and battery life, is very good. If you can get it at a discounted price, which is not uncommon, it might be worth it. But not for Sony’s recommended price tag.
Best Prices Today: Sony Xperia 10 V
Sony doesn’t release many mobiles per year but sticks to three in particular. The top model Xperia 1, the compact Xperia 5 and the equally compact mid-range model Xperia 10. Now I’ve tested this year’s Xperia 10, with a long narrow OLED screen and a recommended price of £399. Despite a lot of good features, I’m not entirely convinced it’s worth the money.
One, five and ten have looked more or less the same since the first generation of the series in 2019, and this year they are up to generation five. Or V, Sony wants to use Roman numerals, and insists that it be pronounced “mark five”. They can argue all they want, a five is a five and I don’t see any “mark” so I won’t say.
The Xperia 10 V has an unusually slim design that makes it easy to grip. It is as wide as the small Asus Zenfone 10, in fact even a tenth of a millimetre narrower, and almost a millimetre thinner. More if you include the Zenphone’s large camera pucks on the back. But it has an elongated 6.1-inch screen with a 21:9 aspect ratio, and extra millimetres both above and below the screen to accommodate the selfie camera, speakers and other electronics.
This makes it almost a centimetre longer and risks sticking out of some smaller pockets. Short width measurements have some advantages. I can easily reach the entire width of the phone with one thumb, and Sony’s Android interface is also, like Asus, well adapted for one-handed navigation.
You don’t have to reach to the top to swipe the notification and quick menu, and it’s easy to activate a one-handed mode that shrinks the active screen in height. Sony does other things excellently in its interface, too. The split-screen management is smooth and thoughtful, and you get several smart features to optimise energy consumption.
The slightly curved frame and flat back are built in matt plastic, which feels durable and stable and is comfortable to grip. The front, made of durable Gorilla Glass Victus, is completely flat. The phone has some other typical Xperia features in terms of design and function, such as an analogue headphone jack on the top and Sony’s typical slot for SIM and SD cards that you can pull out with a fingernail. It doesn’t have a dual sim slot, but you can also activate eSIM on your phone.
Nevertheless, it is a completely waterproof construction and is classified as IP65, which means that it can withstand, for example, rinsing under a tap, and IP68, which means that it can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes. Not too deep though, it’s not a scuba mobile, but it can withstand a puddle, a ditch or a bathtub. Any kind of water resistance is good, of course, and in this respect the Xperia 10 V outperforms most other mid-range phones that are either IP68 or IP65, or nothing at all.
Screen & Audio
The screen is 6.1in OLED and thus provides excellent contrast and rich, intense colours that can maintain high colour accuracy, both in the standard DCI P3-rated mode and one called Original that matches sRGB. However, the standard mode is initially set to an unusually cold white balance, but this can be easily adjusted manually.
The screen’s brightness is officially up to 1,000 nits for automatic maximum brightness and HDR display. In standard mode, I get just under 700 nits at best on an all-white screen, and since the sun is shining, I can also measure peak brightness in automatic mode, which delivers on Sony’s promise. Using the screen outside on a solid day is fine. You also get HDR10 support and Sony has ensured that the Xperia 10 V has the right certificates for most major streaming services.
However, a good old screen is not rare in the mid-price range, and many are better than this one, with even higher brightness, and especially higher frequency. Here I’m stuck at 60Hz, which is a distinctly unpleasant experience when I’ve been used to 90- and 120Hz screens. There are even 90Hz screens in most real budget mobiles nowadays, so maybe it’s time for Sony to catch up?
The name Sony is usually a guarantee of good sound, and yes, with the right headphones, it’s definitely true. Plugged in analogue, they’re fed by a good DAC, and you get support for High Resolution Audio both wired and wireless as well as DSEE Ultimate, a technology that uses AI to scale up CD-quality audio or lower to a more High Res-like experience. But to be honest, I don’t hear any difference, and it also draws extra battery power to activate it.
Playing anything other than voice through the built-in speakers is less enjoyable, as they both lack almost all bass and lose a lot of detail in the treble. Stereo dispersion is good thanks to the forward-facing elements at each edge, but that’s the only positive thing I can say. Sony should do better than this.
Just like its predecessor, the Xperia 10 IV, you get a full triple camera system, with a wide-angle, optical zoom and a main camera with a focal length in between, and a smart zoom function in the camera app that lets you zoom all the way from 0.6x to 10x hybrid zoom. There’s some jumping in the viewfinder when it switches sensors, but it’s not too distracting. You can also activate a handy mode in the app that shows the sections for different fixed zoom levels.
Unfortunately, the difference in quality between the different sensors is huge. The main camera has a large half-inch 48-megapixel sensor, Sony’s IMX582, with optical image stabilisation and quad bayer pixel binning that delivers sharp 12-megapixel images with good dynamics and plenty of detail. Colours are slightly muted, but this is a typical Sony characteristic, adopted from their colour management in system cameras. It’s more natural rendering than intense and impactful.
A long exposure mode automatically kicks in when shooting in darker environments, at night or indoors, and with a steady hand it takes decent shots. Taking quick snapshots is still manageable, you don’t have to hold the camera still for all the seconds the app indicates, but you lose a lot in colour control and dynamics. Autofocus also becomes jumpy, slow and patient when it gets the slightest bit dark.
The other two sensors are more modest at eight megapixels each and significantly smaller in area. This means, for example, that hybrid zooms of more than 2x quickly become blurred and they don’t have nearly the same ability to take photos in the dark as the main camera. It quickly becomes pitch black, noisy and mottled where other cameras can pick out colours. The selfie camera is also based on the same eight-megapixel sensor and shares its characteristics.
Performance & Battery Life
Perhaps the Xperia 10 V was helped by a more modern and faster system circuit. It is equipped with the Snapdragon 695 that arrived in 2021, which delivers good multitasking capabilities but not so high peak performance. Individual processor-intensive tasks bring the phone to its knees. For example, some camera operations.
Even something as basic as rendering a complex web page can cause micro-pauses. It’s also not a phone to play demanding games on, a game of Candy Crush and some Roblox is fine, but you can’t be picky with consistently high frame rates. A mobile phone that should be the second best a manufacturer has to offer, and with a price tag close to five thousand SEK, should deliver a bit more than this.
Even the vibration motor in the mobile phone feels like it belongs in a real budget device. There’s no tactile feedback, just an annoying shaky buzz that I have to quickly switch off to avoid going crazy.
It’s an equally long list of pluses and minuses for the Xperia 10 V, so it’s up to you which values are important to make you feel tempted to buy. I can’t recommend it outright, as there’s a good chance that some important feature won’t be good enough, even if there are some things it excels at.
That, power-efficient hardware and a large 5,000mAh battery make the Xperia 10 V one of the best battery life I’ve seen. I can stream video at full brightness for over 24 hours and surf, email, and use other mixed apps for about the same amount of time at medium brightness.
Unfortunately, I can’t give the same praise to the battery charge. Sony doesn’t reveal how much power is supported and you don’t get an included charger. The only official information is that the phone will support Quickcharge and USB Power Delivery. With a 30 Watts and a 65 Watts USB-PD charger I get the same result, 35 per cent charged in half an hour, and over two hours for a full battery.