There’s no shortage of powerful, stylish and feature-packed mid-range phones out there right now. Not all of ’em are especially long-lasting, though. The Sony Xperia 10 V aims to change that, with the promise of epic battery life on top of the features you’ll struggle to find anywhere else but on a Sony phone.
This year’s effort isn’t all that evolved from the outgoing Xperia 10 IV, though, at a time the rest of the phone world is stepping up with newer, more powerful processors and higher refresh rate screens – while also keeping prices in check. Sony might’ve managed to lower the cost of entry slightly this time around, but it still looks pretty premium to us. Can a long lifespan and some clever cameras make up for that?
Design & build: keep it in the family
With monolithic dimensions and no-nonsense styling, there’s no mistaking the Xperia 10 V for anything other than a Sony smartphone – especially in the black colours of our review sample. You’d have be paying very close attention to tell this wasn’t one of the firm’s more expensive models. If you prefer a splash of colour there are also Lavender, Sage Green and White options available, but all are tall, skinny slabs of polycarbonate and glass.
It’s not hard to find other mid-rangers with glass front and rear, but the Xperia 10 V avoids feeling cheap. A matte finish also helps keep fingerprint smudges under control, and the slightly rounded frame sits nicely in your hands. As ever with Sony phones, though, the 21:9 aspect ratio screen still demands dextrous thumbs (or software assistance) to comfortably reach its upper regions.
You don’t have to hunt too hard to spot a few Sony staples, like the grilles above and below the display for the stereo speakers, or the tool-free SIM tray at the side. Pull it out with a fingernail and you’ll find space for a microSD card as well as your SIM card, for expanding the 128GB of on-board storage whenever you fancy. There aren’t any visual clues that this phone has both IP65 and IP68 ratings, which is as dust- and water-resistant as midrange blowers get.
There’s no under-display fingerprint scanner here, with Sony preferring to stick with its tried-and-tested power button/finger scanner combo at the side of the phone, next to the volume keys. It’s easy to reach for both left- and right-handers, and was perfectly accurate throughout our testing.
What you won’t find is a physical camera shutter button. That stays exclusive to the top-tier Xperia 1 V for now, though we’re betting it’ll also show up on the rumoured Xperia 5 V too.
Screen & sound: stuck at 60
At 6.1in, the Xperia 10 V has grown a teensy bit compared to last year, but keeps the same better-than-Full HD 2520×1080 resolution. The cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio is taller and slimmer than most rivals, and while the bezels aren’t overly slim, they leave enough space at the top of the phone for the front-facing camera. We’re used to punch-holes and notches now, but it’s still refreshing when a phone lands with an uninterrupted view.
It’s an OLED panel, with 10-bit colour and HDR support that ensures streaming TV shows and movies leave a good impression. Contrast is suitably epic, and shadow detail is impressive. Colours are a little on the cool side, but largely accurate – and easy to tweak using the RGB sliders in the display settings menu. Brightness has also been given a welcome boost for 2023, climbing north of 900 nits when outdoors in High Brightness Mode (HBM). Even without it there’s enough illumination here to challenge the top mid-range mobiles.
It’s a shame, then, that Sony has stuck to a 60Hz refresh rate. Virtually every rival at this price can manage 90Hz or even 120Hz, which deliver much smoother scrolling and cleaner motion than the Xperia 10 V can deliver. Combined with the relatively low-powered internals, everything just feels a little stilted and sluggish as a result. Seeing how this affects everything you do on the phone, it’s a big deal. There’s no always-on display function either, despite using the same OLED tech as its bigger brothers, which do have an ambient screen mode.
At least the stereo speakers pack a real punch, getting plenty loud when you crank the volume and delivering a crisp sound. The LDAC Bluetooth codec is on board for high quality listening through compatible wireless headphones, and of course the 3.5mm port means wired listening is still on the cards too.
Cameras: picture this
Fair play, Sony: not many mid-range phones have three rear cameras, and the ones that do mostly use next-to-useless macro lenses. The Xperia 10 V has an honest-to-goodness 8MP telephoto, albeit with a modest 2x zoom, to compliment the main and ultrawide cameras.
That was true of the old model, of course, so Sony has stepped things up here with a new 48MP main sensor that’s both physically larger and packs in lot more pixels. It’s got phase-detect autofocus and optical image stabilisation, while the lens gets a fairly wide f/1.8 aperture. Snaps are downsampled to 12MP, with no way to take full-res shots. The telephoto and ultrawide both stick to 8MP sensors, with only the zoom lens getting any kind of autofocus.
In good light, the Xperia 10 V delivers realistic exposure and natural-looking colours. Some would say the resulting shots are a little muted, but dynamic range is pretty good and the auto-HDR mode does a fine job of balancing bright highlights and dark shadows. Each image is very clean and free from noise. While fine details aren’t preserved quite as well as they are on the very best mid-range phones, overall clarity is still satisfyingly high.
At night, Sony’s image processing again tends to favour reality over the overly-processed snaps you’ll get from other phone cameras. That means even well-lit subjects can appear dark, with little in the way of shadow detail. Detail is decent, as is colour reproduction, and the dedicated Night mode can brighten up your shots quite effectively. A Google Pixel 7a or Samsung Galaxy A54 still win here, though.
The ultrawide is a good colour match to the main camera, and dynamic range is almost on par. It does a respectable job with details given the fairly low pixel count, but shows a drop-off in sharpness towards the outer edges of the frame. Low light proves trickier here, usually exposing for light sources in auto mode but losing shadow detail in the process. Night mode does a better job. You need a steady hand, but shots have less noise and better dynamic range as a result.
Most importantly, are the telephoto camera’s 2x shots better than what rivals can manage, either with higher pixel count sensors or digital zoom algorithms? We’d have to say yes – our snaps looked sharper, with more fine detail both during the day and at night. Noise is well controlled, as is exposure. Colours are just as reserved as the other two sensors, though, which not everyone will appreciate. That said, it gets you closer to the action than many rivals, and is a very consistent snapper in all other respects.
Performance & software: leaves you wanting more
Sony’s pared-back Android UI was a welcome change of pace from the OTT approach many rivals were taking when it first showed up. It’s just as minimal today, sitting on top of Android 13 with just a few pre-installed apps (many of which you’re given the choice to reject during initial setup).
The few bespoke additions are purpose-built for the 21:9 screen: a Side Sense toolbar opens with a double-tap, letting you open two apps in split screen, or have one on top of the other in a pop-up window. Apart from some custom icons and fonts, though, Android owners coming from other brands will feel right at home.
Unfortunately, the Xperia 10 V just isn’t able to deliver a consistently smooth experience in general use. Apps take their time to open, you often have to wait a half-second for the onscreen keyboard to show up, and the aforementioned Side Sense toolbar sticks around for too long after you’ve used it to launch a pair of apps. Returning to the homescreen and scrolling through the Recents menu could feel rather stuttery, too.
We chalk that up to the Snapdragon 695 CPU and 6GB of RAM; it’s the same pairing Sony used for the last-gen Xperia 10 IV, and while it’s a perfectly serviceable chip found in many budget phones, it feels rather puny at this price. The Pixel 7a, Nothing Phone 1, and Samsung Galaxy A54 outperform it in all respects, including gaming. 3D titles are still playable here, but frame rates aren’t as high, and you may want to dial the detail settings back for the smoothest gameplay.
Battery life: critical capacity
Endurance is one of the biggest reasons to consider snapping up an Xperia 10 V. Sony has squeezed a 5000mAh battery inside its skinny chassis, which instantly gives it a leg up over many mid-rangers. The modest hardware helps, of course, but it’s the software tweaks that mean this phone merely sips power, others are gulping it down.
We comfortably lasted two days of regular use before needing to top up, and it lasted a mightily impressive 17 hours when streaming video. That puts it leagues ahead of pretty much every mid-range rival. 3D gaming will sap the cell a lot quicker, but it should still last twice as long as a Google Pixel 7a. Even if you’re a camera shutterbug, spend all day scrolling through social media, or have a major mobile game addiction, it’ll be a genuine challenge to fully drain the battery in a single session.
Unfortunately charging speeds aren’t nearly as impressive. The Xperia 10 V is a little quicker to slurp down juice than last year’s model, but it’s left for dust by many newer rivals. A half-hour charge is enough to get some mid-range phones close to 70%; the Xperia 10 V manages less than half that in the same time. You’ll be looking at two hours plus for a complete refuel.
You don’t get wireless charging here, either – something we’re seeing in a lot more mid-range phones.
Sony Xperia 10 V verdict
The Xperia 10 has always been the baby of Sony’s bunch, focusing more on long-lasting batteries than cutting-edge hardware, and largely sticking to sensible prices – albeit usually higher than the mid-range competition. That hasn’t really changed for the Mk V: it’s an impressively long-lasting phone, with signature Sony niceties like front-facing speakers and a 3.5mm headphone port, but in many respects rivals offer much better value.
Reusing the same low-tier CPU as last year stifles performance, and the decision to stick with a 60Hz refresh rate is a head-scratcher. The three-lens camera array is flexible, sure, but 4K video recording is MIA. Charging speeds could be better, too, especially as you’ve now got to provide your own power brick and USB cable.
The Xperia 10 V feels behind the times as a result, and difficult to recommend unless you’re sold on Sony’s styling, demand expandable storage, or find an especially good discount from the retail price.
Exceptional battery life and plenty of trademark Sony features, dampened by average performance, a basic screen and relatively high price.
Exceptional battery life
Big, bright screen and loud stereo speakers
Capabable cameras, including rare telephoto
60Hz refresh rate
Only average performance and sluggish UI
Some hardware out of step with rivals
Sony Xperia 10 V technical specifications
|6.1in 2520×1080 OLED
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 695
|48MP, f/1.8 main w/ PDAF, OIS + 8MP, f/2.2 telephoto w/ 2x optical zoom, PDAF + 8MP, f/2.2 ultrawide rear
|128GB on-board, microSD expansion