Hands-On, Smartphone

Sony Xperia 10 II Hands-On: A Curious RM1,799 Mid-Ranger

The Sony Xperia 10 II – pronounced Xperia 10 Mark II – was unveiled to the world back in February this year, and it’s finally available for purchase in Malaysia now. On paper, it’s a mid-range smartphone powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665, which doesn’t sound all that impressive, especially for RM1,799.

That’s right, the Xperia 10 II is a Snapdragon 665 device that costs RM1,799; that is a lot of money for a mid-range smartphone. At a glance, it’s tough to justify that kind of price tag for a phone in this segment, but the thing is…the Xperia 10 II actually has a couple of winning qualities here. Let’s talk about them in this hands-on, shall we?

For one, the Xperia 10 II has a rare feature for any mid-range smartphone: its chassis is IP65/IP68-rated, giving it dust and water resistance. In fact, in the sub-RM2,000 price range, only the latest iteration of the iPhone SE – which costs RM1,999 – immediately comes to mind with any form of water resistance. Chances are, this certification is what drives up the price of the Xperia 10 II to an extent.

Besides that, another unique feature of this mid-ranger is its 6-inch 1080p OLED screen with a 21:9 aspect ratio. Not many phones have a display with such a wide aspect ratio, which gives the Xperia 10 II a rather…well, disproportionate look. That being said, the tall screen allows the device to be narrower, so it’s easier to operate the phone with only one hand; something that you cannot say of the majority of smartphones in the market now.

Of course, the OLED panel of the Xperia 10 II is worth a mention here too. Not only does it offer bright, punchy colours, it also has great viewing angles and extremely good black level. After all, the latter is an inherent property of OLED screens, which are generally considered to be more desirable than LCD panels.

Another benefit of OLED panels is better power efficiency, which complements the Xperia 10 II’s 3,600mAh battery very well. It is not an awfully big battery capacity, but this is a compact smartphone. While I haven’t had the chance to extensively test the battery life of this phone yet, I’m confident it will be quite a long-lasting device.

So far, I’ve only been highlighting unique aspects of the Xperia 10 II that could appeal to folks, so let’s talk about its less-than-stellar hardware now. The most glaring shortcoming of this smartphone has to be its decidedly mid-range Snapdragon 665 chipset. Compared to more modern processors that are faster and more power-efficient – especially at this price point – the Snapdragon 665 certainly pales in comparison.

Granted, in my brief time with the Xperia 10 II, it doesn’t feel particularly sluggish or slow, though it remains to be seen exactly how well it would perform in other tasks that are more demanding. Rest assured, I will put the Snapdragon 665 through its paces in the full review; it’ll be interesting to see if it can offer a pleasant gaming experience.

Design wise, I’m not too crazy about the looks of the Xperia 10 II. While I do appreciate the narrow chassis of the phone (it helps with ergonomics), the sizeable top and bottom bezels – and even the sides, actually – doesn’t give it a particularly sleek appeal. Sure, space had to be made on the bottom bezel to fit the front-facing speaker, but it would’ve been great if Sony retained the minimal chin of the phone’s predecessor.

Anyway, at least the Xperia 10 II feels great in my hands. Its plastic frame doesn’t exactly scream premium, but the matte finish does feel nice to the touch. The simple, relatively unblemished rear design looks good too, and the Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protecting the front and back of the phone gives it solid, reassuring build quality.

Last but certainly not least is the triple camera system of the Xperia 10 II. It is made up of a 12MP f/2.0 primary sensor, an 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle shooter, and get this: another 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens that can do 2x optical zoom. Mid-range smartphones don’t typically offer a telephoto camera, so it’s nice to see that Sony is including such a sensor in the Xperia 10 II.

However, even though this phone has a versatile camera array with three different focal lengths, the actual image quality and shooting experience don’t seem super promising. See, every time I hit the shutter button, the phone wouldn’t immediately take the shot. Instead, it will attempt to lock in focus again, even though the shot was already focused.

Besides that, the speed of the autofocus system isn’t very impressive either, and same goes for detail preservation, even in reasonably well-lit environment. Of course, it’s still much too early to give any verdict on the camera performance of the Xperia 10 II, but I’m not exactly thrilled to shoot with the phone at the moment. Nonetheless, stay tuned for the full review.

The Sony Xperia 10 II is not a mid-range smartphone that is immediately appealing, especially with its steep RM1,799 price tag. But if you can look past its high asking price, there are some really good qualities here that are unique to the phone in this segment. But whether or not these are worth forking out a premium for it is an entirely different question, even if you do get 128GB of expandable storage and 4GB of RAM.

But for what it’s worth, I am quite excited to use the Xperia 10 II as my daily driver, mostly for its unique, compact form factor. Yes, I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan of the tall, narrow design when it debut on the first Xperia 10, but there’s just something about the Xperia 10 II that piqued my interest. Whether or not my interest will diminish in the next few weeks will depend on just how good the phone really is.