Sony Xperia 1 VI vs Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: preview

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Sony recently announced its next flagship — the Xperia 1 VI (read Xperia One Mark Six). And, as expected, it’s another camera-centric phone for the purists… well, kind of — some purists may be irked by Sony’s desire to go a bit more mainstream.

The long waffle that had a 21:9 display is now gone — the new Xperias will have the more orthodox 19.5:9 aspect ratio, much like the iPhones and Galaxies out there in the world. And while we are at it, the resolution has been downgraded from 4K to FHD+ (1080 x 2340 pixels)

Alright… well, since Sony wants to go mainstream — how’s the Xperia 1 VI going to compare to the mainstream-iest Android flagship — the

? Now that we have all the official specs and info, we can set our expectations and look at some preliminary specs comparisons:

Design and Size

Bezel, but front-facing stereo

The Xperia phones cling to old features that users love. And this is not us “knocking” them — having front-firing stereo speakers is a bold move, and we can appreciate it if they turn out sounding good. The Xperia 1 VI has a bit of a forehead and chin going on, due to those speakers being in there, but they are not thick enough to bother us — at least, that was the case with last year’s Xperia 1 V.

Also, that top bezel houses a selfie camera, so the display is a full, unobstructed rectangle. That’s not something the Galaxy S24 Ultra can boast about — Samsung’s phones have a thin bezel all around their pretty screen, but there’s always that small cutout at the top, for the selfie camera. Smartphone purists prefer the Sony way, as we are often told in the comments.

After switching to a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, the Xperia is now sized about the same as its competitors. In the case with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, the Sony is very slightly narrower, and a hair thinner, but also very definitely lighter.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra has the titanium-coated frame, matte-finished Gorilla Glass back and Gorilla Armor front. The Xperia 1 VI has a textured Gorilla Glass back — a feature which felt quite nice on the Xperia 1 V — and a ribbed aluminum frame, which feels very grippy, judging by previous models.

To finish it off, the Xperia 1 VI has an exclusive, two-step camera shutter button — that’s kind of a staple of the Xperia flagships — and a 3.5 mm jack. A feature that the industry seems to shun in the name of Bluetooth headphone sales, but Sony and Asus still keep alive!

Display Differences

Did you sense a disturbance in the force? It was like a hundred Xperia fans cried out in terror. The Xperia 1 VI drops the 4K display resolution (1644 x 3840) and has a more regular FHD+ (1080 x 2340). Is that a big deal? Well, the 1080p screen will get you a pixels-per-inch density of 396. Samsung’s QHD panel is denser on paper, with a PPI of 501.

In real life? We expect the Xperia 1 VI will look sharp enough.

Then, we have the aspect ratio — and this year around, it’s the same. The Xperia 1 VI has a 19.5:9 widescreen, so does the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Both phones sport OLED technology — well, Samsung brands its panels AMOLED, but it’s the same at the core. Sony has boosted the max brightness of the Xperia 1 VI, now reaching 1,300 nits. That’s about the same on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, per our measurements (this is not peak brightness, which would measure part of the screen for a fraction of time).

For biometrics, the Sony keeps using a capacitive fingerprint reader on the power button, Samsung has an ultrasonic fingerprint reader under the display. We generally prefer the front-mounted fingerprint reader, since it’s easier to unlock the phone in different situations (lying on a table, mounted on a stand).

Performance and Software

Snapdragon vs Snapdragon, but for Galaxy

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is the go-to processor for Android flagships right now. It’s fast, it’s power-efficient, and it’s built with years of know-how and expertise. Oh, also, with at least some form of partnership with Samsung.

Which is why Galaxy phones get a special “Made for Galaxy” Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 in them. It is very slightly overclocked, and it gives us some sort of reassurance that Samsung worked together with Qualcomm to set up the thermals inside the phone.

That said, Asus has proven that it can outclass the Samsung tunings with its own ROG Phones, but we are going on a tangent.

The Xperia 1 VI will get the “vanilla” Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, but we feel that’ll be good enough. It’s a very powerful mobile platform, and Sony runs light software on its phones. It’s worth mentioning that Xperia phones have had issues with overheating in the past — especially when the camera is on — so we do hope that Sony focused on that with the Xperia 1 VI.

Camera

True zoom is cool, but will that be enough?

Sony has been doing the “true optical zoom” thing for a couple of Xperia generations now. There’s an actual physical element inside the phone’s telephoto lens, which ensures stepless optical zoom. In the Xperia 1 VI, that’s between 3.5x and 7.1x (85 mm – 170 mm equivalent).

This is incredible tech for sure, but the results from past models have left us wanting better quality.

Samsung, on the other hand, has two zoom lenses on the Galaxy S24 Ultra — 3x for portraits, 5x as a stepping stone for deeper magnification. And its software work is impeccable — even though Samsung downgraded from a 10x to the 5x lens, its new algorithms picked up the slack and we are generally quite impressed with the Space Zoom here.

OK, magnification aside, Samsung has a 200 MP main camera and gives you the ability to take 200 MP RAW shots with it in manual mode. Sony also bets heavily on pro features in its Camera app and has a 48 MP sensor for its main camera. We’ll see how it compares! We are specifically wondering if Sony “mainstream-ified” it more, since it did so with the phone’s design.

Audio Quality and Haptics

Samsung’s stereo speakers sound pretty good. The bass on the Galaxy S24 Ultra is defined, there’s a good amount of mids, and highs are generally not ice-picky. However, since it uses a setup of an earpiece loudspeaker and a bottom-firing driver, the sound does feel unbalanced from both sides.

Sony uses front-firing stereo speakers, which sounds great on paper. Our experience with previous models (especially since the top and bottom bezels were shrunk) is that they sound a bit weak, though. Here’s hoping we see an upgrade!

It’s worth noting that the Xperia 1 VI still has a 3.5 mm headphone jack. If you love your in-ear monitors, you will definitely appreciate that you don’t need to bring a USB C dongle everywhere.

For haptics — we’ve nothing notable to say. These phones click pretty accurately and consistently nowadays.

Battery Life and Charging

With the downgrade of the screen resolution, and the fact that the 120 Hz screen is dynamic and can drop to 1 Hz, Sony promises a 2-day battery life out of the Xperia 1 VI. That’ll be on a 5,000 mAh battery — the same size as on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Samsung’s flagship also has a dynamic refresh rate and a ton of optimizations to save battery. It is quite dependable and will get you through a day for sure, but even with that, One UI itself is quite feature-rich, thus tasks are running and drawing power, and we can’t really call it a “2-day phone”.

That said, what we have from Sony right now is specs and promises, tests are pending.

For charging, these phones don’t go nuts with some extreme powerbricks. The Xperia supports 30W wired charging, the Galaxy S24 Ultra maxes out with a 45 W charger.

Specs Comparison

Here’s a quick look at how the core specs compare, but if you want a full sheet be sure to check the Sony Xperia 1 VI vs Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra specs here.

Summary

So, which is the better phone? For Sony fans, the line in the sand is clear — Xperia all the way. Does the specs change feel like a betrayal? We’d say it shouldn’t, as a 4K screen was quite overkill on a 6.5-inch screen.

When we are talking value, Samsung really knocked it out of the park this year with a 7-year software update promise. It’s just extra reassuring to know that your super-expensive device will be getting support for a long, long time (also increases resale value).

The Xperia 1 VI is launching with the same price as last year’s model — no price or details for the US market yet, but it costs £1,299.00 in the UK, very slightly north of the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s MSRP. For that price, Sony needs to address some issues with the camera’s ease-of-use, speakers, and update schedule if it wants to attract a wider audience.


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