Sony is a veteran of the smartphone era. Its devices have been at the top of our lists of the best smartphones for years, but lately, even we have been a little disappointed at the company’s inability to attract consumers with its products.
It’s an odd flaw, not least because Xperia phones boast the latest processors and decent cameras, and yet the company is struggling to compete with its biggest competitors like Apple and Samsung.
Ignore Sony’s unconventional naming systems; consisting of Z, X and, more recently, Roman numerals, and the table below should help you better understand the current range, as well as which one best suits your needs and budget.
We’ve covered everything from the humble Xperia L4 to the ultra-modern flagship Xperia 1 III, with its 4K 120Hz HDR display and triple 12MP camera. Here’s our pick of the best Sony Xperia phones you can buy in 2021.
Best Sony phones of 2021
Sony Xperia 1 III – Best Overall
- Pros: Superior Performance | Best-in-class audio | Great display
- Minuses: Low battery life | Difficult to use the camera | Expensive
The Xperia 1 III offers more than what we’ve come to know and love about Sony’s flagship phone lineup, namely stunning camera setup and a stunning 4K display.
The big update this year is the 120Hz transition, which brings together a small number of advanced display technologies; including 4K resolution, an HDR OLED panel and an unusual 21: 9 aspect ratio, perfect for watching movies on the go.
Setting up the rear camera takes a bit of effort to get the most out of it, but offers unparalleled control, especially when it comes to capturing video; while the combination of Snapdragon 888 chip and 12GB of RAM brings the best performance for an Android phone.
Battery life and price are the main factors that keep the 1 III from true greatness, but for some it’s the obvious choice.
Read our full Sony Xperia 1 III review
Sony Xperia 1 II – Best for Entertainment
- Pros: Stunning display | Superior Sound Capabilities | Versatile camera capabilities
- Minuses: Difficult to use the camera | Expensive
Sony’s 2020 flagship doubles the unique attributes of the original Xperia 1, with an improved 21: 9 4K HDR OLED display, a host of audio tech (including a 3.5mm headphone jack) and a triple camera module influenced by Sony Alpha.
Its expanded but clean take on Android includes significant inclusions, and while it doesn’t look as competitive on paper as other Android flagships of the same time, its performance and battery longevity proved to be more than acceptable in real life tests.
Read our full Sony Xperia 1 II review
Sony Xperia 5 III – Best Compact Phone
- Pros: Beautiful display | Great sound | Small size | High performance
- Minuses: Low battery life | Difficult to use the camera | Heat Problems | Expensive
As with the last two generations of Sony flagship phones, this year’s Xperia 5 is essentially a more compact incarnation of the Xperia 1 III.
Thus, it has most of the strengths of 1 III, as well as the same set of weaknesses. There’s no 4K display to talk about here, instead there is access to the (still excellent) Full HD + 6.1-inch HDR 120Hz OLED panel.
Performance is still strong (although it can be prone to heat), while the stable and functional set of cameras is mostly held back by the confusing photo / video app setup.
Read our full Sony Xperia 5 III review
Sony Xperia 5 II – great for gaming
- Pros: Beautiful 120Hz display | Excellent performance | Compact
- Minuses: No wireless charging | Difficult to use the camera | Expensive
In a world where so many smartphones look the same, you should admire Sony’s desire to be different. Having a notch-less display and a 3.5mm headphone jack is almost unheard of in today’s smartphone market, but phones like the Xperia 5 II remind us that we wish there were more of them on other phones.
Not only does the 5 II look like a noticeable upgrade over the 2019 model, it has outperformed its sibling – the Xperia 1 II – in terms of utilizing a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate.
The performance is excellent in all respects, while the too rare front-facing stereo speakers are a delight.
Cameras, on the other hand, are flattering to cheat if you’re not ready to play around with the Photo Pro app, while a surprising amount of malware spoils the otherwise excellent software. There’s also no wireless charging – a major omission at this price point.
Read our full Sony Xperia 5 II review
Sony Xperia 10 III – a unique mid-range
- Pros: Excellent battery life | Decent performance | Good experience with software
- Minuses: Patch Cameras | Slow wired charging | Display is still only 60Hz
While the 2019 Xperia 1 and 5 flagships are more impressive overall, Sony’s inconsistencies with long-term software support mean – as of late 2021 – a more modest but newer Xperia 10 III is a smarter buy.
Performance is good enough for some competitive mobile gaming, battery life is excellent, and Sony’s Android settings are as meaningful and unobtrusive as ever.
However, despite its unique mid-range attributes, namely the combination of an OLED display and IP65 / 68 dust and water resistance, competitors outside the Sony camp have too many flaws to make this recommendation simple. the most dedicated fans of the brand on a budget.
Read our full Sony Xperia 10 III review
Sony Xperia 1 – great for media
- Pros: The industry’s first display | Clean software | Decent performance
- Minuses: Aging equipment | Low battery life | Expensive
The Xperia 1 goes all-in, being really Indeed Sony – and it pays off. Serving a niche audience, this phone may still be a hit if you want a stunning cinematic display, very powerful cameras, and great build quality.
The tall design still looks different, but makes the phone thinner and easier to hold in one hand, while the dedicated shutter button and the Cinema Pro manual video app are designed specifically for the video and film enthusiast.
Read our full Sony Xperia 1 review
Sony Xperia 5 – Good Performance
- Pros: Good display | Excellent stereo speakers | Decent battery life
- Minuses: Aging equipment | Inconsistent Fingerprint Sensor | Bad cost
The Xperia 5 is a scaled-down version of the larger flagship Xperia 1 from 2019, but it retains much of what makes 1 so capable.
The then flagship Snapdragon chip, the same carefully tuned Android approach and the same trio of rear cameras all combine with the Xperia 1 feature set. The 5’s smaller footprint does mean a smaller battery, a smaller display with lower resolution and a lower asking price.
Beyond the 21: 9 aspect ratio, however, this is a tough recommendation considering what else is there for the same price and the same prices that have been launched since then.
Read our full Sony Xperia 5 review
Sony Xperia L4 – Most Affordable
- Pros: Decent upgrade | Premium design touches | Excellent software experience
- Minuses: Unnatural Software Support | Slow charging | Inconsistent cameras
Without the budget entry to Sony’s 2021 lineup, your only option at the lower end of the price range is the previous year’s Xperia L4.
There are still not many low priced phones of this phone that boast a wide 21: 9 display, making it a unique budget mobile media player.
Ignore Sony’s mediocre cameras and excellent user interface, plus its somewhat premium design will help the L4 stand out from the crowd for some.
Read our full Sony Xperia L4 review
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