Sony continues to buck conventional smartphone trends.
Its latest, the Xperia 1 II flagship smartphone (available on Lazada), is taller than usual because of the unusual 21:9 screen aspect ratio it first introduced last year.
The Xperia 1 II also eschews the hole-punch selfie camera and the in-display fingerprint reader - used by almost all smartphone vendors to achieve a near-bezel-less display.
Instead, the Xperia 1 II has relatively thick top and bottom bezels to accommodate its front camera and dual stereo speakers. The phone also has a side-mounted capacitive fingerprint reader.
In addition, you will find a headphone jack, a port that has been removed from most high-end phones. The SIM card tray can be removed without an eject tool and comes with a microSD card slot that lets users expand the phone's 256GB of built-in storage by up to an additional 1TB.
As a result of having these less-than-fashionable features, the Xperia 1 II looks like a flat slab of metal and glass - just like its predecessor from last year. It is a stark contrast to the curved all-screen smartphones that are currently in vogue.
It is easy to hold the Xperia 1 II with one hand as it is narrower than most phones. But it is tricky to reach the top of the screen because of the phone's height.
A workaround is to use the Xperia 1 II's one-hand mode, which reduces the size of the screen display area when the home button is double-tapped.
To make full use of its stretched-out display, the Xperia 1 II has a Side sense feature that uses hidden sensors at the left and right edges of the phone for new gestures.
For instance, you can double tap the edges to bring up frequently-used apps and settings. Users can also slide up the sides of the phone with their fingers to launch the multi-window feature that displays two apps in a split-screen mode.
I find this multi-window mode to be especially useful. But it took me many unintentional taps and slides to get used to these Side sense gestures.
Extensive camera controls and settings
Oled screen is sharp and vibrant
Screen has a 60Hz refresh rate
No 5G connectivity
Price: $1,599 , available Oct 5
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (Single-core 2.84GHz, triple-core 2.4GHz and quad-core 1.8GHz)
Display: 6.5-inch Amoled, 3,840 x 1,644 pixels, 643 ppi pixel density
Operating system: Android 10
Memory: 256GB (microSD expandable by up to 1TB), 8GB RAM
Rear cameras: 12MP (f/1.7), 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2, 124-degree), 12MP telephoto (f/2.4)
Front camera: 8MP (f/2.0)
Value for money:3.5/5
Battery life: 4.5/5
The display is an Oled screen with a 4K resolution (3,840 x 1,644 pixels) that is unmatched by other smartphones. Text and icons look extremely crisp and sharp. Netflix videos are available in the high dynamic range (HDR) format.
The only flaw of this excellent display is its refresh rate, which is a standard 60Hz instead of the smoother 90Hz or 120Hz displays found in other high-end models.
Besides its unusual design and features, the biggest differentiator of the Xperia 1 II is the rear camera system, which borrows heavily from Sony's Alpha mirrorless camera series.
In fact, two key features - a burst shooting mode that takes up to 20 still images in a second and an autofocus feature that locks onto the eyes of a human or an animal - are taken straight from the Alpha series.
The preloaded Photo Pro - separate from the default camera app - offers advanced camera controls and settings, such as ISO and shutter speed, that are tuned for Sony's camera users.
This app and the Cinema Pro app (for shooting videos) will appeal to those who prefer to manually adjust camera settings. But most users will likely find the additional options intimidating.
The good news is that the default camera app should be familiar enough to most users. It can detect certain scenes, such as a low-light scenario, and adjust the setting accordingly. You can easily switch between the main camera and the ultra-wide camera with a tap.
Photos turn out mostly good with acceptable noise levels in good lighting while images taken in low light look decent enough.
In terms of performance, the Xperia 1 II is responsive and fast, thanks to its flagship-tier processor. Battery life is average at 11 hours 37minutes in our video-loop battery test at maximum screen brightness. You probably have to charge the phone at the end of the day.
However, I was disappointed that Sony is not selling the 5G-capable variant in Singapore. As it is, the Xperia 1 II ($1,599) costs more than the Samsung Galaxy Note20 5G ($1,340) and is almost as expensive as the premium Oppo Find X2 Pro ($1,699) .