We knew going into this that the Xperia 1 and the Galaxy S10+ were evenly matched on paper. Surprise-suprise, they ran a very close race in practice and a dozen pages of comparisons later there's no true loser. Which has the rather wholesome consequence that you, as a consumer, are winning whichever path you decide to take, even if that may sound like we're trying to avoid conflict.
Starting with the superficial, at this level you can't really have a bad looking phone and the Xperia 1 and the Galaxy S10+ are a joy to hold and a sight to behold. Some will say the Galaxy's curves make it prone to accidental touches and punch holes are the worst, while others may complain about the Xperia's taller-than-tall proportions, but we feel that both companies have created great specimens of 2019 smartphone design.
That also goes for the displays, which come with some more objective differentiation. The Xperia's 4K-ish panel lets streaming apps send you 4K content, while the Galaxy is capped at 1440p YouTube and FullHD Netflix and such. The Galaxy is capable of shining brighter though, so it looks like the better option for the outdoor type.
It'll also last you longer on a single charge, while being quicker to top up - sounds like the Galaxy is the way to go if power outlets are few and far between in your daily routine. The Galaxy delivers a superior audio experience too, both from the on-board speakers and through the wired output, which is the more versatile 3.5mm variety, as opposed to the Xperia's dongle workaround to the USB-C for everything approach.
Moving on to the UI, it's a classic case of stock vs. custom. The Xperia stays close to vanilla Android 9.0, while offering little more on top than the in-house multimedia apps. The Galaxy's OneUI is fresh and feature-rich, but that may not be enough to convert long-time TouchWiz haters.
And that brings us to the camera where a lot of smartphone buying dilemmas get resolved, only for us to be left even more undecided. Okay, the Galaxy takes the better selfies, hands down, and has way more proficient handling of the bokeh effects, front or back. But vanity isn't all.
General picture-taking won't leave you wanting on either cameraphone, their primary shooters capturing great images, and the telephotos doing similarly well when the light is right. The ultra wides are the least alike - the Xperia's images come out much sharper, but the Galaxy's have more impact thanks to the wider FoV and better HDR.
Naming a single winner for video recording turned out impossible. The Xperia has a tough time stabilizing 4K footage, while the Galaxy does it just fine. Then the Xperia responds with a decisive victory in low light, but the Galaxy has another trick up its sleeve - 4K at 60fps. On the other hand, if you have the light on your side and stick to the 30fps modes in any resolution it's a coin toss between the Xperia 1 and the Galaxy S10+.
So if you were hoping for a definitive 'buy this one, stay away from the other one' type of conclusion, too bad - you won't find it here. The state of the art is such that the differences are very nuanced and a lot of the decision-making process boils down to personal brand preference. You're also unlikely to get the best of everything you want all in the same device, but even if that means settling a little, these two are so good across the board that you won't even know.