Sony is betting on cinema-wide displays this year, though the flip side of a 21:9 aspect in landscape is a 9:21 aspect in portrait orientation. So, the Xperia 10 Plus is one unusually tall smartphone. That's to be expected given the specs, of course, but seeing in person is striking anyway.
Perhaps even more striking is that for all its height, the 10 Plus is not entirely uncomfortable to handle. We're not saying you can reach the top of the display with one hand. Or even the top half of the display - not really, no, it's definitely a two-hands device, for most use cases. Having said that, for actual phone-related tasks - the forgotten by some act of having a voice conversation - the tall aspect works really well.
It does have a bit of a top-heavy feel, seeing as how a lot of the phone is away from you. The fact that there's a sizeable forehead also adds to it, if not necessarily in heft, then at least psychologically.
The top bezel does comfortably hold the usual stuff - without the need for notches or punch holes. The earpiece is here (not a secondary speaker, bummer) as well as the front-facing camera, plus the proximity and ambient light sensors. There's also an RGB notification LED, a feature headed for extinction.
The rest of the bezels are all equally thin, or thick, depending on how you look at it. They're not as minimal as the sides on a Galaxy S10, but then no one's expecting it from the midrange Xperia. What's important is that there's as much frame to the sides of the display as there is below it, which will please people with internet-grade OCDs, and there is not a lot of frame, which should please most anyone.
You're also likely to appreciate the well-placed fingerprint reader on the right, which is exactly where your right thumb goes when picking up the handset. Mind you, left-hand users will find that unlocking with your index finger is only a little less natural than the right thumb and works almost all the time.
There's the tiny caveat that the fingerprint reader is just that - it's not a power button and there's an actual power button above it. By all accounts, a legal misstep in the past meant that Sony couldn't offer the two-in-one combination of a side mounted power button and a fingerprint reader in the US, so for the models that featured such a configuration, Sony would just disable the fingerprint reader.
Separating the two is one solution with at least a couple of implications. On a positive note, Sonys in the US will now be able to have side-mounted fingerprint sensors, yay. On the flip side, however, there's the fact that in your mind you expect to be able to lock the phone by pressing where you pressed to unlock it, and it doesn't work. Even after a week of using the Xperia 10 Plus, we still found ourselves occasionally pressing the fingerprint reader, hoping it'll send the phone to standby, to no effect.
Moving on, there's a volume rocker below the fingerprint sensor. Much like the power button, we feel like this is too small and has short travel - they're both usable, it's just that they could have been a touch larger and clickier.
For the first time in ages, there's no dedicated two-stage shutter release button on a Sony flagship or midranger. That's to say, there isn't one on the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus, the Xperia 1 still gets to keep it. We're not too saddened by its demise, really - tapping on a screen has become the go-to method for picture-taking. For those times when you're wearing gloves, a double press on the power button will launch the camera app, while the volume rocker can be set as the shutter release, so you're covered for 99% of the use cases.
Since we're already doing the walkaround, let's mention the card slot situation - it's one of our favorite solutions for more than one reason. It doesn't need a pin, you just stick your fingernail and pry out the flap along with the SIM card tray attached to it. And then you realize that you can insert a couple of nano SIMs and a microSD - dedicated memory card slots are the best. The microSD card goes a separate slot, the push to insert, push to eject type.
The one bad bit in this whole thing is that the Xperia will invariably restart if you pull the card tray out and will do it once more when you put it back in. It's not great if all you wanted to do is replace the microSD card.
Down on the bottom you'll find the USB-C port - flanked by a grille on each side. Only one of these grilles hides a speaker, however, the other is just for the primary mic. Up top, there's another mic, for noise canceling purposes, and a 3.5mm jack for delivering noise into your ears through just about any set of headphones out there.
The back of the Xperia 10 Plus is made of plastic and it's got a 'metallic finish', Sony says. It's rather a unibody design with the rear curving into the edges and towards the Gorilla Glass 5 of the front. Sony has mostly pulled off the look, and some of the feel, too - it's not as premium as real metal, but just as slippery.
After generations of Xperias with cameras in the top left, recent Xperias have almost completely switched to central mounted ones, and the dual cam of the 10 Plus is in the middle too. The two cameras share a common window and the entire assembly sticks out by a good 1.5mm. It's hardly a big deal though as most cameras these days can't seem to fit in the slender bodies we've been told we want.
The Xperia 10 Plus measures 167x73x8.3mm, so yes, it's slim - it's slimmer than the XA2 Ultra/Plus (9.5/9.6mm around the waistline), and it's also slimmer than the current XZ3 flagship (9.9mm, though a lot curvier). That said, the Xperia 1 is that all-important 0.1mm thinner than the 10 Plus.
The two do weigh just as much, both tipping the scales at 180g. Which does sort of beg the question of how the 10 Plus with its plastic build and 3,000mAh battery is as heavy as the glass-aluminum 1 with a 3,330mAh cell? Anyway, we're not saying the Xperia 10 Plus is unreasonably heavy - in fact, it's right in the middle between the 176g Moto G7 Plus and the 183g Galaxy A9 (2018).