Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

Sony Xperia 1 IV Review
An Xperia for Xperts.

Pros
  • Excellent 4K HDR OLED display
  • Slim, comfortable form factor
  • Novel true optical zoom periscope camera
Cons
  • Incredibly expensive
  • Overheats easily
  • Camera apps demand photography expertise
Our Verdict
  • The Xperia 1 IV is a powerful phone for content creators on the go, with complex camera options and new music recording tech. But even that audience will find it uncomfortably expensive, and for anyone looking for a phone that ‘just works’, this isn’t it.

Sony’s Xperia phones have long sat in an odd spot. The company insists that they’re devices with mainstream appeal, but the new Xperia 1 IV’s flagship features instead seem designed to appeal to a niche crowd already familiar with the company’s Alpha cameras. 

If you’re part of that niche, the 1 IV may well hit the spot – the unique design, exceptional display, and Alpha-inspired camera software tick a lot of boxes. The inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack and the new Music Pro recording app may add appeal to audiophiles too. 

But for the rest of us, there are too many compromises elsewhere to make this phone a guaranteed hit, not least in the unforgiving camera that rewards expertise, but is simply too inconsistent when you just want to point and shoot. 

Design And Build

  • Slim and tall aspect ratio
  • IP65/68 rating and Gorilla Glass Victus
  • Tool-free SIM and microSD card access
The Xperia 1 IV looks an awful lot like Sony’s previous Xperia flagships – which is also to say that it doesn’t look much like anything else on the market. 
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

Sony still uses an unusual 21:9 aspect ratio for its displays, partly on the basis that it’s a good match to the ultrawide aspect ratios used in modern cinema. Throw in the fact it also includes a slight bezel both above and below the display and the result is a phone that’s taller and thinner than most rivals. 

It’s an unusual shape in the modern market, though I’m a fan. The slim shape makes the phone comfortable to grip in one hand, especially since at 185g it’s relatively light. It does make the screen too tall to comfortably reach the top without adjusting your grip, but Android is designed so that you rarely need to anyway. 

The overall look of the phone is less outlandish. It’s subtle and simple, especially in the black finish, though the purple and white options add a little more of a flourish. I’m also a fan of the compact camera module, which is a welcome rebuke to the current trend of cameras that sprawl across the whole rear of flagship models. 
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

The shape isn’t the only oddity to the Xperia 1 IV. Take the water-resistance – once again Sony boasts of IP65/68 certification. That’s not a typo – in fact it means the phone is rated to be safe against both low pressure jets of water and immersion in water, essentially meaning this has the best water-protection of any handset outside of the dedicated rugged phone market. 

It’s generally sturdy too, with an aluminium frame and Gorilla Glass Victus on both the front and back. That said, I’ve picked up small chips in two spots on the paint on the frame, and a subtle scratch to black coating on the frosted glass rear, so you’ll still want a case to keep it in good nick. 

Other Sony-specific tweaks to the classic phone form factor are photography-focussed. The obvious one is the inclusion of a knurled shutter button – which doubles as a shortcut to open the camera – but subtler is the tool-free access to the dual-SIM and microSD card slot, giving creatives on the go immediate access to their files. 

Display And Audio

  • Still the only 4K HDR OLED phone display around
  • 120Hz but not LTPO
  • Stereo speakers & 3.5mm jack
All of Sony’s Xperia 1 phones have featured 4K resolution displays, and that hasn’t changed here – despite the fact that the rest of the market hasn’t caught up yet. 
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

The big caveat there is that for the most part the phone runs at a QHD+ resolution, and only jumps up to full 4K when displaying compatible content. And with no resolution controls in the Settings menu, this is entirely out of the user’s control. 

There are also a lot of reasonable questions about how much a 4K resolution matters on a phone this size, but if you do expect to watch a lot of high-resolution content – or want to be able to use the phone to check over your own 4K footage at full resolution – then this is essentially your only option. 

Elsewhere, the display’s 120Hz refresh rate, HDR support, and OLED tech are essentially par for the course in a modern flagship. One thing it does lack is LTPO support, meaning the refresh rate can’t scale all the way between 1Hz and 120Hz to better manage battery. 
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

Audio is impressive too. As mentioned above, this is basically the only flagship phone around with a 3.5mm headphone jack, but it also supports High-Resolution Audio and LDAC for wireless headphones, along with aptX Adaptive, so you won’t need to plug in to get great audio quality. 

The stereo speakers are punchy and crisp, and with support for Dolby Atmos this is a solid choice for gaming and movies, not just music. 

Strangely, Sony is also pitching it as a device for recording audio. The new Music Pro app is designed specifically for laying down recordings, allowing erstwhile musicians to record on-the-go.  
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

You can use the phone’s built-in microphone, or connect a wired (though not wireless) mic to improve quality. It’s possible to record multiple tracks within one project or use AI to separate instruments from a single recording into distinct tracks. After recording you can edit audio, reduce noise or reverb, and apply filters to replicate the sound of Sony microphones or studio set-ups.  

The only real limitation I’ve found is that projects are limited to 10 minutes – so you’ll have to record your prog rock epic elsewhere. 

Specs and performance

  • Top specs 
  • Prone to overheating 
  • Excellent haptics 
It’s hard to fault the core specs of the Xperia 1 IV. It’s powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 – until recently the most powerful chip on the market, and still the standard for 2022 Android flagships – combined with 12GB of RAM and either 256GB or 512GB of storage, expandable further with microSD if necessary. 

The phone’s actual performance is more complicated. In lighter day-to-day use the phone breezes through everything you throw at it, so for the typical user this will feel fast and fluid, and would be likely to carry on performing at that level for a few years. 

The problem is that the phone is prone to overheating. This is unfortunately common in 8 Gen 1 phones, but seemingly exacerbated here by Sony’s slim design, which doesn’t leave much space for cooling. The result is that the 1 IV underperforms at times, posting among the lowest Geekbench 5 CPU test scores we’ve seen from any 8 Gen 1 hardware, though doing better on the GFXBench graphical tests. 

Throttling aside, the heating problems also just make the phone uncomfortable to use at heavy load. It genuinely gets unpleasantly hot at times, which will be a particular problem for anyone hoping to use it for lengthy gaming sessions. 

Networking at least is excellent, with 5G support backed up by Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and NFC.  

Biometrics come in the form of face unlock or a side-mounted fingerprint scanner built into the power button. It’s widely assumed that physical sensors like this are superior to under-display options, but at this point I’d disagree – I’ve found the scanner here fiddly and unreliable. At times it struggles to recognise my finger, and at others it detects movement within my pocket as attempts to unlock to the point of requiring my passcode, making me miss the under-display scanners found elsewhere. 
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

To end on an upbeat note, I’m a bigger fan of the phone’s haptics. From notifications to typing feedback, the little buzzes and vibrations of the Xperia 1 IV feel fantastic. I’m rarely one to notice haptics one way or the other, so I particularly appreciate the fact that these made me stop and take note. 

Battery And Charging

  • Inconsistent battery life
  • Slow-ish wired charging
  • Gets excessively hot when charging
With a generous 5000mAh capacity I expected a little more from the Xperia 1 IV’s battery life, and it’s proved rather inconsistent. Some days I head to bed with half the cell left to go, while other days it’s running on fumes by the time the sun sets – with little obvious correlation to my daily use. 

It ultimately balances out to fairly average battery life – for the most part it’ll do a full day, but you’ll realistically have to charge it every night.  
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

Charging itself is a bigger problem though. The charging speeds are fine, but nothing special – the 30W wired charging topped the phone up to 46% in half an hour in my test, which is well behind some rivals but in line with the likes of Apple, Google, and Samsung. Wireless charging is supported too. 

There are two problems though. One is that I’ve found the phone charges inconsistently on third-party chargers – some are fine, while others stop and start repeatedly. One night it simply got to around 80% and stopped charging further. This would be annoying enough if there was an official connector to fall back on, but Sony doesn’t even ship the phone with a USB-C cable, let alone a power adapter, so you’ll either have to try your luck with the plugs you already own, or spend £50 on the official charger in the UK. It’s not even listed for sale in the US right now. 

Even if you find a charger that works, the phone gets hot. Remember I mentioned overheating while gaming? That’s nothing compared to the way this phone heats up when it’s charging. The phone becomes scaldingly hot when plugged in, even triggering Android’s automated overheating warning notifications in one instance – I’ve never seen that before.  
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

We’ve seen the same overheating problems on two separate review samples, suggesting that this is most likely a widespread problem, not simply a single defective phone.  

The heating itself isn’t just an annoyance, but also increases the risk of battery degradation, meaning the phone’s already inconsistent battery life may get worse sooner rather than later. 

Camera And Video

  • Telephoto with true optical zoom from 3.5x to 5.2x
  • Multiple confusing camera apps
  • Powerful manual options, but awkward automatic
It would be hard to fault the power of the camera hardware that Sony has packed into the Xperia 1 IV – including a genuine industry first – but more so than any of the rest of the phone, it’s been designed for content creators first, and regular users second. 

The rear of the phone offers a trio of 12Mp cameras: a main lens with OIS at a bright aperture of f/1.7; an ultrawide at f/2.2; and an OIS-stabilised telephoto lens with true optical zoom, capable of moving from 3.5x to 5.2x. 
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

This latter is a colossal hardware innovation, and a first for the phone industry. The previous Xperia 1 III also offered a dual zoom option, but that lens could only jump between the two fixed points, while this can smoothly zoom between them. 

It’s tech that’s hugely impressive in concept, though in practice the gap between the two zoom levels is so slight that there’s limited practical impact.  

All three lenses – plus the 12Mp, f/2.0 selfie camera – are capable of taking attractive shots, along with recording 4K HDR video. Exposure and colour tuning are impressively consistent across the three rear lenses, and in good light it’s rare to take a ropey shot. 
Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

The problem is that this is a low bar for modern flagships, and it’s in more challenging conditions that the 1 IV falls short. At night, or in scenes with bright, direct light sources, the phone can’t always expose individual elements correctly, and details are often lost.  

This is made worse by the fact that there’s no dedicated Night Mode at all, and in fact few extra modes at all – you get slow-mo, portrait, and panorama – but that’s it. 

This is presumably because Sony has pitched the camera experience towards experienced users who are familiar with its Alpha cameras and comfortable taking matters into their own hands rather than relying on automatic options. 

Even they are likely to find the software setup complicated though. Sony has shipped the Xperia 1 IV with three camera apps. Photo Pro is where you go to take photos – and despite the name, it covers both pro-level settings and basic point-and-shoot stuff. 

Even more confusingly, Photo Pro is also where you go to film basic video, with a simple set of options. If that’s not enough for you, Video Pro steps up to an array of settings designed to be familiar to YouTubers and content creators, while Cinema Pro adds another layer of complexity along with ‘Looks’ – essentially a range of filters based on cinematic styles. 
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

Each of these camera apps is modelled very directly on Sony’s Alpha camera interface, so experienced users will feel right at home – though will still have to get used to working with comparatively smaller sensors and lenses. 

Ultimately, while Alpha owners may find this phone a natural accompaniment to their camera, there simply aren’t enough concessions here for everyone else. If you want your phone to do most of the work for you then there are countless better smartphone cameras available. 

Software And Updates

  • Simple, near-stock Android 12
  • Clunky official apps
  • Only two Android version updates promised
Sony ships the Xperia 1 IV with Android 12, and anyone who’s a fan of the elusive ‘stock’ Android experience will likely find themselves happy.  
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

This is about as close to the pure Android experience as you can get – even without the Pixel-exclusive modifications Google applies to its own flagships – so much so that Sony doesn’t even give a branded name for its take on the operating system. 

Android 12 brings with it new privacy controls and alerts when the microphone and camera are in use, which Sony has adopted. Curiously though, despite the near-stock settings it hasn’t included the Material You options to have the phone’s user interface colour palette based on the hues of your wallpaper – arguably the new Android version’s flagship feature. 

There are some other Sony-specific options, such as split screen and the ‘side sense’ bar on the edge of the display that gives you shortcuts to specific apps. There are few other extras here though, the upside of which is relatively little bloatware – beyond the aforementioned slew of multiple camera apps, Music Pro recording app, and a free trial of the Bravia Core streaming service – only some of which are uninstallable.
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

Perhaps a bigger concern is Sony’s commitment to software support. The firm only promises that the Xperia 1 IV will receive two Android OS version updates – so likely up to Android 13 and 14 – and a further year of security patches. 

That used to be the norm in the Android industry, but Samsung and Google have led the way in guaranteeing three or even four Android updates, and other companies are following suit, leaving Sony behind. Company reps told us they’re sticking with two because they think most people upgrade handsets after two years anyway – but bear it in mind if you prefer to upgrade less often. 

Price And Availability

As is often the case with Sony flagships, perhaps the biggest obstacle to mainstream adoption for the Xperia 1 IV is its sheer price. 

In the UK and Europe the phone is available with 12GB of RAM and 256GB storage for a hefty £1,299/€1,399 – already right at the upper end of the market. You can buy it in the UK direct from Sony, or from Amazon, EE, or O2.

In the US it’s even steeper, only available with a huge 512GB of storage for $1,599, and won’t start shipping until 1 September. You can pre-order it now from Sony, Amazon, Best Buy, and other retailers.
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review

The Xperia 1 IV is one of the most expensive phones on the market, outpacing the iPhone 13 Pro Max, Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, or Oppo Find X5 Pro, and even running pretty close to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 foldable. 

There’s no real way to argue that it offers value for money at this price, so you’ll have to be sure that it offers what you’re looking for from a phone and that you’re willing to pay a Sony premium to get it. 

Verdict

The Xperia 1 IV is a tricky phone to assess. It’s a technological marvel, with a unique form factor, unmatched display specs, and a world-first periscopic camera. Serious photographers – especially those with experience of Sony’s Alpha camera line – will also relish the wealth of manual controls and shooting options for both photos and videos. 

But that’s a small niche of users, and anyone outside that group will find that the core of the Sony offering – a slim build, fast specs, and capable camera – can be found elsewhere for much less, and rivals beat Sony on charging speeds, battery life, and long-term software support. 

Even committed fans will find some frustrations here, especially with the challenging charging – slow at the best of times, unreliable with third-party power adapters, and prone to heating up to near-scalding temperatures. 

If the unique elements of Sony’s offering appeal enough then you’ll likely be able to overlook its flaws, but anyone else will find a phone that refuses to meet them halfway. This is an uncompromising flagship, one that you’ll have to take on its own terms or not at all. 

Specs

  • 6.5in 120Hz 21:9 ‘CinemaWide’ 4K HDR OLED display
  • Gorilla Glass Victus (front and back)
  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor
  • 12GB RAM
  • 256/512GB storage
  • microSD expandable up to 1TB
  • Rear camera:
    • 12Mp f/2.2. 16mm 124° ultrawide w/ dual-PDAF
    • 12Mp f/1.7 24mm 82° main w/ dual-PDAF & OIS
    • 12Mp f/2.3 85mm 28° or f/2.8 125mm 20° variable telephoto w/ dual-PDAF & OIS
  • 3D iToF sensor
  • 12Mp f/2.0 83° front-facing camera (1/2.9in sensor)
  • Stereo speakers
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Dolby Atmos
  • High-Res Audio support (wired & wireless)
  • 360 Reality Audio (headphones & speakers)
  • Knurled dedicated shutter button
  • IP65/68 dust/water resistance
  • Dual-SIM
  • 5G
  • WiFi 6E
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • 5000mAh battery
  • 30W wired charging
  • Wireless charging & reverse wireless charging
  • Android 12
  • 185 grams
  • 165mm x 71mm x 8.2mm
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Sony Xperia 1 IV Review Sony Xperia 1 IV Review Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, September 13, 2022 Rating: 5

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