Every year Sony announce a new range of smartphones with a different audience, for example the Xperia 1 models are their top of the line with highest specs and future proofing 4K displays which are a joy to see, the Xperia 5 series are the mid range which offer a great set of specs for a lower price and have a few compromises, then finally comes the Xperia 10 series which is their more entry level models, but do contain some great features for the money.
This review was on the Sony Xperia 1 IV in black which was loaned to me for around 6 weeks from Sony UK PR and they have had no input or view on this coverage before anyone else, everyone gets to see at the same time and any thoughts are my own based on my time with the device.
Right now the Sony Xperia 1 IV can be purchased from Sony UK for £1,050,00 and comes unlocked to use worldwide on all networks.
Sony have yet again stuck with a very familiar design from their older Xperia 1 iii model, with a large box design with an actual bezel up to house the front facing camera, this seems strange when most manufacturers now are using pinhole cameras in the screen to make smaller bezels and a better experience but the company are aiming at a cinema experience and do not want anything getting in the way of the display
The front camera will be covered more in the camera section of the review, but as a quick overview you get a 12 megapixel lens which can now also record in 4K at 30fps so is ideal for creators who like to vlog on the go.
The screen is the main standout feature of this phone with an incredible 6.5 inch OLED panel at a large 21:9 aspect ratio making it not only large, but tall too which will take some getting used too as it is quite tall compared to the competition.
The main killer feature is still the display with the 4K resolution it offers you for supported content, yes an actual 4K resolution Sony screen on a smartphone, and let me tell you, when you watch 4K HDR content, the quality is mind blowing how good it is, you really need to see it to appreciate how good it is.
The display used not only can show off 4K content, but has a fast 120hz refresh rate too which means once switched on all scrolling and moving around the phone is really buttery smooth and a joy to see, especially with the little to no bloatware to bog it down like we see on other devices.
The large screen takes up all the front with no physical buttons to be seen, just the large screen which looks great for watching content back on, and this will be repeated a few times because 4K HDR playback really is that good on this display.
Up at the top you have one of the dual microphones for noise cancelation as well as stereo recording, also nice to see is the 3.5mm headphone jack so you can use your own pair of headphones without needing an adapter which is nice to see, plus you do get a decent pair of in-ear headphones in the box.
Looking over at the left side there is nothing to see as all the buttons are on the right hand side and the ports are on the top and bottom.
Over on the right hand side you have the volume rocker for up and down controls, also a power button in the middle which has a fingerprint sensor inside so you can use this for unlocking quickly or authorising contactless payments if you use Google Pay.
Speed and reliability of the sensor was very hit and miss, I found in my model, it worked most of the time, just not every time but was still more reliable than a lot of in screen readers.
Finally you have a dedicated camera button which is something Sony have been doing for years on their phones, it gives you a real camera experience by half pressing to focus, then fully pressing to take a photo.
Down at the bottom you have the other microphone used in the dual setup, you also have the USB-C port for data transfer or fast charging at 30w which is decent and you also get Wireless Charging as well as being able to use the large battery for reverse charging too.
You also get the pull out tray where you will find the Micro SD slot for expanding the memory if you wanted to get more space for those 4K videos you will want to watch back, you also get the Nano SIM slot for your network of choice SIM, no dual SIM though as this is a single SIM phone which may be a deciding factor for a lot of people with Dual SIM phones becoming more popular.
Only a small thing to mention but appreciated was the fact you don’t need a pin to take out the sliding holder like on most other phones, there is a small slot you can use your nail and remove quickly which is great for anyone who swaps SIM cards a lot as there is no need to go hunting for the pin to swap over, however what is annoying is the phone restarting any time you swap SIM cards, frustrating when you need to swap and make that quick phone call.
Turning over to the back you have a full glass panel with the Sony logo slap bang in the middle.
In the top left corner you have the LED flash for use of a flashlight or boosting brightness in poorly lit conditions for photos and videos.
Then you have the triple camera setup consisting of three 12 megapixel lenses and the depth sensor for improving portrait shots.
Normally on phones with three or four cameras they all offer different resolutions, Sony have gone with a wide angle, super wide and a telephoto, all at 12 megapixels to keep the levels of brightness and contrast consistent with each other.
Sony are one company that cut back on all the bloatware and doubling up on apps that are not needed, over the years we have been seeing a more stock like experience which also allows for faster updates.
During my time with the device it had a rather large update thanks to Android 13 now being available which was nice to see the update coming quite fast considering a lot of phones out there are still running Android 12.
The latest version of Android brings with it the gesture navigation option if you want to try something new, there is still the normal three button navigation if you like, but the gesture way means you get more content on the screen.
Having such a tall screen also brings some new additions to the software with the ability to be able to multitask with 2 apps at the same time on a 50/50 split, and with the screen being so tall it does not make the content too small to be unusable.
Sony has done a good job on the software front with little bloatware and quick software updates such as to the latest Android 13, and this is a big improvement from the old Sony software experience on older devices.
One setting you will either love or hate pretty quickly is the dynamic vibration mode when watching back video content, the idea is that is enhances the experience with small timed shakes when video content needs it,for example in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex scene makes the water in the cup shake, this is a perfect use, but may be annoying for some people, so Sony let you switch this on or off easily.
Performance from the Xperia 1 IV is right up there with the competition due to it running the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor for chewing through all that data you throw at it, including heady video editing, this processor is a real powerhouse and can make sure you have a smooth enjoyable experience.
This is backed up by 12GB of RAM which means smooth multitasking including graphic heavy games, and in my time playing Call of Duty or PUBG I had no issues at all with the performance.
The battery included is 5000mAh which is decent for a smartphone these days, but when you consider the 5G signal uses more power, plus you have that 4K screen, you may want to be careful with background running apps and close non needed, or switch off 5G if you are not in an area with coverage yet to help.
On the networking side the Xperia 1 IV supports 2G/3G/4G/5G and means you get access to the latest in mobile network speeds if you are on a plan and coverage area that supports it.
For those not lucky enough to be in 5G just yet you get excellent 4G+ support and in my testing was able to hit over 100Mbps in my area, but again this is network dependent and everyone’s situation will be different.
Of course you also get the standard GPS, Bluetooth, NFC and WiFi built in for navigation and communication, WiFi supports the latest standard too for stronger and quicker data speeds if you have the right router.
Performance is one area you won’t have to worry about if you decide to purchase this phone to use yourself.
When it comes to mobile phone cameras I have always had an issue getting amazing performance from the device, I am not a novice photographer, but by no means a professional, and whilst I like to think I have a good eye for a great photo opportunity, this phone is really not aimed at the general point and shoot user, instead to get the best photos possible you really need the manual mode and play around with the settings to get some great shots.
When it comes to the selfie camera you get 12 megapixels to play with, and unlike other phones that have a cutout for the camera, the Xperia IV isn’t afraid to have bezels to house their camera and earpiece.
Quality is decent for what you would normally use a selfie camera for such as apps like Snapchat and video calling, it would have been great considering the amount the phone cost to have a higher resolution at least considering some phones at a lower price have got 32 megapixel selfie shooters these days.
Selfie videos are decent too, thankfully to the improved camera allowing for 4K 30FPS content to be captures right off the device, this us up from the 1080p highest setting that was on many Sony phones in the past so is a nice upgrade to have here.
The main focus is over in the back where Sony have decided to stay away from the megapixel race that some others out there are aiming to impress with, there are no 108 megapixel sensors here and no crazy 100x periscope cameras to zoom in on objects to get closer, you do however get optical zoom between 3.5x and 5.2x thanks to the telephoto camera on the back.
Sony have gone with a three lens setup plus a ToF sensor, with all cameras at 12 megapixels which includes a telephoto, a main, and a wide angle camera for all conditions. Also the megapixel size all being the same should make for the same colours and contrast no matter what camera you decide to use.
In good lighting the captured photos seem decent enough packing a lot of details and colour which was good to see, it does not have the boosted contrast which Samsung seem to love doing in there photos that make greens really over the top which is a good thing although some people do like that style of photo.
Here are photos taken using each of the three cameras so you can see what quality you can expect to see from these 12 megapixel sensors.
Whilst the cameras do seem to impress in good lighting conditions once again it seems low light performance is lacking against some of the competition these days which is a shame for Sony.
The night photos aren’t bad at all, they just lack the punchy colours you get from Samsung and Huawei for example, and with Apple stepping up their camera game more and more people will be looking for a decent night time camera.
The story of the camera comes in two parts on this phone, for most people the standard point-and-shoot camera which has quite a few different settings you can change will mean you just point at the subjects and hope to take a good shot.
Then comes the other side which is more like a manual control camera which has full control over things like ISO, contrast, lighting in all kinds of different conditions for you to play with, I even found it a little confusing but for professionals you’ll be right at home.
If you’re into your photography then it will be the Manual mode you use for most of the time as you know exactly what settings you’re using to get the best out of all your photos and this is where Sony excels with their imaging background.
Video mode is pretty much the same story with a decent video recording app built into the camera which lets you switch between a few modes and settings for decent point and shoot video content.
However there is also the Video Pro mode app which is a minefield of settings and toggles to play around with to get that perfect video footage that looks as professional as using a proper video recorder, but this time one that fits right in your hands.
It is unfortunate to see however once again, Sony seem to have an issue when it comes to thermals and when recording 4K content, once again you get popup messages warning you about the phone getting too hot and needing to shut off if recording for a long period of time, this has been ongoing for many years on older models, and it seems to still be here on the Xperia IV which is a real shame for a phone aimed at creative people.
This doesn’t seem to impact any other flagship phone from other manufacturers but is also not unique to this device as previous Sony phones have also had this happen to them too.
I had use of the Sony Xperia 1 IV for about 6 weeks in total and used it as my main phone for all that time, this allowed me to get the best overall opinion of what Sony has to offer and if it was worth recommending to people to buy.
The biggest issue is the very high price tag right at the start, £1050 for a phone that lacks a high megapixel sensor for photos and is not widely available to pick up on a monthly contract to spread the payments will mean this device often gets overlooked, which is a real shame.
The biggest reason this phone will sell is from diehard Sony fans who only stick to them as their manufacturer of choice, or for those people who want a full on professional photography experience or for video editing where for that the controls you have will make it one of the best phones you can pick.
Unfortunately I think when it comes to the average person on the high street looking for a new phone, the high price tag and lack of high end specs at least in the number category such as a high megapixel camera will mean people look elsewhere to the competition.
I really did enjoy my time using the Xperia 1 IV , and that screen is absolutely fantastic, it’s just a shame that it’s letdown and some other areas and seems to lack some of the killer on paper specs that many people look for when comparing their options in their local phone shop of choice and with the competition putting out some great alternatives at a lower price it is a shame Sony have an uphill battle to get this flagship in the hands of customers.