The Sony Xperia Mk IV continues the brand’s reinvigorated take on the smartphone, providing the tools to both create and consume content that verges on professional level. But with the daunting task of outshining its predecessors, both of which received five stars and a smartphone Product of the Year Award from us, has Sony done enough to keep the momentum going?
While it may look strikingly similar to the previous generations, the IV makes meaningful, if not mind blowing improvements on the Sony Xperia 1 III. Upgraded internals and features ensure smooth day-to-day use, and most importantly an awesome AV experience.
If you want the Sony Xperia 1 IV, you'd better be prepared to pay for it, as it is retailing for £1299 / $1599 / around AU$2300. That's an increase of £100 from last year’s Xperia 1 III, which then retailed for £100 more than the Xperia 1 II; we’re sensing a trend. This puts the Xperia 1 IV in an immediate uphill battle, as the likes of the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra undercut this.
For the asking price you’re getting the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor with 5G support, 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. If you’re in the US, however, you’ll be lucky enough to have a 512GB storage option with the rest of the specs staying the same. With a powerful processor and plenty of RAM, the Xperia 1 IV should hopefully keep things running smoothly under the hood for a while.
If we were to sum up the design of the Xperia 1 IV in one word it would have to be ‘sleek’. It's minimalist, with chunky, squared-off edges that are comfortable to hold, and the rear features a smooth, luxurious finish that wards off fingerprints, giving the illusion of a “new phone look” even after plenty of use. The metal rails and frosted glass rear blend together to make the Xperia feel premium, weighty and comfortable in the hand.
The phone takes the best parts from its predecessor and tacks on some new ones to make a phone that is pretty stacked when it comes to features. This includes the smooth, high resolution 6.5-inch, 21:9 wide 4K OLED display with 120Hz refresh rate, as well as the side-mounted fingerprint scanner, wireless charging support and dedicated textured camera shutter button.
The IV has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve however, with an upgraded stereo speaker system, as well as a comprehensive set of creator tools including what Sony is claiming to be the world’s first true optical zoom lens. The camera is a standout, especially with the zoom lens which keeps things crisp, although the user interface can appear daunting to amateurs at first glance.
The camera isn’t just your standard point and shoot system however, as it has built in live streaming, eye and object tracking and is capable of recording at 4K HDR 120fps on all lenses. This makes the Xperia 1 IV a powerful tool for those hoping to create video content as well as watch it. This has all been tuned by Alpha, Sony’s camera division, for an incredibly deep and technical camera experience that bridges the gap between smartphone and professional DSLR cameras.
Dimensions 165 x 71 x 8.2mm
Finishes 3 (black, white, purple)
Display 6.5 OLED HDR 120Hz
Resolution 1644 x 3840 (643ppi)
OS Android 12
Storage 256GB / 512GB (US) + Micro SD expansion
Battery life on the Xperia is also excellent, with a 5000mAh cell stepping up to the all day challenge. Even with constant use throughout the day with video and music consumption, the Xperia soldiers on with plenty of juice left in the tank in the evening. It's just a shame that Sony has gone the way of Apple and Samsung by not including the fast charger in the box.
Sony has also brought a feature down from its high-end TVs in the form of Bravia Core, a streaming service that is home to a selection of movies produced by Sony. When you purchase an Xperia 1 IV, you are granted five film tokens to redeem on the service, which is an appreciated bonus.
Picture performance on the Xperia 1 IV is as good as you’d expect it to be. It retains the excellent detail thanks to the 4K resolution and cinematic feel from the widescreen 21:9 widescreen display. Brightness gets a boost on the Xperia 1 IV – Sony claims a whopping 50 per cent more than the Xperia 1 III – and in practice it may be subtle but it does add depth into the lighting of scenes.
Streaming 1917 on Netflix shows what the Xperia 1 IV is capable of. The differences between the IV and III aren’t immediately obvious, but the boost in contrast creates wonderfully dynamic lighting that is impossible to ignore once you notice it. The candle-lit scenes set within the tents at the British front lines look convincingly gloomy, with detail being retained in the shadowy backgrounds. The boost in contrast alongside OLED’s natural strengths when it comes to black levels are an excellent match for scenes like this.
Colours retain a natural look when needed, especially in 1917, with the pale complexions of the soldiers and the overcast skies looming over the battlefield avoiding looking overblown. To contrast, the neon lit streets of Blade Runner 2049 pop with vibrancy, with sharp detail and natural skin tones and textures of the humans and replicants that inhabit them. Sony’s excellent creator mode screen preset retains the authentic cinematic grandeur of these films even on a 6-inch screen.
K’s car glides through the skies of 2049 Los Angeles smoothly without stuttering or janky motion, as well as providing a sense of three dimensional depth within the image, highlighting the core strengths of the Xperia 1 IV’s display all in one scene. The display excels when it comes to detail, colour, motion and contrast – making it a class-leading device once again.
The audio performance on the Xperia 1 IV is another highlight, with every track that we listen to through the included 3.5mm headphone jack ticking all the boxes for excellent sound. The most striking feature of the Xperia 1 IV’s sound performance is how natural and textured instruments come across. Guitars sound rich and characterful, while bassy kick drums are tight and defined in Depeche Mode’s iconic Personal Jesus. This song also highlights how on-point the timing is on the Xperia, making it impossible not to tap your foot along with the rhythm.
Sony has implemented its 360 degree spatial audio system on the Xperia 1 IV, alongside support for Dolby Atmos listening, which results in a spacious, wide soundstage. This gives every instrument and vocal performance room to shine, creating an immersive performance that puts you centre-stage in a convincing three-dimensional space. The Xperia 1 IV also supports high-resolution audio, LDAC and Bluetooth LE.
Another feature to get an upgrade on the IV is the speaker system, which consists of a stereo pair of front-firing speakers for a surprisingly strong audio performance. These speakers are more than acceptable and are a nice surprise when compared to other mobile loudspeakers which are often not an ideal alternative to using headphones.
Topping last year’s Sony Xperia 1 III must have been a daunting task, so Sony has potentially taken the easy route by taking the best parts of the III and just making them a bit better. Now while that may sound like a negative, it's really not; the design is sharper, the screen is brighter, the sound is punchier – improvements across the board.
While it may not be the most inspirational generation jump we’ve ever seen, it's still a phone that ticks all the boxes to make it an ideal companion for small screen AV use. The Xperia 1 IV is an excellent enthusiast choice for those looking to squeeze the best AV and music listening performance out of their smartphone.
- Features 5
- Picture 5
- Sound 5
Read our iPhone 13 Pro Max review
And our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
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