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Sony Xperia 10 IV review

Sony’s budget mobile performs better than its price suggests Tested at £429

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 10 IV
(Image: © Future)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Sony’s Xperia 10 IV is a great entry point for those wanting a quality 21:9 display without a premium price tag

Pros

  • +

    Detailed display

  • +

    Good black depth

  • +

    Excellent headphone audio

Cons

  • -

    Poor speakers

  • -

    Motion could be smoother

Sony’s current lineup of smartphones is centred around the creation and consumption of media first and foremost. The range includes 4K resolution, OLED displays with a 21:9 aspect ratio and HDR support while fervently keeping the 3.5mm headphone port alive. 

But what happens when you have to start cutting back on features to make devices like these more accessible? The Xperia 10 IV answers this question with pared back specs, a lower quality screen and a plastic build that reduces the price down significantly. However, despite this entry level Xperia cutting some corners, it still manages to provide the essence of what Sony is trying to achieve – providing a cinematic experience that fits into your pocket.

Price

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: Sony)

The Xperia 10 IV is priced at a very reasonable £429 (around $495 / AU$733). Availability is limited, however, with the 10 IV only so far officially launched in the UK and Europe, where it retails for €499.

The good news here is that the Xperia 10 IV undercuts its bigger and pricier siblings, and quite significantly so. The upcoming Xperia 5 IV is the next step up in the lineup, and that will retail for £949 / $1000  (around AU$1609), which is quite the jump. Beyond that is the stunning Xperia 1 IV, which will set you back £1299 / $1599 (around AU$2300).

For the Xperia 10 IV's price you get a specification that includes 128GB of internal storage, 6GB of RAM, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 processor and 5G support. It's worth noting that storage can be upgraded down the line via an SD card. In use, the Sony doesn’t exactly struggle with these specs, but there is a little bit of stutter at times. 

Build

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: Sony)

The Xperia 10 IV features a plastic shell, which is a clear departure from the aluminium and glass construction of the Xperia 1 IV – this is of course a cost-saving measure from Sony. It doesn’t look or feel too cheap in the hand, though, and a matte rear plastic panel emulates the frosted glass rear of the 1 IV to some extent. This plastic build also keeps the 10 IV light, coming in at just 161g. Even with a 6-inch display, the Xperia also feels like a compact device. 

It does feature a surprisingly small camera housing that neatly tucks the triple camera arrangement away, meaning that the Xperia sits almost flush to any surface it's laid on and doesn’t wobble or rock around. Elsewhere on the device you’ll find a combination lock button and fingerprint sensor that performs reliably, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack – something Sony remains steadfast on including despite many other companies having ditched the port years ago. 

It's safe to say that the Xperia 10 IV doesn’t feature the most elaborate construction, but its slim and understated build certainly gives the illusion that it may be a more premium device than it really is. It’s available in a selection of four colours – black, white, lavender and mint – with our matte black review model looking fairly sleek and stealthy.

Features

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: Sony)

A consistent feature across all current Xperia devices is the 21:9 aspect ratio OLED display, here measuring 6 inches. The display has a 1080p resolution and a refresh rate of 60Hz. While the resolution is fine, it would have been nice to see a slightly higher refresh rate for smoother scrolling and better gameplay performance.

21:9 is of course the perfect aspect ratio for watching wide-screen movies, with no black bars flanking the feature on optimised streaming apps such as Netflix and Disney+.

Sony Xperia 10 IV tech specs

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: Sony)

Display size 6 inches

Display technology OLED

Storage 128GB

Weight 161g

OS Android 12

Colours black/white/mint/lavender 

Sony’s budget phone also features a surprisingly versatile triple camera set-up. This consists of a 12MP main shooter, an 8MP ultra wide camera and 8MP telephoto lens, combining to make a versatile camera system. You won’t find the Alpha branding or Zeiss-branded lens glass, but the camera produces decent, if not exceptional, photos overall. It’s certainly a better snapper than you’d expect for the money.

Elsewhere, the Xperia 10 has a 5000mAh battery, which keeps the device ticking over for easily a full day of use before it needs charging via the USB-C charging connector. Rather surprisingly, you’ll find neither a wall adapter or charging cable in the Xperia 10 IV’s box. While many companies no longer include a power adapter with their phones, the lack of a USB charging cable feels extraordinarily cheap on Sony’s part, even if it claims to reduce e-waste.

Picture

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: Future)

This entry level device features a display that performs well above what its price may suggest. The Xperia 10 IV may not be the sharpest screen on the block, but it balances excellent dark detail, black depth, contrast and colours to create a surprisingly cinematic affair. Despite the display not having HDR certification, the considered approach to colours against the strikingly deep blacks certainly makes for an HDR-like presentation.

Sony includes a suite of settings for the picture, with an “original mode” aimed at reproducing colours faithfully. This is the setting we find ourselves using most, with the white balance set to Warm for as close to a cinematic approach as possible. It's encouraging to see Sony include these options on the Xperia 10 as, although it's a more affordable option, it doesn’t leave those wanting an in-depth AV experience behind.

Testing the sci-fi action epic, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we can see how accomplished the display is in both bright, natural scenes, and scenes with lots of dark depth and detail. In the opening moments in which the protagonist’s family is hunted down by the menacing death troopers lead by Director Krennic, the natural lighting and colours lean towards the paler side, but still appear accurate in the context of the scene. Well-defined edges and impressive contrast control mean that subjects on the screen retain a level of three-dimensional depth against the backdrops of planets in a galaxy far, far away. Skin tones and facial textures are mostly authentic and nuanced, with clothing materials and environmental elements also coming across with ample detail.

In stark contrast, a scene taking place at night in the dimly lit alleyways of a city provides excellent insight into how capable this phone is with dark detail. Unlike many other budget devices, shadows do not act as crushing black masses, instead harbouring subtler details that can easily be picked out. In even darker scenes, such as the infinite vacuum of space, the deep blacks courtesy of the OLED display are perforated with punchy pinpoint stars that shine through with an authentic glimmer, once again highlighting the superior display performance at this level.

There are some moments where motion could be smoother, but taking into consideration how well it performs elsewhere, the screen of the Xperia 10 IV is exceptionally good for the money.

Sound

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: Sony)

Sound on the Xperia 10 IV comes in two very different halves. Starting with the loudspeaker, Sony’s mono speaker is thin, compressed and should generally be avoided at all costs if you can help it. SBTRKT and Sampha’s Trials Of The Past lacks practically any bass and features a claustrophobic arrangement. It feels like all aspects of the track are fighting for dominance over the phone’s measly single speaker. While it may suffice for some short TV and movie watching, that may be about all we can recommend for this speaker.

Thankfully, headphone performance is a completely different story. Plug some cans in and you get an impressively clear and detailed vocal performance, snappy timing and a spacious arrangement that makes listening to music on the Xperia very enjoyable. This is good sound by general smartphone standards, let alone smartphones at this sort of price.

Verdict

Smartphone: Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony’s budget handset really impresses where it counts. Many budget Android handsets only meet the goal of affordability by cutting major corners, but Sony has instead considered how to boil the essence of the Xperia line down without sacrificing crucial performance.

It may not be perfect, but with a screen that impresses for the price and satisfying headphone audio, the Xperia 10 IV offers excellent value for those looking for an entry level Android that doubles as a portable movie-watching companion.

SCORES

  • Features 4
  • Picture 5
  • Sound 4

MORE:

Read our review of the Sony Xperia 1 IV

Also consider the OnePlus 10 Pro

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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