Sony Xperia 1 IV smartphone review: a maestro of cinema and music
The Sony Xperia Mk IV continues the brand’s reinvigorated take on the smartphone, providing the tools to create and consume content that verges on the professional level. But with the daunting task of outdoing its predecessors, which both received five stars and a Smartphone Product of the Year award, has Sony done enough to keep the momentum going?
While it may look surprisingly similar to previous generations, the IV brings significant, if not jaw-dropping, improvements to the Sony Xperia 1 III. Improved internals and features ensure smooth everyday use and, most importantly, a great audio-visual experience.
If you want the Sony Xperia 1 IV, you better be prepared to pay for it, as it sells for £1,299 / $1,599 / around AU$2,300. That’s a £100 increase on last year’s Xperia 1 III, which then sold for £100 more than the Xperia 1 II; we sense a trend. This puts the Xperia 1 IV in an uphill battle, like the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
For the asking price, you get 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 get a 512GB storage option with the rest of the specs remaining the same. With a powerful processor and plenty of RAM, the Xperia 1 IV should hopefully keep it running smoothly under the hood for quite some time.
If we had to sum up the design of the Xperia 1 IV in one word, it would have to be “sleek”. It’s minimalistic, with thick, square edges that are comfortable to hold, and the back features a smooth, luxurious finish that protects against fingerprints, giving the illusion of a “new phone look” even after heavy use. . The metal rails and frosted glass rear blend together to give the Xperia a feel of quality, weight and comfort in the hand.
The phone takes the best parts of its predecessor and adds some new ones to make it a pretty stacked phone when it comes to features. This includes the smooth and high-resolution 6.5-inch, 21:9 wide 4K OLED display with 120Hz refresh rate, as well as the side-mounted fingerprint scanner, support for wireless charging and the dedicated textured camera shutter button.
The IV has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve though, with an improved stereo speaker system, plus a full set of creative tools, including what Sony claims is the world’s first true optical zoom lens. world. The camera is outstanding, especially with the zoom lens keeping things sharp, although the user interface may seem daunting to enthusiasts at first glance.
The camera isn’t just your standard point and shoot system though, as it has built-in live streaming, eye and object tracking and is capable of recording at 4K HDR 120fps on all Goals. This makes the Xperia 1 IV a powerful tool for those who want to create video content as well as watch it. All of this has been tuned by Alpha, Sony’s camera division, for an incredibly deep and technical camera experience that bridges the gap between smartphones and professional DSLR cameras.
Technical specifications of the Sony Xperia 1 IV
Dimensions 165 x 71 x 8.2mm
Finishes 3 (black, white, purple)
Display 6.5 OLED HDR 120Hz
Resolution 1644 x 3840 (643ppi)
SE Android 12
RAM 12 GB
Storage 256 GB / 512 GB (US) + Micro SD expansion
The Xperia’s battery life is excellent too, with a 5,000mAh cell holding up to the challenge all day long. Even with constant use throughout the day with video and music consumption, the Xperia manages with plenty of juice in the tank in the evening. It’s just a shame that Sony went the way of Apple and Samsung by not including the fast charger in the box.
Sony has also brought a feature from its high-end TVs in the form of Bravia Core, a streaming service that hosts a selection of Sony-produced movies. When you buy an Xperia 1 IV, you get five movie tokens to redeem on the service, which is a welcome bonus.
Image performance on the Xperia 1 IV is as good as expected. It retains excellent detail thanks to the 4K resolution and cinematic feel of the 21:9 widescreen display. Brightness is upped on the Xperia 1 IV – Sony claims 50% more than the Xperia 1 III – and in practice , it may be subtle, but it adds depth to the lighting of the scenes.
Diffusion 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 increased contrast creates wonderfully dynamic lighting that’s impossible to ignore once you notice it. The candlelit scenes set in tents on the British front lines are convincingly gloomy, with detail retained in the shadowy backgrounds. The contrast boost alongside OLED’s natural strengths when it comes to black levels is a great match for scenes like this.
Colors retain a natural look where needed, especially in 1917, with the pale complexion of the soldiers and the overcast sky hovering over the battlefield avoiding looking overdone. In contrast, the neon-lit streets of Blade Runner 2049 pop with vibrancy, with crisp detail and the natural skin tones and textures of humans and the replicants that inhabit them. Sony’s excellent Creator Mode screen preset retains the authentic cinematic grandeur of those films, even on a 6-inch screen.
K’s car glides through the skies of 2049 Los Angeles smoothly, without stuttering or jerky movement, while providing a sense of three-dimensional depth in the image, highlighting the highlights of the Xperia 1 IV’s screen in a single scene. The display excels in detail, color, motion and contrast, again making it a cutting edge device.
The Xperia 1 IV’s audio performance is another strong point, with every track we listened to through the included 3.5mm headphone jack ticking all the boxes for great sound. The most striking feature of the Xperia 1 IV’s sonic performance is how natural and textured instruments present themselves. Guitars sound rich and full of character, while bass kicks are tight and defined in the iconic Depeche Mode personal jesus. This song also highlights how timing is on the Xperia, making it impossible not to tap your toe with the beat.
Sony has implemented its 360-degree spatial sound system on the Xperia 1 IV, along with support for Dolby Atmos listening, which results in a spacious and wide soundstage. This gives every instrument and vocal performance room a sparkle, creating an immersive performance that puts you center stage in a compelling three-dimensional space. The Xperia 1 IV also supports Hi-Res 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 speakers for surprisingly loud audio performance. These speakers are more than acceptable and a nice surprise compared to other mobile speakers which are often not an ideal alternative to using headphones.
Overcoming 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 improving them a bit. While that may sound negative, it really isn’t; the design is cleaner, the screen is brighter, the sound is punchier – improvements across the board.
While it might not be the most inspiring generation leap we’ve ever seen, it’s still a phone that ticks all the boxes to make it a perfect companion for AV use on small screen. The Xperia 1 IV is an excellent choice for enthusiasts looking to squeeze the best AV and music listening performance from their smartphone.
- Features 5
- Image 5
- Sound 5
Read our iPhone 13 Pro Max review
And our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
Our choice of Best smartphones 2022: Top phones for music and movies