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Review: Sony Xperia 1 IV – the ‘hottest’ phone right now

Review: The Sony Xperia 1 IV is Sony's new flagship for 2022. Does the device convince? You can read it in this review.

Sony recently released the new smartphones presented for 2022. The top device is the Sony Xperia 1 IV. The device initially looks almost identical again compared to the Sony Xperia 1 III from last year, which was again almost identical to the Sony Xperia 1 II from two years ago. Are we missing innovation again? When I first took the device out of the packaging, I would have said yes, but after an intensive period of use, Sony seems to have provided the necessary innovation with a real optical telephoto zoom lens and 4K 120 fps in slow motion. There is no doubt, however, that the Sony Xperia 1 IV is not for everyone, partly due to the high price of 1,399 euros and the necessary drawbacks.

Design and build quality

The Sony Xperia 1 IV is again a typical Sony device with the characteristic widescreen ratio of 21:9. It makes for a long and narrow device. For many people this may take some getting used to, but after that you don’t really want anything else. Such a narrow device fits very well in the hand. And in horizontal mode, you immediately have a widescreen display for all your entertainment at your disposal.

The device has a flat front and back and the side and top are also really flat. The only curves we find in the corners and around the camera module on the back. On top we find the 3.5mm headphone jack. The buttons are all on the right with, from top to bottom, the volume buttons, on/off button and the close button. So you can just take pictures with a physical button on this device, just like on a real camera. At the bottom we find the step with space for two SIM cards.

The device is very solidly built, so the build quality is good. However, it is again an exact copy of the previous device. Sony has been using this design for several years now and in that regard there is no sign of innovation. Not a big deal in our opinion. It is a quirky design, but user-friendly. The device weighs 185 grams, is waterproof and dust resistant and durable because of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back. Our version is matte black, which gives it a high-end look. The device is also available in a purple variant.

Display and sound

Sony is among the top when it comes to display and sound in smartphones. It is not surprising that Sony is doing well in the field of displays, because the company can of course copy its own Bravia televisions. This time we also have a 4k HDR OLED screen at our disposal with a refresh rate of 120Hz. The resolution is 3,840 by 1,644 pixels, which provides unprecedented sharpness and the refresh rate ensures smooth navigation and scrolling. Sony is the only company that puts such 4k screens in phones. Although on the one hand it is a bit exaggerated. Can you really see that difference compared to a phone with a slightly lower resolution on such a small screen? So no. On the other hand, it is a top screen with fine natural colours, good sharpness and fine contrast.

Sony also promises a brighter screen, because that was often the problem with the predecessors. To get straight to the point, that brighter screen is not really noticeable. I haven’t had any real problems with the screen, but in bright sunlight it can sometimes be a bit difficult to read the screen properly.

On to the sound then. Sony uses full-stage stereo speakers and supports high-resolution audio (LDAC). There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Sony Xperia 1 IV supports 360 Reality Audio, DSEE Ultimate, aptX and Dolby Atmos. In terms of sound, it is also fine. The speakers provide a nice clear sound for a smartphone and if you connect a headset, you are guaranteed top quality audio in pocket size.

Performance

We can trust Sony every year to use the fastest chipset and that also appears to be the case with the Sony Xperia 1 IV. On board we find the super-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, so the performance is in any case good, also in combination with 12 GB of working memory and 256 GB of storage memory. Whether you’re simply surfing the web with multiple tabs open, checking your social media feeds or playing the latest games, this device can handle it all effortlessly. To a certain extent, because just like the predecessor, this new device also heats up quite quickly. The title of this review therefore refers to the heat that this model manages to generate. Not just while gaming, but even with normal use. And over time not only warm, but even hot on the fingers. The whole thing starts to stutter, apps are closed and the device gets so uncomfortably warm that you actually want to put it away or put on gloves. This is of course unacceptable.

Previous devices in this series had the same problem. At the Sony Xperia 1 II this was resolved quite well. The successor also got quite warm and that has never completely gone away and with this new device it is just unacceptably hot. What is Sony marketing here? Yes, you can game on it, but after 15 minutes the device gets too hot. After half an hour of WhatsApp, the device is also uncomfortably warm. And are you going to get started with the photo and video options? Especially with the latter, the device will overheat within a few minutes. Now Sony can probably partly solve this with updates that bring the heat production under better control, but the Sony Xperia 1 IV should never have been released on the market in this condition.

Good to know is that no charger is included. So you have to take care of that yourself. The battery has a capacity of 5,000 mAh. You’ll make it to the end of the day with it, but that’s about it. Charging is possible with 30W, which is not as fast as with many competitors. Wireless charging is also an option.

Sony Xperia 1 IV Camera

In addition to the display and sound, Sony also wants to distinguish itself in the field of cameras. In recent years, Sony has really focused on the avid amateur photographer thanks to the presence of Sony Alpha SLR camera technology. As a photographer, this gives you a lot of manual options, but those who just want to quickly take a photo for Instagram were disappointed with the previous devices. The series didn’t really shine on that. Fortunately, steps have been taken with the Sony Xperia 1 IV. Once again the Photography Pro and Videography Pro are back. So you can adjust everything you want, but for the enthusiast there is also just an automatic mode that works better than ever this time, so that you can also take quick snapshots without having to dive deep into the settings.

Sony is known for natural photos. No mega-saturation like Samsung or standard AI functions like many Chinese manufacturers. With Sony you get almost the same photo as your own eyes have seen it. And the cameras are once again equipped with all kinds of technological highlights. In addition to the lightning-fast autofocus, real-time eye-tracking, 3D iToF sensor, ZEISS optics and all the other possibilities of the predecessors, we also find 4k 120 fps in slow motion and a real optical telephoto zoom lens from 85-125 mm. An ultra-wide 16mm lens and a 24mm lens round out the picture. All lenses feature a 12 MP Exmor RS for mobile image sensor at 120 fps.

Unfortunately, the Sony Xperia 1 IV again uses the same sensor for the main camera as the predecessor, which again used the same sensor as the device from two years ago. And that means a sensor that isn’t too bright. Then you have all kinds of technological highlights on board, but then you still use an old and not bright sensor. Where Sony actually provides 1″ camera sensors for other smartphone manufacturers, such as the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, the Japanese manufacturer’s own flagship has to make do with the old Sony IMX 557 sensor. The choice is incomprehensible, because the technological highlights simply deserve a modern and bright smartphone camera sensor, as in Sony’s own Sony Xperia Pro-1 with 1″ camera sensor from last year.

Below you can see some (unedited) sample photos taken with the Sony Xperia 1 IV:

Sony Xperia 1 IV camera result

Sony Xperia 1 IV

The photos therefore do not match the top devices of the moment. The Google Pixel 6 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra simply shoot better photos, even if we may be doing the Sony a little short. During the day you get very good performance from all three cameras with natural photos with sufficient sharpness, little noise and we actually have little to complain about. As soon as it starts to get a little darker, this device starts to lose out against the competition.

The ultra-wide-angle lens has been updated with the IMX 563 sensor, but has almost the same problems. Good photos during the day, but at night it scores even less well than the main camera with a lot of noise and blurry photos. Sony has finally listened to the criticism of the selfie camera. The old eight megapixels have finally been thrown aside for a twelve megapixel selfie camera that thankfully delivers better performance. Finally, the optical telephoto zoom is a technological marvel, but it doesn’t come close to the zoom performance of the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Pixel 6 Pro. At 3.5x you get really good results, but the small sensor fails at a larger zoom range.

When it comes to making videos, the Sony once again scores well. You can record in 4k with all cameras and with the Videography Pro app you have a small film studio in your pocket. 120 fps in 4k is impressive and a must try. The question is whether it is useful in practice and whether you will use it often. The videos have good contrast and dynamic range and this may even be a better film camera than a still camera.

Software

The software is always in good order at Sony. At least in terms of user experience. The Sony Xperia 1 IV uses Android 12 and is quite clean. You will therefore not find too many pre-installed apps or major software changes. For the most part, you have Android 12 at your disposal the way Google intended and that’s a plus. During installation, you can choose which apps you want to install right away. Even many Google apps are not present by default. So for the most part you can set this device up as you want.

Unfortunately, we are less satisfied with the update policy. You get two major Android updates and a maximum of three years of security updates. Then, in my opinion, is too scanty for a device of 1,399 euros. Other manufacturers do better. With Samsung, for example, you get five years of updates.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

Conclusion – Sony Xperia 1 IV

Sony is again being stubborn. We have appreciated that for many years, but now it is time to listen to the users and look at the competition. Sony makes bright camera sensors for other manufacturers, but uses an old camera sensor on its own flagship of 1,399 euros. Why? And why does this device get hot so quickly? That’s really unacceptable. Let’s hope Sony can solve these problems, because this device has a lot to offer. An excellent display and fantastic sound, good build quality and very versatile cameras that, however, have to lose out to the competition.

Do you have the Sony Xperia 1 IIIor maybe even the predecessor. Then there is really no reason to update to this device. The novelties are nice, but the heat and the much too steep price are not worth an update. Sony should spend a little less time on the technological camera highlights on the device and just start with a good base. With a few small changes, Sony really has a winner on its hands. Unfortunately that is not the case now.

Pros of Sony Xperia 1 IV

  • Razor-sharp display
  • Good sound with many audio options
  • Versatile camera system
  • Good build quality

Negatives of Sony Xperia 1 IV

  • Heat problems
  • Very high price
  • Update policy could be better
  • Cameras less good than competition