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Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Love it or hate it phone

NextPit Sony Xperia 1 IV Review
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The Sony Xperia 1 IV that I tested for NextPit is proof that Sony literally doesn't care about going against the flow, but also about your purchasing power. This 1600 dollars smartphone offers an incomplete and unbalanced experience and if you're not happy, well, you'll just have to deal with it.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

Good

  • Beautiful 2K OLED screen in 21:9
  • Effective continuous optical zoom
  • Premium design with 3.5 mm jack and expandable storage
  • Clean Android interface with good multitasking features

Bad

  • Battery life is a bit short with intensive use
  • 30 W wired charging is not enough
  • Only 2 Android updates and 3 years of security patches
  • Expensive
Sony Xperia 1 IV
    Sony Xperia 1 IV: All deals

    Sony's new smartphones in a nutshell

    The Sony Xperia 1 IV is available since May 2022 at a price of 1600 dollars for a single memory configuration of 12/512 GB. It is the flagship of Sony this year and its main selling point is its telephoto lens with a real optical zoom.

    Absolute Sony fans will see the Xperia 1 IV as the best smartphone ever, that goes without saying. And on paper, this smartphone has some serious firepower. But as a layperson, or at least not a fan of Sony smartphones, I found the experience to be rather un-permissive, even punishing at times.

    Design

    The Sony Xperia 1 IV has the same design adopted by its manufacturer for several years already. This anachronistic look keeps a certain undeniable charm but also betrays a cruel lack of audacity.


    What I liked:

    • microSD reader, 3.5 mm jack.
    • Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back.
    • IP68 certified.
    • Front speakers.

    What I disliked:

    • Unchanged design for at least two generations.

    Back side of the Sony Xperia 1 IV
    The matte finish on the back of the Sony Xperia 1 IV is very nice / © NextPit

    The Sony Xperia 1 IV retains the monolithic look of its predecessors. It's clearly not the most inventive design, but I find that this "carved out of one piece" look with its matte black coating and combined with the long and narrow 21:9 form factor still holds up very well. Its biggest advantage, which too few competitors offer, is that it has two front stereo speakers. You don't risk obstructing them when the smartphone is in landscape mode.

    The aluminum frame and Corning's Gorilla Gass Victus on the front and back reinforce the premium feel of the smartphone. On the right edge, we find the volume buttons and the fingerprint reader. All are well-placed and easily reachable. Just below it, we also have the two-step photo shutter release which is extremely satisfying to use.

    Volume rocker, fingerprint reader and camera shutter button on the right side
    The Sony Xperia 1 IV is very thin and light for a flagship smartphone / © NextPit

    The dual SIM port can always be removed without tools, which is very convenient and does not prevent the Sony Xperia 1 IV from being IP68 certified. The dual SIM port can accommodate a microSD card to expand storage. And Sony still offers a 3.5mm jack. I think it's really nice that Sony is going against the tide on this point, compared to other high-end Android smartphones.

    3.5 mm headphone jack on the Sony Xperia 1 IV
    The 3.5mm jack is still present on Sony's flagship / © NextPit

    Sony Xperia 1 IV display

    The Sony Xperia 1 IV features a 6.5-inch OLED display with a 21:9 aspect ratio and a 4K resolution of 3840 x 1644. This form factor, a signature of Sony smartphones, seems more relevant to me than in the past, but it didn't convince me 100% either.


    What I liked:

    • The 4K and 21:9 combo is perfect for (some) movies and series.
    • The form factor is well adapted to multitasking and scrolling.
    • Lots of settings for the screen.
    • Well-calibrated default colorimetry.

    What I disliked:

    • Fixed and non-adaptive refresh rate.

    Sony Xperia 1 IV up front
    The Sony Xperia 1 IV's screen offers a 4K resolution in 21:9 format / © NextPit

    Like the design, the Sony Xperia 1 IV's screen is exactly the same as last year's Sony Xperia 1 III. But, unlike last year, I'm more receptive to that famous 21:9 aspect ratio that some of you worship.

    When the content is adapted to it, it's very nice to watch Netflix or YouTube in full screen without having to zoom and crop the image. But not all content is suitable. Even on Netflix, I often come across series in 16:9, for example. And on YouTube, I still too often have the black bars on the sides, like on any other non-Sony smartphone in 20:9. On the other hand, Sony has hidden the selfie camera under a black bar at the top of the screen, so that it never breaks the immersion when viewing full-screen content.

    A slim border houses the selfie camera without notches
    The selfie camera of the Sony Xperia 1 IV is hidden under a black bar to preserve immersion / © NextPit

    Another small flaw is that the refresh rate is fixed and can only be set to 60 or 120 Hz. I would have liked it to be adaptive. The maximum brightness of 600 nits on the whole panel is correct to ensure good readability even outdoors.

    Finally, I enjoyed the 21:9 aspect ratio quite a bit outside of multimedia applications. I find it particularly suitable for multitasking but also for applications with a vertical interface. It's more fun to scroll through my news feeds because I have more content on the screen. On the other hand, if you have small fingers, some elements at the top of the screen are not the easiest to reach.

    The 21:9 screen on the Xperia 1 IV makes it optimized for vertical content
    The default colorimetry is already very well calibrated on the Sony Xperia 1 IV / © NextPit

    Interface & operating system

    The Sony Xperia 1 IV runs on a very stock-like Android overlay, based on Android 12. The interface is very clean, a bit austere in some places, and the software update policy is quite limited.


    What I liked:

    • Clean interface.
    • Very intuitive multitasking functions.

    What I disliked:

    • Quite a lot of bloatware for a $1600 smartphone.
    • Pro applications are too inaccessible.
    • Software maintenance is limited for this price.

    Sony Xperia 1 IV interface screenshots
    The interface of the Sony Xperia 1 IV is very clean and close to stock Android / © NextPit

    Overall, we are on a very classic Android 12 interface. The menus for customizing the home/lock screen, the Always-on display and the wallpaper are unchanged compared to what we can have on a Pixel.

    Sony Xperia 1 IV interface screenshots
    The interface is sometimes a bit austere in terms of personalization options / © NextPit

    But there are some particularities specific to Sony such as the very generous screen settings, but also and especially the multitasking functions. The windowed mode and split screen mode are very intuitive and allow you to fully exploit this long 21:9 screen.

    Sony Xperia 1 IV multi-tasking interface screenshots
    Sony's windowed and split-screen modes are quite intuitive on the Xperia 1 IV / © NextPit

    I won't go into detail about Sony's Music Pro, Video Pro, and Cinema Pro applications. The first of them, Music Pro, is a dictaphone a bit augmented that allows you to improve the quality of your voice and/or music recordings. But this function, called "studio tuning", works via the cloud and requires the creation of an account as well as a subscription once the 100 MB free trial is over.

    There are also new versions of Video Pro and Cinema Pro. These are simply more advanced versions of the native video application (Video Basic) with a whole bunch of settings. But I'm far too ignorant of the subject to understand the real interest and give you a relevant opinion.

    Performance

    The Sony Xperia 1 IV features Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC. This chip is known for the overheating problems it causes in the smartphones it equips. And it was not differently with the Sony Xperia 1 IV.


    What I liked:

    • -

    What I disliked:

    • Overheating problems.
    • Unstable performance.

    In terms of raw power, the Sony Xperia 1 IV performs like other smartphones with the same SoC. It can unsurprisingly run all mobile games with graphics at max and at 60 FPS.

      Sony Xperia 1 IV Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra iPhone 14 Pro Max OnePlus 10 Pro
    3D Mark Wild Life 8487 6872 Too powerful 9541
    3D Mark Wild Life Stress Test Best loop: 9615
    Worst loop: 4866
    Best loop: 7036
    Worst loop: 4436
    Best loop: 9599
    Worst loop: 8121

    Best loop: 9845
    Worst loop: 6240

    Geekbench 5 Single: 1181
    Multi: 3433
    Single: 1155
    Multi: 3356
    Single: 1885
    Multi: 5406

    Single: 982
    Multi: 3363

    On the other hand, like all smartphones equipped with the same SoC, the Sony Xperia 1 IV also suffers from serious overheating and therefore stability problems. On the Wild Life benchmark of 3DMark, which simulates intensive use for 1 minute, the smartphone delivered a very disappointing stability rate of 50.80%.

    And on 3DMark's Wild Life Stress Test benchmark, which simulates intensive use for 20 minutes, we can see that there are some big FPS losses. And at the end of each benchmark, the Sony Xperia 1 IV was very hot on the back.

    PCMark performance and temperature
    Like last year, Sony smartphones still have overheating problems / © NextPit

    Photo quality

    The Sony equips a triple photo module at the back with three 12 MP sensors but also and above all with a telephoto lens that offers two levels of optical zoom between which you can zoom gradually.


    What I liked:

    • Good exposure and dynamic range management in wide and ultra-wide-angle.
    • Effective optical and continuous zoom from x3.5 to x5.2.
    • 4K video with all lenses, even the selfie one.

    What I disliked:

    • The photo app is not accessible enough to noobs like me.
    • Colorimetry is rather bland/too natural.
    • No dedicated night mode.

    Sony Xperia 1 IV camera module
    The Sony Xperia 1 IV triple camera module with its famous telephoto lens with true optical zoom / © NextPit

    Basically, the Sony Xperia 1 IV's telephoto lens offers two fixed optical magnification levels: 3.5x (85mm equivalent) and 5.2x (125mm). These two optical magnifications can be obtained with the same lens, whereas you would have to switch from one lens to another on competing smartphones.

    But the advantage of this system is that between each of these two zoom levels, you can operate a progressive zoom instead of abruptly changing lenses. This continuous zoom allows you to have an optical zoom on each of the magnifications included in this interval between 3.5x and 5.2x.

    Sony Xperia 1 IV camera shutter button
    This two-step trigger is a killer feature! / © NextPit

    And in practice, I found the Sony Xperia 1 IV's zoom to be quite effective. But I wouldn't say that the continuous zoom has much to do with it. Personally, I find the two focal lengths of 3.5x and 5.2x too close to each other for the different optical zoom levels to be relevant within that range.

    But overall, I was not transcended by the photo quality of the Sony Xperia 1 IV. The wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle photos suffer from a bland colorimetry for my taste. I know that purists swear by natural rendering, but I find it lacks punch.

    On the other hand, I have to salute the exposure management and the dynamic range of daytime photos. Focusing is also very fast on the Xperia 1 IV.

    As for the portrait mode, it was quite disappointing and complicated to find in the photo application. And in fact, this is the general fault of the Sony Xperia 1 IV photo module: it is not accessible enough. Of course, there is a "Basic" mode that looks like any other photo application for the average user. But even in this mode, you can quickly get lost in the menus and settings.

    I understand that Sony is trying to emulate the interface that could be found on one of its Alpha cameras. But for a photography newbie, I find the lack of intuitiveness of the photo application too confusing.

    On the video side, the Xperia 1 IV records up to 4K at 30 FPS with all lenses. If you want a higher frame rate, there is also the 1080p option at 60 FPS. In the Cinema Pro app, you can unlock 4K at 24, 25, 30, 60, and 120 FPS.

    Sony Xperia 1 IV battery

    The Sony Xperia 1 IV integrates a large battery of 5000 mAh. This accepts 30W wired fast charging, 15W wireless and allows 5W reverse wireless charging.


    What I liked:

    • No proprietary protocol.
    • Wireless and reverse wireless charging.

    What I disliked:

    • Disappointing battery life.
    • No charger in the box.
    • Slow full charge at 30W.

    USB-C charging port and SIM card tray
    I wish other Android manufacturers would follow Sony's choice for the SIM port / © NextPit

    Despite its great charging capacity, the Sony Xperia 1 IV's battery left me a bit confused. I ran PC Mark's Work 3.0 benchmark with the screen set to 200 nits brightness and 120 Hz enabled. And the smartphone only lasted 8.20 hours before dropping below the 20% remaining battery life mark. That's a poor score, with the low end of the basket averaging at least around 10 hours.

    I looked at other tests online and saw scores of around 10 hours of battery life in several of them. Despite this, I find my result strangely bad. Maybe it's due to a bad calibration on my part, but in any case, on a daily basis and with my average screen time of 5 hours maximum, I was always able to last a day but no more.

    Test Sony Xperia 1 IV capture d'écran benchmark autonomie
    This score for the Sony Xperia 1 IV battery life is very bad / © NextPit

    Sony Xperia 1 IV technical specifications

      Technical data
    Name of the device
    Illustration Sony Xperia 1 IV
    Screen 6.5-inch OLED, 3840 x 1644 pixels (4K),
    120 Hz refresh rate, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, 21:9 aspect ratio
    Dimensions 165 x 71 x 8.2 mm (H x W x D)
    Weight 185 g (including battery)
    SoC Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
    Memory 8 GB RAM
    256 GB ROM
    Software Android 12
    Expandable memory Yes, up to 1 TB
    Wide-angle main lens 12 MP | f/1.7 aperture | 1/1.7 inch
    OIS, PDAF, and real-time tracking
    Ultra wide-angle lens 12 MP | f/2.2 aperture | 1/2.5 inch | 124° FOV
    PDAF
    Telephoto lens 12 MP | 1/3.5 inch | 85 - 125 mm | f/2.3 - f/2.8 apertures, FOV 28° - 20
    Selfie 12 MP
    Video 4K | 120 fps | OIS, EIS
    Audio 2 Dolby Atmos stereo speakers placed in front
    3.5 mm jack
    Battery 5000 mAh
    Wired charging 30 watts
    Wireless charging (Qi) 15 watts (reverse wireless charging 5 watts)
    IP certification IP65/68

    Final verdict

    The Sony Xperia 1 IV clearly goes against the tide of the high-end Android market. And in some ways, that's a very good thing.

    I find that the design, while quite dated, retains an undeniable charm and class. I've reconciled myself to the 21:9 aspect ratio and found it really relevant for multitasking. I think Sony deserves a medal for offering a 3.5mm jack and especially expandable storage on a high-end smartphone in 2022.

    In short, the Sony Xperia 1 IV does a lot of things right. And it's clearly a statement of intent from Sony that refuses to bend to certain market dogmas.

    However, I think that this rebellious side of Sony also betrays a certain insolence. I mean that Sony fully assumes that the Xperia 1 IV experience is incomplete. The photo application can be overwhelming The update policy is frankly disappointing for such an expensive smartphone. The autonomy is at best correct, no more. And the photo quality is not the best on the market, although the technical feat of continuous zoom is a feat in itself.

    In short, Sony doesn't care if you like the Xperia 1 IV or not. Sony doesn't care if you find it too expensive. Because Sony thinks that all these flaws are worth it. Personally, I don't think so. What about you?

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    Go to comment (1)
    Antoine Engels

    Antoine Engels
    Senior Editor

    Black belt in specs sheet analysis. OnePlus fanboy in (slow) remission. Average estimated reading time of my articles: 48 minutes. Tech deals fact-checker in my spare time. Hates talking about himself in the 3rd person. Dreams he was a gaming journalist in another life. Doesn't get the concept of irony. Head of editorial for NextPit France.

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      Ari May 15, 2022 Link to comment

      Well these days Flagships from android suffer the same overheating issues just like the scandal in Galaxy S22.. Heard its also happening in Xiaomi and 1plus.. Apple is the exception to this