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Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Manual focus

The Xperia 1 IV is the latest device to head up Sony’s core trio of smartphones, ably joined by the smaller Xperia 5 and budget-friendly Xperia 10 lines.

As we’ve seen with the previous iterations of this top-tier line, though, you don’t get the typical flagship experience here. This is a niche offering, as Sony Mobile itself admits – one that’s designed to appeal to users of other Sony devices, such as the Alpha cameras.

This has also been our main criticism of the predecessors, as the push to do things manually on the camera is in stark contrast with the mainstream demand for computational photography.

Is the extra effort that the Xperia 1 IV requires worth it, then, or is this one that’s exclusively for the purists? Here’s what we found.
The Sony Xperia 1 IV is very much an incremental step beyond what was offered in the Xperia 1 III – so much so, it would be hard to recommend you rush out and upgrade when the experience is so similar.

We like the removal of the Google Assistant button, and the design is solid. It’s a great-looking phone, with things like the 3.5mm jack and microSD slot also now a rarity on flagship devices.

The camera is capable, but it obviously has some usability disadvantages when it comes to point-and-shoot simplicity that make it less competitive.

Our recommendation here is two-fold. If you love photography and dislike AI processing, it might be the device for you. Conversely, if you rarely take photos, you might also find this a great phone.

Ultimately, this is a powerful handset – it’s a capable gaming device, there’s great sound and a wonderful display that makes watching movies on the move a joy. There’s a lot to love, but the camera will still divide opinion – especially at this price.
There’s little physical difference between the Xperia 1 IV and the Xperia 1 III that it replaces, and we’re happy with that. The design is still dominated by Sony Mobile’s use of a 21:9 display, so this phone is tall, rather than wide.

That, again, means that despite having lots of screen space, it’s a little easier to grip than something like the Google Pixel 6 Pro. It’s a narrower phone, so getting your hand around it and slipping it into a pocket is very straightforward.
As we’ve seen from Sony Mobile for some time, it’s a premium package, with flattened edges making up that classic ‘glass sandwich’ look. That said, there is a delicate chamfer to take the sharp edges off, so it’s a mite more elegant than Apple’s similar design introduced on the iPhone 12.

The front and rear are Gorilla Glass Victus, designed to keep scratches at bay, with a pronounced camera section off toward the top left-hand corner. Despite the Victus finish, though, we still managed to find some scratches on the device after a couple of weeks of use.
The Google Assistant button found on the Xperia 1 III has now been removed, leaving us with a volume control button and the power button – complete with an embedded fingerprint scanner – on the right side. There’s a dedicated shutter button, too, as well as a 3.5mm headphone socket on the bottom.

The latter provides an option for accessories – be they traditional wired headphones or an external microphone – while the SIM and microSD card tray doesn’t need a pin tool to remove it, making access easy.

The phone itself carries an IP65/68 rating, with Sony clarifying that those two test standards are slightly different, so it lists both to reassure customers that they are getting great environmental protection.

There are stereo speakers on the frame, as well, which are supported by Sony’s Dynamic Vibration. They sound pretty good, and adding vibration to other media – like games – is a fun trick, even if we did mostly find it a distraction.
As media is a big play for Sony, it’s no surprise to find a range of sound options – Dolby Sound (with various options), 360 Upmix to reproduce a 360 Reality Audio effect (which we think is a bit gutless, so you might want to avoid this), and Sony’s DSEE Ultimate, which uses AI to boost your compressed music sources for better results.


Ajmal Solangi is a Tech writer specializing in the intersection of tech and reviews. He likes tech news, mobile unboxing, reviews, gadgets, and more.

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