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Sony Xperia 1 IV announced with mostly modest upgrades

Nathan Spendelow
11 May 2022
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Sony’s pricey handset returns, although the Xperia 1 IV is treading familiar territory in 2022

Following months of speculation and heavy rumours, Sony has finally unveiled the latest in its line of high-priced flagship smartphones, the Xperia 1 IV.

Officially announced during a reveal event on 11 May, Sony says that the Xperia 1 IV – that’s “mark four”, by the way – will appear in the UK later this year. The previous Xperia 1 III arrived in August 2021, almost six months after its initial launch event, but thankfully we only have to wait until 16 June to get our hands on the Xperia 1 IV.

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The release date might be closer, but the price has skyrocketed. The Xperia 1 III already cost a lofty £1,100 at launch, but Sony has pushed the price of the Xperia 1 IV even further, and you’re going to have to pay a staggering £1,299 at launch. That makes the Xperia 1 IV the most expensive non-folding flagship on the market.

In terms of headline changes, the Xperia 1 IV is the first Sony phone to be powered by Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile chipset, which comes with a host of efficiency improvements over the previous Snapdragon 888. This rings true in our own testing, where we’ve seen huge gains specifically in graphics-rendering performance.

This high-powered chipset is complemented by 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage which, unlike the S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max, can be expanded further via microSD. The size of the battery has increased from 4,500mAh to 5,000mAh as well, which can only be a good thing considering how power-hungry the 4K screen was in our tests last year.

Speaking of which, the Xperia 1 IV continues to be the only flagship smartphone with a 4K resolution OLED display. Potential power drain issues aside, we’ve never had any complaints with the actual quality of the screen, which yet again is a 21:9, 6.5in 120Hz panel. However, according to Sony, maximum brightness has increased by 50%.

The Xperia 1 IV also comes with a pair of “full-stage” stereo speakers, which Sony says now use a new driver and enclosure, which supposedly delivers more power and improved low frequencies. The phone also supports Sony’s own 360 Reality Audio format, and in an increasingly rare move, it has a 3.5mm headphone jack as well.

You can now livestream directly from the pre-installed Game Enhancer app, with the ability to add custom chat overlays and UI layouts to your streams. Game and microphone audio can also be sent directly to your PC via a dual-channel output, and the Xperia 1 IV has a built-in audio mixer, too. The new Music Pro app, according to Sony, allows you to “record like you’re using a condenser microphone in a studio environment”, although this was something that was difficult to demonstrate during our video briefing.

As for looks, we’re getting a similar design to last year’s phone, with its clean-cut edges and neatly arranged camera array on the rear. The Xperia 1 IV is one of the few phones with a dedicated camera shutter button on one of its long edges, and it also benefits from IP65/68 waterproofing. Layers of Gorilla Glass Victus have been applied on both the front and back of the phone, and it comes in a choice of three colours: Black, Ice White and Purple.

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A big focus is on the cameras, which yet again consist of a trio of 12MP lenses, all at different focal lengths. The 24mm unit is the main one and has an aperture of f/1.7, and this sits next to the 16mm ultrawide unit. What’s particularly special is the new optical zoom lens, which according to Sony is capable of continuous zoom between 85mm and 125mm, without any digital trickery filling in the gaps between magnification points.

I’m curious to see this in action, especially since Sony claims this is the “world’s first true optical zoom” in a smartphone. Even more so since Sony’s representatives were a bit vague about what this actually meant during our pre-briefing session.

All three of these rear sensors benefit from a new 120fps high-speed image readout sensor, with swift real-time eye autofocus and tracking for both humans and animals, as well as 4K 120fps slow motion video and a wider dynamic range.

Sony’s SteadyShot with FlawlessEye optical stabilisation system is now available on both the ultrawide and telephoto lens, and the selfie camera has been upgraded to a 12MP unit with a larger 1/2.9in sensor and 4K HDR recording capabilities.

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