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The Sony Xperia 1 IV is a welcome update to a very niche phone.

Sony just announced the Xperia 1 IV – and like previous models of the brand’s flagship smartphone series, this is a niche device for a very specific type of user.

The fourth version of the Xperia I looks like the company’s most advanced phone to date, with a number of upgrades to the camera system, display and overall design. Like many of the best Android phones in 2022, it’s not a huge upgrade from what it was before, but there’s still a lot to like if you’re already a fan of Sony phones.

What we liked the most about the latest Xperia phones is Sony’s open attention to aspects that are often overlooked by touted competitors. For example, there’s a 4K OLED HDR display here, a feature you won’t find anywhere else. It’s also one of the few flagships that includes both a headphone jack and expandable storage, and eschews the notch for a display that doesn’t break.

Camera updates at the forefront

Like Samsung, Oppo, and Apple, Sony tends to put a lot of emphasis on its phone cameras with each new iteration of its flagship device – and that’s very true here.

While the phone retains the same 12MP sensor array as before, there are improvements everywhere. All cameras (wide, ultra-wide and zoom) now feature Sony’s superior Eye AF and subject tracking, as well as the ability to shoot 4K HDR video at 120fps. Enabling all three focal lengths to shoot at the same resolution should allow you to easily switch between them without sacrificing too much quality.

The zoom camera has seen the most improvements, which considering it was our biggest criticism of the Xperia 1 III when we reviewed it last year, is a welcome change. Sony said at a pre-launch briefing that the zoom now has an optical range of 85-125mm. We’ll need to properly test this reduction to see how it compares to the excellent Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, but focusing on this as an area for improvement is very welcome.

While the actual sensors on the back appear to be the same as those found on the Xperia 1 III, the selfie camera has a much larger 1/2.9 12-megapixel sensor. This is up from the 8-megapixel 1/4-inch sensor used previously and should allow the sensor to receive more light for better low-light performance.

Other additional camera features include live streaming from the professional Videography app and improved HDR results.

Aimed at professionals

Another important area here is sound. The Xperia 1 IV retains the 3.5mm high-resolution audio-certified headphone port, while compatible headphones support wireless high-resolution audio and LDAC. Sony also stated that the built-in speakers have been improved and should produce louder and more bass sound. Again, we haven’t had a hands-on session with the device yet, so we can’t comment on how big the change is in actual use, but I’ll be sure to check back when we get it for review.

Niche features have been the focus of this series since its inception. A great example of this are dedicated apps that use some of the features and UI layout from the Alpha camera. With the Xperia 1 IV, Sony has taken niche features to the next level with an app dedicated to recording music. Music Pro should help reduce noise and reverb, and there are even some cloud processing skills available for a subscription fee.

While Sony is apparently still opposed to promoting its Playstation brand with the Xperia lineup, you can now stream mobile games directly from your phone to services like YouTube.

The display upgrades are minimal, although considering it’s one of the best mobile screens out there, I’m still hoping it can compete with some of the best. Sony says the display is 50% brighter, which will hopefully address some of the issues I had with outdoor visibility on the Xperia 1 III.

The 6.5-inch screen is still capable of 4K output and retains the longer 21:9 aspect ratio, which is perfect for movies but can feel a little cramped at other times.

Inside the phone there is the usual set of top technologies. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset rules the show, paired with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of expandable storage. The Gen 1 is a powerful chip based on our experience reviewing other phones running on it, so it should allow the phone to run just about any app or game without issue. We will confirm this when we receive the phone for testing.

The battery now has a capacity of 5,000 mAh (up from 4,500 mAh), while Sony has gone a step further than Apple and Samsung by removing not only the charger, but also the charging cable. If you buy or have a charger capable of delivering 30W of power, you should be able to get 50% charged in half an hour.

We haven’t seen or held the Xperia 1 IV yet, so we can’t say too much about the quality of the finish. It’s a very light phone, especially considering what it offers: 185g. That’s 10g lighter than the already very light Galaxy S22 Plus.

Our biggest disappointment with the phone is that Sony only promises two years of Android updates, with another year of security patches. This is bad for a high-end device, as Samsung offers more than four for its top phones.

The Xperia 1 IV will be available for purchase from June 16, 2022 for €1,399 / £1,299.

Reliable double

I reviewed the Xperia 1 III last year and loved it. However, I did have some issues, especially with regards to battery life; screen brightness and camera zoom performance. It seems that Sony has tried to correct these doubts. It’s not the biggest upgrade you’ll see, but I’m glad Sony continues to offer a phone that’s different from the rest of its flagships.

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