Sony Xperia 10 IV review: one compromise too many

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Budget phones require compromises, but they have to be compromised in the right places, so as not to ruin the phone. The Sony Xperia 10 IV is a classic example of what happens when you choose to make some of the wrong compromises.

At first glance, this has the makings of a good phone. But in a world where the Phone with nothing (1)the Google Pixel 6aand the iPhone SE 2022 exist, Sony has made too great a reduction in the Xperia formula which hurts the 10 IV against its competitors.

I know the score and those first two paragraphs may have revealed how I feel about this phone but let me explain in a bit more detail and if Sony is reading this (hi, by the way) give some comments on what can be done next time to have a better chance of budget supremacy.

Sony Xperia 10 IV prices and configurations

The Sony Xperia 10 IV comes in four colors (black, white, mint and lavender), but with just one configuration: 6GB of RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage for £429. There is no official availability in the US, but you can purchase one at Amazon for $380 (opens in a new tab) at present.

This price puts it in the crosshairs of the iPhone SE and the Google Pixel 6a, alongside the other competitors I mentioned above.

Sony Xperia 10 IV design

Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: future)

Sony’s Xperia phones have a distinct aesthetic, and while the Xperia 10 IV sports an economical combination of glass and plastic, the refined, utilitarian personality makes an elegant impression.

The flat sides are covered in a soft-touch plastic that’s comfortable to hold, the SIM tray is easily removed without the need for a pin, and the two buttons on the right edge (RIP dedicated camera shutter button) are nice placed for your thumb to fall gracefully. As for ports, you get two: a USB-C and a warmly welcomed 3.5mm headphone jack.

This long slab figure stands out the most when you break down the dimensions: 6.0 x 2.6 x 0.3 inches with a weight of 5.7 ounces. It’s bigger, but thinner and lighter than the Pixel 6a (5.9 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches, 6.3 ounces), while the iPhone SE is significantly smaller in every measurement ( 5.2 x 2.5 x 0.3 inches, 5.0 ounces).

Unlike the Xperia 1 IV, this longer shape with a half inch cut at the top is easier to pack into smaller pockets, which is a welcome change of pace for me and my skinny jeans, and adds up to a pretty solid design and refined all around. Plus, there’s IP68 water resistance – a rarity in phones at this price.

Sony Xperia 10 IV screen

Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: future)

The display has always been a strong point of Sony’s smartphones, and the Xperia 10 IV is no different. Here you’ll find a 6-inch OLED panel with a resolution of 2520 x 1080 pixels and the company’s patented TRILUMINOS display technology for improved color and contrast. If refresh rate is a big deal for you, look elsewhere as this display is limited to just 60Hz.

With that bad news, the end result of OLED is vibrant color and impressive depth. Taking advantage of the OLED advantages of the screen, the trailer for Spider-Man: No Coming Home emanated from depth in darker scenes, really making the brighter effects of Doctor Strange’s spells shine.

Overall, the display offers an enjoyable viewing experience that matches other OLED displays you see at this price point in terms of detail and vibrant color.

Sound Sony Xperia 10 IV

Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: future)

A powerful display needs powerful sound for on-the-go listening without headphones, but Sony is dropping the ball here with heavily compromised stereo speakers.

They are small, tiny and are vulnerable to distortion at volumes above 60%. When under intense pressure with intense, bass-heavy metalcore like Evite’s “The Burner” EP, it all turns into a crusty mess.

Luckily, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack here, so you can capitalize on some LDAC hi-res audio codecs, and Bluetooth 5.1 grants the best wireless headphones access to the company’s fantastic 360 Reality Audio for true spatial sound.

Performance of the Sony Xperia 10 IV

Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: future)

Let’s get into some speeds and feeds. The Sony Xperia 10 IV packs a Snapdragon 695 5G chipset, along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage, which can be expanded by an additional 1TB via the microSD card slot.

Putting the phone through its paces, Sony’s budget slab achieved a Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 1,354, while 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited tests see graphics prowess reach an overall score of just 1,205, with a frequency of average images of only 7.2 fps.

Comparatively, the Pixel 6a takes the lead with a Geekbench score of 2,918 and a 3DMark frame rate of 42 fps, but the iPhone SE’s A15 Bionic goes wild with comparative scores of 4,482 and 50 fps , respectively.

I can understand that budget phones will rarely get the latest and greatest, but the jump to a Snapdragon 695 is too far from a step up when you consider what the competition is running.

Ultimately, this unfortunately impacts day-to-day performance, as multitasking and anything that requires more CPU than the average social media app is capable of slowing the framerate to a crawl. If you have a basic smartphone workload, you’ll be fine, but nothing more and you’ll stress it out with the utmost of ease.

Sony Xperia 10 IV battery life and charging

With weaker internals and the beastly 5,000 mAh battery that Sony squeezed into the Xperia 10 IV, the longevity of this panel is extremely impressive.

Waking up at 8am, I spent an entire day until 8pm with the usual work/entertainment (emails, calls, social media, taking quick photos, Spotify day, games and Youtube in my own time) with 25% battery remaining.

And with fast charging support, you can recharge to 80% in about 30 minutes, helping to avoid battery life issues, though they’ll be rare thanks to Supreme Endurance.

Sony Xperia 10 IV Cameras

Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: future)

On the back you have a triple camera setup consisting of a 12MP main sensor with f/1.8 aperture, an 8MP telephoto with f/2.2 and an 8MP ultrawide with f/2.2 aperture and a lens at 120 degrees.

On the front, there’s an 8MP selfie snapper with an f/2.0 aperture and to sum up that camera system in a nutshell, the Xperia 10 IV packs a versatile camera system that’s good in most circumstances.

Details are crisp from the primary rear camera, and color science delivers a beautifully balanced image, paired with expressive contrast that makes every image truly impactful in most lighting conditions.

Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on the main lens does a bit of a job for low-light photography, but it can’t overcome slightly narrower images, leading to noisy photos that lack detail .

Ultra-wide shots are noticeably worse in image quality, as the edges of the image can start to look a bit cakey and the light balance is a real struggle for that. Without the benefit of OIS, night shots are very blurry. You can easily see the same from the telephoto lens, which gives similar mulch results.

But my main problem is with all the cameras and the software in particular. You see, smartphone photography requires quick focus for those fleeting moments. Pressing the shutter button takes you through a rigmarole of watching the phone focus and recording the image which takes about 2-3 seconds.

Also, when I was impatient and put the phone in my pocket after immediately pressing the shutter, I was presented with a blurry mess. So while others have taken the picture and moved on, you’re still waiting – not ideal!

Fortunately, the front camera creates detailed and colorful images with a happy lack of AI beautification features. It produces honest images from start to finish, which is rare among many Android phones at this price.

As for video, you can shoot up to 1080p 60fps (not 4K), which produces the predictable lackluster results with slow autofocus you’ve come to expect. Overall, this is a disappointing camera system that does the job it should, but makes it difficult for you.

Sony Xperia 10 IV Software

Sony Xperia 10 IV

(Image credit: future)

The Sony Xperia 10 IV works Android 12 with zero bloatware except for a link to a free 3-month Tidal subscription for lossless audio streaming. The UI overlays added to help you overcome the larger display are useful, with easy access to split-screen multitasking and the Side Sense bar for additional control.

However, Sony stumbles with support for software updates. While there’s no official policy on how long the company will support the Xperia 1 IV, history suggests you’ll get two years worth of updates. It’s disappointing, because you can get better software support from cheaper phones.

At the end of the line

And that ends the story of the Sony Xperia 10 IV: the budget phone that looks promising, but falls on significant hurdles.

The Xperia formula remains largely intact, and I have to give credit to the impressive battery life and official IP rating (something a lot of phones at this price lack). But with compromised internals, a lackluster camera system, and a relatively high price for what you get, it’s starting to fall behind.

Budget phones are all about compromise, but Sony needs to check its priorities (camera, screen) and keep an eye on what the competition is doing, so as not to fall back into this trap.

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