Sony xperia note ultra. Sony Xperia 1 IV review: An incredible phone that you probably shouldn t buy
Sony’s phone is only worth the admission price for a select few
Tom’s Guide Verdict
The Xperia 1 iV’s advanced and intricate creativity features will justify the high price of admission for a small group of people. While features like the detailed display or variable zoom telephoto camera have more mainstream appeal, they’re not enough by themselves to justify picking it over a Galaxy S22 Ultra, Google Pixel 6 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max.
- Highly adjustable photo/video apps
- Variable telephoto camera
- Detailed display with excellent speakers
- Unique design with microSD card and headphone jack
- – Very expensive
- – Not available in the U.S. until September
- – Unreliable fingerprint reader
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Price: £1,299/1,599 Display: 6.5-inch 4K OLED (3840 x 1644) Refresh rate: Adaptive 120Hz Rear cameras: 12MP main (f/1.7), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 12MP 3.5. 5.2x optical telephoto (f/2.3. 2.8) Front camera: 12MP Chipset: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 RAM: 12GB Storage: 256GB/512GB, expandable with microSD up to 1TB Battery: 5,000 mAh Charging: 30W wired/15W wireless Water/dust resistance: IP68/IP65 Size: 6.5 x 2.8 x 0.32 inches (165 x 71 x 8.2 mm) Weight: 6.5 ounces (185 grams)
The Sony Xperia 1 IV is a paradox. The latest phone from Sony comes with many excellent qualities but also an incredibly long list of potential negatives. It offers amazing potential value but is also unbelievably expensive. It’s Smart, but somehow can’t get some of the basics of phone functionality right.
Aimed at enthusiasts of all stripes,the Xperia 1 IV is designed by Sony to effectively replace part of your usual gear loadout, be that a still or video camera, a portable games console or even a portable recording set-up. But stuffing that much into one phone has also ballooned the price. Even worse for U.S. users, you can’t actually buy it yet, though the phone will eventually make it to the states.
This Sony Xperia 1 IV review will take you through the extreme highs and lows of this phone. Most people will wind up avoiding the Xperia 1 IV in favor of a more typical device off the best phones list. But others may be the right person with the right needs and the big budget required to enjoy this Xperia’s enormous potential.
Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Price and availability
You can buy the Sony Xperia 1 IV right now in the U.K., but the phone doesn’t go on sale in the U.S. until September 1.
At £1,299/1,599, the Xperia 1 IV costs £200 more than an iPhone 13 Pro Max and £150 more than a Galaxy S22 Ultra for potential British buyers. And the 1,599 price in the U.S. looks even worse for American buyers, since that’s the same price as the top-tier 1TB iPhone 13 Pro Max or S22 Ultra. Plus by the time it launches, we’ll almost be ready for the iPhone 14 series to arrive, and the iPhone 14 Pro models which rival the Xperia are looking to gain a whole lot of upgrades.
In return for that high price, the Xperia comes with 256GB storage by default in the U.K. and 512GB in the U.S., You may be significantly poorer for buying this phone, but at least you’ll get a good amount of storage for the price.
Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Design
I’ve described phones in the past as monolithic, but I think Sony‘s Xperia 1 IV takes the prize for being the most like the imposing structures from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The phone is much taller and narrower than comparable 6.5-inch handsets to better fit widescreen content. It’s also a fair bit lighter, so the Xperi 1 IV is very comfortable to hold and use with one hand, even with its flat sides, for a long period of time.
A lot of features you thought you may never see again on a flagship phone are present on the Xperia 1 IV, for better or worse. There’s a headphone jack, a notification light and a SIM/SD card tray you can remove without needing a SIM tool. You also get a separate camera shutter button to make taking photos easier when you’re holding the phone sideways.
If that wasn’t over-the-top enough, Sony’s been generous enough to get the Xperia 1 IV rated for water/dust resistance twice, with the phone qualifying as both IP65 (against water jets) and IP68 (against immersion in water). No need to worry about using this phone in the pouring rain then.
The power button acts as your fingerprint unlocking mechanism too, but for whatever reason I really found it difficult to operate reliably. I normally like this as a feature just as much as facial recognition or under-display scanners, but here it regularly fails to detect my thumbprint. Given how much else this phone’s capable of, I’m surprised Sony managed to mess this fairly simple part up.
Sony’s been generous enough to offer three colors, unlike previous Xperia phones. Your options are black, white and purple.
Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Display and speakers
Once you get over the strange aspect ratio, the Xperia’s 6.5-inch screen is enjoyable to watch and play games on. With a 4K resolution and a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, you have everything you need to enjoy your content.
The Xperia display’s sharpness rivals that of the Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max, and offers a color temperature somewhere between the two by default, which helped both the darker dramatic scenes and the brighter action set-pieces of the Uncharted movie look excellent.
The only downside is that the screen feels hemmed in due to the chunky top and bottom bezels. This means there’s no camera punch-hole or parts of your hand getting in the way of the action, but it’s still a design that makes the phone look a few years older than it actually is.
Everything sounds better coming from the Sony phone, thanks to well-balanced audio that outshines many smartphones. After testing some songs on the Xperia and the iPhone 13 Pro Max (including The Only Thing I Know For Real from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance), I still think the iPhone is better, but Sony’s now taken the No. 2 spot in terms of smartphone sound quality.
Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Cameras
Whether you like it or not, photography on the Xperia is informed by Sony’s Alpha camera series design. I test a lot of different phones and phone camera systems, and I’ve not come across anything quite like Sony’s offering.
Let’s start with the hardware though. All four sensors on the Xperia 1 IV — three on the back and one on the front — are 12MP in resolution. The rear camera array is made up of a main camera, an ultrawide angle lens and, arguably the centerpiece, s variable zoom telephoto lens that can seamlessly move from 3.5x to 5.2x zoom as you capture photos or video.
Let’s first compare a main camera shot from the Xperia and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. In this shot of All Saints Church in Tufnell Park, the iPhone’s image pops more with highlights like the pointing between the bricks being much more obvious. The Sony matches it for color richness, but its photo is far flatter.
Here’s a second shot I took using the main cameras on the Xperia and the Galaxy S22 Ultra, looking over Hawley Lock on Regent’s Canal. These two images are fairly similar, but the Samsung’s is a touch brighter and cooler, which helps bring out detail in the buildings on either side of the canal.
Sticking with the Sony and Samsung, we have here an ultrawide camera shot of a railway arch in the center of Camden Gardens park. The Xperia, as well as having a higher 0.7x magnification than the Galaxy’s 0.6x, produces a much darker image once again. Here, that’s to the Xperia’s advantage, making the tunnel look closer to how it did on the day. I do appreciate the extra detail in the brickwork and graffiti that you see in the Galaxy S22 Ultra photo, though.
To test the telephoto camera, I tried to FOCUS on an Egyptian goose I found perching on some stonework in the middle of Regent’s Canal, again using the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Xperia. There’s much more detail to see in the Samsung’s image, even though its basic zoom of 3x isn’t as powerful as the 3.5x lens in the Sony camera; it also uses a slightly lower 10MP resolution to Sony’s 12MP.
I tried taking this shot at 3/3.5x (above), 5.2x and 10x magnification to cover all the magnifications available on these phones.
The Samsung’s 10x image above was far sharper than the Sony’s. This is what you’d expect given it has a dedicated camera for this magnification, rather than having to rely on digital zoom like the Xperia.
The Sony took a better image at 5.2x, its own maximum native zoom, even if it still wasn’t too sharp taken by itself.
The Xperia has one extra trick up its sleeve here — adjustable optical zoom. Just like a regular camera, you can change the magnification of the telephoto camera with a slider on-screen, meaning you don’t lose out on image quality by not taking an image at the precise right zoom level. It’s unfortunate that the range is quite limited, only from 3.7x to 5.2x zoom, but it adds an extra layer of freedom when shooting objects that aren’t too far away.
Lastly for the rear cameras, I took some nighttime photos looking over the junction near Tufnell Park Underground Station. In this Xperia vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max shot, we see that the Xperia does a great job keeping the scene dark while details remain sharp, even though it doesn’t have a dedicated night mode like most phones. The brighter iPhone image also comes with increased bloom from the street lamps and car headlamps, which spoil the look of the image for me.
For the selfie portrait, I had to turn the incredibly aggressive face smoothing from the Sony down to zero before I got a shot that I liked the look of. Even then, it’s not a great shot of me. It’s still much softer, and I don’t think the coloring quite matches up to how good the iPhone’s is.
I took all of these photos in the Photography Pro app’s Basic mode, which is the most similar mode available to regular smartphone photography apps. However, you can enable other modes, or use the Cinema Pro or Video Pro apps that open up a huge number of options for users who know what they’re doing with things like FOCUS areas, ISO and white balance for still shots and video.
I have praised Samsung’s similar Expert RAW app for the Galaxy S22, but this is another level entirely that will definitely appeal to seasoned photographers and videographers. It also could help level the playing field with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, Galaxy S22 Ultra and the other best camera phones if you know what you’re doing.
Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Performance
Sony gave the Xperia the best possible start for performance on an Android phone by giving it this year’s leading Qualcomm chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, plus 12GB RAM. (Qualcomm has subsequently come out with the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 variant, so there will be more powerful Android phones out there than the Xperia 1 IV.)
After playing Grid Autosport, my favorite racing game, on the Sony phone, the Xperia 1 IV seemed to deliver a similar level of performance to other Android phones I’ve tried in terms of graphical fidelity and smoothness. However, as we can see in the table of test results below, the Xperia lags behind the iPhone 13 Pro Max on all counts, and behind the Galaxy S22 Ultra on two out of four tests on synthetic benchmarks.
Of particular note are the faster than average Adobe Premiere Rush times compared to both the Galaxy S22 Ultra and other Android phones. It would make sense for Sony to FOCUS on speeding up the Xperia’s video encoding given the phone’s target market of content creators, even if it can’t match the iPhone’s raw power.
For storage, you get either 256GB if you’re in the U.K., or 512GB if you’re in the U.S. That’s more than you get by default with any other phone, which helps offset the Xperia’s cost a little.
If you want even more space or the ability to easily transfer data between different devices, Sony’s phone offers a microSD card slot in the SIM tray, with support for up to another terabyte of space. The SIM tray is also easily removable with just a fingernail (while still being watertight), which makes it incredibly convenient to switch between multiple SD cards if you’re filling them up with all your photos and video.
Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Battery and charging
The Xperia 1 IV comes with a well-sized 5,000 mAh battery, but after two hours watching YouTube over Wi-Fi, the battery life had dropped by 22%. That’s greater power consumption than the other phones I’ve tested using this method such as the Honor Magic4 Pro, which only lost 10% charge over two and a half hours.
Battery drain on the Xperia 1 IV likely has to do with the phone’s high display resolution. I imagine if you’re using the phone for less power-hungry purposes over the course of the day as well, you’ll easily make it home at night with power to spare if you charged the phone fully that morning.
The Xperia’s charging is harder to grade since Sony provides neither a charger nor a cable in the box. If you go for Sony’s own 30W fast charger, you can get 50% charge in 30 minutes according to the company’s estimates, which is acceptably fast for most users. Unfortunately, the charger will set you back another £50.
Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Software
Much of the Xperia’s interface, based on Android 12, looks like stock Android, which should suit most users. What you’re less likely to enjoy are all the extra apps Sony’s loaded onto the phone.
Some of these are cool like the Cinema Pro, Video Pro and Music Pro apps for more detailed video and audio recording, the Playstation App and Headphones App for connectivity with your Playstation and Sony headphones/earbuds, but other additions like Netflix and Bravia Core streaming apps, a couple of Amazon apps plus social media like and LinkedIn seem unnecessary.
One unique ability that Sony added to its version of Android are the multi-window and pop-up window ability which lets you split two apps or open a popover window for multitasking. I love using these Windows on tablets, and having them at my disposal on my phone can prove equally useful if you need to cross-reference some details without swapping back and forth using the normal app switcher.
Sony Xperia 1 IV review: Verdict
Sony made the Xperia 1 IV for a very specific audience of professional or amateur creators who are happy to pay the extra over regular flagship phones for a device with camera features you won’t find anywhere else. And that’s why the phone’s most unique abilities, like the telephoto camera, display and unique design choices are also the best parts of the Xperia 1 IV experience.
If these advanced hardware and software abilities don’t interest you, this definitely isn’t the phone for you. Not only will you pay far too much, but things like the weak battery life or the fingerprint sensor will drive you mad without any upside.
Anyone with this much money to spend on an Android phone is probably better off selecting a Galaxy S22 Ultra, or a Galaxy S22 Plus or maybe even a Google Pixel 6 Pro if you want a similarly large and powerful phone with a bit of money left over. These are more conventional devices that take a lot of creative control away from the user but maybe that’s what’s right for you. We’re not all photography or cinematic geniuses who can get the most out of the Xperia’s pro apps.
On the other hand, if you like the sound of the creativity features you can get with the Sony but don’t have the money for it, you’ve still got options. An S22 Plus or S22 Ultra with Expert RAW and Pro Video enabled, or an iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro with its Photographic Styles, ProRAW/ProRes and Cinematic Mode will give you some extra toys to play with when shooting, while hopefully remaining in your budget. Plus you can buy these right now, instead of having to wait a few months if you’re a U.S. buyer.
Richard is a Tom’s Guide senior writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he’s also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he’s likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.
Sony Xperia 1 IV vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: an ultra-premium showdown
Sony has announced the Sony Xperia 1 IV, its major flagship smartphone hope of 2022.
We’ve always admired the Xperia 1 range as the technically impressive, resolutely niche devices that they invariably are. But Sony’s phones have never approached the mainstream appeal of the Samsung Galaxy S range.
So how is the Sony Xperia 1 IV likely to fare against Samsung’s latest flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra? Let’s take a closer look at the facts and figures and see if Sony has a fighting chance against the world’s best smartphone.
Sony Xperia 1 IV vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: price and availability
The Sony Xperia 1 IV will hit shops on June 16 in the UK and Europe, and September 1 in the US. In the US there’s a single 512GB model that will retail for 1,599, while the UK and Europe get a single 256GB model priced at £1,299 / €1,399.
We’re not expecting the Xperia 1 IV to launch in Australia, based on the company’s previous release patterns.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra went on sale on February 25, 2022. start at 1,199.99 / £1,149 / AU1,849 for the 8GB RAM/128GB model, moving up to 1,299.99 / £1,249 / AU1,999 for 12GB/256GB and 1,399.99 / £1,329 / AU2,149 for 12GB/512GB, and topping out at 1,599.99 / £1,499 / AU2,449 for the 12GB/1TB top dog.
In terms of choice of specs and price points, the Samsung clearly wins.
Sony Xperia 1 IV vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: design
The Sony Xperia 1 IV sports the brand’s signature boxy aesthetic, with dead-flat surfaces and a matte finish to the glass rear. Sony always makes its flagship phones taller/longer than most of the competition, and the Sony Xperia 1 IV follows suit with a 165 x 71 x 8.2mm body. It’s relatively light at 185g too.
That unusual height comes down to two things: a 21:9 aspect ratio for the display (more on which later), and larger-than-average top and bottom bezels. The latter is down to Sony’s insistence on keeping the selfie camera away from the display for an uninterrupted picture.
You can always find interesting details around the rim of a Sony flagship, and here there’s the brand’s signature two-stage camera shutter button on the right edge, so on the top of the phone when it’s held in landscape orientation, while on the top there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack. The message is clear: this is a phone for the cinema purists, photographers, and audiophiles out there.
The Sony Xperia 1 IV is available in black, white, or purple, which is a much smaller range of colors than the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which gives you Phantom Black, Phantom White, Sky Blue, burgundy, green, graphite and red options.
Indeed, the Samsung does everything bigger, with a body size of 163 x 77.9 x 8.9mm and a weight of 229g. Samsung’s design language is much more in-your-face than Sony’s too, with gently curved side edges contrasting with a perfectly flat top and bottom. We called the Samsung “an inarguably beautiful device” in our review, but its OTT style isn’t for everyone.
Both Samsung and Sony have resisted the temptation to slap on an ostentatious camera module, with Sony going with a single lozenge-shaped array while Samsung separates out each lens. On the front, Samsung has gone with a punch-hole punch cut-out, while Sony, as mentioned, puts the selfie camera in the top bezel.
As for water and dust resistance, the Sony Xperia 1 IV gets the more thorough IP68/IP65 certification, while the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has just the standard IP68. They’re both water- and dust-proof, but Sony has gone the extra mile to prove it.
Sony Xperia 1 IV vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: display
Both of these phones excel in the display stakes, but for different reasons.
For the Sony Xperia 1 IV, it’s all about the OLED display’s combination of an unusually sharp 4K (3840 x 1644) resolution, a wide 21:9 aspect ratio, and the complete lack of a notch. Together, this makes this phone the best suited to viewing 4K video content – especially now that Sony has upped the maximum brightness by 50% compared to the slightly dim Xperia 1 III.
With Samsung, the specs are a little more traditional, but no less impressive for it. This AMOLED display is bigger and brighter than the Sony at 6.8 inches and a maximum 1,750 nits respectively.
It’s not as sharp at 3200 x 1440 (QHD), but you could hardly call it lacking on this front.
You also get a more traditional 19.3:9 aspect ratio, which makes it better suited to non-landscape content – that is, almost everything except for videos and some games.
Both AMOLED displays feature LTPO panel technology, so both can scale their refresh rates between 1Hz and 120Hz according to the task. That’s good news for energy efficiency.
All in all, Samsung’s screen is probably the best on the market, but Sony is coming with a unique offering for cinephiles.
Sony Xperia 1 IV vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: camera
The Sony Xperia 1 IV features a triple 12MP camera system, which doesn’t sound half as impressive as the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 108MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide and twin 10MP telephoto combo.
However, that would be to misunderstand what both manufacturers are shooting for here, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Sony has always taken the approach of prioritizing shooting speed, class-leading autofocus, and good old-fashioned sensor size over megapixel counts and image processing. The Xperia 1 IV’s main image sensor captures 1.8µm pixels compared to the S22 Ultra’s 0.8µm, though the latter uses pixel binning (combining multiple pixels into one larger pixel) to compensate.
Sony goes for more hands-on control, as evidenced by that physical shutter button. You also get a more in-depth pro-level camera app that resembles the interface in the company’s Alpha line of cameras.
Samsung’s camera UI isn’t short of pro-level controls if you want them, but it’s more geared as a point and shoot camera – and it’s exceptional in this respect, with new Adaptive Pixel technology bolstering image quality.
Virtually every image we shot with the phone during our test period looked great, albeit with Samsung’s signature oversaturated palette. Sony has traditionally favored a much more muted, natural look for photos.
The biggest clash this time around could be in the zoom stakes. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra offers without question the best telephoto zoom performance on the market, with a 10MP 3x lens and a separate 10MP 10x lens combining/working in tandem to capture phenomenally sharp zoomed shots.
This year, however, Sony could have an answer to Samsung in the shape of the world’s first continuous optical zoom system in a smartphone. You can move from 70mm to 125mm (roughly 3.5x to 5.2x) with no jumps or digital trickery in between.
On the video front, the Xperia 1 IV can now capture 4K video at up to 120fps, while the S22 Ultra can manage 8K at 24fps or 4K at up to 60fps.
On the selfie camera front, Sony has gone with a 12MP one, while Samsung has used a more pixel-dense 40MP example.
Sony Xperia 1 IV vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: specs and performance
The Sony Xperia 1 IV is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, as is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra in the US and most other territories; in the UK and Europe, however, you’re getting Samsung’s own Exynos 2200 chip.
While the Exynos is a perfectly capable processor, it’s not quite as capable as the Snapdragon, as proven by benchmark tests.
You likely won’t notice the difference in general use, of course, with both phones handling multi-tasking and 3D gaming fairly effortlessly during our testing. But together with the Sony Xperia 1 IV’s standard 12GB of RAM (the Samsung starts at 8GB), it’s enough to make us lean towards Sony here, particularly if you’re in the UK.
When it comes to storage, Sony gives you 256GB in the UK and Europe, or 512GB if you’re in the US, while Samsung gives all its customers a much broader range of options of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB.
While the Sony is all about the unique features, Samsung has one notable ace up its sleeve: the S Pen. Samsung has brought this over from its now-defunct Note range, offering an advanced stylus that slots into the body of the phone.
This won’t be for everyone, but if you like to physically scrawl notes or make sketches, it’s the best system of its kind on a phone.
Opinions vary on the relative software offerings, but Sony’s UI is traditionally lighter and closer to stock Android than Samsung’s. Conversely, Samsung tends to go further with customization potential and power features.
Sony Xperia 1 IV vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: battery
Both of these phones come equipped with 5,000mAh batteries, which is pretty standard (albeit far from uniform) for modern flagship Android phones.
We’ll have to wait and see how that translates into battery endurance for the Sony, though that 4K panel will inevitably drink the juice.
We do know that the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s battery life was somewhat underwhelming in our tests, with the phone barely making it through a full day of varied activity.
Neither phone is particularly impressive when it comes to charging speeds. Sony supports 30W wired charging support, while Samsung goes to 45W.
Given that some rivals are now hitting 80, 100, or 120W, we remain unmoved, especially given that neither manufacturer gives you a charging brick in the box – given the price being asked for both phones, that’s a bit of a shocker.
Sony Xperia 1 IV vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: takeaway
Sony looks to have brought some subtle but potentially meaningful improvements to its latest flagship, particularly with its increased battery capacity and souped-up camera zoom.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is, however, widely regarded as the best Android phone on the market. It’s got the same-sized battery as the Xperia 1 IV, and is known for its phenomenal zoom capabilities. Can Sony really hope to top it?
It’s arguable that Sony isn’t particularly focused on doing so, as strange as it may sound. Its devices are niche affairs aimed at photographers, videographers, and audiophiles, and the Xperia 1 IV looks set to offer even broader appeal to creative types.
We’ll know more come June 16 when the Sony Xperia 1 IV joins the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra on the market. Stay tuned for our full review of Sony’s new flagship.
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Sony Xperia Pro Review: Much Than Just a Phone
Don’t think of the Sony Xperia Pro as another run-of-the-mill attempt at relevance in the consumer smartphone market. That’s not who this phone is for, and that becomes patently obvious just taking it out of the box.
The experiential side of things only makes that clearer, as I’ll point out in this review. It had been at least a few years since I last tested a Sony handset, so going into something like the Xperia Pro didn’t feel all that familiar — and that’s because it’s not supposed to be for the average consumer.
The 2,500 price tag already serves notice on that, but being a photographer as well —- and one who owns a Sony mirrorless camera —- my familiarity had more to do with how much the Xperia Pro borrows from the company’s cameras. I dare say, this may be the first phone I’ve truly used that felt like it was made for photographers, videographers, and content creators.
Design and Build
Sony basically repurposed its Xperia 1 Mark II to make the Xperia Pro, except for some key differences. The Micro HDMI port is arguably the biggest because it enables the device to connect to cameras and become a monitor. Indeed, it succeeds in being the first phone to double as a 4K OLED HDR monitor. This one feature is the backbone of the entire device, for the simple fact nothing else is doing it right now.
The implications therein are pretty significant. 4K OLED HDR monitors can be terribly expensive, but those who have them rely on them to better gauge how a video will look after applying color correction or LUTs to video footage. So, rather than bringing in an extra piece of bulky equipment, the Xperia Pro can sit in instead. The 6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED (3840 x 1644) with 21:9 aspect ratio can do 10-bit playback, though its peak brightness may not be as it seems on paper.
Plus, it’s a utilitarian device that does more than just display an image when you start looking at the other elements that go with it. It’s a 5G-enabled phone capable of live-streaming at higher quality when maximizing the next-gen wireless network. Tether with a camera via USB-C and save images to the phone instead, taking advantage of Cloud services or direct editing on the phone or computer later. The 512GB of internal storage can handle images by the boatload, and with the full breadth of Android onboard, your creative workflow just starts to feel lighter.
However, I’ll note as I go along here, there are caveats along the way. For example, you can’t use the phone’s storage as an alternative when capturing video — it has to save to a memory card first, and then you can transfer it over. However, the latest Sony Alpha firmware (v4.0) now lets you transfer images over to an FTP server while shooting, including both JPEG and RAW files. It was previously limited to just the Sony A7S III, but has since expanded to other models, too.
Still, you will need a card that can handle whatever it is you’re shooting. The Xperia Pro doesn’t speed up any of the capture process, only the workflow, provided you have all the right tools in place.
Setup and Compatibility
It was a wise move to make the Xperia Pro compatible with non-Sony cameras. As popular as the company’s mirrorless lineup is right now, there are plenty of Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic shooters out there.
The main reason for that is arguably convenience, but also credibility. The phone weighs a modest 225 grams and sports a 4,000mAh battery, two specs anyone could appreciate in the field. The phone’s External Monitor app is agnostic, and most importantly, is part of a familiar platform in Android. This is a smartphone, not a standalone device, so you essentially have the full breadth of a mobile operating system to go with the particular imaging features.
Sony even added ancillary things to the app to support connected cameras. The 180-degree flip reorients the screen to reduce any contortion with the Micro HDMI cable in case the port is on the opposite side of the camera. Grid lines, frame lines, brightness, screen lock and zoom magnification (2x, 3x, 4x) round out some of the available options. Double-tap or pinch-to-zoom the screen and it moves closer (based on the set magnification), but doesn’t allow you to select FOCUS points or control the camera’s own features and settings. It just gives you a bigger screen to see what you’re doing.
I did run into some issues where the phone would just go black when I pressed the preview button to see a shot I just took, only to then randomly fix itself at a later time. I also could never get the USB-C tethering to work properly, and Sony told me it’s likely because I had a pre-production unit still running Android 10. As an alternative, I set up Sony’s Imaging Edge Mobile app to transfer images on the fly instead, all in original quality, not the 2MB default. It was a reasonable workaround, except I couldn’t use the FTP tethering feature that way.
OLED screens are fabulous, but they don’t do quite as well in sunlight, and that’s where I struggled a little to actually see what I was looking at. I ramped up the brightness setting, which helped a little, but Sony would’ve been better served increasing the nits on this panel.
Out in the Field
Sony provided me with a SmallRig for my camera for the purposes of this review, though it wasn’t an exact fit since it was for the A7S III, not the A7 III. Despite that, I got it to fit well enough to take out in the field and gauge the different use cases for such a setup. It was easy to attach a smartphone grip using a cold shoe adapter, though a ballhead would’ve been better for tilting the Xperia Pro when necessary.
I’m not one for selfies or vlogging, personally, but there’s real utility in this setup. Turn the screen around, and you can pretty much do anything you normally would when the lens faces you. It’s harder to see where you are in the frame if you step back too far on a bright sunny day, but otherwise, you should manage fine. If you use your DSLR or mirrorless camera for Zoom calls, you could make use of the same kind of setup as well. With the USB-C port in play, there’s plenty of room for some experimentation with different setups and layouts.
I found the OLED screen’s better contrast a real benefit in low-light shooting because it gave me some fair warning when noise might be an issue. Not with any visual pop-up, mind you, just the level of HDR and color correction built-in to the unit. As a monitor, the Xperia Pro helped when changing settings for different shots, since the menu was easier to view and navigate on a much larger display.
My review unit didn’t have full 5G access — I live in Canada, and the Xperia Pro is not currently for sale in Canada due to this limitation — so I couldn’t test out any live-streaming functionality. But, at least in theory, such a scenario wouldn’t be out of reach. It’s just a question of how much data you’ll need to live stream whatever it is you’re doing.
Internal Camera Features
Whatever the exact RS Exmor image sensors are inside, they’re the same as the Xperia 1 Mark II so don’t expect different output here. Each of the three lenses also simulates the most common focal lengths. The 12MP ultra-wide is a 16mm equivalent, the 12MP standard is a 24mm equivalent, and the 12MP 3x telephoto is at 70mm. Between them, digital zoom closes the gaps, so you can shoot from 16-200mm. I detest digital zoom, so tried hard to stay away from that, but it’s there in any case. There is a 3D Time-of-Flight sensor on board, too.
The main sensor is large for a phone at 1/1.7-inch, which is bigger than we’ve seen from most phones to date. Samsung has the ISOCELL GW1 in the same size in select phones, like the Galaxy S20 Ultra, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, and Galaxy S21 Ultra, but not the extent of Sony’s feature set here.
While there is a regular camera app, it’s the Photo Pro app that has the real goodies. Think of it like a Pro or Manual mode, albeit with the familiarity of Sony’s Alpha line. The settings and adjustments are very much what you’d expect, giving you full control over how you shoot. The dedicated hard shutter on the phone’s side also simplifies things further.
I chose to shoot everything in JPEG RAW, since I established a decent workflow whereby I could immediately upload selected RAW files to Lightroom for editing. There was no real seamless way to automate that, so it was largely a manual exercise, but it did at least get the ball rolling.
It’s great that the Xperia Pro can do 20fps bursts, except both Hi and Lo Continuous bursts were greyed out anytime I chose to save in RAW, either alone or in tandem with a JPEG. That applied to all three lenses, somewhat limiting the ability to capture an action scene unprocessed. The good news is that AF face and eye detection are included, and they work really well.
The standard lens has a fixed f/1.7 aperture, so there’s room to pull in some light, but the image sensor, while large for a phone, can’t work miracles in every night or low-light situation. It’s hard to avoid noise, even if you play around with long exposure settings, and like with other phones, increasing the ISO is just opening the floodgates for all that grain to show up.
But Photo Pro is the kind of app that lets you get creative and try things out. Once you find a settings combo that works for you, you can lock it in place and go from there. I didn’t see an option for presets in the interface, though, unless I missed that somewhere. I shot whatever I could, including action scenes to get a sense of what was possible here. than likely, you’ll need to edit what you got, but the RAW files at least leave wiggle room to do so. Not so much for the JPEGs.
I like that Sony just left color as it is because there’s no gimmicky saturation or processing going on. That’s why, at first, images looked a little muted to me, but looking through the settings, I saw that D-Range Optimizer was on by default and Soft Skin effect was off. The idea is clearly to capture images the way you see fit, not relying on computational software to figure that out. Novice shooters might find it daunting, which is why Sony includes the regular camera app as well. Then again, novice shooters aren’t likely to buy this phone.
To me, the best images come out of Photo Pro. I worked on the sample shots here in Lightroom, and I think they illustrate the limits involved. Optimal conditions make a big difference, and you do have the option to use continuous AF when you want to track a subject.
I really focused on still photography while testing the Xperia Pro, but I can see the allure for videographers of all stripes. The Cinema Pro app not only records in 4K at 24, 25, 30, and 60 frames per second but also slow-motion at 120 frames per second. It has built-in LUTs to choose from, plus the ability to change ISO, white balance, shutter, FOCUS, and switch between the three lenses. Hybrid optical and electronic stabilization help keep things steady, and in my limited testing, I can attest to its ability that way.
I did notice the device could run a little hot after repeatedly shooting in 4K, or leaving it to record for longer periods. The warning pops up for the video in the regular camera app, but Cinema Pro can tax the phone’s processor just the same.
You can save footage in H.264 or HEVC (H.265) with 10-bit encoding in the BT.2020 color space. Theoretically, you could set things up so that the phone captures the same scene as your camera does from a different angle, through an articulating arm or some other setup. Again, there’s plenty of room to get creative.
A Unique Phone for Unique Needs
I haven’t even gotten into how good the Xperia Pro is as a gaming phone, and that it works flawlessly (and beautifully, given the screen) with Cloud services like Xbox Game Pass. It plays streaming video wonderfully and is very useful for editing photos on the fly. With everything I’ve touched on already, it’s sometimes hard to remember this is a full-fledged Android phone.
It’s also unique because of its ability to be a double-duty device. If you have no interest or inclination to use this as a camera monitor, it’s simply not worth it otherwise. There are other phones great at mobile gaming and performing versatile functions. But as a live camera monitor? There’s nothing else really like it, at least for now.
Are There Alternatives?
The closest alternative would probably be Sony’s own Xperia 1 Mark II, except that device doesn’t have the Micro HDMI port and four 5G antennas. Plus, this one is a little more rugged, making it ideal for field use. While identical or iterative in every other way, Sony clearly made this device to address a need and carve out a more specialized niche.
Should You Buy It?
Sure, if you can justify the 2,500 price tag. Sony doesn’t say this outright, but I suspect the rationale is that, when combining the price of a monitor, phone, and other gear, the cost seems more palatable. Throw in better battery life, lighter weight, 5G functionality, Google Play Store access, and a good built-in camera, and the value only increases.
I would say that’s subjective because you could also buy a good lens for that money, so this is a value proposition aimed at pros who can spend that much and be cool with it.
Sony Xperia Z Ultra (Unlocked) Review
The well-built, beautiful Sony Xperia Z Ultra is the biggest, baddest Android smartphone you’ll find, but at 6.4 inches, it takes things to such a ridiculous extreme that we’re not even sure it actually qualifies as a phone.
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- Big, beautiful 1080p display.
- Slim, refined design.
- Fast Snapdragon 800 processor.
- Incredible battery life.
Picking up the 6.44-inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’m convinced that no mere mortal could wield this beast as their actual phone. At the same time, it’s hard not to get sucked in by the superb 1080p display, blazing fast performance, and elegant design. Sony’s only offering this phone in an unlocked version for a lofty 679.99 (list), though, so its appeal instantly becomes limited. Is bigger better? Is the biggest the best? With the Z Ultra, Sony aims to find out.
If you’re in the market for a big unlocked phone, you’re probably better off with the 350 Google Nexus 5 (729.00 at Amazon) (Opens in a new window). our current unlocked Editors’ Choice, or the Galaxy Note 3. our top pick for phablets. But if you’re currently considering the Galaxy Mega or some other monstrous device, then the Z Ultra is the best you can get in the over-6-inch-screen category.
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Design, Features, and Display Without any reference for scale, it would be easy to mistake the Z Ultra for its smaller sibling, the Xperia Z. It’s got the same all-glass front and back design, but here the edges are finished in brushed aluminum as opposed to plastic and glass. Despite its massive 7.04-inch height and 3.62-inch width, the Z Ultra is impressively thin at just 0.26 inch, which is thinner than the 0.3-inch iPhone 5s ( at Amazon) (Opens in a new window). At 7.48 ounces, it’s also not unreasonably heavy, especially given its size. Its gargantuan footprint dwarfs the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, though, and it’s nearly half an inch taller than the 6.6-inch tall Galaxy Mega, making it just comically large.
I can comfortably hold the Z Ultra with one hand, but that’s about it—my thumb can barely reach about 25 percent of the display while maintaining a secure grip. It also didn’t fit into most of my pants s without jutting out, which is a deal breaker for me since I don’t always have a coat or bag with me. Samsung got Lebron James to make its huge Galaxy Note line look relatively normal, but I’m not sure there’s a big enough human that can do the same for the Z Ultra. Still, if you’re even considering this phone, you already know that this is strictly a two-handed proposition.
Google Nexus 5 (Unlocked)
Along the right edge are Power and Volume buttons, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a flap covering the SIM card tray and microSD card slot. The side-mounted headphone jack makes it even more impractical to keep this thing in pants s. On the left side is a flap covering the micro USB port for charging and syncing. Both help keep dust and water out—the Z Ultra meets IP55 and IP58 standards for dust and water resistance, which means you can submerge the phone in up to 1.5 meters (almost 5 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes. The Z Ultra had no problem surviving our dunk test for more than a half hour; just make sure those flaps are securely closed before you subject the phone to any elements.
The 6.44-inch, 1920-by-1080-pixel TFT display is top-notch, boasting a sharp 342 pixels per inch and a wide viewing angle. Sony touts its Triluminos technology here, which purportedly delivers a wider color gamut and more vivid images than standard LCDs. I lined the Z Ultra up against the HTC One and the Galaxy Note 3. I found that the Z Ultra’s display compared very favorably with the One, showing similarly clean whites, inkier blacks, and largely comparable color reproduction. The Z Ultra has slightly more saturated colors, but doesn’t verge into the eye-popping saturation you see on the Note 3’s AMOLED display. The Z Ultra’s display is the dimmest of the trio, though, with maximum brightness leaving a bit to be desired. Sony also talks up the X-Reality feature, which basically bumps up color vibrancy—that feature can be turned off in the settings if you want, but it was pretty hard to tell any real difference either way.
Network and Call Quality The handset comes unlocked, supporting UMTS (850/900/1700/1900/2100MHz), GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz), and LTE (Bands I, II, III, IV, V, VII, VIII, and XX). That means here in the states, it’ll work on ATT and T-Mobile with 4G LTE support for both. I popped both carriers’ SIMs in and had no trouble connecting to either network. The Z Ultra also supports 802.11a/b/g/n networks on the 2.4 and 5GHz bands, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS.
I performed call quality tests over T-Mobile in New York City and the results were pretty solid. Voices coming through the earpiece sound full and clear with good maximum volume. Transmissions through the mic sound a bit muffled, but are otherwise natural sounding. Noise cancellation worked well in my tests, as the Z Ultra blocked out a good amount of loud street noise, but I did notice a persistent hiss. This is to say nothing of the absurdity of using such a large device for voice calls, though—this phone will be bigger than most people’s faces. In my tests, the Z Ultra lasted for over 24 hours of continuous talk time, a truly herculean effort.
Hardware Performance, Android, and Multimedia The Z Ultra is powered by a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB RAM, which is the same processor powering the Nexus 5. Performance is comparable between the two, and the Z Ultra absolutely blazes through anything you throw at it, earning top marks across the board in synthetic tests. Graphically intensive games like Asphalt 8 and Riptide GP2 ran flawlessly and looked absolutely awesome, while complicated Web pages loaded quickly and without issue. Apps launch nearly instantaneously and everything looks pretty amazing on that giant display. It really feels like a slightly smaller and slightly faster Nexus 7 (99.99 at Amazon) (Opens in a new window).
Aesthetically, I’m a big fan of Sony’s Android skin, running atop 4.2.2 here on the Z Ultra. It’s got the same refined feel as the physical design, with useful additions that aren’t overdone. The notification shade has a strip of customizable quick settings shortcuts, while swiping to the right on the app drawer gives you options for organizing your apps or deleting them directly from the app drawer. At the bottom of the recent apps list is a strip of shortcuts for Sony’s floating apps, but the implementation here has been stripped down a bit. You get basic utilities like a small notepad or calculator that you can move around and resize at will, but its email and browser apps aren’t all that useful. Instead of being able to read emails directly in the floating window or navigate to Web pages in the window, you simply get shortcuts that launch the Gmail or Chrome browsers. Multitasking is something that Samsung nails on the Note 3, which really takes advantage of the massive screen real estate—Sony should follow suit to really unleash the power of the Z Ultra.
Our 16GB Z Ultra came with 11.79GB of free internal storage, and a 64GB SanDisk microSD card worked fine for expanding storage. Media support is pretty solid, as the Z Ultra played all of our audio test files except WMA. For video, the Z Ultra played all of our video formats, including DivX and Xvid files at up to 1080p resolution.
The 8-megapixel rear-facing camera can’t keep up with cameras found on the iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxy S4. It takes average shots with decent detail in good light, but struggles in low light with its lack of an LED flash. Granted, LED flashes on smartphones are generally pretty harsh, but the alternative here is blurry or overly grainy shots. Video tops out at 1080p and framerates hovered around 30 frames per second, though it dropped frames in lower light leading to some choppiness in footage.
Conclusions The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is an absolute monster of a phone, but it’s also an elegantly designed, blazing fast monster of a phone. I’m torn here because I’m convinced that no one in their right mind would want to use this as their everyday phone. But it’s also so well-built and powerful, and that big screen is so nice for media consumption and gaming, that it really ends up feeling like one of the better small-screen tablets I’ve ever used. If you want a top-performing, always-connected tablet, though, you can get the Nexus 7 with an LTE radio for nearly half the price.
I get that some people can’t get enough of their giant phones, but while phablets like the Galaxy Note 3 are inconveniently big, the Z Ultra is impractically big. And where the Note line adds new and worthwhile features that actually justify the added screen real estate, the Z Ultra is nothing more than a really nice phone with a really big screen. I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to compare the Z Ultra with the Note 3, however, and it almost seems like we need a new category for these monstrous devices. The Galaxy Mega and HTC One Max are really the only other Android devices in the Z Ultra’s class, and while we haven’t tested the One Max yet, the Z Ultra handily beats the Galaxy Mega in every regard. Those who are partial to Windows Phone should consider the Nokia Lumia 1520, which has one of the best cameras we’ve seen in a smartphone. If you’re hell bent on having the biggest, baddest, best-built Android phone in the land, the Z Ultra fills the bill. But if you just want the best affordable unlocked phone, go for the the Nexus 5.
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