The pitch for the Sony Xperia 10 IV won me over immediately. Here’s a cheaper Sony phone that costs the same as its rivals while offering a bunch of features you basically never see at this price range. Sounds brilliant to me.
The problem the Xperia 10 IV faces is that there's very stiff competition to be found in this part of the phone market. Sony’s phone goes up against the OnePlus Nord 2T with its all-around quality, the Google Pixel 6a and its excellent photography, the Samsung Galaxy A53 and its big beautiful display, and the iPhone SE (2022) with its amazing performance and slick software.
Fortunately, Sony's found its own niche, as the Xperia 10 IV offers superior battery life to all of those rivals, while including a lot of conveniences like headphone and SD card ports that are becoming harder to find. While the Xperia’s cameras weren't as incredible as I hoped, they're still good. Altogether, those strengths outweigh the phone's biggest problems — a weak chipset and an underwhelming display.
Unfortunately, the Xperia 10 IV is not as versatile as its rivals, so this won't be a new best cheap phones champion. But I am very happy that this phone exists to provide a small number of users with the compact, long-lasting smartphone that they may have assumed had gone extinct years ago.
Sony Xperia 10 IV review: Price and availability
You can buy yourself a Sony Xperia 10 IV right now if you live in the U.K., and for the privilege, you’ll pay £429 for the single memory variant available.Unfortunately, while Sony sells all its other phones in the U.S., the 10 IV seems to be unavailable on that side of the Atlantic.
The Xperia 10 IV costs a little bit more than the Galaxy A53 (£400) and Pixel 6a (£400), considerably more than the basic Nord 2T (£349), but less than the iPhone SE (£449). That said, none of these price gaps are particularly large so no phone can claim an overwhelming price advantage over the other.
Sony Xperia 10 IV review: Design
The Xperia 10 IV certainly looks like a Sony phone, with its tall and skinny 21:9 display aspect ratio. But at 6 inches, the Xperia 10 IV is much smaller than nearly any other phone you can buy today. Because of that, Sony’s phone feels tiny in your hand compared to most modern handsets, even the comparably small 6.1-inch Pixel 6a.
The Xperia 10 IV is super light too at just 163g (5.75 oz). Sony claims that size makes the new Xperia the lightest 5G phone in the world.
This is undoubtedly a contender for a place on our best small phones guide. The only phone comparably dinky is the iPhone SE, but Apple’s phone has even more old-fashioned design elements like a physical home button and a tiny display encased in chunky bezels.
There's also the 5.9-inch Asus Zenfone 9, but it costs £280 more than the Xperia 10 IV. As a flagship-grade device, the Zenfone 9 is good if you want the best available small phone, but not if you're short on cash.
The overall look of the Xperia 10 IV is quite unassuming, with only a small camera bump on the back. The dull plastic body doesn't do much to help either, particularly in the plain black color you see in the photos. You can also get the Xperia 10 IV in bolder colors such as White, Mint and Lavender.
Looking closer though, you'll find Sony made some interesting design choices that you won’t find on other modern phones. There's an easy-to-remove SIM/microSD card tray that you can pop in and out with just a finger, making it simple to swap to another number or a fresh SD card for more photos.
On the other sides of the phone, you'll find the vanishingly rare 3.5mm headphone jack and also a side fingerprint sensor for convenient unlocking. The Xperia 10 IV feels like a phone from 5 years ago, pre-phablet era, but in the best possible way.
Sony's also done its typical move of having the Xperia 10 IV rated as both IP65 and IP68. It does this (when most phones settle for just IP68 or IP67 alone) since Sony maintains that IP65 water resistance (tested with water jets) is meaningfully different from IP68 (tested by immersing the device in water). I can't say for sure if that makes a difference, but it certainly can't harm the phone's water//dust resistance to have extra testing.
One other unusual touch is that Sony covered the front of the Xperia 10 IV in Gorilla Glass Victus, one of the toughest available smartphone materials. No other comparable phones in this price range can boast these kinds of durability specs, which is quite a selling point for outdoorsy or clumsy users.
Sony Xperia 10 IV review: Display
The screen on the Xperia 10 IV is a bit underwhelming. Putting its 6-inch size aside — if you’re interested in the Xperia it’s because of the screen size, not in spite of it — the display only offers a 60Hz refresh rate. Many phones have begun to offer faster refresh rates, even cheaper phones — the Galaxy A53, for instance, can hit 120Hz.. The Xperia 10 IV’s display is also hemmed in by the big top and bottom bezels.
You do at least get an FHD resolution though, and decent brightness, at least compared to the OnePlus Nord 2T. I placed the OnePlus phone side by side with the Xperia 10 IV and found that Sony’s phone also offers much more vivid color. That made the daytime scene in the trailer for HBO's The Last of Us adaptation look quite appealing, while the night or indoor scenes seem weirdly colorful, with different sources of light in the scenes having drastic effects on how the picture looked.
Sony Xperia 10 IV review: Cameras
Sony's given the Xperia 10 IV an intimidating camera set-up considering how much you're paying. You get a combination of 12MP main, 8MP ultrawide and 8MP 2x telephoto cameras on the back and an 8MP camera on the front. Most phones at this price usually skip out on a telephoto lens, turning to cheaper third macro or depth sensor, so I was exciting to see how this compared to the competition.
Starting off with this stylish cappuccino art, we see a big difference in color warmth between the Xperia and the OnePlus Nord 2T. The Xperia offers Sony's typical image coolness, and lower contrast, whereas the brown of the chocolate sprinkles and the grains in the wood come across much more clearly and colorfully in the Nord's shot.
Switching to the ultrawide camera for this shot looking up a tree branch, the Xperia 10 IV produces a weaker effort, struggling with the bright sky between the leaves. This shot was about the best balance I could strike between the canopy of the trees and the branch itself. In comparison, the Nord 2T manages this effortlessly, showing off excellent detail and color.
I was very excited to try out the Xperia 10 IV's 2x optical telephoto camera in this shot of the bell tower of St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, as a proper telephoto lens on a phone this price is rare. However, compared to the equivalent digital zoom from the Nord 2T's main 50MP camera, the Sony doesn't really look much better at a first glance. There is a difference to be found zooming in though, as the Xperia captures better detail and more balanced brightness in and around the bells.
Lastly, we come to the portrait selfies, and oh my does the Xperia really trip up here. My face is weirdly smoothed over, and there's a very rough boundary between me and the bokeh-ified background. The Nord's shot, on the other hand, looks pretty normal, even if it's made my beard a lot redder than it should be.
I tried out a normal selfie with the Xperia 10 IV as well, and the good news is those look like you'd expect. But Sony's definitely lagging behind on photo post-processing, something that the best camera phones excel at.
Sony Xperia 10 IV review: Performance
You shouldn't buy the Xperia 10 IV if you're looking for the best power for your money. Sony equipped its new phone a Snapdragon 695 chip, plus 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage, which is a lot less powerful than comparably priced phones' silicon. You need only glance at the results in the table below to see the difference.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Sony Xperia 10 IV||OnePlus Nord 2T||Google Pixel 6a|
|Chipset||Snapdragon 695||Dimensity 1300||Google Tensor|
|Geekbench 5 (single core score/multi-core score)||666 / 1,899||420 / 2,672||1,057 / 2,918|
|3DMark Wild Life Unlimted (score/av. frames per second)||1,207 / 7.2||4,522 / 27.1||6,972 / 41.7|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimted (score/av. frames per second)||355 / 2.1||1,295 / 7.8||1.885 / 11.3|
The good news about playing demanding games on the Xperia, such as my beloved Grid: Autosport, is that the experience is smooth, even with a 60Hz display. The bad news is that whatever appears on the screen looks very jagged and crunchy. This is about as far as you can get in the opposite direction from the best gaming phones.
One small piece of good news however is that Sony's one of the rare phone makers still offering microSD card slots in its phones. That gives you the option of another 1TB of storage with a large enough card, just like on the Galaxy A53. Thanks to the Xperia’s easily removable card tray, you can swap multiple cards in and out quickly and conveniently rather than having to hunt for a SIM tool.
Sony Xperia 10 IV review: Battery life
At 5,000 mAh, the Xperia 10 IV's battery is very big for its size. Combined with a chip and a display that sip at power like they're consuming particularly potent whisky, the Sony phone has some of the best battery lifes I've seen on a phone.
Using my somewhat scientific YouTube rundown test, where I play an aquarium video at medium brightness and volume at 1080p, it took five hours and 50 minutes to drain the Xperia 10 IV's battery by 30%. That's better even than the efficient OnePlus Nord 2T, which would drain by around 35% over the same time period. You could basically use the Xperia non-stop from dawn to dusk and still have a healthy battery percentage by the time you went to bed.
Sony Xperia 10 IV review: Software
You'll see a lot of native Android 12 as you explore the Xperia 10 IV, and that's just fine by me. It looks good, every option is where you'd expect it to be, and the unique additions like Window Manager (which lets you open a second app in a miniaturized window over another) are sensible extras that work well.
Sony does include a lot of pre-installed apps — third-party offerings such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Booking.com, but also some more understandable inclusions like the PlayStation App and Sony Headphones. If you get this phone, you may want to spend some time deleting apps or stuffing them into folders so you can get your home screens how you want them.
Looking towards the future, you'll get two more years of Android updates from Sony. That was the average you could expect from an Android phone, but now with companies like Google and Samsung offering three years and four years of updates, Sony's starting to look stingy.
Sony Xperia 10 IV Review: Verdict
Unlike Sony's more expensive phones, the Xperia 10 IV aims to be approachable, both in features as well as its price. As a result, this could be the best way for you to dip your toe in the water and try out the unique Sony Android experience.
Still, it’s hard to give a full-throated endorsement to the Sony Xperia 10 IV in light of the phone’s flaws and the ample choice you have among midrange devices. The Xperia’s cameras, particularly the 2x telephoto camera, have a lot of potential, but you'll get little help from the post-processing software. And while the Xperia’s battery life outperforms basically any other phone I've tried this year, part of that efficiency comes from the unimpressive chipset and display.
Other phones at this price offer decent battery life and better cameras, if not a dedicated telephoto lens. So you’ll have to really want an optical zoom and long battery life in a tiny lightweight body to pick this over rival phones. I'd still recommend the OnePlus Nord 2T or the Pixel 6a to the majority of users shopping for phones around this price; the Galaxy A53 is also a solid pick if you prioritize having an excellent 120Hz display.
The ideal Sony Xperia 10 IV owner will be someone who won't be using their phone for streaming or gaming much, but appreciates the unique versatility of its long-lasting battery and the phone’s more natural style of photography. If that applies to you — and you live where the Xperia 10 IV is available — consider adding this phone to your shortlist.