iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Sony Xperia 1 IV: which flagship phone is the real pro’s choice?

The Xperia 1 IV is Sony’s latest smartphone for enthusiasts, and it’s packed with multimedia potential.

But when it comes to creating a phone that professionals and media types love to use, Apple is king of the hill. Its iPhone 13 Pro Max is in the running to be dubbed the best flagship phone in today’s market due to its overall excellence.

Does Sony have the key to access this same exclusive club? We’ll take a look.

Sony Xperia 1 IV vs iPhone 13 Pro Max price and availability

Sony announced the Sony Xperia 1 IV on May 11, 2022, but the phone won’t be available to buy until June 16 in the UK and Europe, and September 1 in the US. In the US, the only 512GB option will cost $1599; the UK and Europe will get a 256GB model for £1299/€1399.

There’s no word yet on Australian availability, but we’re not holding out hope of it. Sony does not generally sell its phones in the region.

Sony Xperia 1 IV Event

(Photo credit: Sony)

The iPhone 13 Pro Max hit stores on September 24, 2021. Prices start at $1,099 / £1,049 / AU$1,699 for the 128GB model; move up to $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,869 for 256GB; then $1,399 / £1,349 / AU$2,219 for 512GB; and top out at $1,599 / £1,549 / AU$2,569 for the new 1TB model.

Overall, it’s a win for the iPhone 13 Pro Max in terms of price and availability.

Design of the Sony Xperia 1 IV against iPhone 13 Pro Max

The Sony Xperia 1 IV is nearly identical to the Sony Xperia 1 III, with the same flat sides and a weirdly tall form factor.

With the iPhone 13 Pro Max, Apple has also retained the design language of its previous phone. Like the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the 13 has a flat stainless steel frame and equally flat front and back surfaces.

Sony’s phone measures 165 x 71 x 8.2mm and weighs 185g. This makes it taller and thicker than the iPhone 13 Pro Max (160.8 x 78.1 x 7.65mm), but also narrower and significantly lighter. There’s no heavy stainless steel weighing you down here.

One of the main reasons for the Sony Xperia 1 IV’s height is its high forehead and chin bezels. Unlike virtually every other current flagship, it houses its selfie camera above the display rather than in a display notch.

The iPhone, of course, has the mother of all screen notches eating away at the top edge of its screen. Apple claims to have reduced the size of the notch by 20%, but it’s still a bit of an eyesore.

Sony still packs the edges of its phone with points of interest, which explains the physical camera button and 3.5mm headphone jack – these should appeal to photographers and audiophiles respectively.

Silver iPhone 13 Pro Max face down on a table

(Image credit: future)

On the back, the iPhone 13 Pro Max arranges its camera sensors in a square configuration; Sony is configured in something like a vertical diamond.

You can get the Sony Xperia 1 IV in black, white or purple. In iPhone land, there’s a wider range of color options: Graphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra Blue and Alpine Green.

Both phones are suitably dust and water resistant. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has an IP68 rating, while the Sony Xperia 1 IV gets an even deeper IP68/IP65 certification.

There’s Gorilla Glass Victus protecting the Sony’s screen; Apple has equipped the iPhone with its Ceramic Shield, which is made by embedding ceramic nanocrystals into the glass through a high-temperature crystallization process.

Sony Xperia 1 IV screen vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max

The Sony Xperia 1 IV features the same 6.5-inch 4K OLED display as the Xperia 1 III. The most notable part of this is the “4K” figure, which equates to a massive 3840 x 1644 resolution.

By contrast, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s display is a 6.7-inch OLED with a 2778 x 1284 resolution. to be so neat.

A Sony Xperia 1 IV seen from the front and back, with the screen on

(Photo credit: Sony)

This means that the Sony Xperia 1 IV is the only current flagship capable of playing 4K content natively. That’s clearly what Sony is aiming for here, with that 21:9 aspect ratio and unbroken canvas.

Both screens refresh at a maximum of 120Hz, so they’re equally smooth.

Sony has increased the brightness of its screen by 50%. Whether that helps it compete with the iPhone’s punchy panel, which remains one of the best in the business, remains to be seen.

Sony Xperia 1 IV vs iPhone 13 Pro Max camera

Both of these phones pack 12MP triple camera systems, and both manufacturers are known for their natural color science. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Apple and Sony take fundamentally different approaches to photography. The iPhone is all about the fire-and-forget experience, rid of tedious menus and the need to think about its framing.

Sony’s Xperia 1 range is all about pro-level control, with an in-depth camera app that mirrors its range of high-end Alpha cameras and a two-level physical shutter button on the right edge.

The big step forward with the Xperia 1 IV is with this telephoto lens system. This time around, you get continuous zoom between 70mm and 125mm, which is roughly equivalent to an optical zoom of anywhere between 3.5x and 5.2x. It’s a first.

On the other hand, the 3x zoom of the iPhone 13 Pro Max looks a bit tired.

Still, the image quality of the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s camera is well recognized at this point. It is arguably the best smartphone camera system on the market today.

iPhone 13 Pro Max lying on a table, face up, showing the home screen

(Image credit: future)

This is led by a large main sensor (and, at f/1.5, wide open) which can capture some truly impressive images in all lighting conditions, aided by an incredibly stable sensor-shift stabilization system. Even the ultra-wide can also take crisp night shots this time around.

Hardware aside, much of the fantastic image quality comes from Apple’s cutting-edge image processing technology, which helps produce great results with minimal input. Sony’s phones have never been able to achieve the same, despite offering unparalleled control over your shots.

Apple’s cameras have always had an edge over the competition when it comes to video recording, but Sony is looking to step up with the Xperia 1 IV. Sony’s latest phone captures 4K 120fps slow-motion recording over iPhone’s 4K/60fps; and Sony also gave the Xperia 1 IV a wider dynamic range and a Videography Pro mode for live streaming.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has its own video tricks, including a cinematic mode that lets you apply portrait-like bokeh effects to your footage and adjust the focus point in post.

Both phones have 12MP selfie cameras, but the Xperia 1 IV has the bigger sensor of the two.

Sony Xperia 1 IV specs and performance vs iPhone 13 Pro Max

We all know the story now. Android phones may continue to improve in performance, but they will still fall short of Apple’s latest.

We haven’t been able to put the Sony Xperia 1 IV through its paces yet, but we can now tell you with confidence that it won’t be as fast as the iPhone 13 Pro Max. That’s because it runs the exact same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip that powers most of its rivals, from the Xiaomi 12 Pro to the Oppo Find X5 Pro.

Close up of Sony Xperia 1 IV rear camera

(Photo credit: Sony)

And in all of our tests and benchmarks, these phones fall far short of the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Key to this is Apple’s latest custom A15 Bionic chip, which is a monster.

Benchmarks aside, you won’t notice the performance difference between the latest iPhone and any Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phone. Both chips perform far better than they should for any modern task, whether it’s juggling multiple apps or playing high-end 3D games.

The Sony Xperia 1 IV packs double the RAM of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, for what it’s worth (12GB vs. 6GB). Still, that’s not much, given the fundamental differences between how iOS and Android manage resources.

Apple’s device comes with a lot more storage options than Sony’s. You have the choice between 128, 256, 512 or 1 TB wherever you are. With the Sony Xperia 1 IV you get 256GB in the UK and Europe, or 512GB in the US.

Sony Xperia 1 IV battery life vs iPhone 13 Pro Max

Sony has increased the capacity of its flagship battery up to 5000 mAh. It’s a healthy size for a flagship Android phone, and it’s significantly larger than the 4,352mAh cell of the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

As we just said, however, iOS and Android manage their hardware resources very differently, and we’re hoping for rough parity between the two.

The Sony Xperia 1 IV will have to pull the cat out of the bag, however, to match the iPhone 13 Pro Max. With the Xperia 1 III, we had around 10% or so left in the tank at the end of a long day. With the iPhone 13 Pro Max, we had a third of the tank left. Hopefully Sony’s increased brute force capability alongside the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and software improvements will close that gap.

iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Neither phone is among the most impressive in terms of charging speed. Sony has equipped its latest phone with the same 30W wired charging support as before, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max can take a similar 27W.

When rivals offer 80W, 100W and even 120W charging, those specs aren’t too good. Yet both manufacturers claim their phones can charge to 50% in just 30 minutes.

Neither manufacturer includes a charger in the box, but at least Apple gives you a cable.

Take away

Sony seems to have created another media enthusiast’s dream with the Sony Xperia 1 IV. It picks up where the Sony Xperia 1 III left off, with an even more flexible camera system, brighter 4K display and longer battery life.

Whether these updates are enough to close the one-point review score gap between its predecessor and the iPhone 13 Pro Max remains to be seen. We were seriously impressed with Apple’s latest for its superb Fire-and-Forget camera, excellent battery life and unparalleled performance.

One thing seems certain – Sony will always hold a place in the hearts of a certain type of fan obsessed with serious photography, audio fidelity and proper video playback. But can it mix it with the iPhone into the mainstream this time around?

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