We took the Sony Xperia X to the streets of Tokyo to test Sony’s new camera tech, the all-improved screen, battery life and more. Here’s our 24-hour Sony Xperia X review.
Update: We’ve now completed our full Xperia X review, so check that out if you want to know all about Sony’s first big 2016 smartphone.
The Sony Xperia X is fast approaching its UK debut, offering the best of Sony tech (including dual cameras and a display improved over the excellent Xperia Z5‘s) in a new more affordable package. We were a wee bit excited by the prospect of a ‘cheap flagship’ when Sony unveiled the new X range at MWC 2016; after all, while features like waterproofing are nice to have, we’d rather just get the premium bits that really matter (dependable camera, gorgeous design and stunning visuals) at a lower cost because the expensive extras have been stripped out.
We’ve had our hands on the Xperia X for 24 hours out in Tokyo and so far we remain suitably impressed. Here’s our hands-on Xperia X review.
Read next: Xperia X vs Xperia XA
Hands-on Xperia X Review: Design
Sony hasn’t buggered about when it comes to the Xperia X’s look and feel. Sony’s trademark rectangular build is immediately familiar, sporting the same curved edges as the Xperia Z5 for a pleasingly comfortable grip. The Xperia X’s metal backing and plastic edging complement each other nicely, finished with the same subtle paintwork. Plus the gold and rose gold models are serious candy for the eyes, standing out from the smartphone crowd without treading into over-the-top vibrancy.
A decent heft helps to add to the rugged feel, and the X certainly seems to be hardier than the rather fragile Xperia Z5. At 5-inches it’s a wee bit smaller than Sony’s last flagship too, and I found it was easy to use one-handed, without the need to constantly adjust my grip.
Of course, while the Xperia X is undeniably another stunner, the familiar design may confuse people who are wondering if the X-series is actually any different to the existing Z-series. Sony’s mid-rangers such as the Xperia M-series sported a similar look and feel to the flagship offerings too, but we’re a little surprised that the opportunity to embrace a fresh new hardware finish was avoided. Thankfully the Xperia X’s software has been revamped, so this at least helps to set the phone apart from previous products.
That said, there is one key difference when it comes to the phone’s design. Sony has ditched the practically trademark waterproofing for the Xperia X, one of its key cost-cutting trims to keep the handset affordable. All the same, the X doesn’t fizzle and die upon contact with water; you can get the phone dripping wet and it’ll be absolutely fine. You’ll just need to check out Sony’s back catalogue if you’re into taking shower selfies.
Hands-on Sony Xperia X Review: Screen and media
It’s a shame that the gorgeous edge-to-edge screen of the Xperia XA didn’t make it to the Xperia X (a result of the bigger battery and side-mounted fingerprint scanner), but the X’s display is still a stand-out feature. For a start, it almost appears to be painted onto the front of the phone as it seems to lie flush with the surface.
Like the Xperia Z5 before it, the Xperia X sports a Full HD Triluminos screen (although this time it’s been rounded down to exactly 5-inches). You get the same X-Reality software embedded, which helps to boost image clarity artificially, as well as Sony’s Super Vivid mode to get near Galaxy S7 levels of vibrancy.
Compared with the Xperia Z5, there are a couple of very subtle changes, namely a slightly wider colour gamut and improved contrast levels. There’s certainly no arguing with the colour claims, as greens in particular are super-vibrant on the X, even without Sony’s Super Vivid Mode activated. It’s a less natural hue, but if you like Galaxy S7 levels of eye-popping richness then you’re in for a treat. As for contrast, it’s a less noticeable improvement as Sony displays have always been on the cool side, but blacks definitely don’t fade to any degree as you tilt the screen. What difference does that make? Bugger all really, but hey ho.
As usual, you can expand the on-board storage with a microSD memory card, which is especially handy if you go nuts with the Xperia X’s new camera. On our review model, 12GB of the 32GB built-in storage was already used up by Android and other essential software, so it’s just as well that you can slip in a card for a much-needed boost.
Hands-on Sony Xperia X Review: Features
While the Xperia X’s hardware feels very familiar, Sony has reworked the software to make the handset more distinctive. That new ‘unified design’ gives you a lock screen and desktop that matches the shade of your chosen handset, helping the X to feel like a complete, consistent package. More subtle changes like the redesigned app icons and a neat transition from the lock screen add even more flair to the overall experience.
You’ll find a few new features thrown in too, including little touches like the apps search window (accessed by dragging a finger down the screen). One of the biggest additions is the new Assist tool, which regularly offers advice if you need it. In my time with the phone, I saw several notifications pop up to tell me about different features I might not know about, such as the NFC sensor for instance. And the more that you use the Xperia X, the more it learns about your habits, to dispense some personalised tips. Sadly I didn’t have enough time with the phone to check out these tips, but we’ll be covering the Assist feature in our full Xperia X review.
One feature we’re really glad that Sony didn’t trim from the X is its fingerprint sensor (even if it contributed to the lack of edge-to-edge display action). It’s essentially the same sensor as that found on the Xperia Z5’s, proving fast and accurate when unlocking the handset. And as before, the smart positioning along the right edge means you don’t have to twist your thumb awkwardly to get into your phone.
Hands-on Sony Xperia X Review: Performance and battery life
Qualcomm’s impressive mid-range Snapdragon 650 chipset is packed inside the Xperia X, backed up by a healthy 3GB of RAM. The good news is, in the first 24 hours, the Xperia X performed perfectly. Apps load instantly and run smoothly, even with dozens open in the background. And games such as Implosion don’t stutter or drop frames, even during frantic scenes. Of course, we’ll be testing out the Xperia X for a much longer period for our full review.
The Xperia X charges via the old version of micro USB, rather than the reversible Type-C effort found on the new Nexus phones and the LG G5. Even after hammering the X all day with near-constant camera use, app downloads and general fiddling, the battery had only drained by a little over half. Of course, I’ll be testing out the battery in full for the in-depth Xperia X review, but right now it’s looking at least as strong as the Xperia Z5 Compact.
Hands-on Sony Xperia X Review: Cameras
One of the biggest incentives to buy the Xperia X is its all-new, super snazzy 23-megapixel rear camera and 13-megapixel selfie snapper. If you’re into smartphone optics, you’re in for a treat; check out our in-depth Xperia X camera review for more info.
Hands-on Sony Xperia X Review: Early verdict
The success of the Xperia X hangs in the balance, but if Sony can release it at a competitive price point in Europe then it has every chance of selling well. It offers up the things that consumers really demand, such as an easy-to-use yet dependable set of cameras and reliable battery life, but hopefully at a much lower cost than rivals such as the Galaxy S7. And as advocates of saving every penny possible, we reckon that’s definitely a good thing.
Check back soon for our full Sony Xperia X review and Sony Xperia XA review.