Sony Xperia X Compact 2017 Review: Our long-term re-review of the dinky Xperia X Compact phone after an update to Android Nougat reveals what we think of this compact mobile in 2017.
Sony’s Xperia X Compact is a mini version of the Xperia X smartphone, both of which launched in 2016. However, the X Compact was really a spiritual successor to the Xperia Z5 Compact, one of our favourite sub-5-inch phones of all time. You once again get some decent specs wrapped up in a colourful and compact 4.6-inch frame, perfect for portability and one-handed use.
The Xperia X Compact isn’t perfect, of course. You don’t get the latest and most powerful Snapdragon processor, as you did with the Z5 Compact, while the £350 asking price places it within daring reach of the OnePlus 3T and several other seriously good handsets.
However, Sony has now updated the X Compact to full Android Nougat, adding some important new features to the handset. So how do we feel about the Xperia X Compact in 2017? Here’s our full long-term re-review.
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Sony Xperia X Compact 2017 Review: Design and screen
After a bevy of 5.5-inch mobile phones (and some reaching towards 6-inches like the LG G6), it’s even more refreshing than a cold pint on a hot day to return to the Xperia X Compact. One-handed operation is sheer bliss and the 4.6-incher slips away into a pocket or bag with zero fuss when you’re done.
Of course, the X Compact isn’t quite as pristine as it used to be after several months of on-again-off-again use. That plastic body has been slightly marred with everyday scratches and scuffs, although the light blue surfacing does a pretty good job of hiding those scars. In fact, that wear and tear is a lot less obvious than with the Xperia XZ, which clearly shows its scratches in pretty much any light.
I haven’t missed the water resistance of the Z5 Compact too much either, despite lamenting its absence when Sony launched the X Compact. It’s a nice to have for sure, but far from an essential feature – as long as you don’t knock the thing flying into the toilet, of course. I’ve had the X Compact out in a fair few rainstorms, with no ill effect.
Sony Xperia X Compact 2017 Review: OS and features
Since we originally reviewed the Xperia X Compact, Sony has updated the OS to full Android Nougat 7.0. This adds some genuinely useful new features which add to the experience, although one feature in particular is best enjoyed on a larger handset than this.
You now get grouped notifications, which is lovely, plus the ability to reply to messages directly through the notifications themselves. And we’re fans of Android Nougat’s split screen mode too, which allows you to run two apps side-by-side. Of course, that little feature is much better suited to one of those aforementioned 5.5-inch phones, with their spacious screens. All the same, it’s definitely perfectly usable on the X Compact, if you just want to watch a YouTube video while browsing the web for instance.
Check out our in-depth feature about the Android Nougat Xperia update for more info.
We still love the X Compact’s unified design too. Sony has tailor-made the desktop background and Android theme so it matches your chosen phone colour, with eye-pleasing results. In fact, we love the colour scheme so much that this is one of the few phones where we’ve stuck with the original layout.
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Sony Xperia X Compact 2017 Review: Media
The X Compact’s dinky screen also isn’t entirely perfect for enjoying a movie on the go, thanks to its diminutive nature. However, it really is an attractive panel, offering sharp, punchy visuals.
Sony’s Super Vivid Mode keeps those colours pleasingly vibrant, while the 720p resolution is perfectly suited to the small dimensions. The only display feature I’ve missed is a blue light filter mode, for a more comfortable night viewing experience. Not an essential tool by any means, but lovely to have for night owls like myself.
However, Sony’s support for Hi Res Audio is still to be commended. The DSEE HX feature can boost your lower quality tracks, giving them some real body, which is handy if you have a big collection of compressed music files.
The built-in speakers are rather tinny however, which means we’re often strain to hear in anything but a quiet environment. Definitely pack some headphones.
Sony Xperia X Compact 2017 Review: Performance and battery life
After half a year of use, we’re still pretty happy with the performance of the Xperia X Compact. At first we were disappointed that this mini mobile packed a Snapdragon 650 processor, which didn’t seem much of a step up from the Z5 Compact’s Snapdragon 810 chipset. However, now that we’ve spent lots of time with the X Compact, we’re satisfied with the everyday experience.
You can blaze through standard tasks like web browsing and messaging, with stutters and pauses rarely raising their ugly heads. Multi-tasking with the new split screen mode is also a smooth experience and you can still play games with a perfect frame rate.
Battery life is holding up just fine. The Qnovo battery tech should help to prevent lasting damage, and so far we certainly haven’t noticed any degradation. However, we tend to get no more than a day of use per charge, unless we’re really restrained.
Sony Xperia X Compact 2017 Review: Cameras
The most impressive feature of the Xperia X Compact, besides that mini design, is the excellent 23-megapixel camera packed into the rear. This boasts almost the same functionality as the flagship Xperia XZ’s camera, which is seriously impressive considering the dinky dimensions.
You once again have a laser autofocus and Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilisation, which combine to capture detail-packed photos in almost any conditions. Low light performance is better than almost any other rivals at this price point. There’s a brief pause as the phone processes each image, but the results are certainly solid.
Video results are also strong. The Xperia X Compact tops out at Full HD footage, but that video looks crisp and judder-free. As usual you get a time lapse and slow-mo video mode, as well as the ability to add AR characters to your footage or stream live to Facebook.
Sony Xperia X Compact 2017 Review: Verdict
While the lack of water resistance is a miss and we’d have preferred a more beefy processor for long-term reliability, the Xperia X Compact is still a great handset for anyone who shuns those enormous modern mobiles. You get some great camera tech and plenty of useful features packed inside, especially now that Sony has updated the phone to Android Nougat.
If size isn’t an issue, however, we’d have to point to other mid-rangers like the OnePlus 3T. For just a little more cash you get a seriously impressive media machine packing some awesome performance.
You can bag the Sony Xperia X Compact from O2 right now with a £48 discount, plus six free months of DisneyLife.