- Unified design
- Fantastic cameras
- Fingerprint security
- Solid media machine
- No water resistance
- Not as cheap as we'd hoped
Sony Xperia X Review: The Xperia X is about to hit the UK, offering some premium Sony features like a 23-megapixel camera and Full HD screen at a lower price than your typical flagship mobile. We’ve taken the Xperia X for a full test drive, and here’s what we think of Sony’s first big 2016 smartphone.
Z’s dead, baby. Z’s dead.
That’s what the internet reckons now that Sony’s new handset, the Xperia X, is finally here. The Xperia X may look a lot like the Xperia Z5, Sony’s last big phone, but it represents the beginning of a new mantra for the Japanese giant. Cut back on unnecessary features like the very latest processor and crap that the average consumer doesn’t give two hoots about, to provide a still-mostly-premium experience for less cash than your typical flagship.
So, is the Xperia X a great handset, or a failed X-periment (ugh, sorry)? Here’s our full review.
Sony Xperia X Review: Design
If you’re not already sold on Sony’s smartphone design, then the Xperia X will do nothing to change your mind. From the unapologetic rectangular build to the button positioning, this is a phone very much in the mold of the Xperia Z5 family, although there are some subtle differences.
For a start, the Xperia X is a slightly more compact handset, at 5-inches. Combined with the curvier edges, that makes the X a more comfortable fit for the hand. You can happily use this phone with just a single mitt, which is handy when you’re laden with bags or holding on for dear life on the tube.
Gone is that fragile glass rear, replaced with a smooth metallic back that comes in a fresh range of colours (including the now absolutely obligatory rose gold). We love the hardier finish, which defies sharp objects and coins to remain pleasingly scratch free; you have to really treat the Xperia X poorly to leave your mark. And the Sony branding which previously marked the back plate has been replaced with the Xperia logo.
Also gone is Sony’s trademark water resistance, which we’ve enjoyed on all of the premium Xperia smartphones for quite some time now. This is the first of Sony’s Xperia X culls, a nice-to-have-but-barely-essential feature that doesn’t meet the strict new cost/benefit requirements.
I didn’t miss the lack of water resistance, as the Xperia X is still perfectly capable of functioning in the pissing rain (as I discovered just yesterday; cheers, Britain). So, barring a terrible drunken toilet dunking incident, chances are most people won’t even care about the change.
Check out our Xperia X unboxing and hands-on review for a closer look at the design.
Sony Xperia X Review: Features and OS
While the hardware itself hasn’t changed much, the Xperia X series does enjoy a fresh new ‘unified design’ throughout. This is where the Xperia’s desktops match the overall colour scheme, finished with attractive wavy paintbrush spatterings. Complete with new transitions and logos, this is probably the prettiest and coolest version of Sony’s Xperia interface yet.
Sony is also catering to smartphone noobs, offering a helping hand via the Xperia Tips system. Unlike your standard mobile hints that pop up to help every now and then, Xperia Tips actually monitors how you use your handset and throws personalised advice at your facehole. And while tech junkies will get very little from this feature, it’s a solid inclusion for anyone who’s out of their comfort zone. Note also that the tips can be deactivated in the system settings.
You also get a few other extra features thrown in, such as the new apps menu that pops up when you drag a finger down your desktops. This offers up quick links to your most popular apps and also suggests new apps that you might enjoy from the Google Play store, with the option to instantly install. It’s a quick and easy way to populate your Xperia, although the recommendations veer between ‘that looks good’ to ‘oh Jesus, Britain’s Got Talent has a bloody app?’
All of Sony’s new bits are sat neatly on top of Android Marshmallow, along with a few extra services to complement Google’s usual selection. Gamers will enjoy Remote Play, which allows you to stream games direct from your PS4, for instance. And there’s a Sony News app that, like Apple News and other streaming services, offers up the latest headlines and social media feeds.
Check out our Xperia X tips and tricks guide, which explores some more of these cool little features.
Rounding off the Xperia X’s features is the excellent fingerprint sensor, once again housed on the right edge of the phone. Considering how thin it is, I’m always impressed by how responsive and accurate Sony’s scanners are. It’s a quick and easy way to jump directly into your desktops without fiddling about with PINs and the like, while still keeping your data nice and safe.
Sony Xperia X Review: Screen and media
Many manufacturers are now packing a mighty Quad HD display into their flagship mobiles, Galaxy S7 and HTC 10 included, to produce ridiculously crisp images. Not Sony. Sticking to the ‘if we don’t need it, sod it’ mantra, Sony has stuck with a Full HD 5-inch screen for the Xperia X, and it more than does the job.
I love how the Xperia X’s screen seems to sit flush with the surface of the phone, while those HD visuals are as strong as ever. Squint as hard as you like, you’re unlikely to ever make out an individual pixel. Sony’s X-Reality engine is on hand to sharpen things up even more, or you can swap to the Super-vivid mode to boost the colours, giving a closer experience to the Galaxy S7’s Super AMOLED screen.
Sony has always paid attention to audio quality too, offering support for HiRes tracks in its Xperia handsets for some time now. The Xperia X likewise has an optional DSEE HX feature which boosts the quality of compressed music files, to make them sound a lot more palatable. You also get a Dynamic Normaliser setting to prevent your music from breaking your precious lugs, as a quiet track runs into a super-noisy one.
If you forget your headphones, you can still enjoy decent audio direct from the Xperia X’s dual speakers (one above and one below the screen). As they face forwards, the sound is directed towards your face, making for a clear, muffle-free experience. We found the quality was decent, with enough power to practically match the Xperia Z5.
Check out our speaker test video, below.
Sony Xperia X Review: Performance and battery life
Sony decided not to slip the most powerful Snapdragon processor (currently the 820) into the Xperia X, instead opting for the Snapdragon 650 chipset backed by 3GB of RAM. Don’t worry though, because the 650 is still a more-than-capable 64-bit hexa-core SoC that’s well up to task of everyday life.
Across several days of use, we didn’t notice any untoward behaviour from our Xperia X. Android runs nippily enough, apps load quickly and the latest games play with a perfect frame rate. We’re hopeful that the Xperia X will continue to run well for the foreseeable future, but of course we’ll be returning to the X for a long-term review to see if it can still handle the pace.
As for battery life, check out our Xperia X battery test feature to see how quickly the phone’s battery charges and how good the battery life is, with and without the Stamina Mode.
Sony Xperia X Review: Cameras
Sony may have cut back in a few areas like water resistance and processing power, but the Xperia X still boasts one of the best smartphone cameras out there. The 23-megapixel rear snapper and 13-megapixel front-facing camera are impressively powerful, with some smart new Sony tech to predict your subject’s movements or craft an attractive selfie even in a dimly lit pub or club.
Check out our full Xperia X camera review for photo and video samples and an in-depth look at those new camera features.
Sony Xperia X Review: Verdict
The Xperia X is a curious endeavor from Sony, a flagship phone that willingly skimps here and there in order to undercut rival handsets. And while some might bemoan the lack of Snapdragon 820 action, or how the water resistance is a thing of the past, the Xperia X still ticks all of the boxes for a flagship device.
Slick design? Yep. Gorgeous screen and an all-round fantastic media experience? Sure. Reliable camera tech? Definitely. And despite that ‘cut back’ processor, you still get silky smooth performance as well as decent battery life.
Of course, at £459 the Xperia X is a little more expensive than we’d originally hoped. Bear in mind that there are rival phones out there such as the Samsung Galaxy A5 2016, which also offer Full HD visuals, excellent cameras and fingerprint security for over £100 less than the X.
Check out our Sony Xperia X hub for more features and comparison reviews, and here's our full Xperia X video review:
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Snapdragon 650
- 32GB + microSD
- Fingerprint sensor