Sony Xperia X 2017 review: Sony fans who can’t afford the premium Xperia XZ flagship phone have the option of the Xperia X instead, a mobile which cuts back on some less popular features to deliver a more affordable asking price. Here’s our full Xperia X re-review for 2017, after a full update to Android Nougat, to see if it stands up against recent rivals.
Sony’s Xperia X is almost a year old now that we're into 2017, and can be picked up for between £300 and £350 here in the UK. But while that's a decent discount on the original asking price, we've seen several seriously good rivals launched in recent months. That includes the excellent OnePlus 3T, which we recently dubbed best phone of 2016.
So while we quite liked the Xperia X when we first reviewed it, despite the rather steep asking price, how does it fare against rivals in 2017? And does the Android Nougat update make it a more enticing prospect? Here’s our long-term Sony Xperia X re-review.
Long-term Sony Xperia X review: One-handed wonder
The Xperia X sports some very typical Sony design, which should please fans. At just 5-inches it’s one of the more compact phones of 2016, which saw a slew of 5.5-inch devices hitting Uk shelves. That means it’s a great fit for the hand and comfortable to operate, without having to resort to two-handed use.
I’m still a little in love with the smooth metallic frame, even though Sony’s trademark water resistance is missing in action. It can still take a serious splashing without any ill effects, while the metal surfacing can shrug off all manner of punishment - unlike the more expensive Xperia XZ. After plenty of handling, my Xperia X is still looking fresh.
Sony’s excellent fingerprint sensor is the only one we’ve seen mounted on the edge of a handset and it’s still great to use. The sensor falls naturally under your finger or thumb when you pick the handset up, for a comfortable and fast unlocking action. However, it’s not as quick and as accurate as rival scanners found on the likes of the OnePlus 3T and Moto Z Play.
Long-term Sony Xperia X review: Nougat has arrived
Sony’s ‘unified design’ is still a pleasure too. The Xperia X’s desktops and general interface boast a consistent and attractive colour scheme, which matches the shade of the phone itself. This is one of very few phones where I didn’t immediately change the wallpaper, and several months on I’m still sticking with Sony’s default theme.
Likewise I haven’t tinkered with Sony’s overlay, which is pleasingly respectful to Android Marshmallow and doesn’t change up things for no good reason. Newbies will love the Xperia Tips feature, which is basically an interactive tutorial on how to use the phone. And you get some genuinely great additions, including support for Hi-Res Audio and the PS Remote Play tool which allows you to stream games from your Sony console to the Xperia X’s screen.
And of course the Xperia X has been updated since our original review, so now offers full Android Nougat. And while the look and feel of the software hasn't changed much, at least at first glance, that does mean you get some nifty new functionality.
We're big fans of Nougat's split-screen multi-tasking feature, which allows you to run two apps side-by-side. That's particularly handy if you're busy messaging someone while browsing the web, emailing or doing some other task. And thankfully the Xperia X seems up to the task, with little in the way of slowdown.
You can also reply to messages directly in the notifications bar, which works well if you just want to say a quick 'yes' or 'no' to something.
For all you need to know about the Xperia X's latest software update, including how to update and a run-down of all of the new features, check out our in-depth Sony Xperia X with Android Nougat feature.
Long-term Sony Xperia X review: Media chops
Like most other phones at this price point, the Xperia X packs a Full HD display. One of the highlights of Sony phones is their media chops, so the Xperia X’s screen is pleasingly crisp and bright. You get Sony’s X-Reality software enhancement that artificially boosts the sharpness of images, or you can select my personal favourite, the Super Vivid mode. This makes colours super punchy, which really brings photos and video to life.
With Super Vivid mode activated, the Xperia X is easily a match for the likes of the OnePlus 3T when it comes to visuals. Sony’s phone also supports Hi-Res audio playback and can even tinker with low-quality tracks to help give them a bit more oomph.
Gamers can get stuck into a bit of Remote Play too, which streams your PS session to the Xperia X’s dinky display.
After eight months we’re still more than happy with the Xperia X as a portable entertainment device. Sony’s close attention to detail on the audio side elevates it above most other mid-range mobiles, while visuals are still absolutely beautiful. And if you want to carry around a massive media collection, the 32GB of storage space can be quickly and easily expanded using a microSD memory card.
Long-term Sony Xperia X review: What’s left in the tank
Sony decided not to slap one of the most powerful mobile processors such as the Snapdragon 820 into the Xperia X, instead opting for the more power-efficient Snapdragon 650 chipset. This means that it lags behind similarly priced rivals such as the OnePlus 3T, which also boasts double the amount of RAM.
On the whole the Xperia X offers a smooth experience, but occasionally you’ll notice an extended pause when you try opening an app or tap on a menu option. Thankfully after eight months and an update to Android Nougat, performance hasn’t degraded to any noticeable degree. I can still blast through the latest games, with a respectable frame rate.
As for battery life, the Xperia X still gives me roughly a day of life per charge. You don’t get the battery-saving smart charging of the latest Xperia XZ, but Sony has packed in its usual Stamina modes and app optimisation, to try and keep you going for longer when needed.
I was hoping for more of an impact from Google Doze, a new feature in Android Nougat which restricts background apps to conserve power. But so far, the Xperia X doesn't seem to be any different in terms of longevity to when I first unboxed it.
Sony Xperia X 2017 review: Snaptacular
The Xperia X’s 23-megapixel rear camera still holds up pretty well against rivals, including the OnePlus 3T’s 16-megapixel effort. Sony’s Superior Auto mode is as dependable as ever, capturing an impressive amount of detail in almost any conditions. You also get full manual controls if needed, to get a very precise shot.
Sadly there’s no support for 4K video recording, but our Full HD footage still looks pretty good when viewed back on a TV, thanks in part to the solid image stabilisation. I’m also still a big fan of the 13-megapixel selfie camera, which is particularly brilliant in low light. Clarity is strong, with limited grain creeping into snaps.
Check out our full Xperia X camera review for test shots, sample videos and more.
Sony Xperia X 2017 review: Verdict
The Xperia X is unfortunately eclipsed these days by the freshly launched OnePlus 3T, which offers seriously impressive performance for the same asking price. But despite this, there’s still plenty to like here, especially after the update to Android Nougat. Sony’s more compact design is easier to use one-handed, while the dual cameras are great for the asking price.
You can grab the Sony Xperia X from O2 right now from £30 per month, with no up-front cost.