- Classic Sony design
- High quality display
- Good low light photography
- microSD card support
- NFC reader in a strange position
- Device can overheat when recording video
- Some users will want more than a full HD display
The Sony Xperia Z range is dead. Long live the Sony Xperia X range. Other than the change in name, from Z to X, the Xperia X (and Xperia X Performance) have a lot in common with the previous Xperia Z line in terms of design language and overall look & feel.
Of course, there are differences including more rounded corners and sides, plus curved glass on the front. However there are also familiar aspects like the signature Sony power button and the dedicated camera button.
Is the Sony Xperia X a worthy successor to the Xperia Z5 or does it fail to hit the heights that Sony want – and desperately need – their smartphone range to achieve? Let’s find out in this in-depth Sony Xperia X review!
The design of the Xperia X will be instantly familiar to anyone who is acquainted with Sony’s previous Xperia Z devices. The Z range could have been modeled on the monolith from Arthur C Clarke’s 2001, and while the Graphite Black Xperia X still bears some resemblance to the monolith, the more rounded corners help to give the X a less jarring design. And if Graphite Black isn’t your thing then you can also get the Xperia X in White, Lime Gold and Rose Gold.
The Xperia X has Sony’s familiar button layout, including the dedicated camera shutter button and the centrally placed power button, which houses a fingerprint reader.
Like the Xperia Z5, the downside of Sony’s button layout is that the volume rocker is towards the bottom of the right side, between the power button and the camera shutter button. This makes the volume rocker hard to reach, regardless of which hand you are using to hold the device.
Going around the device, there is the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top, and the micro USB port on the bottom. Both the top and bottom have microphone holes as well. On the left is the tray for the SIM card and the SD card. On the front you will find the 5 inch Full HD 1080p TRILUMINOS display, the front facing camera and the front facing speakers. On the rear is the main camera and the Xperia logo.
Overall the Xperia X feels nice in the hand and is easy to handle. It has a symmetrical design making it easy to grip and although this design has been updated since the Z5, the Xperia X remains quintessentially a Sony smartphone.
The Xperia X comes with a 5 inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display, resulting in a pixel density of 441 ppi. This resolution and pixel density works perfectly for a 5 inch display. You get the color reproduction that you’d expect from the Triluminos display with the X-REALITY Engine enhancements, along with the great viewing angles from this IPS screen. The Xperia X also includes Sony’s Dynamic Contrast Enhancer, which the company says makes the bright parts of the screen brighter and the dark parts a truer, deeper black.
The Xperia X features Sony’s “smart backlight control” which detects if you are holding the phone in your hand. If you are then the screen stays on, for example when you are looking at a photo, without touching the screen. When you aren’t holding the device then the display switches off according to the standard display sleep settings. I tested it out, and basically it does what it says on the tin!
Overall the display on the Xperia X is a pleasure to use. The color reproduction is great and the display can go very bright when needed, making outdoor usage good.
Performance and hardware
A little surprisingly Sony has opted for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 for the Xperia X. For those of you looking for a Snapdragon 820, you will need to go to the Xperia X Performance. So what is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650? It is a 1.8GHz hexa-core processor with two ARM Cortex-A72 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. Those 6 cores are supported by the Qualcomm Adreno 510 GPU and 3GB of RAM.
There is also 32GB of internal storage (up to 64 GB on some of the dual SIM models) and the option to add more via a microSD card. The Xperia X supports SDXC which means it can support cards up 2TB, but Sony’s listings says “up to 200GB microSD” as that is the largest readily available card on the market at the moment.
You also get all of the normal connectivity options including NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS, Bluetooth 4.1, and 4G LTE. One odd thing about the NFC on the Xperia X is that the NFC reader/sensor is on the front of the phone. This means to use the NFc you need to hold the back of one phone near the front of the Sony.
During my experiments to transfer a photo from one device to the Xperia X I found it hard to get the alignment right, plus holding the other phone so close to the X’s screen means it was easy to mistakenly touch the screen and erroneously start apps etc.
As for sound, the Xperia X features dual front facing stereo speakers meaning that the sound is unobstructed when you place the phone on a flat surface and that the sound is projected directly upwards and outwards. The speakers can get quite loud and placing the device on flat on a surface seems to boost the sound more than when held in the hand.
There are a number of Audio settings which can be used to improve the sound quality including DSEE HX, ClearAudio+ and a Dynamic normalizer. There is also a manual mode which allows you to enable the equalizer or activate various surround sound options including S-Force Front Surround.
When it comes to the battery, the Sony Xperia X packs a 2620 mAh unit. I was quite curious to see how the battery performed because I was expecting a battery closer to 3000 mAh. The good news is that I was pleasantly surprised.
My initial charge, from when I took it out of the box, lasted just over two days (as I didn’t really use it for the first day) with a screen on time of 4.5 hours, which included running lots of benchmarks and using the camera app to record video to see if it over heated.
The next charge gave me 5.5 hours of screen-on time from a mixture of web browsing, YouTube, navigation, 3D gaming and 2D gaming. What this means is that with moderately heavy usage, you will be able to get a full day of battery life and this could be improved by turning on some power saving features once the capacity goes down to 25 percent. You may be able to get more. A screen on time of between 4 to 6 hours is quite possible, as my tests show that you can stream YouTube videos for around 9 hours on one charge or play 3D games for around 5 hours.
According to Sony’s website the Xperia X supports Quick Charge 2.0, which means that the phone can be charged up to 80% relatively quickly. However, the charger that came with my review unit was not QC 2.0 compatible. Using the supplied charger it took 1 hour 15 minutes to charge from 5% to 75%.
In terms of general performance the Snapdragon 650 provides a snappy user experience. The UI is smooth and there aren’t any noticeable lags. The gaming experience is also very good, in fact the Xperia X scores an impressive 59.5 fps for Epic Citadel in High Quality Mode and 58.0 fps for Ultra High Quality mode. As for some of the popular benchmarks, the device managed a score of 77,306 in AnTuTu, 1442 in Geekbench’s Single Core test, and 3800 in Geekbench’s multi-core test.
With a 23 MP Sony Exmor RS sensor, a wide angle 24mm G Lens, and support for low-light photography at ISO 12800, I was really looking forward to seeing what the Xperia X’s camera could do. However, my expectations were lower due to the underwhelming performance of the camera on the Xperia Z5 Compact, which I reviewed towards the end of last year. This meant that if the Xperia X didn’t meet my expectations, I wouldn’t be so disappointed.
So, what do I say? The camera on the Xperia X is good, but it isn’t the best. Although the camera has a 23MP sensor, it is set into 8MP (16:9) mode by default. Sony smartphone enthusiasts will tell you that this is the best mode as it uses supersampling and gives better results. As well as using 8MP (16:9), I have also taken shots using 20MP (16:9) and 23MP (4:3). All the pictures in the gallery below are marked with the relevant mode used:
As you can see in good daylight the camera works well and there is little to choose between the 20/23MP and 8MP images (other than the resolution). However some pictures seem dull and washed out. Take particular notice of the sky, it is meant to be blue! However using HDR does improve the washed out sky problem, but it does alter the color of the overall picture quite drastically.
In low light situations the camera tries very hard to produce a good shot, even though the noise level goes up (which is to be expected) the overall results are good.
The Xperia X also features Sony’s predictive hybrid autofocus, which can help to predict the movement of an object on screen in order to anticipate and capture the perfect in-focus picture. In a nutshell you tap on a object in the frame and if it moves (like kids and dogs tend to do) then the Xperia X uses object tracking to keep things in focus.
While there is no 4K video recording, the Xperia X does support 60 fps while recording in full HD. There has been some concern about the Sony Xperia X overheating while recording video. When I first used the camera app I saw a warning message which said, “If the device temperature rises, the app may close during use. Your recording will be saved automatically.” There is then the option to tick the box and not see this warning again.
To see if the Xperia has an overheating problem, I started to record a full HD 60fps video and set the camera on top of a jar to see how long it could record for. Everything went OK until about the 18 minute mark when a warning was displayed, “Camera will now turn off temporarily to cool down.” Which it promptly did. The temperature rise on the back (measured using my infrared temperature gun) was some 13C.
On the plus side, the bundled camera app is quite good. Along with a semi-manual mode, there are lots of additional modes including an AR mode, which can superimpose computer generated scenes like dinosaurs and fish onto your photos or videos; an AR mask mode, to mask your face with different generated masks; and a timeshift video mode, which records at a high frame-rate and applies slow motion effects.
One problem I have with the app is that it seems the only way to enable HDR is to use the semi-manual mode, and even then it is buried away in a settings menu and isn’t an on screen control. The upshot of this is that, for me at least, the semi-manual mode became the equivalent of HDR mode – if I wanted HDR then I switched to semi-manual, if I didn’t then I switched back to full auto.
The Xperia X comes with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow along with a light skin on top of stock Android and also includes extra features and Sony related apps. As well as the software for managing the fingerprint reader there is a myriad of device connection options including the ability to wirelessly play content on your Xperia X on other devices (i.e. Sony TVs), screen mirroring, connecting to Playstation controllers, and MirrorLink. There is also a theme library with some free color based themes that match the phone’s colors (e.g. White, Lime, and Gold) along with a theme store full of themes, both paid and free.
Under Battery (in the Settings) there are two different power saving modes available: STAMINA mode and Ultra STAMINA mode. With STAMINA mode enabled then GPS, vibration, image enhancement etc are restricted to reduce battery consumption. Also background data is restricted, again to save battery. With Ultra STAMINA mode enabled your data connection (both Wi-Fi and cellular) is disabled and the home screen is switched to the Ultra STAMINA mode home screen, which gives you access to only a few apps like phone, contacts, messaging, camera and the clock!
In terms of extra apps, Sony has included Lifelog, for tracking calories, steps and sleep, etc.; Movie Creator, which makes movies from your photos, in a similar way to Google Photos; TrackID, Sony’s music recognition app; Xperia Lounge, featuring Xperia related content; plus the PlayStation app.
|Display||5" Full HD (1920 x 1080)|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 (2 x ARM Cortex-A72, 4x Cortex-A53)|
|GPU||Qualcomm Adreno 510|
|Connectivity||NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS, Bluetooth 4.1, and 4G LTE|
|Storage||Up to 32GB, expandable up tp 200GB via microSD.|
|Camera||Rear: 23MP 1/2.3'' Exmor RS with Predictive Hybrid AF. |
Front: 13MP 1/3'' Exmor RS, 22mm Wide Angle Lens F2.0
|OS||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow|
|Colors||White, Graphite Black, Lime Gold, or Rose Gold|
|Dimensions||143 x 69 x 7.7mm. 152g|
|Misc||Fingerprint sensor, front facing stereo speakers|
Pricing and final thoughts
The Xperia X is available in the UK from a variety of carriers and outlets and costs around £459.99 without a contract. In Europe you can buy it off contract for around EUR 589.99. It will also be available from June 26 in the USA from Best Buy, B&H, Amazon and Reagan Wireless for around $549.99. To put the UK price into some context, the LG G5 can be found for around £449 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 for £526. However those prices are fluctuating.
Considering that phones like the G5 and the S7 come with higher resolution displays and the Snapdragon 820, the Xperia X is a tough sell at these prices. However, you may find it available with a good deal via your carrier, and so negating the high off-contract price. If you are a Sony fan or you are looking to upgrade from a Xperia Z device and want to stick with Sony then the Xperia X could just be what you are looking for.
Lastly, a quick shout out to Vodafone (UK) for lending us this Sony Xperia X for review, plus a big thank you to Bailey Stein for confirming the video overheating problem and for some great photos.