Sony Xperia X Review

by Vishal Toshiwal 2

When Sony first released the Xperia Z flagship during it’s early Xperia days, it was my favorite handset, not only in terms of just camera, but also regarding the design and build quality, while performance on the early Xperia handsets such as Z and Z2 was quite impressive for the technological advancements of that period. But in the recent iterations of the Xperia Z3 and Z3+ (Z4 in some regions), a bad sharp design, overheating of the camera and other issues plagued company’s most prestigious line-up.

That’s why this year the Japanese brand decided to ditch their Z line-up completely and instead introduce a fresh face to its audience since the image of Series has been damaged a lot. It was a wise decision by company officials. This time around Sony has decided to keep focus on its camera part, (come to think they say this every year, don’t they) which is the key focus of our detailed review as well. Let’s dive in shall we.

Design

Sony has been around for longer than any young mobile startups, which are conquering large markets with their uniquely crafted handsets, while the iconic Japanese brand is still stuck with same design aesthetics that we are quite familiar with its Z Line-up. That should have been changed on the Xperia X. We have seen Sony grown up and have been surrounded by tech products bearing company’s logo. There is a PlayStation, VAIO range of laptops and most recently the RX100 camera series. And yet here we are in the times when a company hasn’t done anything worth noting since quite a time. We are talking mostly in the context of their smartphone lineup.

The Xperia X looks just like the Xperia Z3+, and the Z3. And the Xperia M5. The point is that it looks pretty much similar to every phone the brand has launched in the last five years. We aren’t saying that it is an ugly device, but rather concerned that Sony has lacked imagination in terms of refreshing their lineup. This is not refreshing the smartphone range; it is called resurfacing the old concept that interests no people anymore. Both parts, front and back are quite flat, the sides are made slightly rounded. It isn’t particularly thin, but rather comfortable. All thanks to its fairly compact size that offers a good grip.

Though, there is one improvement that I liked over the previous Xperia Z handsets was on the rear, which isn’t glass anymore, as it is replaced by brushed aluminium. And thus is no longer a magnet for fingerprints and oily residue like earlier handsets. Talking about the buttons placements, Sony by far is the only manufacturer among big brands who puts buttons in most awkward places. The power and fingerprint sensor is included in one button, which is quite elongated and only work on the hard press. There is a volume rocker key, which has the most uncomfortable position towards the bottom. Why does Sony’s design team think it was a good idea to place it there! That is in no way an easy access.

The camera shutter button is present on the bottom end of the right edge, just like we have seen on other Xperia Z handsets. Note that it is on the mushy side and asks for a lot of pressure to push. It is the addition to one of those little annoyances that make it uneasy to use the handset. On the left edge, you’ll notice an SIM tray, where no annoying SIM tool is required, as you could just pop it out easily. But Sony still managed to make it annoying because after you remove the tray, which can hold an SIM and microSD card, the device reboots as soon as you remove that tray. It would have been understandable if the phone was supporting Marshmallow’s adaptable storage feature, which it, unfortunately, does not.

The one feature that was the USP of Sony’s handsets was the water-resistant feature, which unfortunately has been removed from the Xperia X. It may not be a major omission in terms of features, but to stand out in the crowd, such features have become necessary. That is something Sony should have thought, before releasing this handset.

Display

Sony is good with display technologies as you might see them use Triluminous Display for Mobile on their most handsets. Last year, the brand made headlines with its Xperia Z5 Premium, which sported the world’s 4K screen, making it first to sport such high-resolution display. People gushed all about it, but when the realisation come that 4K is limited to Videos and Images, as other times would be just a plain 1080p panel. Learning from that company hasn’t played that trick on its new Xperia X smartphone to describe the 1080 pixel resolution.

The 5-inch real estate is small for a flagship handset these days, but it isn’t that small. This LCD panel has a pixel density of 441 PPI (Pixel Per Inch). The company distinguishes this handset by using tech jargons and buzzwords like X-Reality Engine, Triluminous Display and Dynamic Contrast Enhancement. Though all you need to know is that it’s a good display, at least not like Super AMOLED display, but it is one of the better ones available in the market these days.

Sony Xperia X - Display

It isn’t a 2K display, which is almost a standard among the pricey handsets, but first thing, it isn’t a flagship phone, nor does it have all specification to fight among that. Though, the 1080p display crammed in a 5-inch screen size offers good pixels per inch. I would still call it a fantastic, but not people who are now used to large screen size display, as they wouldn’t satisfy with size.

The display is quite bright, offers deep blacks and accurate colours. The viewing angles are fantastic as well, although, the sunlight legibility isn’t the best as we hoped to since you need to adjust the angles. But rest assured there was no discolouration when I tilted the phone to its sides. It’s an LCD panel, so don’t get your expectations very high in terms of seeing vibrant colours, not an OLED panel. An average user won’t notice a difference unless they’re using two handsets, one with AMOLED display and putting this handset side-by-side. Though Sony’s screen isn’t completely free of issues; you notice that when the auto-brightness is ON but it lights up the whole room in pitch-black at night. Something most of the displays lack, but Sony needs to optimise it much more.

Interface, Apps

This might be the best software we have used on a Sony handset since a long time. It is clearly the highlight of the Sony Xperia X, a new approach to the software experience. It is clean, smooth and isn’t overdoing anything with a bundle of features that no one uses. There are only a few instances when I have actually liked the extras over the top of Vanilla Android. Sony has given a clear-all button in the multitasking bar, which is changed from what we were used to. We noticed minor changes, but they help in no-end in terms of the usability.

Sony Xperia X (10)

Sony has introduced a search bar, which is all the rage in Android smartphones these days, as many brands have seen introducing such one-stop search bar. For instances, CREO Mark 1, Yunicorn and couple other smartphones sport it. You can just swipe down from the home screen and get access to this search bar, which also recommends and suggests based on your usage of apps. Note that you can also access this search bar from the app drawer. It is quite helpful when you don’t want to open the app drawer and browse for the app icon when you can just type the name and app will come to you. Though, it would have been interesting to see brand integrate more than just searching application, as they could have added features like searching Settings directly from this bar.

The Xperia UI slathered over the top is made quite interesting this time, but why did Sony’s bloatware apps would have to ruin that as well. I know the pre-installed apps can be easily disabled, but why offer tons of them in the first place just wasting a lot of system memory and storage. Companies should take the path that Samsung chose two generations ago; reduce the number of pre-installed apps and let users download that from their own app store. That’s not it; there are apps like Amazon Kindle, Modern Combat, Asphalt Nitro, Hungama Play, AVG Protection and Midnight Pool. While you’ll see a ton of Sony apps like Movie Creator, Sketch, Track ID, Lounge, PlayStation, What’s New, Lifelog and many more apps.

Sony is known to offer quite a good animation and graphics on their handset; one instance is how beautifully in displays the storage usage with a graphic image in the background. The company have also integrated a Smart Cleaner, which automatically optimise storage and memory depending on the frequency of app. You can also uninstall apps directly with a one tap; there is no hassling required here. Unless it’s a pre-installed app, which can only be disabled, if you didn’t know. Talking about the storage, we have the 64GB model, and it only has a 40GB user available storage, while 20.59GB is used by Android System and Apps. A big chunk, around 15GB, is used Android OS. Now that is a massive amount.

Hardware & Performance

The foremost question one should before buying this handset is: Why the company is marketing Xperia X as a flagship model if they have a Xperia X Performance for that. The significant difference between these two Xperia Models is the processor and IP 68 Rating. Talking about the chipset first, the Xperia X is powered by a Snapdragon 650 processor, which is a Hexa-core processor, sporting two Cortex A72 and four Cortex A53 cores, clocking at 1.8GHz. Whereas on the other hand is the Snapdragon 820 chipset, which is present on X Performance and it should have been the one competing with at the price point around Rs 50K, but not the lower powered variant.

What’s surprising is that Moto G4 Plus is sporting a Snapdragon 617 processor, which is quite similar in processing power when compared with Snapdragon 650 on Xperia X at an affordable pricing of Rs 14,999, which is around four times less pricing than Sony handset. On the other end, Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 with Snapdragon 650 processor is available at Rs 9999. That is just baffling! Note not disrupting, but baffling, because at Rs 50K pricing users have a lot of options to get Snapdragon 820 powered chipset. Hell, they could also go with Xiaomi Mi 5, which is priced at Rs 24,999. Then, just imagine, why anyone would want to purchase the Xperia X at such bomb price. That seems to be the question here.

Sony Xperia X (2)

Now let’s talk about the performance of the Snapdragon 650 on Xperia X. The device is paired with a 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 510, which is not considered as the high-end specification. We have a handset with 64GB storage, the standard storage you’ll see in the market is at 32GB. If you’re worried about the internal storage, then you shouldn’t as there is an external storage option to expand the storage via microSD card slot. I have few concerns when it comes to the day-to-day use of the Xperia X. Though, opening apps, browsing basic sites, as well as carrying out other tasks like emailing, socialising through Facebook and Twitter, won’t require much power.

While if you like to push things a little harder, well, then get ready to experience issues at intervals. That is when you are browsing image-heavy websites, as they take a while to load. You’ll also struggle while editing in movie creator. The device has a tendency to heat up a lot during many occasions such as watch videos, playing games and most of the time when you’re capturing photos or taking videos. We will talk about the camera issues in below section. The shortcomings of the CPU and GPU combination are noticeable while playing graphically intense games such as Asphalt 8, Dead Trigger 2 and Modern Kombat. They intermittently stutter and loading time is quite long. Now that is not an experience one would want on such pricey handset.

Talking about the benchmark, we tested the device with several benchmarking apps just to get the overall potential of the device. For Antutu, the device scored 72756, which can be breakdown into four aspects, 3D, UX, CPU and RAM. They respectively scored 18952, 25204, 21965 and 6635 for them. While moving on with the Vellamo score, which is Qualcomm’s application to test the capability of the processor. There are three aspects through which Vellamo app tests the chipset performance; Multi-core, Metal and Chrome Browser. The scores for these are 2568, 2469 and 4460, which is not bad for the Snapdragon 650 processor, is quite below than the competition such as LG G5, Samsung Galaxy S7 and HTC 10. We also did the real life browsing test to understand how is the browsing experience on this handset, well, to sum it all up, it was pretty good even on a small real estate like this. The pinch to Zoom-in and Zoom-out works smoothly without any lag. But note that it is only valid for browsing not so graphic heavy websites.

While talking about the Sony’s continued support for High-Resolution audio standard, it is quite great, and audio through headphones sound fantastic. There is a dual-stereo front-facing speaker on the device, which is not loud, but is decently audible enough. Now the fingerprint sensor situation, well, the Indian variant is getting a fingerprint sensor, unlike the United States model, which is robbed of the biometric sensor. Though, it may be a good thing. Unlike anyone else, Sony has placed this biometric sensor on the right edge of the power button. Yes. At first, it feels quite weird, the idea of using this, but after some time you get used to it. Overall, I would say that it was a mushy experience of using the fingerprint sensor on the right edge, as it demands much pressure, unlike most of the fingerprint setup these days. Especially, LG G5, which doesn’t demand any hard pressure, you just put your finger and it detects and unlocks. Though, don’t get it wrong, the fingerprint sensor on the Sony Xperia X is detected not equally but decently fast. It’s just the button demands a hard push. Moreover, you can’t unlock it while the device is lying on the desk.

Camera

Sony phones are all about cameras, well, at least that’s how brand portray itself and has for the past decade or so. It is a marketing strategy for which you can’t really blame the company, considering the brand’s estate in this arena. Moreover, the fact that they make camera sensors for most of their rivals in the smartphone business. And that may be the reason company touts its camera package a lot than many. To be honest, I have never seen the company deliver a truly great camera experience on their mobile phones. We know there’s no doubt that sensor has a strong quality feature, but the company has rather missed the mark with their dreadful, slow software and an overly-harsh post-production quality.

Sony Xperia X - Camera App

Yes, I’m afraid to tell you that it’s a similar story here, repeating the history. The rear houses a 23-megapixel resolution image sensor, which is company’s Exmor RS sensor using Stead Shot software rather than optical image stabilisation. It may house larger pixel count than any of the flagship devices in the market right now, but it certainly lacks when comes to aperture number. Samsung offers a wide aperture of f/1.7, while Sony’s camera has only f/2.0 aperture number, thus not allowing it to capture the much larger amount of light. Having the narrower aperture means you can’t get the bokeh shots where the foreground is in sharp focus and background is blurs out. It is something that pushes Galaxy S7 and G5 forward.

The pictures taken from Xperia X do look good, as colours are nicely represented without over-exposing the light sources. But its post-production makes them quite sharpen and thus resulting in not so true to nature shots. Yet, you can expect to see the detailed and colourful output. My main issue with the camera is the new Auto-focus system company has implemented rather than going with popular PDAF (Phase Detection Autofocus). The new predictive hybrid autofocus is not quite convincingly fast at all for general photographs. It is only made for snapping fast-moving objects. While you won’t every time snap such photographs. Moreover, you can notice the lack of OIS, which is replaced with Steady Shot, resulting in often blurry or out of focus images. There’s no doubt that pictures are bright and have captured enough details in the low light, but overall, the outputs don’t look good, which is what matters.

Nobody wants to stand forever and take those nighttime shots, and that’s where Sony’s camera fails miserably. One can only achieve good outputs if they invest time in them. But if that is something that I won’t have to do with competing smartphones, then why would I buy this handset. Overall, it’s an unreliable camera, there are just too many times, it presents me a black screen or took ages to load. With a promise to capture photos in 0.6 seconds, it doesn’t felt like this is a faster camera. The company touts the shutter functionality, which allows you to capture photos without unlocking the device, but what is the point of not having a viewfinder while taking a photograph. Moreover, even if you do capture from that shutter button without unlocking the device, the output you’ll see will most probably be blurry as it happened with us. It is frustrating to see Sony struggle to offer a good camera output despite large pixel resolution and what, not tech jargons being used in the camera setup.

There is no 4K video recording on the rear camera. Now explain this to videography enthusiasts who would buy a Rs 48K smartphone with maximum video content it can record is at 1080p resolution. That too with no OIS support. Then, there is a heating issue, as after playing some time with the camera, it heats up a lot that device warns about the inaccessibility of some functions. I mean is anything worthy on this camera setup for the cost you’re paying. To sum it up all, well, nothing is quite good o this camera setup in our opinion. In terms of selfie capture, Sony may have ante-up the module to 13-megapixel wide module, and it would allow them to cram a lot of faces in one selfie. But the fact here is that the post production value is very low, as it makes pictures look a little fake with changed skin tones.

Battery

The battery life on the Sony Xperia X is surprisingly good, as it lasted about a day on more than average usage. While on an average usage it can easily last for a day with the good amount of battery left for further usage. Sony might have claimed that it has a two-day’s battery capacity, but that is not true in any case. Unless you have put the device on standby, because it consumes very less battery during the idle time. It is equipped with a 2620mAh capacity battery, which may seem on the lower end, but considering the display size and resolution, as well as the efficient chipset, it offers more than decent amount of battery time. The device supports quick charge functionality, so you don’t have to wait to get your device detached from the wall charger. You can’t get two day’s battery life unless you are using the device in Stamina Mode.

Connectivity

The connectivity options on the Sony Xperia X smartphone are on par with most of the handsets. It supports 4G LTE, has NFC functionality and can connect you to Miracast compliant TV or Tablet. You can also mirror your Xperia on Google Cast compliant TV or device, such as Chromecast. Over-share your media with DLNA devices over Wi-Fi. There are more connectivity options that are proprietary for technologies like MirrorLink and DUALSHOCK 4 that can be used in connection with this device. The usual connectivity options include dual nano SIM, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and microUSB port.

Verdict

Considering it’s a year when many big companies are stepping the game in terms of the overall offering, while on the other hand Sony was also supposed to offer a newly refreshed experience on their Xperia X smartphone, but is a disappointment. Apart from the new name and some couple things, the handset more or less feels like an upgraded version of Xperia Z5 Compact. We only hope that Sony comes to its sense soon and decrease the price of this handset, as it isn’t giving any competition to the likes of Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5 and HTC 10. With so many excellent phones out there, it’s tough to recommend the Sony Xperia X, especially when we believe it costs far more than it should have been.

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Vishal Toshiwal

Born in West India, raised in the North and currently chasing dreams in the southern part of India- Vishal is an entrepreneurial spirit, a tech enthusiast and a writer by profession, who is busy taking pictures when he is not writing. He would love to talk to you about the latest movies, TV shows and DC/Marvel comics. As a personal rule, he doesn't let a day get by without at least one dessert. Because, why not?

  • Woodnote(hulone_)

    Thanks for in depth and unbiased review.

  • PRATHEESH PS

    Pricing is so crazy ,just like they don’t care about the market. I hope Sony wouldn’t suffer the same fate as Windows phones