Sony Xperia X Review

Introduction


Thanks to the diversified nature of its various businesses, Sony may not be in as precarious a position as the likes of HTC or BlackBerry. All the same, it's plainly obvious that the maker has been having trouble in mobile for a while now. Ditching the Z-series of old, Sony is transitioning to an Xperia X branding, and the eponymous mid-ranger is the first of the new line we get to review.

This move, it's supposed to be a showcase of Sony's willingness to get back to the drawing board and re-imagine at least some parts of its mobile offering. And with an asking price of $549.99, Sony is setting the bar for itself and the Xperia X pretty high. Let's see if they pass our test.

Design

A mix of old and new, the Xperia X offers numerous small improvements, along with some big ones

If you've ever held Sony's still reigning flagship, the Xperia Z5, then you'll know just how uncomfortable it is. The frame towards the back cuts into your hand unpleasantly, and the frosted glass is very slippery. With the Xperia X, Sony fixes the former issue, but not the latter.

Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review

In any case, if we're to continue the parallel with the Z5, the Xperia X is different in many small ways. For starters, the glass up front seamlessly flows towards the sides, creating a beautiful effect. The modular corners of old are also gone as the frame is now a singular piece, the Xperia insignia etched onto the left side is no more, and the lanyard cutout has been retired. The only branding on the back left standing says simply “Xperia”—no Sony, and no G Lens cheat sheet next to the camera. Speaking of the shooter, it's bigger than before and protrudes just a tiny bit.

In short, all of the above combines to give us a clean, distinctive, and very attractive exterior. Sure, the aforementioned issue with the slippery back stands, but seeing as how many will go for a protective case, it's probably not too big of a deal.

 

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Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia X
Sony Xperia X
5.63 x 2.72 x 0.3 inches
143 x 69 x 7.7 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Sony Xperia X

Google Nexus 5X
Google Nexus 5X
5.79 x 2.86 x 0.31 inches
147 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm
4.80 oz (136 g)

Google Nexus 5X

Huawei P9
Huawei P9
5.71 x 2.79 x 0.27 inches
145 x 70.9 x 6.95 mm
5.08 oz (144 g)

Huawei P9

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5




Display

Very bright, with impressive gamma response, but ultimately color-incorrect

If you're after trendy technologies such as Quad HD AMOLED screens, the Xperia X will disappoint—but not entirely. Sporting a 5-inch panel, it's an IPS LCD make with “just” 1080 x 1920 pixels. But if you're after the typical “AMOLED” effect, meaning obviously overstated colors, then you're in luck.

The Xperia X's screen is, indeed, not at all color correct. All your primaries and secondary are off target, with Red and Green being the worst offenders. Blue, on the other hand, dominates over them in turn, resulting in a very high color temperature of over 8,200K. In practice, white and the many shades of gray are decidedly bluish, which is annoying.

Onto a more positive note, both maximum and minimum brightness are just excellent, ensuring great experience whether it's midday or dead of the night. Gamma is also on target, and it's actually rare that we get as accurate response. Makes the above-mentioned shortcomings even harder to stomach, unfortunately.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Sony Xperia X 536
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1261
(Excellent)
8208
(Poor)
2.18
5.42
(Average)
6.37
(Average)
Google Nexus 5X 487
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
1:1498
(Excellent)
6799
(Excellent)
2.31
2.06
(Good)
3.54
(Good)
Huawei P9 458
(Good)
4
(Excellent)
1:1277
(Excellent)
8505
(Poor)
2.24
4.42
(Average)
9.72
(Poor)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Google Nexus 5X 77.6%
50%
81.7%
6.1%
10.8%
43.2%
0.3%
Sony Xperia X 78.7%
75%
83.1%
8.2%
9.2%
12.2%
23.1%
Huawei P9 79.9%
75%
80.7%
2.2%
8.9%
0.7%
12.6%
LG G5 86%
87.5%
89%
4.7%
16.8%
8.5%
14%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Sony Xperia X Review

Introduction


Thanks to the diversified nature of its various businesses, Sony may not be in as precarious a position as the likes of HTC or BlackBerry. All the same, it's plainly obvious that the maker has been having trouble in mobile for a while now. Ditching the Z-series of old, Sony is transitioning to an Xperia X branding, and the eponymous mid-ranger is the first of the new line we get to review.

This move, it's supposed to be a showcase of Sony's willingness to get back to the drawing board and re-imagine at least some parts of its mobile offering. And with an asking price of $549.99, Sony is setting the bar for itself and the Xperia X pretty high. Let's see if they pass our test.

Design

A mix of old and new, the Xperia X offers numerous small improvements, along with some big ones

If you've ever held Sony's still reigning flagship, the Xperia Z5, then you'll know just how uncomfortable it is. The frame towards the back cuts into your hand unpleasantly, and the frosted glass is very slippery. With the Xperia X, Sony fixes the former issue, but not the latter.

Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review

In any case, if we're to continue the parallel with the Z5, the Xperia X is different in many small ways. For starters, the glass up front seamlessly flows towards the sides, creating a beautiful effect. The modular corners of old are also gone as the frame is now a singular piece, the Xperia insignia etched onto the left side is no more, and the lanyard cutout has been retired. The only branding on the back left standing says simply “Xperia”—no Sony, and no G Lens cheat sheet next to the camera. Speaking of the shooter, it's bigger than before and protrudes just a tiny bit.

In short, all of the above combines to give us a clean, distinctive, and very attractive exterior. Sure, the aforementioned issue with the slippery back stands, but seeing as how many will go for a protective case, it's probably not too big of a deal.


Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia X
Sony Xperia X
5.63 x 2.72 x 0.3 inches
143 x 69 x 7.7 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Sony Xperia X

Google Nexus 5X
Google Nexus 5X
5.79 x 2.86 x 0.31 inches
147 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm
4.80 oz (136 g)

Google Nexus 5X

Huawei P9
Huawei P9
5.71 x 2.79 x 0.27 inches
145 x 70.9 x 6.95 mm
5.08 oz (144 g)

Huawei P9

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5




Display

Very bright, with impressive gamma response, but ultimately color-incorrect

If you're after trendy technologies such as Quad HD AMOLED screens, the Xperia X will disappoint—but not entirely. Sporting a 5-inch panel, it's an IPS LCD make with “just” 1080 x 1920 pixels. But if you're after the typical “AMOLED” effect, meaning obviously overstated colors, then you're in luck.

The Xperia X's screen is, indeed, not at all color correct. All your primaries and secondary are off target, with Red and Green being the worst offenders. Blue, on the other hand, dominates over them in turn, resulting in a very high color temperature of over 8,200K. In practice, white and the many shades of gray are decidedly bluish, which is annoying.

Onto a more positive note, both maximum and minimum brightness are just excellent, ensuring great experience whether it's midday or dead of the night. Gamma is also on target, and it's actually rare that we get as accurate response. Makes the above-mentioned shortcomings even harder to stomach, unfortunately.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Sony Xperia X 536
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1261
(Excellent)
8208
(Poor)
2.18
5.42
(Average)
6.37
(Average)
Google Nexus 5X 487
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
1:1498
(Excellent)
6799
(Excellent)
2.31
2.06
(Good)
3.54
(Good)
Huawei P9 458
(Good)
4
(Excellent)
1:1277
(Excellent)
8505
(Poor)
2.24
4.42
(Average)
9.72
(Poor)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Google Nexus 5X 77.6%
50%
81.7%
6.1%
10.8%
43.2%
0.3%
Sony Xperia X 78.7%
75%
83.1%
8.2%
9.2%
12.2%
23.1%
Huawei P9 79.9%
75%
80.7%
2.2%
8.9%
0.7%
12.6%
LG G5 86%
87.5%
89%
4.7%
16.8%
8.5%
14%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Interface


Sony is known for its light touch when it comes to skinning Android, and the Marshmallow build running on the Xperia X changes none of that. It's still a friendly and ultimately understated execution, though we'd argue that Sony can learn a thing or two from HTC, whose UI is similarly minimalist, but also decidedly more visually attractive.

In any case, a few standout features have been made available with the X, including the ability to double tap the screen to wake it or put it to sleep. For whatever reason, however, these two options are not on by default, and are located in two different menus. Odd. 

The iconography in the Settings menu is also different from that on the Xperia Z5, though we've got to say that the new style is neither an improvement nor a step back.

Taking cue from Apple's iOS, Sony is also letting you quickly search for apps by swiping down anywhere on the homescreen.

Finally, it's also worth noting that while our unit (meant for the US market) offers no fingerprint scanner integrated into the power button on the right side, other regions are expected to get the security feature.

Phone

Adopting a familiar Material Design style, the _phone_ app on the Xperia X is actually pretty powerful, at least in relative terms.

T9-keypad support is available if you're used to it, and so are essentials such as call forwarding and call barring. The Smart call handling features also allows you to pick up calls by simply putting the Xperia X to your ear or reject them by shaking the phone.

Perhaps most unique, however, is the Xperia Answering Machine, which is obviously different from your carrier's voicemail feature. As with the answering machines of old, you record a personal greeting and set how long after a caller connects before said message is played. Whatever the other side has to say, the Xperia X will record for later hearing.

Messenger


The Messenger app, also styled with Material Design guidelines in mind, is pretty minimalist. Apart from the most basic features, there's really nothing that stands out.

When composing a message, however, the X does give you plenty of creative options. You can send stickers (as an MMS, obviously), location, contacts, sketches, videos, and even voice recordings. In a way, Sony has pretty much gone for a messenger app-style functionality, but within the context of old-school texting.

Organizer


To keep organized, the Xperia X relies heavily on Google solutions. Starting with the Calendar, through Drive and the Docs/Sheets/Slides productivity family, right down to Gmail. A separate, Sony email client is also available, along with dedicated Weather, News, and Calculator apps.

Processor and memory


Sony Xperia X Review

Known for their decent, but not at all inspiring performance, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600-series chips of old used to be a concern from our point of view. Sure, they were the obvious choice in the mid-range, but we often felt they delivered inconsistent speed, especially in terms of navigational fluidity. Real heavy games, unless well-optimized, were also a burden on the chips.

Sony Xperia X Review
Thankfully, that's the past. Making use of the hexa-core Snapdragon 650, the Xperia X runs great on the latest Android Marshmallow build of Sony's custom UI. Navigation is buttery, load times are satisfactory, and you can actually do some more serious gaming thanks to the Adreno 510 GPU.

On the memory front, the X brings it with generous 3 gigs of LPDDR3 RAM and a choice of 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage. If either of these options sounds insufficient, rest assured that you can expand through a microSD card for many times that.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
LG G5 134074
Huawei P9 96185
Sony Xperia X 73681.5
Google Nexus 5X 53178
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
LG G5 3515
Huawei P9 2940.33
Sony Xperia X 2380.66
Google Nexus 5X 2161
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
LG G5 4498
Huawei P9 6679.66
Sony Xperia X 4772.66
Google Nexus 5X 4220
JetStream
Higher is better
LG G5 52.218
Huawei P9 67.93
Sony Xperia X 42.92
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
LG G5 54.33
Huawei P9 42.66
Sony Xperia X 33
Google Nexus 5X 38
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
LG G5 17
Huawei P9 11
Sony Xperia X 9.9
Google Nexus 5X 16
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
LG G5 1913
Huawei P9 1946
Sony Xperia X 1337.66
Google Nexus 5X 1537
Geekbench 3 single-core
Higher is better
LG G5 2344
Huawei P9 1756
Sony Xperia X 1323
Google Nexus 5X 1179
Geekbench 3 multi-core
Higher is better
LG G5 5442
Huawei P9 6475
Sony Xperia X 3694.33
Google Nexus 5X 3379
View all

Sony Xperia X Review

Internet and connectivity


Browser - Sony Xperia X Review

Browser

For all your browsing needs, the Xperia X will be directing you to Google's Chrome, as has been the case for several generations now. As can be expected, surfing through Chrome is pleasant and the experience is very consistent. Navigational operations, such as zooming in and out and panning larger pages is executed well, without annoying amounts of delays or random stutters.

Onto the connectivity front, we've got a full stack. The Wi-Fi module on board, for example, can connect to both legacy 2.4Ghz bands and 5GHz ones. Bluetooth is at the latest, 4.2 version, and there's also support for NFC, DLNA, Miracast technologies. Over 12 LTE bands are supported. The SIM slot is of the Nano size.

Camera

A potentially great camera seemingly ruined by questionable camera software?

At the core of Sony's photography offering with the Xperia X is a homemade, 23-megapixel Exmor RS sensor with an aspect ratio of 4:3. To help with focus performance, the Sony Alpha team ensured the X offers Predictive Hybrid Autofocus for quicker locks. Up front, we've got a very generous, 13-megapixel Exmor RS sensor with wide, f/2.0 lens.

Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review
Sony Xperia X Review

On the software side, we're treated to an experience identical to that with the Xperia Z5. The camera app is more minimalist than before, and offers easy and quick operation. Standout features include the ability to turn on the camera through the physical, two-step shutter key on the right, but also by double-clicking the power key (redundant, no?), along with some special modes. Included out of the box are Face in picture, Style Portrait (various filters and effects), and Timeshift video (slow motion). More modes can be downloaded through the camera app.


Image quality


On paper, both the main camera on the Xperia X sound potentially competitive. And they probably can be, but we couldn't help feeling that its mostly software holding it down.

Shooting in the native (but not default), 23MP mode, we get shots that are very consistently characterized by a few glaring issues. First off, detail is soft and all kinds of muddy, and falls behind in terms of clarity when compared with stronger rivals in the field. More importantly, however, there seems to be a very serious problem with blur—the middle portions of images are sharp, sure, but towards the edges, and especially the left side, lens distortion is pretty significant. Noise is also a bit on the strong side, and noise-reducing algorithms only further soften very fine detail. As if not enough, dynamic range can sometimes be rather poor.

On the plus side, focus is really fast to lock, though Sony's claim of less than a second from standby to a focused image are highly exaggerated in our experience, even when using the physical shutter key to launch the camera as suggested.

To make sure this behavior is consistent, we went out again and took a number of snaps at the default, 8MP resolution. While some visual artifacts (noticeable only at very high levels of zoom) accompanying 23MP photos were no more, in general the same issues applied. Noise is sometimes through the roof when tons of light isn't hitting the sensor, and focus and detail sharpness continue to be a significant concern.

Low-light photography is no better, with more of the same. Added on top, however, the Xperia X just can't handle bright light sources at all, and snaps are even more blurry and detail mushy than before.


Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Sony Xperia X 1.7
2.2
No data
No data
LG G5 2.2
2.7
505
480
Huawei P9 2.7
3
No data
No data
Google Nexus 5X 2.8
3.2
623
568
View all

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Video quality


Despite the Snapdragon 650 being capable of 4K UHD video capture, such a mode isn't available with the Xperia X. Instead, you get 1080p capture at either 30 or 60 frames per second.

As for quality, we're actually very pleased. The SteadyShot tech works well, stabilizing footage, and overall video and audio quality is pretty good. Detail is decent, frame rate: stable, with great color fidelity and dependable exposure control.



Multimedia


With the Xperia X, Sony has gone for a dual, stereo speakers setup alike to the one available with the Xperia Z3 in terms of placement up front. The duo offers middling volume strength, though the stereo effect is obviously a nice extra when watching video or gaming.

In terms of audio fidelity, we're overall pleased with the Xperia X, with relatively deep and authentic sound being blasted by the loudspeakers up front. Unfortunately, Sony isn't including earphones with the box.

Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Sony Xperia X 0.37
Huawei P9 0.32
Google Nexus 5X 0.287
LG G5 0.29
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Sony Xperia X 70
Huawei P9 76
Google Nexus 5X 69.2
LG G5 73
View all

Call quality


Sony Xperia X Review

It's not often that we get smartphones that offer decent call quality nowadays, but that's not the case with the Xperia X. The earpiece in particular proved superior to the microphone, transmitting fairly clear (if slightly hissy) voices and offering satisfactory volume. The mic on the other hand is a bit subdued, but audio quality is virtually identical.

That said, ringtone volume, even when maxed out in Settings, is on the low side and we ended up missing quite a few calls that we wouldn't have with some other smartphones. We'd suggest you stay way from the default ringtone and go for something louder—even if artificially boosted. Ringtone quality is less of a priority than actually getting to pick up potentially important calls.

Battery life


Partnering with Qnovo to offer supposedly superior adaptive charging that will allow the 2,620 mAh battery inside the Xperia X to last and stay healthy for longer, Sony claims up to two days of battery life. In our experience, that particular claim is a bit on the far-fetched side, though we imagine it's not impossible if you're a light user and let the X idle a lot.

Sony Xperia X Review

More realistically, you should expect the Xperia X to last for a bit over a full day of usage. During the review process, we couldn't help but notice that the camera app requires a lot of power, and so do graphic intensive games obviously. If you do a lot of either of those, expect overnight charges to be a must.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Sony Xperia X 8h 56 min (Excellent)
Huawei P9 6h 51 min (Average)
Google Nexus 5X 6h 25 min (Average)
LG G5 5h 51 min (Average)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Sony Xperia X 141
Huawei P9 146
Google Nexus 5X 100
LG G5 76
View all

Conclusion


Sony Xperia X Review
An edge in a world of round, the Sony Xperia X is a familiarly, but still rather uniquely, designed smartphone that we can't help but feel attracted to. It doesn't look or feel mellow at all, but it isn't overly imposing as are the likes of the HTC 10. It's balanced, really, and comes across as approachable. A nice blend, and a decent job from the Sony design team. We would have loved a more grippy texture for the back, though.

The display is a mixed bag. It offers great brightness and gamma response, but whites are visibly overcast with blue and colors are, throughout, decidedly overstated. You'll either love or hate the latter effect. Thankfully, performance is pretty good and the UI is simple, friendly, and works well. We're no fans of the included SwiftKey keyboard, so we had to get another, but perhaps you won't mind it. As for battery life, it's better than average, but not by a whole lot.

So far, so good, but it's the camera that really disappointed, with recurring issues such as blur, poor detail resolution, and problems with color fidelity.

Re-read the above paragraphs. In today's climate, these don't read “price tag of $549.99 justified”. Not at all, actually. Even beyond the many, many Chinese devices that offer great value, mainstream makers such as Motorola and Google (Nexus) have better propositions. Knock 150 bucks off, and the X might have a fighting chance. As it is, it's just an okay device that costs too much for what it offers—just like the Sony mid-rangers of old. The switch away from the Z series, it seems to us, is therefore nothing more than a branding move and little substance.

Sony can do better.

Software versions: Android 6.0.1; Build number: 34.0.A.1.277; Baseband version: 8976-8976.gen.prodQ-00002-06


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