Sony Xperia X review

Can Sony play in the big leagues? We find out with the Xperia X

Tags: Sony Mobile Communication MEA (http://www.sony-mea.com)United Arab Emirates
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Sony Xperia X review The Xperia X has Sony's electronic technologies in its soul.
By  David Ndichu Published  September 14, 2016

Sony’s accumulated technology practise can be held in the palm of your hand, thanks to the Xperia X.

The Xperia X is the mid-level device from Sony’s stable of mobile devices, bringing together technology most of us are familiar with from Sony’s DSLRs, TVs, audio and more. 

Design

The Xperia X keeps the design elements of the Xperia series, with the power button centrally placed on the left and underneath that, the volume rocker and the dedicated camera button. Button placement feels a bit awkward to begin with if you are a Sony newbie, but you soon get used to it.

That is just one of the few differences from experience with other phone brands in the market today.   

Add to that the often intricate process of inserting the SIM card which for most involves popping out the tray with a pointed object. The Xperia X does away with all that, sculpting a small groove beneath the SIM slot allowing you to remove and replace the SIM by hand with no additional tools.

There’s a fingerprint sensor, embedded on the power button on the right, and you can use the thumb of your right hand or the index of your left to unlock. This felt like a more natural process vis-a-vis the normal home button of say, the iPhone.

For a 5 incher, the Xperia X fits really well in the hand and the curved glass display makes it feel even more so.

The unit in my possession was gold-there’s apparently lime gold and rose gold, but my colour blindness makes it impossible to tell one from the other. Other options are graphite black and white.

Features

The Xperia X runs on Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor. Mind you the Snapdragon 650 is not the latest, and the most high-powered, of Qualcomms’ chipsets. It was a concern early on how that would affect performance.

Open the SIM tray as described above, and reveal the slots for either a dual SIM, or single SIM and microSD card.  Storage is at 32GB with capabilities for upgrading though the MicroSD

Perhaps most of Sony’s effort with the Xperia X went to the camera.

Sony of course has a proud legacy in making DSLRs, so it’s no surprise you would see some innovation here.

The main camera is 23 MP (some of the best resolution on a phone) which Sony attempted to make faster and more intelligent.

The Xperia X promises much faster camera reaction, from standby to capture in less than 0.6 seconds. This is enabled by the dedicated camera button. I can tell you it’s pretty fast, for those fleeting moments you would otherwise risk missing.

There’s the Smart Capture technology designed to help users take clearer pictures. Enabled by Sony’s new Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, Smart Capture allows one to choose a person or object and automatically track it, even when in motion. The subject stays in focus, even when moving, for clearer images, or at least that’s the idea. In reality, the phone struggles to keep up with moving targets and its hit and miss some of the times.  

That said, it’s a great engineering feat to get the algorithm right for a camera to figure out where a subject is moving to so as to track him or her. So the fact that Sony has accomplished this, albeit with some hiccups, speaks volumes.

That said, the images with the Xperia X are sharp and clear and even the moving objects come out with no blur.

The front camera is becoming as important as the back-what with all the selfies. So the brilliance in front cameras is becoming paramount for users.  Xperia X’s front snapper comes with 13 megapixels and Sony’s low-light sensors. If you have lost all hope of ever getting a decent selfie when out at night, try the Xperia X. Sony has enriched the camera with AR Effects feature where you can impose your image in all sorts of virtual scenes, add even add in new characters into the milieu.

The battery is at 2620 mAh, which is hardly the most powerful in the market. It was perhaps surprising that Sony promises two day performance between charges. I’ll let you how the phone fared later.   

Sony’s display legacy comes from its BRAVIA TVs, brought and optimised for the Xperia phone. So you get 5" Full HD 1080p screen. A 1080 resolution on a 5 inch screen means videos are vivid and rich. The screen is very bright and will illuminate an entire room in full mode. I would advise though to use the phone’s power management features to save your battery.

Xperia X’s more high-end cousin, The Xperia Z5 Premium boasts 4K, the first I’ve heard of 4K on a phone.

Performance

Sony has not done much to alter vanilla Android, which is a good thing. The interface is clean and user-friendly.  

PlayStation Remote Play-you can play games if you are on the same network with your PlayStation

Sony had claimed Xperia X’s is capable of two day battery life, which got me excited as, like most people, struggle to squeeze a full day out of our fully-charged phones. However, this will only work if you impose some serious power management. I would advise a normal overnight charge to avoid disappointment the next day.

That said, The Xperia X comes with Sony’s Quick Charger, where a few minutes of charging will deliver at least a few hours of power. Added to this is Qnovo Adaptive Charging, a technology designed to maintain battery performance over the long term. Can’t confirm this of course, but I do know a thing or two about batteries slowly dying off, through experience.  

Although photo taking is snappy, it’s less so on the processing and saving back end. With a higher powered processor, like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 with the upcoming Xperia XZ, the lag in execution could be eliminated.    

The speakers are freakishly loud and easily radiate through a large room, rare for smartphone speakers. There’s even HD upscaling, allowing the phone to adjust your run-of-the mill music content into something superior.

Like I said earlier, the Xperia X is Sony’s ecosystem writ large. PS4 Remote Play lets you access your PS4 console through your smartphone and keep playing in any room as long as you are in the same network.

Verdict

Sony would like to position the Xperia X as a mid-range phone albeit with some serious premium credentials. They’ve largely succeeded. The work done with the camera is commendable and will only get better as the predictive hybrid autofocus advances. Actually it shares most of the features with the premium Xperia Z series but with a more pocket-friendly price tag.

However, the design leaves a bit to be desired. It does not really scream sleek. Although there’s nothing wrong with the design per se, it lacks the all-rounded fluency of, say, an iPhone.

All in all, a more than credible effort by Sony in the 5 inch sub-premium category that can only better with further updates.

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