Sony Xperia X review: Stakes are high, so is the price

first_imgThe Xperia X is a paradox, for Sony and for the smartphone world in general. On one side it has been priced at an atrocious Rs 48,990 that makes it instantly qualify for the position of top-tier flagship phone of the year, and on the other it’s missing out on even the most basic feature-set that you’d expect from a top-tier flagship phone of the year. There’s no quad-HD display, or a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, or crazy amount of RAM, or an optically-stabilised camera, or a sizeable battery, or even a USB Type-C port. Name a top-tier spec, and chances are the Sony Xperia X probably won’t have it. But for Sony, this phone also marks the beginning of a new era, one sans the premiere Xperia Z line-up, which is a little ironical. Both the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Premium — touted as last Z-phones — were pretty good phones, and in a way, a return to form for Sony. The Xperia X on the contrary seems like a step backwards.Design and build qualityThe Xperia X is not very different from the Xperia Z5, or for that matter even the Xperia Z3 Plus. It’s essentially a box — of all-metal and no glass this time round — only that it’s a lot less boxy than previous Xperia phones. With time, Sony has learnt to appreciate the beauty of subtle curves. And subtle it is, about the curves, with the Xperia X. In fact, it’s hard to make them out with the naked eye. You’ll have to hold it to feel it. You’ll like it. The attention to detail is hard to overlook.advertisementSony just can’t let go of its trademark OmniBalance design. And that is for a reason. No one does minimalistic design better than Sony.The Xperia X’s soft matte finish that transcends all along its length and breadth and curved 2.5D glass on the front make it an instant looker. And it feels every bit as premium. Rounded and bumper corners make a return from previous Z phones, and help the phone bear accidental drops. Sony’s flagship phone is as thick and as light as the Galaxy S7 and the LG G5. Although bezels are on the chunkier side. Sony just can’t let go of its trademark OmniBalance design and that is good. No one does minimalistic design better than Sony Button placement stays put from the Xperia Z5. This means the Xperia X continues with the oblong, deep-seated and kind of irritating fingerprint scanner on the right edge. It’s very quick, but you’ll have to get used to it. The volume rocker is still below the fingerprint scanner and I still feel that this is a very bad position for it. The physical camera shutter button stays as well, which is fantastic.The left edge houses a hybrid card slot for two SIM cards or one SIM and one microSD card.DisplayThe Galaxy S7, LG G5 and HTC 10 all boast of 1440p screens. Sony, on the other hand, seems contend with 1080p. The Xperia X (much like the Xperia Z5) comes with a 5-inch 1080p IPS LCD display with 441ppi pixel density, which — on paper — is significantly lower than what’s on offer on either of the aforementioned phones. What does that mean for the average buyer? Not much, unless the buyer is looking to go all gung-ho about virtual reality on his next buy.The screen of the Xperia X is adequately bright with good viewing angles and more than satisfactory outdoor legibility. But it is no match for what a certain Galaxy S7 — deeply saturated colours — or for that matter even the HTC 10 — neutral colours — has to offer. The screen of the Xperia X may be good, but it’s just not good enough, even though Sony’s X-Reality and Super-vivid modes work well to boost colour saturation quite a bit.SoftwareThe Xperia X runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow-based Xperia UI. Sony’s Xperia UI (along with HTC’s Sense) was probably one of the very few third-party Android user interfaces that got it right in fewer attempts, than say Samsung’s TouchWiz. Although skinning is on the heavier side of things, Xperia UI doesn’t end up huffing, puffing and losing its breath by the end of the day. It’s smooth, low on in-your-face animations and very functional. And oh, it’s trying to offer some customisation options in the form of themes along the way, which is always nice to have. The drop down notification panel and the apps overview window are characteristic Google-style, which is also nice.   But not everything is hunky dory. Sony seems to have caught the penchant for unwanted apps or bloat, which is a reverse of what Samsung is doing these days. Frankly speaking, the number of unwanted apps has only grown in Xperia phones with time. And that’s not a good thing. The fact that you can’t uninstall — and only disable — many of them makes matters worse. The Xperia X, for the lack of a better term, is a David among the Goliaths. But this time the story has no happy ending. Not even a miracle could save our David here advertisementAnother drawback — on how you decide to look at it — is the suggested apps menu in the app drawer. I for one found it less useful — even more so, since I had way too many apps installed on the phone — and to have to end up on a screen that gathers suggested apps based on my usage patterns every time I swiped through various app screens was overwhelming, and to an extent annoying. There’s already a search box up top on every screen, so this feature is totally redundant. But then, this is something entirely subjective. There can be users who will find it useful.Performance and battery life     Sony’s new top-tier phone is powered by a 1.8 GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor — more a mid-level chip — clubbed with Adreno 510 GPU and 3GB RAM. The phone comes with 64GB of internal memory which is expandable by up to 256GB via microSD card.It’s pretty ironical that a phone that costs close to Rs 50,000 has the same processor (and RAM) as a phone that costs around Rs 10,000 which in case if you haven’t guessed already is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. But, you can always argue that Sony phones are different. Sony is an older — and a much bigger — company and its phones have never been in the race to break the price barrier. So, it won’t be right to compare the Xperia X with the Redmi Note 3. What then? Compare it with the Galaxy S7, LG G5 and the HTC 10 that retail at similar prices? It won’t be fair to Sony then because simply put, the Xperia X is underpowered. There’s really no subtle way to put it.Also read: Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 review: Mr dependable like Rahul DravidThe Xperia X, for the lack of a better term, is a David among the Goliaths. But this time the story has no happy ending. Not even a miracle can save our David here.The Xperia X could be your daily driver if you’re someone who’s looking to do just the basics and some gaming. Basics are handled well, and so is occasional gaming (even graphics-intensive) but nothing drastically different — faster — from what we’ve already seen in the case of the Redmi Note 3. And, Xiaomi’s phone runs MIUI, which is notorious for its over-the-top animations and colour schemes. So, that’s particularly not very encouraging.advertisementOne area where the Snapdragon 650 excels is heat, or the lack of it. It’s really hard to get the Xperia X hot, even when you’re out pushing it.Sadly, there’s only so much that a mid-level processor on-board the Xperia X can achieve when compared with rivals, especially during gaming and multi-tasking. Even though Sony’s UI runs mostly smooth as butter, the Xperia X feels visibly slower than Snapdragon 820 and 4GB RAM toting phones. The camera app — although it loads fairly quickly — takes awefuly long to click a shot and even longer to process the image.The Xperia X boasts of front-firing stereo speakers which get really loud and punchy with little or no distortion at max. It’s one area where the Xperia X really stands out. In fact, next to the HTC 10, it’s rocking the best in-class speakers that we’ve seen in a smartphone of this price range. Phone calls made with the phone are of excellent quality and we did not encounter any odd call drop issues with our review unit. The Xperia X supports dualSIM, 4G LTE and NFC connectivity options.The Xperia X is backed by a 2,620 mAh battery. Battery life is fantastic. It’s safe to say that it is one of the biggest highlights of Sony’s new phone. Extreme (and a mix of moderate usage) saw us get close to 15 hours out of the device with no hiccups. The Xperia X loses negligible charge while it is on stand-by mode, much like the Z5. Most users with more generalised usage will be able to get one to one and a half days of battery life out of the device.CameraThe Xperia X sports a 23-megapixel camera on the rear with f/2.0 aperture, phase detection autofocus and LED flash. Basically it’s the same camera that Sony put in the Z5, only it can’t do 4K videos. The phone’s auto-focus system lets the rear camera quickly focus in as little as 0.03 seconds, claims Sony. Results vary depending on available light. All in all, the camera is pretty quick to focus with passable shutter speed, much like the Z5. But, just like the Z5, the camera algorithm on-board is marred by a slight delay in processing and saving pictures after you’ve clicked them.Also, the Xperia X feels a lot slower than the Galaxy S7, HTC 10 or the LG G5 over all. Thankfully, one area where the Xperia X camera excels is in the image quality. The phone clicks amazing photos. Daylight photos pack in substantial amount of detail with colours that look rich and vibrant and dynamic range is spot on. The Xperia X can also capture good quality shots with shallow depth of field, but falls short of the Galaxy S7 in macro photography. Still, the phone can stand neck to neck with the best camera phones in this range especially in good lighting.Images clicked in tricky light situations came out well, even though there’s no optical image stabilisation here.On the front you get a 13-megapixel cam which is a big bump over the 5-megapixel snapper of the Z5. It clicks good quality selfies in good lighting. Low light selfies have some noise.  XPreviousNext  Should you buy it?The Xperia X is not a bad smartphone. In fact, next to the Z5, it is easily among the best Xperia phones that Sony has built in a long, long time. And that ladies and gentlemen is the answer to the all-important question that you’ve all been patiently waiting for.The Xperia X is a good smartphone, but the Xperia Z5 is so much better in every sense of the word. Not to forget, the latter also gets waterproof body.It’s hard to understand why Sony came out with the Xperia X in the first place when it already had a perfectly capable flagship phone up its sleeve. The Xperia X would have perhaps made more sense had Sony priced it say at Rs 30,000. Even that is a little high considering the spec-sheet but seriously this is a Sony phone, so a bit of premium is worth paying. But a price closer to Rs 50,000 is just too much. Sony has been struggling in the market and even though the Xperia X is a decent phone, it is not going to help its case much.####Sony Xperia X####6.5/10########Good stuffPremium stand-out designExcellent speakerCapable camerasExcellent battery life####Bad stuffMediocre hardwareNo 4K video recordingIt is not waterproofVery expensivelast_img

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