We find it hard to recommend the Xperia X in the face of stiff competition and niggling performance wrinkles.
Good screen, fast fingerprint scanner, impressive soundstage, clean Android experience
Bland and unintuitive design, so-so camera, heat problems, ridiculous price
SONY IS realigning its Xperia line in an attempt to gain a stranglehold in the space currently dominated by Samsung, HTC, OnePlus and the like. But does X mark the sweet spot for Sony's latest attempt?
Sony has had some success in the smartphone market, but in our eyes the Xperia has always struggled in terms of design. Other Sony divisions excelled - look at the beautifully crafted Bravia as an exercise in best practice - but the Xperia X looks bland and uninspiring. We're not sure the Graphite Black of our review model really helps matters here.
Sure, it has smooth curves in all the right places and the brushed aluminium back feels good in the hand, but it's deathly dull when placed next to high-end handsets from Samsung and HTC.
Unlike past Xperia models, the Sony Xperia X also lacks any form of water resistance, which is a shame as the handset is crying out for something to lift it above 'just ordinary'.
Unusual button placement is also a problem. Look to the right of the device and you'll find a power button (that doubles as a fingerprint sensor), plus volume controls and a camera shortcut key.
The location of all three is unintuitive. Adjusting the volume is a chore as it's a hard area for your fingers to stretch to, while a simple press of the camera button doesn't follow normal (and expected) tradition.
Instead, you need to long-press for the camera to spring into life, taking a photo in the process. On the plus side, despite the shape of the fingerprint scanner, we were pleased with its high levels of accuracy. There's support for NFC too.
An easily accessible slot with room for SIM and microSD lives on the left hand side.
The Xperia X is available in Graphite Black, White, Lime Gold and Rose Gold.
Performance and hardware
A Snapdragon 650 processor runs the show, comprising two 1.8GHz and four 1.4GHz cores. It's perhaps a questionable choice for a phone touted as a 2016 flagship, especially considering that Samsung, HTC and co all use the more formidable Snapdragon 820.
But we found general performance to be as fast and fluid as you like. 3GB of RAM ensures that the Xperia X soldiers on at a steady pace, while an Adreno 510 GPU takes care of graphics.
The Xperia X returned a score of 980 (single-core) and 2,965 (multi-core) on Geekbench 3. That's a good few thousand off the top-tier handsets in Sony's sights, and nearer those of the £169 Moto G4.
Sound is impressive through the handset's dual-facing front speakers and headphones, the latter owing to support for Hi-Res audio. There is a noticeable vibration through the chassis at high volume, which is a touch disconcerting if you're not expecting it.
Now to something a little more worrisome. On a number of occasions the handset heated up for no discernible reason, sometimes even when lying in standby mode.
Such behaviour is expected when the phone is under full load (and we found this to be true when playing the Play store's more demanding titles), but as it stands this might be a case for Mulder and Scully.