Sony Mobile introduced a new range of handsets at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, and we’re getting to grips with their latest flagship, the Xperia X.
There’s a new synergy across the X brand from Sony, with each phone following similar design cues and also sporting the same size screen. At 5 inches it’s easy to use in one hand and the 1080p LCD panel is bright and sharp, with a PPI of 440.
That makes is really easy to see text and graphics clearly on the screen, and colour balance and detail look great thanks to the X-Reality enhancements which have been inherited from Sony’s TV department.
Sony’s design still stands out in the smartphone crowd, and I’m pleased to find the corners of the X have been rounded off even more this year. On the back there’s a brushed aluminium panel which not only looks great but is less of a fingerprint magnet and also easier to hold than the glass of previous models.
There’s a fingerprint scanner embedded in the sleep/wake button on the right hand edge. It’s where your thumb naturally falls when you hold the phone right handed and on the index finger for left handed users. After a minute or so of initial mapping, unlocking is swift and hassle free. You can also log different digits for various passwords, and the phone is Android Pay ready, if it ever launches in Ireland.
The hardware camera shutter key returns and it remains one of my favourite features, instantly launching the camera app and snapping straight away. There’s also a volume rocker on the right hand side (which doubles as a camera zoom), with a micro USB on the bottom edge and a 3.5 mm jack on the top.
Sony has upgraded the X to Android Marshmallow, benefitting from new features like Doze, which helps to limit power use while you’re sleeping. On top of Android M is their own Xperia Skin which mostly works well by keeping out of the way. There are minor tweaks and you’ll find some of Sony’s adequate apps preinstalled - of course you can download any other options you prefer.
Battery life is a major issue for all smartphone users and Sony has been putting it at the forefront of their thinking. While the 2620mAh battery isn’t the biggest around it does have the advantage of driving a 5inch screen at 1080p. Sony claims a full two days of use for the Xperia X on a single charge and I’ve definitely been getting more than a day of moderate to heavy use with no problems.
Sony has to be commended for offering more options if you really need them, including two types of Stamina mode. The first limits GPS, vibration, background data and some software slickness to boost your battery life. And Ultra Stamina mode goes further, letting you use a limited set of functions if you really need to be able to take a call. It also allows you to use the camera, which is welcome.
Speaking of the camera, this has been a major point of focus for Sony in recent years, with the company actually producing the image sensors for a number of other smartphone manufacturers.
For the X, they’ve added a 23 megapixel shooter on the back with their latest technology including Predictive Hybrid Autofocus. That means you can tap on an object or a person in the frame and the camera will work to keep that point in focus, no matter how much you or the subject moves.
It’s a great idea and it actually works in practise, even if the object moves off the screen briefly. Fast moving things, like babies or animals, are a little more troublesome but this amount of tech in a smartphone camera is still impressive.
The rest of the camera performance is strong too, particularly when it comes to speed. Pressing and holding the shutter will take a photo in less than a second, even if the screen is locked. Shot to shot cycle time is nippy and auto focus is generally instantaneous.
Superior auto mode is ideal in most situations but there are some manual controls, including exposure, white balance and ISO. A swipe of the finger takes you from one mode to the next, including HD video at 60 fps, and a bunch of extra modules you can add on. My favourite is Timeshift Burst which adds a burst photo mode that’s incredibly fast and there’s also a version for video.
In low light, the camera will fight hard to focus with practically no light. It’s hard to manage great night shooting on a smartphone and the Xperia X does a capable job, just don’t be afraid to use the flash to help out.
One thing I really like about the camera here is the 24mm lens. That’s wider even than the Galaxy S7 and basically means you can get more in the shot. I found I had to step back less often to frame what I was shooting, and that’s always welcome.
The front features an even wider lens at 22mm and f2.0 – which means its fast in all lighting conditions and captures more in every shot. Performance was consistently good, with fast focus and a very sensitive smile shutter starts a countdown when you grin. There’s a soft skin feature too which is subtler than most, I still think you should show the world how you actually look. And you’ll see every detail with the 13 MP sensor.
On the audio side Sony has included stereo front facing speakers, for a much better listening experience than a solo bottom firing unit. Earphone performance is strong and there’s Hi Res audio support and upscaling. You can also optimise headphone performance for your specific hearing and dabble in various effects which help to produce audio that’s clear and bright and deep where it needs to be.
On board storage is 32 gigs, with 12 gigs used by the system OS but there’s a very handy microSD slot next to the SIM card to add an extra 200 gigs worth of storage. And you won’t be running out of that quickly.
The Sony Xperia X is a high performing smartphone with top drawer camera performance in your pocket. It also delivers excellent battery life and the stylish form factor and five inch screen size helps to set it apart from an increasingly crowded market.
The Sony Xperia X is available now in Ireland.