Sony is trying hard to swim out of troubled waters and stay relevant in the smartphone game, and to that effect, it seem to be making some big decisions like abandoning the Xperia Z series for the new X series and streamlining the offerings with a neat onus on the unique selling point of each phone. In that regard, the Xperia X is aimed squarely at being one of the best Android camera smartphones. Does it have the potential to be amongst the best? Here are our first impressions.
The Xperia X is pitched as the flagship smartphone, at least here in India. But globally, it sits in between the real flagship – Xperia X Performance and the mid-ranger, Xperia XA. For reasons best known to Sony, the Japanese company thinks that Xperia X has enough to be a flagship and take on the likes of Samsung Galaxy S7, the LG G5 and the HTC 10, and the Indian market isn’t ready yet for the Xperia X Performance, which comes with the same camera module, but much better hardware overall.
Before we get into the specifications, a couple of things about the design of Xperia X. Sony has stuck to its roots in terms of the design. From a distance, one can easily tell it’s a Sony phone, thanks to the candybar design with nice curves on the four corners. But for the first time, Sony has opted for a unified color design, which means that the color on the back flows into the front as well, which makes it look really pretty. We got the Graphite Black color variant which looks stunning. Sony has ditched the glass back for full metal, and must say we like this in terms of looks as well as in-hand feel.
As for the internals, the Xperia X has a 5-inch 1080p (FHD) display based on Sony’s Triluminous technology, and is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 Hexacore processor paired with 3GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Thankfully, there’s a dedicated microSD slot which can take up to 200GB of additional storage. Being a Sony phone, the Xperia X boasts of Hi-Res audio with digital noise cancellation and support for LDAC. Connectivity options include NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, 4G LTE (cat 6) and WiFi 802.11ac. The power button on the right doubles up as a fingerprint scanner. Juicing up all these is the 2,620mAh battery which Sony claims is good enough to provide 2 days of battery life for most people, and has QuickCharge 2.0 support along with Qnovo adaptive charging.
But the real star is the camera. It’s one of the first smartphones to come with the latest Sony IMX 318 module, with 22.5 Megapixel resolution and Exmor RS sensor paired with 24mm wide G-lens. Sony has worked hard to better the camera performance on the X series. Sony claims that it needs just 0.6 seconds for launching the camera (when the phone is on sleep) and capturing an image, thanks to the new Predictive Hybrid AF technology. To put in layman terms, Sony is using some AI to predict what the subject in the image is doing and keep it in focus so that it doesn’t take forever to launch the camera and capture the moment. In our experience, this was pretty much a hit, although there were occasional misses. Focusing is super fast and the dedicated camera button is a boon to utilize the fast capture feature and not miss that important moment you’d want to capture. The front camera too gets a big bump in terms of resolution. It’s now 13 Megapixels and has a wide angle lens with improved low light performance.
So how do we like the new camera module on Sony Xperia X? It’s been pretty good so far, but has a long way to go to challenge the Samsung Galaxy S7, which we think is the gold standard when it comes to Mobile photography. While being super quick to focus and capture images, the Sony Xperia X struggles with the auto mode. Sony has persisted with its “intelligent auto” (iA+) mode which automatically decides to change the modes and parameters depending upon the lighting and scene. While this is handy for most people, we felt that the software isn’t doing justice to the camera hardware. We had much more success with the Manual Mode of the camera. If you know the basics of photography, you can easily take some stunning pictures with minor changes done to the settings. We shall be doing a detailed camera review of Xperia X, but for now, below are some sample images which are mostly taken with the auto (iA+) mode.
Going beyond the camera, things look a bit tough for Sony Xperia X. The processor and display aren’t really the best around to be considered ‘flagship’. Specially considering the pricing of Rs 48,990 which falls right into the category of Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and LG G5, Sony has its task cut out to convince people to consider the Xperia X over the competition. For now, it does look to be heavily dependent on the camera. We have seen in the past that specs alone doesn’t define a flagship, so we shall be testing out the device over the next few days and will be looking at the camera as well as the actual performance, including the battery life, which is usually good with Sony flagship phones.
Disclosure: The author is in Thailand to cover the launch of this phone on invitation of Sony.