Xperia X series Hands-on: Confusing but positive evolution

The messaging, design and branding behind Sony’s Xperia X devices, a new line of four different smartphones, is confusing.

Looking at each device laid out in a row reveals few noticeable differences between each smartphone. It’s only upon closer inspection that Sony’s strategy with its new X devices begins to make more sense, but still, it’s exceedingly difficult to tell the difference between the X and X Performance.

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I recently briefly went hands-on with all Sony’s upcoming X smartphones for a second time (I also tested out the X at Mobile World Congress), and while I’m slowly beginning to be able to tell the difference between the company’s new devices, I’m still somewhat bewildered, meaning the average consumer is likely to be as well.

Xperia X Performance

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This high-end entry in the X line utilizes an aluminum body that’s very similar to the Z5, only with rounded edges, making the phone significantly more comfortable to hold.

In the same vein as the Z5, the Xperia X Performance also features a brushed effect on its metallic back, further adding to the impression that the X isn’t a dramatic departure from the Xperia Z5. It’s worth noting, however, that Sony has ditched the Z5’s glass backing, though the brushed metal still feels similar to last year’s glass.

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The oval, somewhat awkward fingerprint sensor featured in the Z5 is also making a return, and since I was unable to test it out, I’m unsure if its accuracy has been improved (we experienced issues with the Z5’s sensor).

In terms of specs, the phone features a 23-megapixel main shooter and retains the physical camera button featured in the Z line. The dreaded camera bump many of our readers dislike is also absent again this year, just like it was with the Z5 (a slight one is present on the X). Though I only spent a brief amount of time with the phone, a soft press seems to focus images and a longer, harder press snaps a photo. The Performance’s front-facing camera measures in at 13 megapixels.

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Both cameras seem to perform solidly, though further testing is definitely necessary. I was impressed by the X Performance’s hybrid auto-focus feature though, allowing the camera’s shooter to focus on a moving object (the X also includes this feature as well). Again, like many other aspects of the X line, we’ll need to test the camera under real world conditions before giving a final verdict on how useful its auto-focus really is.

Other specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, Android 6.0 and 3GB of RAM, all standard features in most high-end Android smartphones. The handset also includes 32GB of storage and a MicroSD card slot expandable up to 200GB.

X Performance vs. X

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Beyond a more expensive price tag, there are also a few key differences between the Performance and X. Firstly, the Performance is IP68 certified, which means it’s water resistant, while the X is not. There are a number of similarities though, with both phones featuring a full HD 5-inch 1080p IPS LCD displays, under the quad HD 1440 x 2560 pixel display of other flagships like the S7 and HTC 10.

During my brief hands-on time with both devices the displays looked vibrant and bright. Both smartphone’s cameras also feature image stabilization.

The other major difference between the X Performance and the X is that the latter comes equipped with a mid-range Snapdragon 650, whereas the X performance rocks Qualcomm’s latest silicon, the Snapdragon 820.

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Obviously those looking for a high-performing device will opt for the Performance, and while it’s impossible to pass judgment yet given the brief amount of time we spent with both devices, the X seems poised to be a solid step above the average mid-range smartphone. Depending on Canadian pricing, the Xperia X could be compelling to a lot of Canadians.

Whether or not the X’s existence is justified, however, will come down to its price difference between the Performance.

Xperia XA and XA Ultra

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The XA is Sony’s low-range X device, adopting the same design sensibilities as the X and Performance, but lacking the former device’s fingerprint scanner and screen resolution (it’s only 720p). As expected, the XA also features a slower processor, the MediaTek MT6755, an octa-core chip used by a variety of low-end devices.

On the photography side of things, the XA packs a 13 megapixel rear-facing camera and an 8 megapixel front shooter. We unfortunately did not get a chance to test out the XA’s camera performance.

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Then there’s the Xperia XA Ultra, yet another X device to add to the already confusing mix. As you might have guessed, the XA Ultra is Sony’s phablet-style 6-inch smartphone. The handset looks dramatically larger than the other devices in the X line, especially when placed directly beside the XA or X.

If you assumed the XA Ultra is the highest end in the X line, you’re wrong. The XA Ultra falls slightly above the XA, thanks to its full 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution display, a step above the XA’s 720p screen. The phone comes equipped with the same MediaTek MT6755 and 3GB of RAM as the XA.

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On the photography side, the XA Ultra’s camera measures in at 21.5 megapixels on the back and also features image stabilization, exactly like the X and X Performance. The front-facing camera measures in at 16 megapixels.

So rather than being the highest-end device in the X line, as is the case with the S7 edge and iPhone 6s Plus, the XA Ultra is a larger, 6-inch offering from Sony. Taking this route with the X line’s phablet iteration is an interesting move for Sony and it’s unclear if it will pay off.

Confusion abound

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As expected, Sony has forged partnerships with a number of Canadian carriers for the launch of the Xperia X Performance, Xperia X, Xperia XA and Xperia XA U, though specifics have not been revealed yet.

We’ll have more information regarding pricing and carriers next week. Sony’s new line of phones will hit U.S. store shelves on June 26th.

Comments

  • MoYeung

    I don’t see anything that looks confusing anywhere?

    • Every device looks identical. Even going through the photos while putting together this story, I found it difficult to tell the device apart. It’s also unclear why the X and the X Performance both need to exist, unless there is a significant price difference between both devices.

    • h2oflyer

      Check out Patrick’s past Sony reviews. He is usually confused when it comes to Sony, especially when he was one of the few that couldn’t figure out the Fingerprint sensor.

    • Check out the internet. I’m far from the only writer to be confused by Sony’s X line. I’m also not the only person to run into issues with the fingerprint scanner.

      I’m hoping Sony’s solved the fingerprint issues I experienced with the Z5 with the X Performance and X. So far my impression is that is the case, but we’ll see.

    • h2oflyer

      You also pulled the same crap with Sony’s waterproof ability. Your standard comeback is”check out the Internet” It appears you rereport negative trends you trip over on the Internet and do minimum testing.

      You told me on other Sony articles that I was lucky with no waterproof issues. I’m on my 4th Xperia waterproof phone with no problems (I can read and follow instructions) and my 1st Sony phone with Fingerprint sensor, again with no problems (I can read and follow instructions).

    • Mike

      Well good for you that you and read and follow instructions. Maybe now work on not being a dick?

    • h2oflyer

      Do you support crappy reporting, or are you Patrick’s little buddy?

      You don’t understand the comments…..late night troll?

    • FlamesFan89

      I’m with you. The statement was made ad nauseam that this lineup is confusing, but it seemed pretty straightforward to me. The top of the line is the Performance X, the X is the mid-range, and the XA is the low end. Then there is the XA Ultra which is their phablet offering. I’m not sure when it was carved in stone that the phablet of an OEM’s lineup has to be the highest powered. Why can’t it just be the big one?

    • L Joel

      The names could have been more obvious as to which one is the best of the bunch X Performance vs X Ultra? That’s confusing.

      X Ultra should have just been X XL or just XL for the large screen..or is that confusing? 🙂

    • FlamesFan89

      I can see what you are saying, but to be fair to Sony, the XA is the low end phone, and the big one is the XA Ultra. Note the inclusion of the “A” on the Ultra model. I can understand that the word ultra can lead to some confusion, perhaps they should have chosen a word that simply indicated size, but I think the intension was that including the “A” was meant to show that it is more akin to the low end model, rather than being a flagship.

  • Mo Dabbas

    “Confusing but” — but I bet Sony mobile division are even more confused than us.

    Also, “21.5 megapixels on the front and is the only phone in Sony’s X line to feature image stabilization, much like Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus. The front-facing camera measures in at 16 megapixels.” — The first one is the back camera I guess. Still, why is it the only one with OIS? I would have thought the X performance would as well. But again, seems sony was randomly throwing the parts for these phones.

    • Stephen B Morris

      Or that it’s becoming more apparent that their mobile division is broke and they had to make some choices. Poor Sony. I would have loved to see a Nexus device from them before they disappear from the mobile industry.

    • Smanny

      Both the X and X performance have Sony’s new Predictive Hybrid Autofocus. It’s something totally new. So even if the camera or subjects move it will stay in focus.

    • Smanny

      Mo Dabbas, both the X and the X performance have Sony’s new Predictive Hybrid AutoFocus. It is something that is totally new. Sony is saying they don’t need OIS with this new camera tech. There is videos showing how this works. I tried to link one. But you can look it up yourself if your interested.

    • Yup, I only tried it out for about 5 mins, but the new auto focus system seems to work quite well, though I need to test it more (we just got our review units).

    • Mo Dabbas

      Good to know. Wasn’t aware about this new technology.

    • To my knowledge, the HTC 10 is the only phone that features OIS on the front and back cameras. I’m not sure why other manufacturers don’t opt to include the tech in both cameras.

  • Not for you

    So the Canadian versions include a fingerprint sensor?

    • Only the X Performance and X include fingerprint sensors. The mid-range XA and XA Ultra don’t feature the tech. Beyond specific colours only getting release in the U.S., the Canadian releases of the X line will be identical.

    • Mo Dabbas

      I read on CNET that the US version of the X will have the fingerprint reader disabled. I think that’s what he’s trying to ask.

    • Not for you

      As Mo Dabbas notes, the US versions of the X and Performance have the sensor disabled. Is that also the case for the Canadian versions?

    • Canada is getting the international version of the X, so my understanding is that the fingerprint scanner will be present in both phones. We’ve reached out to Sony Canada for confirmation.

  • Spencer Navarra-Chew

    Sony’s large screen phones are actually generally mid-range devices. The last big phone Sony sold in Canada was the T2 Ultra, a 6 inch mid-range handset that was contemporary with the Z2 flagship. The last premium large phone from Sony was the Z Ultra, a scaled-up 6.4″ monster version of the Z1.

  • Smanny

    Patrick, the SD 650 even though it has a mid range number in Qualcomms lineup of Processors. Which Qualcomm did some reorganizing of their processors. The 650 is actually faster than a SD 808, and the 650 GPU is faster than a SD 810’s GPU. The 650 is using the new Cortex-A72 cores. The A72 cores are faster than A57 cores which are found in the 808, and 810, plus they are more power efficient, and the 650 will not throttle down when it gets hot like the 808, and 810. All the benchmarks clearly show this as well. Even Qualcomm stated this. I wish they would have used the 650 in the Nexus 5x, but the 650 only came out this year.

    • Thanks for the info! I didn’t realize the X also included the Predictive Hybrid AutoFocus (I only tested the feature out on the Performance).

    • Smanny

      Got the 650 info from Qualcomm and other benchmarking sites. And I got the camera info from Sony’s website. Got it from the horse’s mouth, as they say. 🙂

  • dirtyKIMCHI

    XperiFirm lists the Xperia X (Suzu) F5121 as being carried by WIND & Videotron, as there are CDAs listed for both carriers.

    • We’ll have a full list of carriers and pricing up on the MobileSyrup next week.

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  • Aiden

    I have the Z5 and the fingerprint sensor works beautifully on it. Occasionally it doesn’t read but then I just try again and it works. Not sure why you think their sensor doesn’t work well when in practical terms it actually does.

    • Garrett Cooper

      Yup, mine is good too. If my thumb is wet sometimes it won’t read, but that may be the case with other devices. This is the first I’ve had with a fingerprint sensor and I’m satisfied with it.

    • h2oflyer

      Same here! First off, it’s not oval and it’s placed correctly for picking up the phone or holding it, according to most reviewers. Mine works great, which was one of the reasons I switched up from the Z3.

    • skrug

      Ya, and the author used the word awkward? Probably the best placement on any phone lol

  • Hello Moto

    The Xperia X is $549 USD so…..that’s about $710 USD.

    • skrug

      u mean 710 CAD, but they might price it differently in Canada, like the Xperia Z5 was, cheapest in Canada than any where in the world, launched at 650 CAD from Bell.

    • Hello Moto

      Thanks, fixed. You’re probably right about the pricing but we’ll see.

  • keithzg

    So, any official words on pricing Canadian yet? You mention price differences a few times, but I suppose that could just be going off of the announced US direct-sales pricing.

  • Alan Paone

    the only thing confusing is why there’s no X compact

  • h2oflyer

    It’s pathetic how this anti Sony week old
    article suddenly gets top placement.

    Of course it has nothing to do with the following Motor Z articles.

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