It’s no secret that Sony’s smartphone division has been struggling for some time despite the fact over the years it has made some very good handsets. One of its biggest problems is that it can’t seem to crack the nut that is the U.S. market and get carriers to sell its phones (it's had more success in Canada in that department). The latest phones to come out in the U.S., the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact, arrived without much fanfare, although it didn’t help that they were released six months after other regions got them!
At MWC 2016 Sony announced that it has gone back to the drawing board and “re-imagined” the Xperia brand and the first fruits of this endeavor are the new “X” series smartphones. The Xperia X Performance, Xperia X, and Xperia XA are ostensibly mid-range devices that at first glance don’t look a whole lot different than Sony’s previous phones. So we’re not exactly sure what’s been re-imagined here. Still, these phones might be the nutcracker that breaks open the U.S. market for Sony.
All three phones share a common design language that looks to continue Sony’s trademark squared-off design with rounded sides, but now you can add a curved glass display into the mix. That is to say, the front glass is curved at the edge, not curved like you’d find on the phone like the Galaxy S7 edge. Being mid-range phones, all three have 5-inch displays, so it's their internal specifications that define their place in the X series hierarchy.
They are all available in four different colors -- Graphite Black, White, Lime Gold, and Rose Gold, and it’s nice to see that Sony is still offering two bolder color options. Fitting the mid-range designation, you will not find as many premium materials here, so their sides are plastic instead of metal.
|Specifications||Xperia X Performance||Xperia X||Xperia XA|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon820 64-bit Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon650 64-bit Processor||MediaTek MT6755 64-bit Processor|
|CPU||Qualcomm Kryo(2 x @ 2.15 GHz +2 x @ 1.59 GHz)||ARM Hexa-core(2 x Cortex-A72 @1.8 GHz + 4 x Cortex-A53 @ 1.4 GHz)||ARM Octa-core(8 x Cortex-A53)|
|GPU||Qualcomm Adreno 530@ 624 MHz||Qualcomm Adreno 510||Mali-T860 MP2 @ 700 MHz|
|Display||5.0-inch FHD IPS TRILUMINOS Display(1920 x 1080, 441ppi)||5.0-inch FHD IPS TRILUMINOS Display(1920 x 1080, 441ppi)||5.0-inch HD Display(1280 x 720, 294ppi)|
|Memory||3 GB LPDDR4 RAM, 32 GB ROM, microSD slot(up to 200 GB)||3 GB LPDDR3 RAM, 32 GB ROM, microSD slot(up to 200 GB)||2 GB LPDDR3 RAM, 16GB ROM, microSD slot(up to 200 GB)|
|Camera||Rear: 23MP, 1/2.3'' Exmor RS for mobile sensor, Quick launch< 0.03 sec., Predictive Hybrid AF, 5x ClearImage Zoom, 24mmG Lens, f/2.0Front: 13MP 1/3'' ExmorRS for mobile sensor, Quick launch < 0.03 sec., 22mm wide-angle lens, f/2.0||Rear: 23MP, 1/2.3'' Exmor RS for mobile sensor, Quick launch< 0.03 sec., Predictive Hybrid AF, 5x ClearImage Zoom, 24mmG Lens, f/2.0Front: 13MP 1/3'' ExmorRS for mobile sensor, Quick launch < 0.03 sec., 22mm wide-angle lens, f/2.0||Rear: 13MP, 1/3''Exmor RS for mobile sensor, Quick launch, Hybrid Auto-Focus, 5x Clear Image ZoomFront: 8MP front camera Sony Exmor R formobile sensor|
|Battery||2,700 mAh(non-removable) with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0||2,620 mAh(non-removable) with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0||2,300 mAh(non-removable)|
|Biometrics||Side-mounted fingerprint sensor||Side-mounted fingerprint sensor||N/A|
|Operating System||Android 6.0Marshmallowwith Sony UI||Android 6.0Marshmallowwith Sony UI||Android 6.0Marshmallowwith Sony UI|
|Size & Weight||143.7 x 70.4 x 8.7 mm, 164.4g||142.7 x 69.4 x 7.9 mm, 153g||143.6 x 66.8 x 7.9 mm, 137.4g|
|Network||LTE (4G) Cat 9||LTE (4G) Cat 6||LTE (4G) Cat 4|
|Audio||High-Resolution audio, Front-facing stereo speakers||High-Resolution audio, Front-facing stereo speakers||Mono speaker|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n,ac, Micro USB 2.0, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2||Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n,ac, Micro USB 2.0, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2||Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n, (ac?), Micro USB 2.0, Bluetooth 4.?|
|Materials||Aluminum, plastic||Aluminum, plastic||Plastic|
|Colors||Graphite Black, White, Lime Gold, Rose Gold||Graphite Black, White, Lime Gold, Rose Gold||Graphite Black, White,Lime Gold, Rose Gold|
The Xperia X Performance is the premium device in the series, with a top-end Snapdragon 820 SoC, 1080p display, 23MP and 13MP cameras, a fingerprint reader, a brushed metal back and IP68 element protection. The step-down X has the same specs, but loses the waterproofing, has a smooth metal back and slightly smaller battery and is powered by a Snapdragon 650 SoC. The low-end model is the Xperia XA. It has an attractive (side) borderless display, allowing it to be little narrower, but its only 720p. The XA also only has 13MP and 8MP cameras, drops the fingerprint reader and is powered by a low-end MediaTek MT6755 SoC. All three phones run Android Marshmallow, and Sony’s UI hasn’t historically been too heavy handed.
The Xperia X and X Performance benefit from Sony’s next-generation Xperia camera tech that includes new Predictive Hybrid Autofocus developed in collaboration with its Alpha camera engineers. The camera performance of Sony’s Xperia phones has long been a weakness, despite the fact that its camera sensors are some of the best (and used by many other smartphones with excellent cameras). Let’s hope that by working with its camera division Sony can fix this glaring deficiency.
All three models use Sony’s Smart Battery Management for “up to two days” of battery life, which from our experience with previous Xperias is likely an accurate statement. Battery life has always been a strong point of Sony’s phones. They also have long battery lifespan by using Qnovo’s Adaptive Charging technology; that could potentially help minimize the cell damage fast charging can have on a battery.
These new phones look to be pretty decent offerings from Sony, at least on paper, but what’s interesting is where they fit into Sony’s line-up. With the Z series being the top-of-the-range devices, the Xs clearly have to slot in below them, but the specs of the X Performance really pushes the definition of what can be considered mid-range, and, in fact, surpasses those of the Z5 Compact, widely considered the best small Android phone you can buy.
Where does that leave the next-gen Z series then? Well if the Xperia X Performance fulfills the need for a premium small device, we assume then that the Z6 will end up being a high-end showcase, with a large 4K display, the next-generation Snapdragon and Sony image sensor, and made from ultra-premium materials. I guess we’ll have to see when it is announced, likely this fall at IFA.
Pricing for the Xperia X series phones has not been announced, nor has their availability other than the vague “Summer 2016,” which makes their announcement at MWC 2016 surprising early. While we cannot say for sure if they will be making it to the U.S. (though Sony now has plenty of time to negotiate with carriers), we do know that they are coming to Canada because they are already listed on Sony’s Canadian site.
Alex Davies is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware and Tom's IT Pro, covering Smartphones, Tablets, and Virtual Reality. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.