Sony Xperia X review

A phone that doesn't quite know who it's aimed at

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Battery

  • Poor results in lab test
  • Longer lasting lifespan of battery thanks to new tech
  • Rapid charging supported out of box

The battery life of the Sony Xperia X has been extended, according to the Japanese brand, but not in the way you'd expect.

Sony's been working on making sure that the way we charge our phones won't harm the battery a lot, stopping it from degrading the components within, through a process called Qnovo adaptive charging.

This works by making sure that the battery isn't pummelled with charge when it doesn't need it, thus protecting the precious cells inside.

Sony Xperia X review

This means that after a year or so of use, the battery will be healthier and won't start running out juice much faster than usual - and with modern phones having the power pack built in, it's not an easy fix to change it.

We've not been able to test this one properly as we've not used the phone for two years, but Sony has good heritage with things like this so there's no reason to doubt the claim.

If it does work, then it certainly should be something other brands should look to use, as the iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S8 would really sell if consumers felt confident the battery wouldn't suddenly need loads of charging just to last the day a year after you bought it.

The charging itself should be pretty rapid, with a quick charging block included in the box - we're going to be testing this out soon to see if it can really match up to Sony's claims of five and half hours of use with just 10 minutes of being plugged in, as that sounds like quite a lofty number.

In terms of real world usage, I'm still sceptical of Sony's claims of longer battery life - the phone doesn't like to have the screen turned on a lot, with the charge seeming to drop a little too quickly given Sony believes it's one of the better options on the market.

It's only got a 2620mAh battery, which places it far behind the leading pack of top smartphones - if you're buying this phone as a budget-conscious purchase, the OnePlus 3 might be a better bet as it's much cheaper and has a larger battery pack… Although in our testing the lab results were relatively similar.

When we ran the battery lab test we put all our phones through (a Full HD video looped at full brightness for 90 minutes) it dropped 28%, which is one of the poorer results we've seen. To put that into perspective, many phones with higher resolution and larger screens have put in a better performance, showing that perhaps the battery life Sony is claiming isn't quite there.

Oh, and one infuriating thing: the battery usage graphs are broken, starting far to the right of the screen rather than on the left and descending. It's a very weird bug, but one that Sony still hasn't fixed and is really annoying when you're trying to see how badly (or well) your power pack is performing.

Camera

Sony Xperia X review

  • 23MP camera is powerful when shot is set up well
  • Intelligent auto is good at capturing the right scene
  • Selfie cam is particularly good in low light
  • Object tracking autofocus fails to live up to billing.

The Sony Xperia X is a phone that promises one of the best camera experiences on the market, but fails in a few key areas. Where phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S take a good picture nine times out of 10, the Xperia X craves a properly set up scene to get the most out of it.

The blindingly quick autofocus that Sony has been touting was nowhere to be found - no matter how hard we tried, trying to accurately catch a picture of someone jumping or an animal moving fast proved impossible.

The intelligent auto mode is good though: it'll work out with decent accuracy which scene mode would work best and instantly converts to it, meaning low light photography - while offering muddy results - does come up with some sharp images.

It's worth noting that this mode will default to 8MP pictures to speed up the snapping process, which will annoy those that bought this phone for the powerful camera. Upping the resolution does slow down the speed of the phone to save the photos taken, so it's worth noting that if you're desperate to get the best out of the camera.

The Xperia X might not have the sharpest low-light photos, but it does really color them well, with the resulting images among the best we've seen on a smartphone.

That result is especially true with the front facing 5MP camera, which is both large (we really enjoyed the wider field of view that was on offer) and the quality of the picture in low light. The phone often smoothed out the picture a bit too much, meaning a weirdly Botox-like face, but that seems to be an unstoppable trend in phones.

Object tracking and faster camera

The headline feature of the camera on the Sony Xperia X is the Predictive Hybrid Autofocus and the super-speedy camera activation, both of which do have really useful real-life cases.

The former has taken a lot of algorithmic from Sony's engineers, spending time working out how to essentially guess where an object is going to be in space and keeping it clear and sharp when it moves.

The idea is smart, as it offers the chance to capture those moments in life where people aren't stood perfectly still, or if you've got an animal that simply won't rest for a pose.

However, it's not without fault. While it does work in terms of keeping the focus where it's supposed to be, it's not the easiest system to actually use nor does it really fulfil its primary function. It's not completely incorrect, but we expected to see sharper pictures.

If this were to be a camera that could really capture what's going on in real time, then it would be market-leading… But we really couldn't get it to work as advertised.

The speedy capture - where you can hold the dedicated camera key and the phone will have taken a photo within 0.6 seconds, is a similar experience. Yes, the speed with which it starts up is good, but it sometimes lags when it comes to opening the camera, especially if the app hasn't been used in a while.

Sony Xperia X review

Curiously, it then will load up very quickly each time after, like it's 'warmed up' and instantly take you to an easy to use interface thanks to having a dedicated camera key, something Sony phones are known for.

It also leads to loads of random pictures of feet, as you'll use this camera key to fire up the snapper (it's a great shortcut) and it'll take a picture every time you do so. That said, you can turn it off, but you lose a key feature.

Sony doesn't offer a lot of modes to play around with on the Xperia X, instead preferring to keep things simple. It's put a lot of effort into talking up the 'Intelligent Auto' mode on the snapper, rather than bundling it with loads of extra features that users could theoretically enjoy.

It's all part of the brand's attempts to keep things simple and not bundle in loads of software at once. However, I think Sony has gone too far here, as many won't bother downloading the new apps and will miss out on genuinely useful additions like Selective Focus, which adds a depth to photos and really enhances them.

Sony's not delivered with the powerful camera on the Xperia X. From the sporadically slow boot up time to the slow saving of photos, there are too many glitches here.

And the fact that the intelligent autofocus isn't as good as it sounds is a big miss too. Yes, you can get great pictures from the Xperia X - but you have to work for them too hard when others on the market make it ridiculously simple.