Interface and reliability
Sony's Xperia X Performance runs on Google's latest official release, Android Nougat, but with a twist. The custom user interface will feel familiar to anyone who has used an Android smartphone, though it's a far cry from the stock Android experience that you'll find in the Nexus 6P.
You'll find Sony's spin on the basic apps, like messaging and music, along with some other pre-loaded apps to keep you looped into the world of Xperia. Some of it's useful, like providing tips for taking advantage of the phone's features, a Shazam-like TrackID app that helps you quickly identify a song in the wild, and exclusive themes and the occasional voucher for free digital goods via the Xperia Lounge.
It even goes the extra mile in some regards. The Video app, for example, is (you guessed it) where you can watch your locally stored files. But Sony also lets you tie up your cable provider, which in turn morphs this seemingly basic app into a robust TV guide of sorts, complete with some small traces of Nintendo Wii U's now-defunct TVii social functionality.
People who are new to Xperia, or smartphones in general, will appreciate the way things are laid out and the overlay's measures to hold your hand through the experience. On the other hand, the veteran crowd will be happy to know that each of the custom apps can be disabled through the app drawer.
Music, movies and gaming
Even more than we use phones for calls, we rely on them for entertainment. Whether you're streaming movies, listening to tunes, or playing the occasional (or frequent, very frequent) game, delivering a pleasurable experience is an expectation that needs to be met by today's devices. In the case of the expensive Sony Xperia X Performance, make that doubly so.
On its full HD display, high-resolution streaming looks relatively crisp and the phone's X-Reality function adds more contrast to the picture. The effort to compensate for the lack of QHD is appreciated, but the price of this phone makes it especially difficult to swallow the omission. The screen definitely doesn't pop like most other Android flagship smartphones.
In terms of sound quality, the dual front-facing speakers do their best to push out sound, but the end result is rather tinny. And we found that when things get loud, the phone tends to buzz a little bit in the hand. It's not a great experience, but it's just fine in a pinch.
Casual listeners can expect the basic plug-and-play convenience brought about by the 3.5mm jack –an odd, obvious statement that we now have to make in a world of headphone jack-less phones, like the Moto Z and, very likely the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, too.
Audiophiles will be happy to see and hear that the Xperia X Performance supports all major hi-res audio file formats, such as LPCM, FLAC, ALAC, DSD. It even supports the company's own LDAC wireless codec, which streams over three times as much data as a standard Bluetooth connection. However, its compatibility is currently limited to Sony audio products.
Lastly, the X Performance supports PS4 Remote Play, a futuristic and exclusive feature that streams whatever the PS4 is outputting straight to the phone. If you're in constant battle for the TV in your living space, this function will be a lifesaver.
It's as easy to set up with the DualShock 4 as one could hope, and we were playing Uncharted 4 right on the phone within minutes. If you're a PS4 owner, this could be the feature that sells you on the Xperia X Performance. But then again, the more affordable Sony Xperia Z3 and Sony Xperia Z5 can do this trick, too.
Specs and benchmark performance explained
- Some of the best performance we've seen from Snapdragon's 820
- A rather paltry 3GB RAM—less than we expect for the high price
- Internal storage isn't a concern thanks to the microSD support
The spec sheet of the Sony Xperia X Performance is sort of all over the place. At times, it looks every bit as flagship-worthy as its looks and price would indicate. While other times, it seems like a mid-range smartphone, which is confusing given that this phone is being positioned near the top of the company's 2016 offering.
But specs aren't everything, and we're pleased to say that this device offers up a smooth experience on the whole. There was no significant slowdown from basic tasks, like messaging and video calls, to gaming with our current obsession, Pokemon Go.
All thanks to the Snapdragon 820, no doubt, which brings along with it the Adreno 530 graphics processor. You'll find this hardware at the core of this year's most popular smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5, Moto Z and more.
The phone 3GB RAM can easily handle several apps open, but as buying a phone is a big investment for the future, we expected a higher memory count at this price. 2015's Nexus 6P gets along just fine with this amount of memory, but it costs much less.
Sony's Xperia X Performance strut its stuff in TechRadar's benchmark test, which spits out a number based on its multi-core performance in GeekBench 3. It averaged 5,476, a score that places it above the results put forward by recent releases, like the HTC 10, Moto Z and OnePlus 3. It even eked out a win against the US variant of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, but not the Exynos-driven model available elsewhere.