With its compact Xperias, Sony owns the small-yet-sweet Android smartphone market. It has a simple formula: the similar top-shelf hardware from the large flagship model, but with a display smaller than five inches. No other device maker uses the same tactic, so there’s no competition for Sony.
Sony Xperia X Compact
Amidst this, Sony presents its Xperia X Compact, the most powerful smartphone smaller than five inches… but with poorer specifications than the flagship Xperia, diverging from Sony’s traditional take.
With a 4.6-inch HD display, Sony Xperia X Compact sports a Qualcomm hexa-core Snapdragon 650, along with 3GB RAM, a 23-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera, Android OS 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), and a 2700mAh battery.
Compared to last year’s model, the Xperia Z5 Compact, the new Xperia X Compact no longer has the IP certificate and is not waterproof. However, its starting price is cheaper, coming in at about $400.
Find out more about this small Android smartphone in this Sony Xperia X Compact review.
Build & Design
Sony Xperia X Compact back
Sony’s recognizable, strictly squared design, is the dominant aesthetic. Like all its predecessors, the Sony Xperia X Compact is a bit chunky, which is not surprising, given that it crams a lot in a smaller-screen device. It measure 129 x 65 x 9.5 mm (5.08 x 2.56 x 0.37 inches) and weighs 135 grams (4.76 ounces), making it nearly identical to last year’s model. It features a policarbonic unibody, meaning it’s entirely solid plastic. Its texture mimics ceramics on one side, giving the phone a highly modern appearance, but it’s a fingerprint magnet.
It is a shame Sony Xperia X Compact is not waterproof, given that this was a differentiator. In order to cut the price, Sony clearly had to compromise. Granted, it’s smaller and easier to hold than a larger smartphone, likely reducing the risk of dropping it in water. Still, this is the first Sony compact smartphone that can’t take photos underwater, at least not without a special case.
The phone’s back is uniform and only includes the camera lens and a single LED flash, located in the upper left corner, while the front includes stereo speaker perforations above and below the display.
The upper perforation is used as a speaker for making phone calls, while the phone’s primary microphone is hidden in the bottom perforation. The front-facing camera lens is located above the display, along with the ambient light sensor, while the notifications LED is in the corner. The control keys are a part of the rather busy user interface.
Sony Xperia X Compact bottom
Sony Xperia X Compact top
The phone’s bottom houses the USB Type-C connectorwith USB 2.0, not 3.0 standardization, while the upper portion includes the 3.5-mm audio input and a tiny secondary microphone. The left side has a cover for the nanoSIM and microSD card drawer, while the Power key with a built-in fingerprint sensor is located at thumb’s height on the right (except for the US market version, as the fingerprint sensor is not active). The volume control rocker is located under it, in a rather unnatural place, and there’s a dedicated camera launch button even lower. This key is actually redundant, as in the past it served to launch the camera and snap underwater pics (touchscreens don’t work under water).
Sony Xperia X Compact power and camera button
Sony Xperia X Compact SIM tray
Measuring 4.6 inches diagonally, the Xperia X Compact display has an HD resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels, resulting in a density of 319 pixels per inch. This not seem a lot by today’s standards (high-end Android smartphones routinely top 500+ ppi); however, the imaging looks absolutely sharp. Sony has cleverly chosen just HD resolution for this compact phone, because the display is too small for a sharper display to make much difference, while much is gained when it comes to saving processor and power resources.
The Sony Xperia X Compact’s IPS LCD features Sony’s Triluminous technology, which is another name for a Quantum dot panel. This emphasizes colors, with more saturation and a more sustainable contrast. Indeed, when it comes to color saturation, this device is not that far behind phones with AMOLED screens, as it provides very vivacious imaging, with warm accents. In a similar fashion, the device cuts through direct-sunlight glare well, faring better than the flagship Xperia X.
On the other hand, Sony’s X-reality engine, which post-processes photographs, produces odd results, with unnatural exposures and unnaturally interpreted colors. Thankfully, X-reality can be manually turned off, and Sony offers RGB sliders for tweaking the white balance. The Xperia X Compact also has ambient sensors for automatic white balance, but manual tweaks can typically produce better results.
Xperia X Compact’s chipset is newer, but still less potent, than the one featured on last year’s Xperia Z5 Compact. It’s Qualcom’s hexa-core Snapdragon 650 with four Cortex-A53 cores, running a 1.4GHz clock and two Cortex-A72 cores, running a 1.8GHz clock (the Z5 Compact has the octa-core Snapdragon 810). Still, the Xperia X Compact is one of the most powerful compact smartphones, while the latest octa-core Snapdragon is probably overkill for such a small display and resolution, as well as the battery. It has to be small enough to fit into the compact body, remember.
With all this, the new Xperia X Compact comes with Adreno 510 graphics (not the Adreno 430 chip) and still has 3GB of RAM, along with 32GB memory storage, complete with the microSD card slot. Looking at the benchmarks, specifically GeekBench 3, our Sony Xperia X Compact review unit scored 1512 on the single-core test, and 3820 on the multi-core. In practice, the phone offers a completely fluid experience, nearly indistinguishable from the larger Xperia flagship.
Regarding connectivity, it supports LTE Cat.6, meaning it can download at 300 MBps and upload at 50 Mbps. It also supports dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC. It is nice that the phone comes with built-in FM radio and if you have a PlayStation 4, you can use your phone as a mobile console, because games can be streamed on its display via PS4 Remote Play.
The 2700mAh battery offers more than enough juice to keep the Xperia X Compact running. Streaming HD videos with display brightness set to the max, our Sony Xperia X Compact review unit lasted a full 9 hours and 59 minutes. Anything more than 8 hours is good.
With average use, the our Sony Xperia X Compact review unit lasted about two days between charges.
In addition, the device includes the Qnovo adaptive charging technology, which automatically monitors electrochemical processes in the battery cells, adjusting charging parameters in order to extend battery life. At least in theory, this extends the overall battery life by reducing charge cycles.
The Xperia X Compact also has Battery Care technology, with spots charging patterns and adapts accordingly, again, in an effort to prolong overall battery health.
Thankfully, Sony didn’t compromise on the Xperia X Compact’s 23-megapixel rear-facing camera. The camera features a 24-mm ultra-wide lens (expressed in units equivalent for 24 mm film) with f/2.0. Instead of optical image stabilization, it uses the Active SteadyShot technology, but solely for recording Full HD videos. This is the first Sony smartphone camera with the so-called laser autofocus, which is especially useful for quick focus in the dark, as well as quick white balance adjustments. There’s also an LED flash next to the camera, as well as a prediction focus which locks on moving objects, following their movements.
All this results in our Sony Xperia X Compact review unit snapping pics with above average quality. Thanks to the high resolution, the pics have an exceptional detail level. As an unfortunate side effect, zoomed images have excessive noise, but this can be fixed with resolution reductions.
Sony’s algorithms are great for touching up images, especially those taken in the dark. It typically results in an impressive, if unrealistic, picture. Precise color interpretation and moderate saturation help to blunt that negative effect, however.
In sum, daylight images rival anything taken by a flagship (iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge), while night shots are a notch below.
The front 5-mega-pixel camera offers average results, neither particularly good nor bad, while it’s interesting that it has the equivalent of a 22-mm ultra-wide lens.
In terms of video, it records up to 1080p at 60 fps. It’s the same story with quality: recordings are rich in detail. A great white balance and realistic color saturation give videos a high dynamic range. This might be one of the best smartphone for video output.
Sony Xperia X Compact Review Conclusion
Sony Xperia X Compact
The hardware keeps the Sony Xperia X Compact out of the flagship space, but it’s still one of the best devices smaller than five inches on the market. Its long-lasting battery deserves the most praise, and we also like its modern design, attractive display, and decent performance.
We just wish it was waterproof.
- Very good battery autonomy
- Modern design
- Display cuts through outdoor glare very well
- Not waterproof like Sony’s previous compact Xperias
- Dedicated camera key is redundant
- USB Type-C connector supports USB 2.0, but not 3.0
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