In a world where smartphones are steadily getting larger and larger, Sony has decided to keep things fairly small. With their flagships still sporting a 5.2-inch display, but also catering to those that want something even smaller. Their "Compact" line of smartphones have always been rather high-end, but with a smaller display and battery. The Xperia Z3 Compact and Xperia Z5 Compact were some of the best "small" smartphones you could pick up. Now with Sony moving over to another letter, with the Xperia X Compact, is it still just as good? Or does the "Compact" name mean that the specs are slightly less flagship? Let's find out in our full review.
The Sony Xperia X Compact sports a 4.6-inch 720p display, powered by the Snapdragon 650 hexa-core processor which is a quad-core 1.4GHz Cortex-A53 cluster and a dual-core 1.8GHz Cortex-A72 cluster, along with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. There is a micro SD card slot that can support up to 256GB of storage, and this is all powered by a 2700mAh non-removable battery inside.
When it comes to optics, you expect the best from Sony, and that's exactly what you get. It's the same camera found on the Xperia XZ also announced at IFA 2016 with the Xperia X Compact. It's a 12-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.0. It's a 24mm wide-angle lens, so you can more in your picture. It also uses SteadyShot with intelligent active mode - thanks to the 5-axis stabilization. Now the front-facing camera is a 5-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.4 and is a 25mm wide angle lens. Definitely better suited for a front-facing shooter. It also sports the SteadyShot feature with intelligent active mode.
As far as connectivity goes, there is Bluetooth 4.1 included. Along with NFC, USB Type-C for charging, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, WiFi Direct and location tracking using A-GPS and GLONASS. There is indeed a 3.5mm headphone jack included here. Despite many other smartphone makers (Lenovo and Apple) opting to get rid of it.
In the Box
Inside the box, you'll find all of the usual suspects with the Xperia X Compact. At the top, you'll find the smartphone, which does look fairly small. Below that you'll find the packet of paperwork that comes with every smartphone you buy. Below that is the wall charger and on the left side (or right side depending on how you have the box positioned) is a section for the USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable. The wall adapter is indeed compatible with Quick Charge 3.0, and it even says so on the wall adapter. So that's a good thing that Sony included this, instead of making users go out and pick up a new charger.
Sony's smartphone hardware hasn't changed all that much in recent memory. But they have continued to innovate with their hardware, even if it is barely noticeable. Of course one of the bigger changes in the past year or so is the power button. Instead of being a round button, like what was found on the Xperia Z3, it's not a flat button and it's concave on the side of the device. This is because it's a fingerprint sensor. And that makes it easier to use the sensor to unlock your device. Unless it's a US model. Like the Xperia Z5, the Xperia X Compact and soon the Xperia XZ, do not sport a fingerprint sensor. Sony hasn't given a good reason why, other than that it was a "business decision". A bit unfortunate, especially since most smartphones today have one.
The other buttons are exactly where you would expect them on a Sony smartphone. The volume rocker is just below the power button and there is a dedicated camera button below that. Just press and hold that button and you can jump straight into the camera app. Of course, if you are already in the camera app, you can use it to take a picture. Which can definitely be convenient.
Overall, the design of the Xperia X Compact looks rather boring. It's really just a slab of plastic with very slightly curved sides. It's all plastic, which means that it doesn't feel as premium as other smartphones from Sony. And unless you get the black color, the plastic is more of a glossy plastic as opposed to the matte plastic used for the black. Which means it'll be more prone to fingerprints than even glass smartphones. Luckily, with the white color that we have here, the fingerprints don't show up all that much. The Xperia X Compact isn't all that comfortable to hold in the hand. You get used to it due to the small footprint, but it's not that comfortable since it's just a rectangle with mostly sharp corners and edges.
Sony has put the USB Type-C connector at the bottom center of the phone. We have front-facing speakers here and a 3.5mm headphone jack up top. Now the left side of the phone houses the SIM card and micro SD card slot. While the back is pretty clean. Sporting the 23-megapixel sensor which is flush with the back and not protruding. As well as the flash and other sensors to the right of it. There's an Xperia logo in the center and just below it is the NFC logo, showing where the NFC chip is located on the Xperia X Compact. Definitely something that we appreciate Sony doing, and something that more companies should adopt.
In the early days, Sony had some issues with their Triluminos displays, especially in regards to viewing angles on these displays. That has now been fixed, and has been for the past few years. The Triluminos display here on the Xperia X Compact is pretty nice looking. Viewing angles are great as well. There's nothing really to complain about. Sure the 720p resolution is a bit of a downer in 2016, but that's still 319 pixels per inch. Pretty decent, still. And that means that battery life is still going to be pretty spectacular.
Sony does offer some settings for the display. One is image enhancement. You can choose to use the X-Reality for Mobile which is the default setting. Which Sony says "improves the viewing quality of photos and videos, giving you clearer, sharper and more natural images". Then there is Super-Vivid Mode which Sony says will "maximize colors while viewing photos and videos, giving you surreal, vibrant and super-vivid images." And of course you can opt to just turn it off entirely. Sony also allows users to adjust the white balance manually. So if you want a cooler display, you can change it to your liking. Same thing goes for those that want a warmer display.
Multi-touch seems to work just fine on this display. Some panels seem to have issues due to its digitizer, but that's not an issue here with the Triluminos display that Sony is using. Definitely a good thing for Sony, as they've had some issues with their phones in recent years, but that isn't usually due to the display anyways.
The Snapdragon 650 is a chip that isn't actually used a whole lot. Mostly due to Qualcomm having a slew of Snapdragon 600-series processors, all of which seem to be used very infrequently, aside from the Snapdragon 617 which seems to be the most popular one. The Snapdragon 650 is a hexa-core chip, unlike the other Snapdragon 600-series SoC's which are mostly octa-core. Although this has a couple more high-powered cores. It's sporting four 1.4GHz Cortex-A53 cores and two 1.8GHz Cortex-A72 cores. This is paired with the Adreno 510 GPU and 3GB of RAM for some pretty incredible performance, especially considering the size of this smartphone.
Day-to-day usage is pretty decent with the Snapdragon 650. It's not that slow, but then again it's not that fast either. It seems to do the job just fine. There were no noticeable slowdowns, even with just 3GB of RAM included. When it comes to gaming performance, that's where smartphones like this tend to suffer, but the Adreno 510 more than pulls its weight. Even with more graphic intensive games that are on the Google Play Store.
All in all, the performance of the Xperia X Compact is a bit surprising. It works really well, even with what many would call a "mid-range" processor. Although having 3GB of RAM definitely helps, with a near stock version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow on top. While it may not feature high-end specs any more, the Xperia X Compact can more than pull its weight among the flagships these days.
Sony left it out. So those of you that are looking to pick up the Xperia X Compact for the fingerprint sensor, you'll be a bit upset here. As Sony opted to take it out of the US variants of all their smartphones that sport a fingerprint sensor. There's no real reason given as to why, but many believe that it was to hit a specific price point for these smartphones, seeing as they are only being sold unlocked in the US.
Speaker & Sound
Sony has their hands in a lot of areas, like Samsung and LG. However, instead of making washers and dryers, Sony is in video games and music. So it makes sense that they would put some incredible audio into the Xperia X Compact. The audio coming out of the Xperia X Compact is definitely nice to hear, and something that audiophiles will love, it has Hi-Res audio. There is a setting available that will "upgrade the quality of compressed music files to near Hi-Res audio quality by restoring high-range sound". Now Sony does say that this is only available for wired headphones. So it's a good thing that they kept the headphone jack here. ClearAudio+ makes a return here. Allowing you to optimize the sound coming out of the Xperia X Compact.
Additionally, Sony has included a system-wide equalizer. Allowing you to adjust the sound that is played in any app on the Xperia X Compact. You can choose from the presets or create your own. We stuck to "Bass boost" since we prefer bass heavy songs. It does make quite the difference and is definitely nice to have available on the Xperia X Compact.
With the Xperia X Compact, we did indeed run all of the usual benchmarks. This includes AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 4. You can see the results down below. The Xperia X Compact performed about as well as we had expected, given what internals it is packing under the hood here.
This is an area that Sony has become pretty well-known for. Battery life on the Xperia X Compact is definitely impressive. We were able to consistently get over four hours of screen on time, and if we really used the device heavily, we could likely get a bit more than that. The Xperia X Compact has impressive standby as well. Of course, that is likely due to the Snapdragon 650 that is inside and running the show. Of course, if you are running out of juice, Sony has STAMINA and Ultra STAMINA mode for you to get even more out of your battery. STAMINA mode will restrict some of the device performance and some of the functions the device does, to preserve battery. You can opt to have this on all the time, or have it automatically start at a specific percentage. Ultra STAMINA mode basically prohibits you from using almost any app on the device. The only apps available are the phone, contacts, messaging, camera, album, calendar, clock, calculator, FM radio, settings and music. Basically, only the essentials are here.
Battery may last for quite some time, but what about recharging it? Sony does have Quick Charge 3.0 included here. Allowing you to recharge the Xperia X Compact quite quickly. And given that there is a rather small 2700mAh battery inside, the battery does charge very quickly. In most cases, about an hour will take you from 0 to full. Which is pretty impressive, and about the same time it takes the LG G5 to do the same. Which has a slightly larger battery at 2800mAh.
The battery on the Xperia X Compact is more than sufficient, even though the size may seem a bit small, it is more than capable. It will definitely get you through a full day, even if that is a pretty long and hard day on the Xperia X Compact. Thanks to the 720p display and rather low-powered Snapdragon 650, the Xperia X Compact does a great job at getting through a full day and possibly longer.
Sony has Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow on-board here. Which is almost the latest version of Android, but not quite. Android 7.0 Nougat did launch a few weeks ago, but it's only available on Nexus devices (and the announced, but not yet available, LG V20) at this time. So it's a bit forgivable. It is also running on the June 1st, 2016 security patch. That's a fairly old security patch now. It's three months old almost four. Luckily, most of the serious exploits are patched with that update, however. Sony hasn't been the fastest at rolling out updates to their smartphones, but they have gotten better. Which is worth noting. So if you do buy the Xperia X Compact, don't expect frequent updates, but do expect updates.
Starting with the launcher here, the Xperia X Compact has a very Googley feel. Which is something that Sony has been moving towards lately. To the left of the home screen there is the Google Now page. So it looks and feels a bit like the Google Now Launcher, but when you jump into the app drawer, you'll know that it isn't. In the app drawer, you are greeted with pages of apps that scroll horizontally. They are set up in a 4x5 grid, so that's 20 apps per page. At the top, there is a search bar, where you can search for an app and if it's not installed it will take you to the listing in Google Play to install it. Now to the left of the first page of apps, there is a Suggested section as well as Recommended. The suggested section shows you the apps you've recently opened. Recommended apps shows you apps like those you have installed. Tapping on one will take you into the Google Play Store to download it. It's a great way to find new apps to use on your smartphone. Without getting in the way.
Now the notification shade is basically stock Android. There are a few changes here, although very minimal. For example, the "Mobile Data" tile doesn't show your signal strength or the carrier you are connected to. Tapping on it also won't show you your data usage, but instead will turn off mobile data (after confirming that's what you want to do, of course). These toggles can be edited, and replaced with other toggles or just rearranged. A couple of the more useful tiles that you can add in are STAMINA and Screen Mirroring.
Sony has also gone the themes route here. Something that many other manufacturers have done recently. Sony has four themes that are pre-installed. These are simply named by color, which are blue, white, black and pink. There are plenty more available, after a quick download. They are located in the "What's New" app, but there is a shortcut available in the themes section of the settings.
The software that's loaded up on the Xperia X Compact is definitely nice and lightweight. Of course, when you are sticking with mostly vanilla Android, that's what is going to happen. With the 3GB of RAM and Snapdragon 650 inside, the Xperia X Compact runs fairly well, not too surprising, but definitely nice to see. Especially after seeing the issues that Samsung has even with their flagship smartphones, with their own software overlay.
This is probably the most important part of this smartphone. The camera is where everyone expects Sony to blow away their competition. And for the most part they have. While their competition is going with less megapixels in favor of larger pixels, Sony has upped their camera to 23-megapixels. The rear camera is a slightly wide-angle lens, it's a 24mm lens which has an aperture of f/2.0. Not the best aperture we've seen in a smartphone but it's still pretty low. Sony has included 3 sensors in this camera module that detect motion, distance and color, which help to get the best pictures possible. Due to these sensors, Sony is able to take pictures without the colors being washed-out or dull, especially in lighting conditions that aren't the best.
Sony's SteadyShot software is here which uses 5-axis stabilization. What this means is that it's going to be rather tough to get a picture that is blurry. And through our testing of the camera, this definitely seems to be true. We haven't had to wait long for the camera to launch or to auto-focus, before actually taking the picture.
At 23-megapixels, you are shooting in a 4:3 aspect ratio. If you want pictures to be a bit more wide-screen, you can drop it down to 20-megapixels and it'll have a 16:9 aspect ratio. Still plenty of megapixels for getting some great shots. The main accessible modes here on the Xperia X Compact's camera are the Superior Auto for pictures, Manual and video. There are other modes available, many of which are downloadable. The pre-installed ones include AR effect, Sound Photo, Style portrait, Creative effect, Sticker Creator, Sweep Panorama and Timeshift Video. The AR effect is everyone's favorite, since you can put objects on your picture, hence the Augmented Reality effect. Manual is another one that users love, especially those that are photographers. It allows you to adjust the white balance, the exposure, shutter speed, and focus. You can choose between auto-focus and manual focus, which is actually the first time I've seen that on a smartphone.
The camera app is nice and fast. Definitely a nice experience for anyone that is going to take a lot of pictures. The controls are laid out nicely, making it easy for users to take pictures, change settings and even see the pictures they've taken. The auto-focus on the camera here is pretty darn fast. Perhaps the fastest we've seen in a smartphone camera.
The experience of taking pictures is pretty good, but what about the quality of these pictures? They are pretty good as well. Even in challenging light, the Xperia X Compact does a really nice job at getting the colors correct. Out of all of the pictures I took - which you can see in the Flickr gallery below - only one was bad. And it actually came out quite good. But the colors were a bit messed up, unfortunately. Otherwise it all looks really good. Even in direct sunlight, some pictures look like they were washed out a bit, but not that bad at all. We've definitely seen worse, in terms of washed out backgrounds.
When it came to the front-facing camera, it was pretty impressive too. As a reminder, the front-facing camera is a 5-megapixel sensor with a 25mm wide angle lens and an f/2.4 aperture. In most cases, you wouldn't even know that these pictures were taken with the front-facing camera. It was actually that good.
No Fingerprint Sensor on US models
Sony has always been known for charging a premium for their devices. Even outside of the mobile space. And the Xperia X Compact is no different. This device will set you back $499 in the US. Which is quite a hefty price for a smartphone of this size, especially one that is missing the fingerprint sensor. But is it worth the price? That depends on what you want out of a smartphone. There's a lot of good things going for the Xperia X Compact, but there are a few negative things going as well, unfortunately.
Should I Buy the Sony Xperia X Compact?
Only if you are an audiophile, or a photographer. Those are the two areas where the Xperia X Compact beats its competition. The camera on the Xperia X Compact is definitely the best in the business, especially at this price point. And having all these settings for audio, as well as front-facing speakers, makes the Xperia X Compact a perfect fit for audiophiles that don't want a huge phone. Missing the fingerprint sensor is a pretty big deal, but those that have never had a smartphone with a fingerprint sensor likely won't care. As it's not something they are used to.