Sony Xperia X review:

A great one-handed phone

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Sony Xperia X is a winning compact phone for its high-quality camera and ergonomic in-hand fit. The dedicated camera button gives you a convenient quick-shoot option.

The Bad Battery life is constrained, and the fingerprint reader won't work on the US version of the phone.

The Bottom Line A reliable and likable midrange phone, the Xperia X stands out for its palm-friendly build and strong camera, but we can't recommend it for US customers.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Camera 8.0
  • Battery 6.0

Well, well, well, Sony Xperia X. You are a conundrum. I admit that I like you more now than I did when we first met at your February debut, and that's largely thanks to your sneaky-awesome trait of being really easy to operate one-handed. There aren't a lot of phones out there these days that are compact enough and proportioned well enough to pull this off, especially for people on the smaller end of the hand-size spectrum.

But you do, and that's extremely useful for all the times when I've got my arms full with my giant purse, work badge, groceries, a cup of tea, a handhold on the bus, whatever. With your square sides that are easy to grip and the fast-acting fingerprint reader built right into the power button on your right spine, you make it incredibly easy to whip you out of a back pocket to read the news or act on notifications without having to uncomfortably stretch my hands to reach your 5-inch screen. Since my thumb is larger than the fingerprint reader/power button, I don't have to worry about precise positioning to unlock the screen, and your accuracy is spot on.

But that fingerprint reader is also what gives me pause, Xperia X, because while it works flawlessly for your global variant, it won't work in the US market at all. Sony is disabling it intentionally, just like it did on some of your brethren, like the Z5 and Z5 Compact. ("Sony Mobile has decided not to include fingerprint sensors in the US models at this time.") This strikes me as a silly omission that will keep one large market from unlocking you this way and from quickly, conveniently authorizing payments through Android Pay, the Amazon app, their banking app and so on.

Because of your stingy ways stateside, I can't recommend you for the US. You'll get 4G LTE speeds on T-Mobile and AT&T if customers buy you directly from Sony's website or from retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and B&H. But without that fingerprint reader, I just can't recommend you over the Google Nexus 6P, which has a fast fingerprint reader as well, costs $50 less and will be first in line for Android software updates like Android N this fall.

But for the rest of the globe, I do like you as a less expensive Android 6.0 Marshmallow option. You probably won't be as fast as the same-size Xperia X Performance that's coming out July 17, and you certainly won't have its water-resistant body, but you do cost much less.


Still, you're pricier than the HTC One A9 (but you take better photos) and customers who prefer a larger screen should absolutely get the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P over you. Sorry, it's harsh but true. ZTE's newly-announced Axon 7 also looks promising, with a larger base-model storage capacity (64GB versus 32GB) and comparable camera specs (which doesn't always equal better performance) -- and it costs less than you do. (Read a full specs comparison breakdown with these phones below.)

So while I can easily hold you with one hand while giving your dimensions and camera a thumbs up with the other, you do face intense competition from less expensive phones.

Sincerely,
Jessica


Well, that felt good to get off my chest, but I still want to walk about the Xperia X camera, battery life and hardware specs. Also, you should know that this review and specs apply to the 32GB version of the Xperia X. Sony will also offer the phone in a 64GB, dual-SIM model, but hasn't shared pricing yet.

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