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Sony Xperia X Compact review: A tiny phone with a camera that will blow you away

The Sony Xperia X Compact packs tons of goodies into a small package.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Expertise Apple, iPhone, iOS, Android, Samsung, Sony, Google, Motorola, interviews, coffee equipment, cats Credentials
  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
4 min read

For some people, the Sony Xperia X Compact will fit like a glove.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Sony Xperia X Compact is a rarity -- a small phone with a big, terrific camera. That's 23 megapixels' worth of snapping power in a body small enough to fit into almost any pocket. And to me, the pint-size X Compact seems a pretty good fit.


Sony Xperia X Compact

The Good

The Sony Xperia X Compact is a small, 4.6-inch phone with a beautiful display, an excellent camera and good battery life.

The Bad

Only the Japanese model is waterproof, and the fingerprint sensor is disabled in the US. There's a bit of lag when editing pictures or taking low-light photos.

The Bottom Line

Sony's Xperia X Compact is a small phone with an excellent camera, but it lacks some creature comforts, like waterproofing and, in the US, a fingerprint sensor.

Coming in at $449 and £379, the X Compact is large on charm. (No mention has been made of the X Compact coming to Australia, but hope springs eternal. In the meantime, its US price works out to AU$587, converted.) But the odd exclusion of conveniences found on the X Compact in other countries is a real head-scratcher. For example, buyers in Sony's home country of Japan get waterproofing and a fingerprint sensor, but UK residents don't get the H2O resistance, and US users get neither.

If you're an Android fan looking for a small-screen phone, your choices are few. You'd do right with the Xperia X Compact, so long as you can accept the omissions.

If iPhones are just as good for you, the SE sticks to the same pricing scale -- though it has a much smaller display. You can also upgrade to the similarly sized iPhone 7 or cheaper 6S -- but you'll definitely pay more.

Design and basics

No joke -- the first thing you notice about the Sony Xperia X Compact is that it's small. Or at least, it looks small. The screen is 4.6 inches, a filament smaller than the iPhone 7 (4.7 inches). But its chunky body and thick bezel mean there's actually more phone in your hand than you'd guess. Still, the X Compact is wonderful to use one-handed.

You will either love or hate its blocky, flat looks -- no camera bump here. In a market dominated by superthin phones made of glass and aluminum, the Compact X's thick plastic demeanor is refreshingly unique, especially in Mist Blue.

The 720-pixel display is bright and sharp, and it handles direct sunlight like a pro. Battery life was a solid 11 hours, 28 minutes in our video loop tests. Some of that longevity comes from it the fact that it runs Android 6.0.1.

Just how small is Sony's 4.6-inch Xperia X Compact?

See all photos

The X Compact handled daily-tasks without a problem -- posting social media, messaging and watching the occasional "Carpool Karaoke" video. Gaming (FIFA Mobile, Clash Royale) on the X Compact was a breeze, but made me yearn for a bigger screen.

If you own a PS4, Sony's preloaded PlayStation app connects you to the console as a remote or even a second screen.

A camera focused on technology

The phone's most standout feature is its 23-megapixel camera. It has a wide lens -- which is great for landscapes, street scenes and tight spots. There is a lot of tech inside: five-axis stabilization, predictive autofocus and an infrared sensor to help with white balance. Images taken with the X Compact have lots of detail and nice, natural colors. Also worth noting: I rarely got a blurry shot.

Sony's auto mode (Superior Auto) worked well in most situations. Occasionally, images looked overexposed -- slightly. The shots were usable but needed some editing.

If you want more from this camera, try manual mode. You get access to a bunch of settings like shutter speed, ISO and even a scene mode selector, like a point-and-shoot camera. Using some of these features results in an 8-megapixel image, as opposed to the full 23 megapixels. Don't worry too much; it'll still give you good snaps.

Then, there's the 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Its wide lens is great for selfies with your friends. If you find you need a touch-up, there are filters to smooth skin, add a suntan, even make you look like a black-and-white promo shot for the musical "Chicago."

Take a look at some of the shots I took with the X Compact.

Using the Sony Xperia X Compact's 23-megapixel camera

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Other small options

These days, phones with a display smaller than 5 inches are rare. Besides the Compact X, there's the iPhone SE, which has a more powerful processor, but a smaller 4-inch display. The SE costs $399, £379 and AU$679 for the 16GB model (64GB is a little more).

You also have the iPhone 6S and 7. Both are a tad taller and thinner than the X Compact, and both give you more processor power and built-in storage -- though you'll pay more, too. The 32GB iPhone 6S comes in at $549, £499, or AU$929 and the 7 at $649, £599 or AU$1,079.

As far as a small Android phone, Sony's biggest competition is itself: last year's Sony Xperia Z5 Compact can still be had for $400 and £430 (AU$520, converted). You get basically the same body as well as waterproofing and 4K video. But you give up the X Compact's more advanced camera features, faster processor and Android 6.0.1.


Different people have different ideas about how small a small phone should be.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia X Compact

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Camera 8.5Battery 7