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

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.

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 ($250 at Best Buy) 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.

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

Patrick Holland/CNET

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