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Sony Xperia X Performance review: A water-resistant speed demon

The Sony Xperia X Performance drives rings around the basic Xperia X even if it does cost a little bit more.

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Nic Healey
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Nic Healey

Senior Editor / Australia

Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.

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4 min read

If you're a "Top Gun" type and expect your phone to have the power of a jet engine, then you're exactly who Sony had in mind with the Xperia X Performance.

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7.9

Sony Xperia X Performance

The Good

Absolutely brimming with power, the Sony Xperia X Performance is well designed and the only new Xperia to be waterproof.

The Bad

Battery life needs a big boost for this phone to live up to its potential.

The Bottom Line

The Xperia X Performance runs rings around the basic Xperia X and is a great phone for anyone who likes their handsets with a bit of grunt.

The X Performance (never to be called the XP, I'm told by Sony) is the turbo-charged version of the Xperia X. Sony has packed more processing power into the Performance, along with speedier LTE 4G connectivity and a slightly bigger battery. Other than that, the two phones are almost identical, from the 5-inch full HD screen to the 23-megapixel camera on the rear. But trust me, the differences are very noticeable.

At $699 or AU$999, it's less expensive than I'd anticipated. (There are no pricing or launch details for the UK, but the price converts to around £525.) With the basic X model costing $549, AU$799 or £450, that's not much of a price hike at all.

Design

When I first saw the phone, I confess to finding the smooth, rounded edges and matte back a little pedestrian. But my opinion changed significantly while using it. It's comfortable to hold, and when I went back to compare it with the Z5 and Z5 Premium I found it to be the best looker of the group.

My colleague Jessica Dolcourt called the Xperia X a "great one-handed phone" and the same goes for the Performance. Where she and I disagree is on screen size: A 5-inch screen is perfect for her dainty fingers. My hands are about twice as big, and 5-inch phones make me feel like I'm using a Fisher Price "My First Phone" toy. But 5-inches is what's on offer here and I happily admit that's a good size for 80 percent of the world.

Shining a limelight on the Sony Xperia X Performance

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Performance

With the word Performance in the name, I had some high expectations for this phone and it didn't disappoint. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core 64-bit processor is a big jump up from the X and the numbers prove it. It far outstrips the Xperia X and actually rivals the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Sony Xperia X Performance benchmark scores

Sony Xperia X Performance 2,328 5,448 29,398Sony Xperia X 1,418 3,714 17586Samsung Galaxy S7 2,323 5,429 29,031
  • Geekbench 3 Single-Core
  • Geekbench 3 Multi-Core
  • 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

The phone feels exceptionally slick and fast. Apps open rapidly and navigating is smooth as silk. This speed even transfers over to the fingerprint sensor. Built into the power button like previous Xperia models, this is the most reliable and quick biometric security I've ever used on a phone. If you're in the US, however, you'll just have to take my word for it, because Sony has disabled the fingerprint scanner for your region.

The X Performance is also the only of the new X range to be water and dust proof. It's rated IP65/68, which means you can not only splash the thing, you could leave it under a metre of water for 30 minutes (you know, if you desperately wanted to).

The smartphone is a Category 9 LTE device, so on the right network you get a theoretical top download speed of 450Mbps. Wandering around Sydney's CBD, I saw average download speeds of 70-80Mbps and upload speeds of around 30-40Mbps. Or at least I did after I fixed some settings. The Performance defaulted to not connecting to 4G, which confused me until I was able to make the appropriate setting changes.

Battery Life

If there's one element of the Performance that doesn't impress, it's the battery life. Scoring on average just over 10 hours in our tests, it felt equally disappointing in real-world use. While trying the camera out at lunchtime, I could practically see the percentage on the 2,700mAh battery ticking down like a time bomb.

I understand that the big processor and faster 4G will eat some battery life, but for a small-ish phone with (by today's standards) a pretty low-resolution screen, it's a crying shame. The only saving grace is the Qnovo charging technology, which promises 5.5 hours of battery life from a 10 minutes charge, but I'd prefer a bigger battery.

Camera

The camera is the exact same excellent 23-megapixel snapper that's on the Xperia X. You can read that review for more details, but suffice to say that the rear camera takes some crisp shots (if occasionally slightly overexposed) and is very good in low-light conditions.

The dedicated camera button is a standout feature, opening up the camera even from a fully locked screen in under two seconds.

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The inside of Sydney's iconic State Theatre was extremely dark, but the default camera mode got a very clear low light shot.

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A bleak (and cold) Sydney day caused a slightly washed out look to the photos of the Hyde Park Fountain.

Nic Healey/CNET

For the user who prizes power over pretty looks, it's hard to go past the Sony Xperia X Performance. The design might be sedate, but it's comfortable to use and the experience is akin to driving a high-powered car -- and that goes for the fuel economy too. A better battery life would push this into a new category of excellent, but even without that I can recommend the X Performance, at least for Australia and the UK. My American cousins might need to have a think about how essential a fingerprint scanner is before committing their dollars.

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7.9

Sony Xperia X Performance

Score Breakdown

Design 8.5Features 7Performance 9Camera 8Battery 7
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