Sony Xperia X Performance Review: Great design but lacking in premium power

Alex Kidman 1 July 2016 NEWS
Quick Verdict
We do love the style and feel of the Xperia X Performance in the hand, and it’s powerful enough in processing terms to stand amongst best premium phones.

Strengths

  • Refined design
  • Fast, reliable camera
  • Good processor performance

Could be better

    • Battery performance is mediocre
    • NFC tag is front facing
    • Some components aren’t premium

The Sony Xperia X Performance is a phone with a curious mix of premium parts and mid-range power, making it hard to recommend.

Sony as a brand still has plenty of prestige, but it’s far behind both Apple and Samsung in smartphone sales in Australia. That’s despite delivering some generally excellent smartphone options in recent years such as the Xperia Z5.

The Xperia X series is Sony’s 2016 take on what a smartphone should be, compromising the entry-level Xperia XA, and more premium Xperia X and Xperia X Performance. There are only small differences between the X and X performance, despite the name.

Sony Xperia X Performance
Screen size 5in
Storage 32GB
Weight 164.4g
Processor Snapdragon 820
Rear camera 23MP
Front camera 13MP
Battery 2,700mAh
Resolution 1920x1080
Display density 440ppi

XperiaXPerformance_3_450

Upsides: Why you’d want the Xperia X Performance

  • Refined design: Earlier Xperia phones were indistinct bricks with nipple-style power buttons on the side. The Xperia X Performance has the same flat fingerprint scanner on the side as the Xperia Z series phones, but matched with a rounded, elegant design that looks good and fits well in the hand without being notably slippery.
  • Fast, reliable camera: Sony makes the sensors for a wide variety of its competitors, so really, it has no excuse for not having a top range camera. The general performance, focus tracking and low light efforts of the Xperia X Performance were very good indeed. In a direct shootout with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, the X Performance held its own against Samsung’s own impressive shooter, marking it out as a good choice for photography enthusiasts.
  • Good processor performance: Sony matches 3GB of RAM to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor, which puts it in the company of the LG G5, the HTC 10 and the international version of the Galaxy S7. The result is a phone that’s generally quick to respond even under pressure, and this was reflected in benchmarks as well. Here’s how the Xperia X Performance reviews against premium handsets in Geekbench’s general performance test:
    Handset Geekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 2169 6446
    Samsung Galaxy S7 2156 6240
    Huawei Mate 8 1738 6092
    LG G5 2305 5243
    Sony Xperia X Performance 1988 5198
    Sony Xperia Z5 2076 5165
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 1492 4893
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge 1324 4626
    Google Nexus 6P 1251 4597
    Samsung Galaxy S6 1347 4569
    Apple iPhone SE 2538 4455
    Apple iPhone 6S 2540 4410
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus 2491 4391
    HTC 10 1942 4191
    Sony Xperia Z5 1358 4134
    Samsung Galaxy Note 5 1111 3686
    BlackBerry PRIV 1196 3396
    LG G4 1190 3313
    Google Nexus 5X 1188 3198

    Here’s the Xperia X Performance’s comparative performance using 3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited test:

    Handset 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result
    LG G5 29597
    Apple iPhone SE 29276
    Samsung Galaxy S7 28903
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 28402
    Apple iPhone 6s 28171
    HTC 10 27392
    Sony Xperia X Performance 26125
    Google Nexus 6P 24703
    Sony Xperia Z5 19197
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus 17981
    Huawei Mate 8 17947

XperiaXPerformance_450

Downsides: Why you might not want the Xperia X Performance

  • Battery performance is mediocre: Premium handsets should come with premium battery life, but we can’t say that’s true of the Xperia X Performance in any real way. In ad-hoc usage we could just about get through a day’s usage without needing a recharge, which isn’t a great sign. Sony does provide aggressive battery saving features to extend the overall life of the handset, but as with other similar features on other handsets, this is at the cost of performance and options. Using Geekbench’s inbuilt battery test confirmed our suspicions. Here’s how the Xperia X Performance stacked up in its battery test with screen dimming enabled:
    Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 11:55:00 7150
    Huawei Mate 8 11:14:40 6659
    Samsung Galaxy S7 10:01:20 6013
    Samsung Galaxy Note 5 9:18:00 5580
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 8:24:10 5041
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus 7:48:10 4681
    LG G5 7:36:10 4561
    iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case 7:21:10 4407
    Google Nexus 5X 7:14:20 4062
    HTC 10 6:54:30 4145
    Samsung Galaxy S6 6:51:30 4115
    Sony Xperia X Performance 6:46:51 4068
    Google Nexus 6P 6:39:20 3754
    Sony Xperia Z5 5:41:30 3414
    BlackBerry PRIV 5:25:40 3256
    Apple iPhone SE 4:27:10 2671
    Apple iPhone 6s 3:52:10 2321

    It’s not the worst battery life from a premium phone, but it’s nowhere near the best either.

  • NFC tag is front facing: The Xperia X Performance has a full metal back, and to accommodate this Sony has shoved the NFC tag on the phone to the front. This is potentially problematic because if you’re looking to use an Android phone for, say, NFC payment purposes, you won’t be able to see what’s being confirmed on the phone, because you’ll most likely have to tap it face down.
  • Some components aren’t premium: The Xperia X series is more or less the successor to the Xperia Z series phones, but in some significant ways they’re a step back. 4K video isn’t supported, and the display is only a 1080P one where previous Z series phones, and plenty of the X Performance’s competitors offer 4K resolution screens. The Xperia X Performance is meant to be Sony's best phone for 2016, but in comparison with other flagship devices, it's all too often second best.

Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?

We do love the style and feel of the Xperia X Performance in the hand, and it’s powerful enough in processing terms to stand amongst 2016’s best premium phones. However, its generally sub-par battery, ordinary display screen and weird NFC placement, combined with the asking price of $999 outright make it a very hard sell indeed.

It is just a tad cheaper than, say, the LG G5 or HTC 10, and a fair step below the pricing of any of Apple’s iPhones or Samsung’s Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge. Still, if you’re in the market for a true premium phone, they’re probably a better overall bet. Sony’s pricing on the Xperia X and Xperia XA is more realistic to their general market positions, but the Xperia X Performance is, at launch, just a bit too expensive for what you get.

Where can I get it?

Telstra is the only Aussie telco currently offering the Xperia X Performance on contract, and you can view the plans below. You can also find retailers like Kogan selling the Xperia X Performance outright, if you'd rather not be tied down.

Sony Xperia X Performance

Sony Xperia X Performance from Kogan

Sony's Xperia X Performance offers water resistance, a 23MP camera and 13MP camera in a comfortable 5-inch package.

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