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

Alex Kidman 1 July 2016


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 size5in
ProcessorSnapdragon 820
Rear camera23MP
Front camera13MP
Display density440ppi


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:
    HandsetGeekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better)Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge21696446
    Samsung Galaxy S721566240
    Huawei Mate 817386092
    LG G523055243
    Sony Xperia X Performance19885198
    Sony Xperia Z520765165
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+14924893
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge13244626
    Google Nexus 6P12514597
    Samsung Galaxy S613474569
    Apple iPhone SE25384455
    Apple iPhone 6S25404410
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus24914391
    HTC 1019424191
    Sony Xperia Z513584134
    Samsung Galaxy Note 511113686
    BlackBerry PRIV11963396
    LG G411903313
    Google Nexus 5X11883198

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

    Handset3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result
    LG G529597
    Apple iPhone SE29276
    Samsung Galaxy S728903
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge28402
    Apple iPhone 6s28171
    HTC 1027392
    Sony Xperia X Performance26125
    Google Nexus 6P24703
    Sony Xperia Z519197
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus17981
    Huawei Mate 817947


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:
    HandsetGeekbench 3 Battery Test DurationGeekbench 3 Battery Score
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge11:55:007150
    Huawei Mate 811:14:406659
    Samsung Galaxy S710:01:206013
    Samsung Galaxy Note 59:18:005580
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+8:24:105041
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus7:48:104681
    LG G57:36:104561
    iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case7:21:104407
    Google Nexus 5X7:14:204062
    HTC 106:54:304145
    Samsung Galaxy S66:51:304115
    Sony Xperia X Performance6:46:514068
    Google Nexus 6P6:39:203754
    Sony Xperia Z55:41:303414
    BlackBerry PRIV5:25:403256
    Apple iPhone SE4:27:102671
    Apple iPhone 6s3:52:102321

    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?

Sony sells the Xperia X Performance for $999 outright through its online store. It will also be offered on contract by Telstra at a later date, with pricing to be confirmed.

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