Recently, during our review of the Xperia X Performance, we had a Laurel and Hardy moment in the WhistleOut office. One of our team, who loves poking around the new devices on this reviewer’s desk, spotted the new Xperia X Performance, beside the older Sony Xperia Z5. What happened next was like something straight out of a classic black and white comedy.
Him: This is the new Xperia?
Me: Nope, this is.
Him: This is the X?
Me: Yep, that’s the X.
Him: And this is the X Performance?
Me: No, the other one is.
Him: So this one is the X then?
Me: No, that’s the Z5.
Him: (stares blankly).
The point, of course, is that the older Z5s and the new Xperia X models all basically look the same. My colleague found it a bit easier to tell them apart after he picked up the X Performance and noticed how much thicker and heavier it feels in the hand, but otherwise the new ones look like the old ones so much that it is impossible to tell them apart at a glance.
Maybe this is a good thing. Perhaps this uniformity helps the Sony Mobile brand as a whole. As a phone fan, I can spot a Sony in someone’s hand without any effort. It certainly doesn’t harm Apple iPhone sales. But in a time when phone technology changes every year, and handset designs are as important as the parts inside, it does seem strange that Sony has persisted with this look and feel for so long — especially in light of the change of name from the Xperia Z to the Xperia X. And, if you didn’t like the Sony handset design before, you probably won’t fall in love with it now.
This consistency continues under the hood. The newer X models use updated Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processors, but include the same 32GB storage and 3GB RAM. The X models are still IP68 water resistant, which is one thing we are glad that Sony didn’t change.
The Xperia user experience remains largely the same as it did in the Z5, too. It is now based on Android Marshmallow (version 6), and there are a few new options exposed in the Settings, and a few tweaks here and there, but functionality it is the same as before. Sony Music and Video stores are still easily accessible, and you can still play PS4 games remotely with the Xperia X and X Performance.
One key area where the new Xperias supersede the older models is in photography. On paper, the Xperia X phones seem to have the same 23-megapixel cameras, but in practice there is a pretty obvious improvement in the quality of photos these phones are capable of taking.
The camera software is great to use. Swipe up and down to change camera modes, and swipe from left to right to switch from the rear-facing camera to the Selfie cam. Sony still include all of its different camera apps, from panorama shooting to goofy extra like the dinosaur-filled augmented reality mode.
Probably our chief complaint with the Xperia X Performance is in regards to battery life. The X Performance is a pretty chunky phone, yet the handset actually has a smaller battery compared with the Z5. This smaller battery, matched with an increasingly power hungry computer, means that the two-day battery life of the Z5 is now single-day in the X Performance. You might squeeze out a day and a half with lower usage on the weekends, but we found we had the X Performance on the charger each night.
Despite its excellent camera, it’s quite hard to recommend the Xperia X phones over the numerous other great smartphones in market right now. In fact, it’s hard to recommend them over older Xperia phones, given how much cheaper the older models are now. Sony is tenaciously sticking to a plan it seems, but we wonder whether it is time to go back to the drawing board and try to reimagine what a Sony phone can be.