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Rediff.com  » Getahead » Sony Xperia X @49k: Baffling price this!

Sony Xperia X @49k: Baffling price this!

June 21, 2016 15:49 IST

For a phone which is marred with heating issues, does not provide a Quad HD display, is incapable of recording 4K videos, and whose camera performance in general is not in the league of flagships, Himanshu Juneja wonders if Sony has once again got is pricing all wrong.

Sony Xperia X

Sony's ride in the rough waters has been the norm since the past few years.

The conglomerate had fared poorly in the smartphone race, and there were rumours about Sony quitting the business altogether.

Thankfully, better sense prevailed and Sony went ahead with the launch of Xperia Z5 with renewed vigour.

But the efforts did not bear the desired results.

If skipping India -- the world's fastest growing mobile phone market -- for their much revered Z5 compact was bewildering, Sony's penchant to price their products heftily has continued to perplex customers and observers alike.

The brand new Xperia X series seems to have been infected with the same bug, and threatens to derail Sony's plan of revamping its mobile phone segment.

The Xperia X series was announced at the Mobile World Conference at Barcelona this year, and while Sony decided to bring in Xperia X to India, the feeling of deja vu was there again when the more robust Xperia X Performance skipped the Indian release.

We try to get up and close with the handset in question.

Build

Sony Xperia X

One look at Sony Xperia X, and one cannot help but recall the Xperia Z line up.

The very familiar boxy design makes it to the fresh Xperia X phones as well, and this maybe is not such a bad thing.

The no nonsensical ways of the Xperia Z won many fans, and there is a good chance of history repeating itself again here.

The handset measures 142.7 x 69.4 x 7.9 mm in dimensions, and weighs 153 gm.

The front carries small bezels on the sides of the 2.5D glass, but the top and bottom bezels have substantial proportions.

Presence of a dual speaker set up can come to Sony's rescue, but the company has done well to keep it a well balanced handset.

Hold it whichever way to use it, it is difficult to topple it. Users should find the Omni-Balanced device, sloping at the edges, a delight to use.

The rounded corners assist in establishing a good grip.

Turn the handset over, and the frosted look of the rear panel again lends it the classy look.

There is something very pleasing about this rectangular block whichever way you look at it. As for the buttons, the top edge carries the 3.5 mm audio jack, while the right edge has the power button which doubles as a fingerprint scanner as well.

The volume rocker and the camera button are found on the same side. The left edge is where one finds the hybrid SIM slot, and right at the bottom is the micro USB port.

Looking at the volume rocker, it surely could have been better placed. Users will have to fiddle a lot trying to access it. Sony provides a scratch guard for the screen, the quality of which may not be to everyone's liking.

Overall, the handset is a very premium looking device. A handset which will draw attention surely, but it is a shame that Sony has taken out the dust and water proofing feature which had become an automatic expectation from the company's premium handsets.

Display

Sony Xperia X

Sony Xperia X carries a 5-inch full HD display. The IPS LCD's 1920 x 1080p resolution has a pixel density of 441 ppi, making the display pretty sharp. Auto brightness sensor performs in a slick fashion, allowing for a pleasing experience on the 2.5D glass unit.

Also, Sony brought all of its cutting edge technologies here and hence, the display comes with with Bravia, Triluminous and X-Reality advantage.

The panel has good viewing angles and readability under direct sunlight is pretty decent as well. The colours are lifelike, and with the super vivid mode available, the users can choose the profile they feel best for their taste. Thanks to the X reality engine, the contrast and colours get the dynamic boost to render the display.

While it succeeds in impressing, and despite all the goodness present, Xperia X display is not in the same league as the ones on the premium flagships. Quad HD displays is what one gets for the price the Xperia X is asking for, and this leaves a sour taste.

Hardware

Sony opted for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 650 instead of trying to match the leading flagships with the Snapdragon 820. The hexa core processor comprises of two Cortex A72 cores (clocked at 1.8 Ghz), and a Quad Core A53 (operating at 1.4 Ghz), comes with Adreno 510 for GPU and 3 GB of RAM for the Xperia X.

The configuration harks back to Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, which is available for a drastically cheaper price, than what is being asked by Sony here.

The onboard storage capacity is 64GB, which can be further expanded via microSD card, with 256 GB being the limit. Unfortunately, Sony has opted for a hybrid slot, which maybe frustrating for few users.

Connectivity

The Sony Xperia X is not short on connectivity options. A 4G enabled dual SIM device, it also supports VoLTE. There are the expected options like WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth (ver 4.2), GPS and NFC.

Sony was also kind to include the FM radio and the USB OTG, boosting the Xperia X's credentials.

Operating system

This is the first from Sony's Xperia lineup to come out with Android Marshamallow (6.0.1) as its underlying OS. Sony's user interface of course has been slapped on top.

Belying the current trend of keeping stock android with minuscule bloatware and extras, Sony seemed to have stocked its handset with loads of apps, some of which are even duplicates.

While the bundled content like themes, wallpapers etc., can be used at some point of time, Sony's own apps like e-mail, videos, albums, have been thrown in despite Google's counterparts being present.

Then there are the other apps like AVG, Clean Master, Amazon Kindle, Hungama, etc, which may never be used. Google Play Store is always around for users if they actually decide on using these.

Sony Liv is bound to make the users feel irritated with constant notifications being thrown in. To make matters worse, the extra apps cannot be uninstalled either, taking up precious storage memory.

All is not lost with Sony's take on Android OS though.

The notification area, menus, the app switcher and the quick toggle menu have been left intact from stock Android's ways.

A useful feature has been included in the form of quickly accessing the most used apps by a simple swipe down from the top of the screen.

Something which enhances the Android is the option to backup the apps, along with contacts and other few data of course, to one's micro SD card, other USB device, or even the Sony online account. The smart cleaner will remove the unused app from the cache to keep system from floundering.

There is also an answering machine provided, which can be of good use for people who are used to the phenomenon.

The gallery app is pretty organised and rich in features, allowing the users to even re-scale the thumbnails. Users can choose from a numerous ways to view or edit their collection, with online sharing of creative editing being a good add on to have.

The messaging app is pretty good too, giving the options to use stickers for peppering up conversations and SwiftKey keyboard surely will delight the regular users.

So overall, the bloat cannot be ignored, nor the fact that the user experience is not terrible here either.

Performance

The performance is pretty good, only till the point where the user decides to stretch the handset a bit. For the regular usage, there will be next to no complaints, but the moment the phone is summoned for heavy duty tasks, things go haywire with this premium handset.

Users trying to play HD content, or with a penchant for longer sessions of gaming, or even indulging in prolonged usage of the camera are bound to see the message saying: "The device temperature is rising. If it continues to rise, the app will close automatically."

Despite 3 GB of RAM and Adreno 510, the Xperia X stutters, which is a huge disappointment. Granted, the 615 SoC is not top of the line, but it is no slouch either. Sony really goofed up here big time it seems. For a handset asking top money, this is criminal.

One can hope that just like Sony did a patch for the famed Xperia Z3+, something will show up soon for the Xperia X as well.

The fingerprint scanner is accurate and fast. One needs to firmly keep the digit in place for the recognition to take place. This is good, as too many times one gets to hear stories of accidental unlocking. As for the speakers, the dual setup is good, but not the sorts to warrant a place in a device with a hefty pricing. The sound is high on quality, but not very loud, so that is another point to note. The experience with headphones is good, but volume levels are so-so.

The sound is rich and adequate, but definitely not something which Sony can boast about.

In short, one needs to be really careful and curated to let Sony Xperia X wow them.

Camera

Sony Xperia X

Coming with a massive 23MP camera at the rear, complete with an f/2.0 aperture, phase detection autofocus, 24 mm wide angle lens, Xperia X is being pushed by Sony as to be coming with a whole new camera system. The front camera is a 13MP affair and comes with f/2.0 aperture, and 22 mm wide angle lens.

Focusing was pretty quick, both during the daytime, or even while the ambient light was lacking. The results came out fairly impressive.

The phone is capable of grabbing some very detailed photographs, especially during the daytime, while keeping the colours to a natural tone of things.

In fact, the colours look too natural, while Sony's persistence with over processing the images to keep the noise out translates to less than capable output from the camera, which looks so robust on paper. This has been really disappointing, as Sony supplies camera sensors to a good number of other manufacturers, but has not been aggressive in optimising its own in house products.

Night time photography takes a dip in quality, with prominent noise. Still, results will not make users cringe on seeing the final outcome.

The camera app has been kept simple with user's ease in focus. Users can switch to a manual mode if they want better control over the settings, like ISO, and White balance. Shutter speed tweaking was a curious omission, but Sony has the users covered to some degree. The static images have longer exposure by default, whereas the dynamic scenes get lesser exposure time for optimising the captured content.

There are some other shooting modes on offer, like Superior Auto, Sweep Panorama, AR effects, Sound photo, Face in Picture, Time Shift, etc.

Panorama mode gets good results, but details should have been denser. Similarly, HDR has less prominent effect than what has come to be expected in today's times.

The Predictive hybrid focus feature is a good inclusion from Sony. Once the user taps on the subject via the viewfinder, the system will proceed to track the movement and even predict the next move of the subject to deliver results with good focus. The feature works to a good degree too.

Sony has stressed upon the handset's ability to quickly snag a photograph by quick launching the camera app even while the phone is locked. The results do show up pretty nicely, but there were instances when the photographs lacked quality. The feature still came across as half baked, or just way too ambitious when the results went awry. Also, Sony's reluctance to include Optical Image Stabilitsation hampers the camera performance, as the digital image stabilisation just can't match its counterpart. It works to some degrees, but is far off from what OIS can achieve.

The front facing camera captures some crisp selfies which the avid selfie buffs will find very pleasing. The same selfies when taken inside do not come out with those many details.

As for the videos, they fared similarly as the still photography did. The details are packed in, but the software's ways of smoothening the output keeps the camera away module from delivering the slick output it is capable of. The colours again looked like extra natural, and the digital image stabilisation kicked in to create some decent smooth videos. In the end, the results were pretty good, but could have been way better.

Battery

The handset comes with an innocuous, non removable, 2,620 mAh battery. With the sort of asking price here, one would have expected a better battery pack.

The phone will chug all day long only if the usage is casual in nature. The heavier users will be scrambling for the charger before the day is over. To some respite, the phone supports the Quick Charge 2.0 technology, and has the battery saving mode onboard.

Sony has the Qnovo battery here, which is supposed to deliver longer life, but the battery performance is not really acceptable. When one considers the price tag, the disappointment only makes one sink deeper.

Verdict

Sony Xperia X

Sony seems to have been getting the pricing wrong with many of its models, and seems like Xperia X has gone down the same lane.

The asking price of Rs 48,990 looks baffling for a phone which is marred with heating issues, not providing a Quad HD display, incapable of recording 4K videos, and the camera performance in general not being in the league of flagships.

The battery performance does not exude confidence either. The decision of Sony to drop the dust and water proof protection makes the missing features' list that much more glaring.

The Snapdragon 650 SoC which the Xperia X is packing, is the same as being utilized by Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, while asking for about a fourth of what Sony is asking here. It will be a no brainer and the prospective buyers looking for a consistent performer will flock towards this option than be burning a hole in their pockets with the Sony option.

We saw how HTC went back to the basics when it found it's back against the wall. The result was the HTC 10, and it is indeed the stuff a flagship is made up of. Sony's think tank has only got part of the equation right with the Xperia X. They have abandoned their celebrated Z series, gone ahead with an overhaul, only to end up muddling the affairs. Unless Sony sees the better light of the day, they ll find Xperia X to be a hard sell.

Himanshu Juneja