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Hands-on Sony Xperia X Compact review: is smaller better?

Update: US availability and price now confirmed.

The Sony Compact series has a good reputation. Fans of high-end smartphones were always driven with desire for compact dimensions. At IFA, Sony has now unveiled the Xperia X Compact. We put it to the test, come find out what we discovered.

Update: Sony confirmed price and availability for the Xperia X Compat for the USA. See below in our price and release date section.

release date and price

The Sony Xperia X Compact was released on September 12 and cost $550 initially in Europe. That's a solid price for even a compact high-end device. Sony offers this smartphone in three colors: mineral black, white and forest blue.

It has now been confirmed by Sony US that the smartphone will go on sale on September 25 for $499.99. You'll be able to get your hands on it from Amazon, Best Buy etc. 

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Sony Xperia X Compact Mist Blue. / © AndroidPIT

design and build quality

While the Xperia XZ comes in an aluminum body, the X Compact is plastic. As with the XZ, the X Compact is rounded at the sides, with a smooth transition from the display to the edge and to the back. The plastic is lighter it does not feel as good as aluminum or glass.

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All the buttons on one side. / © AndroidPIT

The Xperia X Compact actually works quite well as a small device. It is easily possible to touch the top of the screen with your thumb. We had an X Compact is available that was put to task and there were some visible scratches on the back of it over time.

display

For several generations Compact sets Sony the standard for small displays measuring 4.6 inches and 1,280 x 720 pixels. The same is true for the Xperia X Compact.

The display of the X Compact makes a very good impression. Individual pixels are difficult to see, so that the Xperia X Compact is clear and crisp.

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The X Compact compared with the Xperia XZ. / © AndroidPIT

software

On the software side, the Xperia X Compact also carries the burden that Android 7.0 Nougat has already appeared as the newest version of Android. And it looks like the Xperia X Compact was too early to the party and will have Android 6.0 Marshmallow instead. An update has been assured but Sony does not yet known the timetable.

Otherwise, the Sony Xperia X Compact has the look of a brand new user interface. Which other software offerings will included with the final devices is yet to be seen but we'll soon know once we have one in our offices here.

performance

In terms of performance, many Compact series fans could be disappointed. Sony does not use the high-end chip from the big Xperia XZ. It even decided against using the Snapdragon 652. Instead comes the Xperia X Compact is being powered by the Snapdragon 650. It comes with two powerful Cortex-A72 cores and four low-power Cortex-A53 cores. At least for demanding tasks the 652 would be better prepared with the added value of  additional A72 cores. But the X Compact's RAM is solid enough with 3 GB.

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The Xperia X Compact has a weaker processor than the Xperia XZ. / © AndroidPIT

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 chipset comes with the Adreno 510 graphics chip , which does not reach far to the output of a Adreno 530, which comes with the Xperia XZ. This is already clear that serious gamers will not be very happy with the X Compact – but they should look elsewhere for devices given the small screen anyway.

So Sony needs to ensure proper speed especially for apps. In our hands-on test of the X Compact we could not tell for sure whether it had the goods. In the short time that we had with the smartphone we were only barely able to bring the smartphone to the limit. Only a thorough check can show whether the Snapdragon 650 in the Xperia X Compact provides sufficient juice for everyday use.

camera

The main camera for the Xperia X Compact is the same camera technology of the newly introduced Xperia XZ, only 4K video shooting is not available for the X Compact.

The 23 MP sensor of the Xperia X Compact has electronic image stabilization, which should ensure blur-free shots. As with the XZ, an extra ambient light sensor is used to create the perfect white balance in the picture.

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The camera of the Xperia X Compact is the highlight of the device. / © AndroidPIT

In our hands-on testing, the colors of the test pictures appeared to be very precise. Whether this will be the same in real-life shots is yet to be seen. And if the photos are good in dark environments – like Sony promises – cannot yet be known until we can do a detailed review.

The camera department of the new IFA items from Sony differ significantly from the Compact X in the selfie cam. The front camera has only 5 MP and no image stabilizer.

battery

The Compact X 2,700 mAh capacity battery is non-removable. In our short time with the device, we were unable to verify how long the battery actually holds out. But using the technology of Qnovo, the battery should have a long life.

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Sony has opted for a USB-C. / © AndroidPIT

Final verdict

A new Compact seemed to be inevitable for Sony. Whether the Xperia X Compact lives up to the reputation of its predecessors is yet to be seen but is ultimately doubtful. The stripped-down, mid-range processor is certainly a downside. The main camera, however, seems to be extremely successful – here, the X Compact improved upon its predecessor.

In a detailed review we will see whether Sony's decision for mid-range processor is a good one. We'll see whether it provides good performance and ensures a long battery life.

But if one looks at the many smartphone launches in recent months, it must be noted that this is the Xperia X Compact to one of the few, relatively small smartphones that has an acceptable performance. The main alternative option, therefore, is probably the iPhone SE.

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