Sony may be facing a decline in demand for its mobile phones, but the Japanese electronics giant continues to succeed in other departments, including its gaming and Camera sensor divisions. Following the Sony Xperia Z5 range, the company has continued to develop its smartphone lineup, and announced a new flagship ‘X’ range of smartphones earlier this year at MWC 2016. This brings us to its latest flagship device: the Sony Xperia X Dual. Priced at Rs. 48,990, the Xperia X Dual is firmly positioned among the bigwigs. Although the phone isn’t quite as well-specified as many other more affordable options, Sony hopes to make up by packing in plenty of camera technology that it claims will help you take fantastic pictures. Does the Sony Xperia X Dual have what it takes to live up to its price tag? Find out in our review.
Sony Xperia X Dual Features, Specs and Review
Look and feel
We would have expected the change in naming conventions to mark major overall changes, but the design language of the new phone closely resembles that of the Sony Xperia Z5 (Review). From the block-like shape to the curves around the corners, the Xperia X Dual sticks to Sony’s tried and tested styling, and looks great as a result.
The all-metal body helps with this, and also gives this phone a truly premium and solid build. The Xperia X Dual is also a little bit smaller than its predecessor, with a 5-inch screen in place of the 5.2-inch one on the Xperia Z5. It’s also extremely well balanced, with equal heft no matter how you hold it. This makes the Xperia X Dual particularly easy to hold and grip.The front of the phone has an unspecified scratch-resistant glass which curves off at the edges to appear to blend into the sides. There are two speakers for stereo sound. The front camera, Sony logo, and proximity sensor are all at the top.
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The back of the phone features a dull metallic finish with an etched Xperia logo, and the camera and flash at the top-left. The top has the 3.5mm socket; the right has the power button, an inconveniently located volume rocker, and camera button; the bottom has the Micro-USB port; and the left has the hybrid dual-SIM tray. You don’t need an ejector pin to open the tray; your nails will do the trick. It’s also worth mentioning here that the Xperia X Dual is not water-resistant, with Sony ditching one of its previous phones’ biggest selling points.
The Sony Xperia X Dual has a fingerprint sensor integrated into the power button, just like the one on the Xperia Z5. The sensor does not work in standby mode, and you will first need to wake the phone to use it. This can be done by simply pressing down the power button and keeping your finger in place for a fraction of a second. This sometimes works well and quickly unlocks the phone, but not always.
We can say from experience that this isn’t the best spot for a fingerprint sensor, and we had some issues with it. Because of the small size and narrow shape of the button itself, it’s often tricky to get your finger in place properly, and this led to many failed attempts to unlock the phone. You need to grip the phone in a particular way with the right finger on the sensor, and we found it all a bit inconvenient. Additionally, a light touch won’t do it; you really need to keep your finger firmly on the sensor to unlock the phone. It’s nowhere near as quick and accurate as the one on the much less expensive and more powerful OnePlus 3 (Review).
The device has a 5-inch full-HD IPS LCD screen with a pixel density of 441ppi. It’s a bit smaller than the 5.2-inch screen on the Xperia Z5, but you won’t really be able to tell the difference between the two at a glance. It’s naturally capable of going brighter than the Amoled screens on the OnePlus 3 and Samsung Galaxy S7 range, but suffers a bit when it comes to contrast, black levels and colour range.
However, on its own, the screen of the Xperia X Dual is decent. It’s got good black levels for an LCD screen and a commendable brightness range. Colours are clean and realistic. Sony also has some useful tweaks that help improve the picture quality, with a decent adaptive brightness mode, X-Reality engine which sharpens images, and a super-vivid mode which makes the colours more vibrant. The latter isn’t quite as good as it sounds, making colours look a bit too unrealistic. There’s also the ability to adjust the colour temperature. Basic functions such as smart backlight control and double-tap to wake are also present. At this price though, a 1440p screen should really be a given.
Specifications and software
While other smartphones in this category, including the much more affordable OnePlus 3 and Xiaomi Mi 5 (Review) are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC, the Sony Xperia X Dual uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650, along with 3GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Interestingly, the Snapdragon 650 is also used by the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (Review), a smartphone which costs less than a quarter of the Sony Xperia X Dual’s asking price.
There’s dual-SIM 4G connectivity with a hybrid SIM slot, support for up to 256GB of expandable storage through microSD cards, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC. The phone has a 2620mAh battery, and supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology, although our review unit came with an ordinary 7.5W charger in the box. Sony’s popular Stamina and Ultra Stamina modes are also present, which will let you stretch your battery life longer in situations where you need it.
The Xperia X Dual runs on Android 6.0.1, with Sony’s Xperia UI on top. The basic look and feel of the interface hasn’t changed over the years, maintaining its sense of order and clean layout. The notifications shade and quick toggles menu are similar to the ones in the stock Android launcher, and the system retains a dual-layered UI that keeps things uncluttered and allows for better use of widgets. However, there are far too many pre-installed apps on the phone, and a lot of this is bloatware that cannot be uninstalled.
This includes Amazon Kindle, AVG Protection, Clean Master, Hungama Play, Sony Liv and a handful of games, which can be disabled but not removed altogether. Sony Liv was particularly bothersome, constantly pushing notifications that could only be blocked through the system settings. The impression that we get is that Sony is trying very hard to push partner apps and services to you, which can be annoying considering you’ve already paid a lot for the phone and shouldn’t have to be subjected to this.The app drawer is a bit different, with some added features integrated into it. Apart from being able to search for specific apps and control home screen settings, there’s also a separate screen to the left of the app drawer where apps you use frequently are grouped together. You can also activate app recommendations from Google Play, although there’s often no logic to the recommendations. Services that aren’t available in India such as Spotify Music, T-Mobile and Lyft, as well as other apps that aren’t particularly relevant to us were recommended, and you’re unlikely to use this feature much as a result. On the whole, while the software is efficient and works well for the most part, we aren’t particularly impressed with some of Sony’s additions, which are more bothersome than helpful.
The Sony Xperia X Dual has a 23-megapixel primary camera and a 13-megapixel front camera, both using Sony’s own Exmor RS sensors. The rear camera has LED flash, and both are capable of shooting video at up to full-HD resolution. The rear camera can go up to 60fps for ordinary video and 120fps for slow-motion. 4K shooting is a notable omission, which is strange for a phone at this price level which touts photography as its main feature.
The camera app is fairly well laid out, with quick controls for the flash, camera switcher, settings and gallery access. The standard shooting mode is Superior Auto, but you can also switch to manual or video mode quickly. A fourth option in the menu gives you access to the camera apps, which includes AR Effect, Sweep Panorama, Timeshift (slow motion) and more. You can also install additional camera apps through Sony’s ‘What’s New’ app and Google Play. The settings menu lets you control various things, including how the quick launch button reacts, resolution, object tracking, and more.
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There’s also a digital image stabilisation tool called steady shot, which corrects shakes when recording video, but doesn’t really serve as a good enough replacement for the missing optical image stabilisation. There are also some interesting features, including predictive hybrid autofocus, which can track a moving object and keep focus on it. Quick capture launches the camera while the phone is locked, focuses, and captures a shot all within 0.6 seconds, by holding down the dedicated camera key. Both of these features worked well, capturing decent stills in both cases.
Coming to the camera itself, the Sony Xperia X Dual captures an excellent amount of detail with good colour reproduction, particularly in well-lit settings. The sheer resolution of the pictures ensures that a lot of detail is captured, and only a little bit of noise and grain is visible when you zoom in deep. You’re unlikely to have any issues with your everyday pictures.
Where the phone really succeeds is in low-light photography. While the issues with grain do still crop up, the phone manages to capture commendable amounts of detail and colour even in the dark. There is a bit of oversaturation sometimes in both well-lit and low-light shots, though paying a little attention to picture composition and focusing properly will reduce this. Autofocusing is extremely quick, and usually brings the right part of the shot into focus. The only department where the camera didn’t quite perform up to the mark was in macro photography and close-ups, which suffer from a lack of detail due to not being able to properly focus on the subject at very close range.
Video quality is superb, and the phone uses its digital image stabilisation fairly well to ensure clean video when your hands aren’t steady. Shooting at 60fps produces clean video with fluid motion, and the level of light again has very little impact on the quality of the video. The front camera is particularly good, and will be useful to you if you take a lot of selfies.
Sony has made a bit of a gamble with the Xperia X Dual by using the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 SoC. Although capable in its own right, it doesn’t quite perform to the level of a flagship smartphone that costs nearly Rs. 50,000, and so this phone is comprehensively outperformed by less expensive options with higher-end SoCs. If we disregard price for a moment, the phone does perform at levels that are roughly comparable to the flagship phones of last year, but that’s an indication of how good some of this year’s mid-range SoCs are. Performance was usually acceptable, but there were some times when the Sony Xperia X Dual gave us trouble.
The biggest issues we had with the phone were heat-related. When charging, playing graphically-intensive games or shooting video, the phone heats up a fair bit at the back, near the top. This is a matter for concern, particularly when the phone forcibly stops video recording due to heat issues, which we experienced on multiple occasions. We also experienced rapid battery drain and occasional lags and crashes with other apps. You’re unlikely encounter this a lot with ordinary use, but you’ll likely have to deal with uncomfortable heat at times.
We ran the phone through our usual suite of benchmark tests, and got respectable scores of 77,123 and 31,781 in AnTuTu and Quadrant respectively. GFXBench and 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme got scores of 31fps and 10,309. While the phone is certainly a good performer, better is available at much lower prices, and you should consider the competition if performance is important to you.
Reception on cellular and Wi-Fi networks, as well as call quality, are decent enough. The Xperia X Dual uses a front-facing dual-speaker set up, which ensures decent sound output for when you’re watching videos or listening to music. Sound through headphones is decent as well. Battery life, while acceptable, isn’t quite up to the level of many similarly priced devices. The phone ran for 10 hours, 29 minutes in our video loop test, and would usually make it through the day with ordinary use, but fell short and needed charging in the evening on occasion. On the whole, the Sony Xperia X Dual isn’t quite the performer that a lot of similarly priced and more affordable devices are, and this makes justifying the Rs. 48,990 price tag hard for us.
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Sony’s new flagship Sony Xperia X Dual gives us mixed feelings. It’s a beautiful device that’s built well, has a good screen and sports a feature-filled camera that takes good pictures in most conditions. Unfortunately, there are serious flaws as well, with heating issues that cause crashes, lags and app shutdowns, as well as a fingerprint sensor that often falters. The software is a bit bothersome as well, and the UI is not the most easy to use or customisable.
Our biggest issue is with the price of the phone. While a brand like Sony definitely can command some premium, we feel that the Japanese company has gotten it horribly wrong in this case, and the Xperia X Dual costs perhaps Rs. 15,000 too much. While Sony might feel that its superior camera technology and tricks give it an advantage over competitors, the Xperia X Dual isn’t quite the all-rounder it could have been.
If you’re looking to buy a feature-filled, powerful flagship phone right now, the OnePlus 3 is in all ways a better device at a significantly lower price. Even if you’re looking at a top brand, both the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 (Review) offer a far better premium smartphone experience than the Sony Xperia X Dual at similar prices. While the Sony Xperia X Dual isn’t a bad phone by any means, its unique set of issues will make it suitable for only the most ardent Sony fans, at least as long as it remains at this price.
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