Sony Xperia X Compact full review

The best smartphones of 2016 are generally huge. The 5.5in screen size of phones such as the iPhone 7 Plus or the OnePlus 3 are becoming the norm, where just a few years ago, we thought the 3.5in iPhone 4 was huge.

Times change, but Sony has been keeping happy those of us who prefer a smartphone to be small and usable with one hand; compact. The Sony Xperia X Compact is the latest of the company’s sub-5in handsets, but its sits in a confusing line up of devices.

Alongside it are the Xperia XZ, Xperia X and Xperia XA. Those phones are, respectively, high-end, upper mid-range and lower mid-range. So where does the Xperia X Compact fit in?

We break down why the world needs an Xperia X Compact, and, more importantly, if it’s you who needs one.

Sony Xperia X Compact review: Price and where to buy

Sony is now stocking the Xperia X Compact for £379. View it here.

The Sony Xperia X Compact is available in the UK SIM free and on contract from Carphone Warehouse. Plans start at £28 per month on a 24 month contract, or you can buy it outright for the RRP of £359.99.

View the Sony Xperia X Compact at Carphone Warehouse.

Sony Xperia X Compact review: Design and build

While not immediately obvious, the Xperia X Compact is quite a departure in design from last year’s Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. Sony has taken the 4.6in screen phone and updated it – or has it? The Z5 Compact had a stylish frosted glass rear panel and rounded metal edges that gave it a premium look and feel, and it’s one we expected with its £429 price tag. The attention to detail was great, down to the metal rim around the side-edge fingerprint sensor.

A year on, the Xperia X Compact retails for £379, £50 less, while the Z5 Compact is available for just £349. As well as in the specs, which we will get onto, the design and build quality has taken a hit. Thankfully the clever fingerprint scanner is present, and works excellently, but there’s no thoughtful metallic finishes. Gone are the glass and metal. Instead, the X Compact is completely glossy plastic in body, with only the top and bottom flat edges retaining a sniff of the glass.

The glossy body to our ‘Mist Blue’ unit was smeary with prints in seconds flat and also picked up hairline scratches very easily. They are hard to see, but more than anything the blue colour of the phone is an acquired taste. Some will think it kitsch and retro, others will definitely not. We recommend either looking at one in store, or opting for the black or white models.

It’s a shame, as this all makes the phone feel distinctly blocky, and it is; it’s 9.5mm thick. Another popular sub-5in phone is the iPhone SE, which is 7.6mm. It doesn’t sound much, but it’s noticeable. Very few smartphones are nearly 1cm thick these days. Overall the X Compact measures 129 x 65 x 9.5mm and weighs 135g.

The rear has a camera and flash, with the two speaker grills at the top and bottom of the front face of the device, making video viewing volumes surprisingly decent.

Despite this though, it’s still a pleasure to use, particularly one-handed, a rarity after smartphones got stretched to nearly 6in. Even with our smaller hands, it’s easy to unlock and reply to messages, swipe down the notification tray or play games with one hand. Along the right edge below the fingerprint scanner is the volume rocker and also a dedicated camera button (a long-time welcome Sony addition).

The 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top edge, while the Compact welcomes USB-C connectivity to the bottom edge. On the left edge is the SIM and microSD tray that still, infuriatingly, shuts down the phone if you take it out. This doesn’t happen on any other phone and it’s frustrating if you want to swap out a memory card or change SIM.

Despite these points, it doesn’t really matter it’s a tad chunky when it’s this conveniently small. It’s just a shame it’s not as premium as Sony is capable of.