While I never commented publicly on my experiences with the Sony Xperia Z3v, one of my major concerns with that phone was that the color calibration was frankly shocking for such an expensive phone, and in general the display just wasn’t up to par with expectation. In the time since the Xperia Z3v, the smartphone market has only had more competition in this regard, so even an upper mid-range phone like the Xperia X really has very little margin for error here.

Of course, for those that aren’t familiar with display testing, this may seem a bit out of expectation as in general most reviews will generally state that the Xperia phones have had generally acceptable or excellent displays, but our testing here attempts to avoid relying upon subjective color preferences and rather holds all mobile displays to the same industry-wide standard for content creation on the web. To do this, we use SpectraCal’s CalMAN 5 along with X-Rite’s i1pro2 spectrophotometer and i1Display Pro for accurate contrast, peak luminance, and color readings of all displays against the sRGB gamut with power 2.2 gamma at 200 nits.

Display - Max Brightness

Display - Black Levels

Display - Contrast Ratio

As per usual for our display testing, we can start with our luminance tests, which paint the Xperia X in a fairly positive light. The 5”, 1080p display means that Sony can dedicate more area to actual light transmission rather than control circuitry. The bright backlight and decently high contrast is impressive here, and is actually a great improvement over the rather dim display that I saw on the Z3v. The contrast ratio isn’t anything amazing next to an AMOLED display, but for an LCD it’s quite competitive. Viewing angles subjectively are also quite good with no real visible color shifting other than the purple tint on blacks that occurs due to the dual-domain pixels. The lamination is also executed well on the review unit as the lack of color shifting and good viewing angles makes it look like the display is almost painted onto the glass, although the brightness shifting inherent in LCD will destroy this illusion to some extent.


Modified Color Balance

Display - White Point

Display - Grayscale Accuracy

Our next test is really where things start to go wrong to some extent, as the Xperia X out of the box simply doesn’t target grayscale well as the hue just isn’t correct with a noticeable deficiency of green and some blue shifting. This can be resolved with the display settings, but in the case of the Xperia X you just get a generic “color balance” slider for each color primary, and the slider is completely arbitrary. Seeing as how most people don’t have access to a few thousand dollars in display testing equipment, I don’t think this is a valid solution for display calibration the same way that Samsung’s Basic mode or HTC’s sRGB mode is. The error here is really almost unacceptable, and it’s obvious that just correcting this green deficiency is enough to make the average error almost imperceivable, so this is concerning to see. My unit could resolve this issue by setting green to 40, but I don’t have nearly enough sample points to determine whether this is reliable.

Display - Saturation Accuracy

Moving on to our saturations test, it’s evident that Sony is targeting either a different gamut from sRGB or just using the native gamut of the display here as there’s fairly significant color error across the board. This occurs even with X-Reality and Super Vivid mode disabled, so I suspect the situation is even worse with either of those enabled. This wider gamut is quite noticeable as everything looks rather neon compared to something like the Galaxy S7 or HTC 10 with their calibrated modes. Basically the only color that is represented accurately here is yellow, and everything else suffers from significant oversaturation. Thankfully, the saturation curve is linear here so things aren’t as bad as they might be, but these kinds of things are increasingly hard to justify when Xiaomi is shipping excellently calibrated displays in phones that cost hundreds of dollars less.

Display - GMB Accuracy

In the GMB ColorChecker test, the same sort of pattern plays out. Due to the hue error in grayscale and incorrect gamut target, color accuracy just isn’t up to par with what we see in other smartphones. As a result, anything that requires color accuracy will struggle here, as the display misses gamut and grayscale targets by a noticeable margin. This alone is enough to make me question whether the Xperia X can justify the asking price, although whether color calibration matters is a subjective matter to some extent.

Introduction and Design Preliminary Battery Life, Storage Performance, and Initial Thoughts
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  • grayson_carr - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    Just please don't judge the overall performance of a phone solely based on how fast it opens apps. I have seen plenty of phones that open apps super fast, but bog down and drop frames while scrolling like crazy. I would rather have a phone that takes a split second longer to open apps and is able to maintain a consistent 60 fps when scrolling.
  • techcrazy - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Its really good at maintaining frames while scrolling too. You can see multiple videos on youtube how good their performance is.
  • DanD85 - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    I gave up on Sony phones several years ago. Used to be a fan but with the coming of alternatives from young & aggressive Chinese manufacturers, Sony's handsets specs and prices don't make sense anymore. They just priced themselves out of the market, they initially ask a high price but because not enough idiots buy at that price, it drops like a rock several months later. If Sony keeps doing this, losing money is what they gonna get.
  • fanofanand - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    I think the market for $400+ phones is going to drastically shrink over the next few years, as even basic/midrange phones are more than adequate for 98% of the population's use cases. With increased competition in the low/mid range I expect we will start seeing a lower premium for additional storage, which will be a game changer. This phone appears to be terrific, but at a price that is more 2012 than 2016.
  • FastCarsLike - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    Sony said they where going to make a 4K display with supposedly a large screen. Turned out it's a iPhone clone that runs android. I'm fine with people who use/want small screens, but historically Sony has always made large displays. This is why I am stuck buying every samsung note rendition, nobody gets that we want a phablet, not a tiny little iphone toy.
  • ToTTenTranz - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    Are we still getting a full review of the HTC 10?
  • JoshHo - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

  • Impulses - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    Switching their lineup from Z to X just made it more confusing... Now there's an "X Performance" with an 820? Way to destroy the current model scheme right off the bat. And if the normal X is priced like a flagship what's the X Perf gonna cost?

    I almost bought the Z3/5 Compact a few times, in large part because of their small size and battery life... But I would've had to switch carriers to do so and they had no Qi or OIS for video, unlike my Nexus.

    I'm not sure the X will be as alluring if they're trying to ramp prices up while at the same time cutting corners on the build and storage. The HTC 10 remains the most attractive upgrade choice for me, prolly holding out for Moto or this year's N5 refresh tho.
  • Coup27 - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    "Switching their lineup from Z to X just made it more confusing... Now there's an "X Performance" with an 820? Way to destroy the current model scheme right off the bat. And if the normal X is priced like a flagship what's the X Perf gonna cost?"

    +1. Had a Z3 international for nearly 2 years and it's been an amazing phone. Converted many people to Z3 compact's and Z5 compacts and considering a Z5 myself to replace my Z3.

    But I am a bit lost on what Sony are doing at the moment. I think killing the Z line and replacing it with something with lots of X's and silly names like "performance" doesn't make a heap of sense. I did see an X in a shop the other day and it was a nice phone. I don't think the X Performance is the replacement for the Z5, I think something else will be announced at IFA in September, Heaven knows what it'll cost though..
  • NtAbs2000 - Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - link

    Why get confused, Sony and Moto just agreed to swap lol.

    Sony X, Moto Z

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