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Sony Xperia X Performance vs. Samsung Galaxy S7: Same price, different values

Sony and Samsung, among others, have phones at the very top of their range that are vying to be the perfect device to drop several hundred dollars on. In this case, it's the Sony Xperia X Performance, and the Galaxy S7. Both are compact, powerful, feature-rich and very much flagship devices for their respective companies.

But for most of us, choosing a phone that's this expensive isn't a coin-toss sort of situation — there needs to be some serious thought about which one is best for your hard-earned money. The Xperia X performance was announced right alongside the Galaxy S7, but is now widely available — and that means it's time to see what $700 gets you in these two phones. Read on.

Hardware, specs and features

Xperia X Performance and Galaxy S7

Sony's phones have long offered unique, aspirational designs that just exuded beauty, though its latest couple of offerings have really gone down the path of iterating to death the great original "OmiBalance" look from the first Xperia Z. Materials have changed slightly, curves have been tweaked and we've seen buttons move, but the Xperia X Performance is undeniably a Sony phone — for better or worse at this point.

Stagnant design aside, taking the Xperia X Performance as a standalone phone it's actually very well crafted. The metal frame and back eschew antenna lines altogether, the materials come together flawlessly and the front is covered in perfectly sculpted glass. It's flat in the back, rounded on the sides and somewhat slippery — just like the Galaxy S7 — because of it, but that's not much of an issue on a phone this small. The Xperia X Performance is built just like we want a compact flagship to be — the only exception being the funky button placement, with a flush power key that's a bit tough to press and volume buttons awkwardly below it.

If we're going to put down Sony for simply iterating on designs we should at least throw a portion of that Samsung's way as well, as the Galaxy S7 is quite similar to its predecessor. Sure it's a little thicker and has a few tweaks here and there, but this is basically a Galaxy S6 — but again, that's not necessarily a bad thing when taken in a vacuum. The Galaxy S7 is actually a tad smaller than the Xperia X Performance, is built fantastically well and keeps its buttons in a more ... traditional layout. The glass on the back is a bit slicker and prone to damage in ways the metal back of the Xperia X Performance isn't, but you can't fault this phone for that small difference.

Two examples of compact design done right.

In what's increasingly an oddity in the flagship space both the Xperia X Performance and Galaxy S7 have rather small displays, with 5.1- and 5-inch panels, respectively. The Galaxy S7 sticks with a higher 2560x1440 resolution and AMOLED display type while Sony keeps its tried-and-true 1920x1080 LCD — both are absolutely great displays, and the X Performance matches all of the high bars set by Samsung with the Galaxy S7. That isn't something we can say about many phones out there.

Elsewhere inside the phones, you'll find many of the same features. A Snapdragon 820 processor runs both, save for the few Galaxy S7 models with Exynos processors, with ample RAM of 4GB in the GS7 and 3GB in the X Performance — 32GB of storage and an SD card keep both phones on level ground in that respect. You get full waterproofing on both phones, which is something we've increasingly started to expect on flagships — we've also come to expect fingerprint sensors, which the Galaxy S7 has and the Xperia X Performance in the U.S. does not ... for some reason we'll never understand or forgive. The one big advantage the X Performance has here is stereo speakers, which offer much richer sound albeit not at any higher volume than what the GS7 offers.

Software, performance and battery life

Xperia X Performance and Galaxy S7

Both Sony and Samsung have reduced cruft and streamlined their Android interfaces over the past few years, but Sony has definitely done so at a quicker rate. For what it's worth, Sony's software experience is much closer to "stock" Android at this point, with its visual customizations basically coming down to new icons, its own launcher and a different looking lock screen, though they all fit in pretty nicely with the stock Android look and perhaps more importantly work like stock Android does (even down to standard on-screen navigation buttons).

Samsung definitely has the more heavy-handed design ethos of the two, where its color palette and animations touch every corner of the operating system. The software just doesn't feel as sleek or elegant as Sony's, though it does feel a bit more "complete" as the design changes touch every corner of the system. As we all know there's a sizable pile of pre-installed Samsung apps to contend with here, but in this comparison you're greeted by much the same on the Sony side — and in both cases, we wish the companies would tone back on the pre-installed apps that most people don't want to use.

When it comes to performance, both phones get work done just fine with their high-end processors and ample memory. We felt no difference in app launch times or multitasking, or working in heavier apps and games, aside from the Galaxy S7's camera launching much quicker (which we'll get to in more detail below).

The Xperia's poor touch response is absolutely baffling.

But most of the solid performance on the Xperia X Performance is quickly eroded by rather horrendous touch screen response, which on this phone is as bad as we've seen in several years. The display simply isn't sensitive enough to touch, meaning it's tough to type, swipe and scroll through the interface. Not only is it downright frustrating on a daily basis, it's completely unacceptable for a phone of this price. We noted the issue as a major deal-breaker in our review, and although it's less pronounced we've also seen the issue crop up in the lower-end Xperia X as well. The issue could presumably be fixed in a future software update, but there's no indication of that fix being on the way.

On the battery side of things, both phones offer a solid day of longevity despite having different battery capacities. 3000 mAh in the Galaxy S7 is just over 10% larger than the 2700 mAh in the Xperia X Performance, but both get the job done for us with a full day of use and double-digit percentage left at the end of an average day. When you push the Xperia X Performance a bit harder you can drain it down to a critical level (that's where that extra 300 mAh would be nice), but we've never been worried about the battery on a regular basis.

When it comes to charging, both have the standard — but unspectacular — arrangement of a Micro-USB port and Quick Charge 2.0 support, with both including a quick charger in the box as well. Sure we'd prefer USB-C at this point, or at least Quick Charge 3.0, but there's nothing wrong with this standard setup. The Galaxy S7 offers a distinct advantage of wireless charging, if that's your sort of thing, but perhaps you're okay giving that up to get the all-metal back of the Sony.

Cameras

Xperia X Performance and Galaxy S7

With a name like "Sony" behind it, you'd think Xperia phones would have absolutely fantastic cameras ... but as has been the case for some time now several companies have been besting it at mobile imaging. Tell me if you've heard this one before: a 23MP Exmor RS sensor, with an f/2.0 G Lens and a physical shutter key. Yup, we're getting the same basic formula here as previous Sony flagships, and while the results are solid they aren't of 2016 flagship quality. The Galaxy S7, on the other hand, is the example most people use as the "best" phone camera out there with its 12MP sensor (with larger pixels), f/1.7 lens, OIS and powerful image processing.

Before you get to looking at the actual quality of the photos, you'll find the Galaxy S7 is far quicker to launch, capture and view photos, while the Xperia X Performance struggles a bit to get started and open up for the first shot. After taking photos there's a couple second delay before you can get to them and pinch in to view the results as well, which quickly gets old. The X Performance certainly has enough hardware, and shot-to-shot times are fast, which definitely adds to the frustration there. The physical shutter key doesn't provide anything extra to the experience, instead just introducing potential for shake in the camera, which is extra problematic without OIS inside.

Both camera interfaces are simple, but can get a bit more confusing once you start hopping into the full Manual modes or launching other shooting modes — which can in either case be downloaded if you want to play around. Sony makes it clear that its default "Superior Auto" is the best way to go for average shooting, and you have to go over to Manual to do any sort of tweaks or even to get HDR — Samsung, on the other hand, gives you a simple HDR toggle and even offers Auto HDR in the default shooting area.

So how about the end results? Check out the gallery of sample photos below:

Xperia X Performance (left) / Galaxy S7 (right); click images to view larger

Getting ready for the comparison we took photos with the Xperia X Performance in both the 8MP setting, which downsamples from the 23MP sensor, and also in the full 23MP resolution option. In the end we didn't notice much difference in quality, though the 8MP shots were predictably smoother in low light and were of course much smaller in terms of file size, and since it's the default mode we mostly stuck with 8MP for the above shots.

Going head-to-head with the Galaxy S7, the Xperia X Performance offers a bit more accurate colors and sharper lines when in perfect daylight situations, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's followed analysis of the GS7's camera — it's known for being just a little soft and warm in many situations. When the lighting gets any more challenging, the Galaxy S7 has the big lead here — the X Performance's smaller pixels and lack of OIS keep it from producing good shots in any sort of difficult lighting situations, whether altogether dark scenes or just dark portions of well-lit scenes.

It's not that the Xperia X Performance's camera is particularly bad — and it'd be much more acceptable on a lower-end phone — but that the Galaxy S7 is just better overall, befitting of its price. It's not difficult to have a smartphone camera that can take crisp photos in good lighting situations ... it's the fringe cases and overall performance that separate the great cameras from the average ones, and the Xperia X Performance doesn't handle those situations well enough.

Bottom line

Xperia X Performance and Galaxy S7

The Xperia X Performance and Galaxy S7 both kick the trend of bigger and bigger flagship phones, and we're happy to see it. You get a smaller phone that you can actually use in one hand, but don't have to deal with reduced performance, subpar displays or short battery life. It's great that there's more than one option out there hitting the high-end in a smaller package.

The Galaxy S7 isn't a perfect phone (no phone ever will be), but it's pretty darn close, and really justifies its price as well as any other phone can. On the other end, it's clear that the Xperia X Performance has a handful of issues to take into consideration when evaluating it on its own ... and it sports a $699 price tag as well, above the just-released $669 U.S. unlocked Galaxy S7. At that price, it's hard to look past the Xperia X Performance's lack of fingerprint sensor (in the U.S.), completely unforgivable touch screen response problems and so-so camera performance — particularly when the GS7 is readily available and doesn't have the issues.

If Sony had priced its phones more appropriately, perhaps this comparison wouldn't even be made and it'd be easier to give the X Performance a pass, but at $699 we're going to be looking at it with a critical eye — and in doing so, it doesn't come anywhere near the overall experience of the Galaxy S7.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

39 Comments
  • Year after year, new model after new model. How clueless can Sony be?
  • It is seriously baffling. Given what is going on around them I just don't understand how they can be so blind.
  • Like Nintendo lol Posted via Samsung Galaxy Toaster
  • I am not a Sammy fan but would buy a Samsung S7 with TouchWiz and all over the Sony Xperia X Performance in a heartbeat. I think the only advantage with the Sony handset is the NAV buttons are in the right order. I feel sorry for people who bought into the new Sony lineup just because it said "Sony" on them.
  • That's exactly what I did. I would pick Sony as a company any day over Samsung but after a year with a Z3 (and a 4 month interregnum with a G4) I actually bought an S7 and am pretty satisfied with it. I always replace the Launcher with Nova so I never see TouchWiz. Plus the theme engine on the S7 is a true theme engine, not a joke as on the Xperia line. And don't even get me started on the cameras on Xperia phones... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Nova only replaces the launcher so you still see TouchWiz on the rest of the OS (settings, etc.) but it's better than nothing.
  • you can switch them on Samsungs no root needed
  • How? The Galaxy S7 doesn't have on screen navigation keys Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • #facepalm
  • Enjoying my international version of X Performance with 64GB and Dual Sim (option to use single sim with MicroSD). I prefer it more than my S7 Edge. To each their own, no need to feel sorry for me!
  • No way would I choose Xperia X Performance over Galaxy S7. It just doesn't come close. I was really hoping for Sony NOT to overprice the X series, but they did it anyways. Sigh. Posted via the Android Central App
  • A $300 phone..... With a $700 positive tag. The only company who does that and gets away with it is Apple.
  • And at least Apple's phones have great hardware and performance along with software support for years after they're purchased. AT&T Galaxy S7 Onyx Black with Unlimited Data
  • Well to be fair to Sony they support a lot of their older devices. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Exactly. Also, I wouldn't say older iPhones have great performance unless crappy battery life and lag count as performance... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not an iPhone fan, but my next phone will be a iPhone. My two work phones are an iPhone 5 and a Note 4 (both Verizon), my personal phone is a MXP, guess which of the three phones is on a current security patch. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Which is why you should go with a Nexus. Also, it doesn't help that you have a note 4. 5.1.1 with TW is atrocious on it. Can't speak for 6.0 because my note 4 I have for work will probably never get it, but right now the phone is pretty much junk. My 6p in the other hand is beyond excellent. Get the 2016 nexus or save and buy a 6P on discount and you'll never have to worry about having the latest software. You probably won't wanna use anything else for some time Posted via the Android Central App
  • Please provide the name of a phone which costs $300 with an 820 processor and more frequencies/bands than this phone. Both specs which are most important to me.
  • Doesn't the unlocked lg 5, have that? Just wait a few more months and the lg g5 will be at that price
  • Z series looked like desirable phones , Z5 premium looked like a flagship, looking at this year's offering , not so much,
    The button placement down the right Hand side ....... As they say in the classics "I'm not feeling it ",
    Smallish battery , what where they thinking ?
  • I actually think the button placement makes sense. At first glance it might seem weird but I believe you can use the volume buttons as zoom when using it in camera mode. So placing them closer to the bottom of the phone makes sense - they move them closer to the right when using it landscape. ie: Closer to the natural positions of the fingers on your right hand. I also prefer the "flat" power button. It makes it harder to bump, or snag it accidentally when it's in a bag/purse. As for the design style overall, I don't believe in the change for change sake that seems to be so prevalent. If the design was nice three or four years ago why would it suddenly not be nice now? It's a simple and elegant design that looks good and works well. Unless there is some valid reason to change it (better materials, cheaper price) then don't change it. Besides, it's sets an expectation - you see that black rectangle and you think Sony.
  • These reviews keep talking about touch screen problems on the Xperia X Performance. I have the international version, and have not had any problems with the touch screen. Perhaps you got a bad test unit? The international unit has dual-sim capabilities, 64GB internal memory, and a functional fingerprint sensor. It is also the same price as the crippled US version. The lack of the US warranty is the only downside for the international version. Otherwise, it is an easy decision. Given that the Xperia X Performance holds its own against the S7 in this review, I'd recommend the Sony - just not the US version.
  • Pretty sure they are talking about the US model. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It would be interesting if it was only the US model that has the touchscreen problem. This isn't the only place I've seen the complaint, though. Owners are saying everything is great, and the reviewers are commenting that the touchscreen isn't responsive.
  • Why would you recommend a phone that has 3 GB of RAM (vs. 4 GB in the S7, which may be critical considering future OS updates), worse camera, smaller battery?
  • I recommend the Xperia because Sony has better battery life typically, the RAM is fungible, Samsung's bloatware is one reason it needs more RAM in the first place, Samsung does not offer anything close to vanilla Android, and my experience with the Sony camera is quite good. My wife has the S7, and it is just as annoying as all the Samsung iterations before it. My Xperia is top-notch, as usual. If the camera interface is such a big deal, you can use the Google Camera - the default on the S7. The photos in this review show the cameras are comparable, with Sony being better on some photos and Samsung better on others. As for the battery, I am on the third day since I last unplugged my phone, and still have enough battery power to stream music all the way home from work, and watch some videos or play games if I want. I can't do that on a Samsung. Additionally, the Xperia is more attractive in general. All that being said, I am glad that Samsung continues to raise the bar for Android phones. I just don't agree with their software and design choices, so I don't buy their phones.
  • [I recommend the Xperia because...]
    I was vacillating over these two choices for some time now and just about wrote off the Sony especially with the touch sensitivity, that is a deal breaker, until I ready your recommendation...
    I'll have to find out whether the touch sensitivity issue is relevant in Canada!
  • Agreed, using my International X Performance as my daily driver and S7 Edge, V10, 6P, etc. for my other lines.
  • Without a doubt in my mind, the $700 would have to go to the S7 but if they would have reviewed the international version of the Sony Xperia X Performance, it would have stood a better chance due to actually having a fingerprint scanner. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It would still have no chance against the S7. The lack of a fingerprint scanner in the US is the least of the Xperia X line's problems. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Also, I know that the fingerprint scanner was disabled in the U.S version of the Xperia Z5 series but I thought I read that people managed to activate it by going into the soft, I wonder if this would be possible in the X series. (U.S) Posted via the Android Central App
  • I know the 4K video recording can be unlocked via root, but I haven't heard anything about unlocking the fingerprint sensor. It might be worth checking out that option.
  • I wish Sony would just make the audio video powerhouse that they are capable of. It seems they are not well organised on what their brand means to the US market. Sad! Posted via the Android Central App
  • I just bought a used s6 for really cheap and I've gotta take back anything bad I ever said about this phone because I've really been enjoying it. Battery life could be better,but I get a days worth on semi moderate use,which is honestly about how much I use my phone to begin with. That being said I'd really love to replace this thing with an s7 soonish. I wouldn't even consider the Sony. Not because I think its a bad phone,but it's not exceptional in any regard from every review I've seen. If I had no interest in either,id still choose the s7 cause at least other people will appreciate your choice. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Pricing this at $699 was a huge mistake... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I always ask, what would be compelling reason to buy a phone. This phone is not compelling. Posted via the Android Central App
  • R.I.P. Sony.
  • Sony needs to save face and concentrate on video,audio,and cameras.They are at best half-hearted with their mobile efforts.Stop prolonging the inevitable and withdraw from mobile. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Im happy with my Sony Xperia z3+. But it seems like Sony falling behind the competition with the latest devices. The only of the big that can give Samsung a real match are probably Huawei. I think that brand are on a rise. And I am very curious to see the real comeback for Nokia in Q3 or Q4 2016.
    I would not see Sony go away but im worried for them in the mobile space.