Sony Xperia XA Review
Can Sony’s mid range pack a flagship punch?
Sony’s new X series hasn’t meant just a change to their flagship products but they’ve also overhauled the mid tier and brought us the Xperia XA. With the UK launch price coming in at just under £240, this device is not the cheapest and falls into the ‘premium-mid tier’ space along with the likes of the Samsung A3, the HTC Desire 825, Honor 7, OnePlus X and others so it has some competition.
- Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
- 5″ 720 x 1080p LCD display
- 13MP main camera, 1080p video recording and hybrid autofocus
- 8MP front facing, 1080p video recording
- Mediatek MT6755 Helio P10, 2.0GHz 64 bit Octa Core. 2 GB RAM
- 16GB Internal memory
2300 mAh Li-Ion battery
The first thing you will notice when looking at the Xperia XA is the almost bezel-less screen, in fact at the time of writing this it’s the narrowest 5″ inch phone in the world. The XA measures in at just 66.8mm across which just fractionally beats out the likes of the bezelless Sharp Aquos Crystal, so although you may not notice the difference in your hand its still a nice shout to have.
Sony has often been criticised for their design with critics stating that every phone seemingly looks the same or very close at least. However this is one design feature that we haven’t seen before and it’s greatly welcomed. I prefer the look and feel of the XA compared to the X and X performance in terms of pure aesthetics, and dare it say it, this could be Sony’s best looking phone yet, if not its certainly up there as one of Sony’s best looking phones from the Xperia range. This is big claim for the Sony fans out there but wait until you get one in your hands and then hopefully you’ll see where I’m coming from.
The screen also follows the design of the rest of the X line up with it’s slightly curved edges which, with the absence of bezels makes the transition from glass to metal sides seamless. On the sides you will notice the same small rounded power key we saw on the Z3 series, a volume rocker and the dedicated camera shutter button that is synonymous with Sony devices. There is single slot on the opposite edge for a SIM card and SD card tray or, in the dual SIM models, 2 SIM cards.
We don’t see the same power key as we saw on the Z5 lineup which means no fingerprint sensor, as Sony still feel the side is the best place for it and didn’t want to move it to the front to accommodate the XA’s size. This, although it would be nice to see isn’t something you can particualrly mark a mid tier handset down for, however at the prie point there will be some customers who thought it should be included.
Sony haven’t continued on from the M5 and M4 Aqua in keeping their mid tier devices waterproof as there is no IP rating on the XA. This might be frustrating for those of who are a little clumsy, and I think we all was expecting a water resistant device at least.
The XA comes with Android 6.0 on board and keeps in line with the rest of X series with the addition of Sony’s recognisable software skin. Sony’s changes are subtle and don’t dramatically change the Android OS however you will have their traditional media apps. The device has an internal capacity of 16GB but the out the box you’ll see just 7.83GB of that so an SD card would be advisable as after some pictures, music and downloading your apps you probably won’t be left with much. The XA does support up to 200GB Micro SD cards however they have removed the ability for you to format this as internal storage.
Those of you who were a fan small apps in the previous will be sad to hear that these have now disappeared from the X line up. I don’t think many people will miss them as many users probably didn’t use them, but for those who did, the small handy calculator or timer app is now gone. Sony has improved its themes and have also optimised the lock screen clock so you can see your chose wallpaper through it which is nice touch.
There is stock android or close to stock UI components that all Android users will be familiar with such as the notification and quick settings pull down menu which can also accessed from the lock screen.
You can also edit which quick access settings you wish to view here and you can adjust the brightness but you can’t change the adaptive brightness setting here. Although powered by a mid tier processor in the form the MediaTek P10 this phone can still keep up with some of the best. The user experience seemed fluid and responsive and even gaming was fairly responsive, of course this is helped by the 720p screen rather than a full HD but still very good.
This Xperia XA comes with a 13MP rear and a 8MP front facing camera which will do most people and is similar in terms of hardware to its competitors in the mid range sector. The camera does come with hybrid autofocus, which help track objects in the shot, however this isn’t the same tech you’ll find in the X and X Performance and in tests I’ve done the X performed much better in tracking moving objects.
The default camera setting is Sony’s well known superior auto mode which automatically adjusts to different scenes and scenarios to ensure you always get the best shot. For the more experienced photographers there is a manual mode which gives you the ability to adjust the settings a bit more, but this is fairly limited.
One change in the X Series line up is the camera boot time which was a real downside to the brilliant Z5 camera. The speed has been dramatically improved across range and the XA comes with a fast-launch camera and dedicated camera button meaning you aren’t going to miss that shot.
The camera will record video in 1080p which is what you would expect from a mid tier, as 4K recording is usually withheld for the flagship who can handle processing. Sony cameras do come with SteadyShot Stabilisation which will ensure your videos aren’t shaky, this feature in the Sonys has always impressed me so I’m glad to see its not just in their flagships.
Below are some images I took on the device in superior auto mode at 9MP in 16:9. This isn’t a flagship camera by any means but it isn’t that far off either. Images are sharp and the focusing abilities of the camera are fairly impressive as well. One slight negative, you can see this in the scenic shot I took below, is how the sky looks washed out. It wasn’t a particular grey day that day but it looks very miserable in the photo. But all in all I might be being a little harsh as this isn’t a flagship and for a phone that’s half the price as some premium handsets it does a very good job.
The XA comes with a non-removable 2300 mAh which isn’t very big. This is down to how slim the phone is and that hasn’t left Sony much room for a big battery. This has impacted battery life as the device needed a charge come the evening in the day I was testing it, with web browsing being a significant power drain. However, video playback was actually surprisingly good and I managed to get just under 7 hours, however some reviews online have surpassed the 7 hour mark which is good.
If you’re wanting to achieve Sony’s 2 day promise then you will have to pretty cautious and avoid heavy use pretty much all together. I would say a normal user will get a full day of the XA which is good enough for most people. You will of course get Sony’s Stamina mode which will be prolong the battery somewhat and this can be set up to be auto enabled at 15% or higher. This mode will restrict certain features like GPS, vibration, image enhancement and other things to reduce the battery consumption.
There is also Ultra Stamina mode as well which restricts the device even more so and limits you to calls, texts, the use of the camera and being able to access your files, this will dramatically improve battery life and will get you through a few days.
The XA does support quick charge and through Sony’s UCH12 charger which they claim gives you 5.5 hours of use with 10 minutes of charge. This doesn’t come as standard, the charger you get in box for the UK is the UCH20 which under testing went from 5% to 51% in 30 minutes. This is an ok performance and with the faster charger there will of course be an improvement here.
These days even a mid-range device means you get all the connectivity you will need, the XA comes with NFC in the rear panel and hasn’t moved to front like in the X and X performance. The device has you covered across 2G, 3G and 4G compatibility as well as Wi-Fi as you would expect, so browsing isn’t a problem and music is all covered as well with Bluetooth and a 3.5mm headphone jack. In short, you’re pretty much covered when it comes to connectivity.
The XA with everything considered is a good phone, and for anyone not wanting to pay flagship prices this is a phone to definitely consider. The only thing that lets this phone down is the battery life, and that’s where it may lose out to some of it’s competitors. Talking of competitors as well this Super-Mid Range smartphone space isn’t short of a few with almost all the big name manufactures having a phone to compete and there is also the Chinese manufacturers who can battle the XA. In terms of display, performance and camera there isn’t a great deal to choose between when looking into the mid-tier segment.
There is however one thing that does give this phone something different than the rest, and that’s most definitely the design. The bezel-less, extremely narrow phone feels great in the hand and also looks great so this may just be the deal clincher for some people.