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Sony Xperia XA review

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Sony Xperia XA Review
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Summary

Our Score:

6

Pros

  • Clean version of Android
  • Good for one-handed use
  • Basically no side bezels

Cons

  • Drab screen
  • Better options at this price
  • Slow, unreliable camera
  • Grease magnet

Key Features

  • Bezel-less 5-inch screen
  • Octa-core MediaTek CPU
  • 13-megapixel camera
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 2,300 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0.1
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £239.00

What is the Sony Xperia XA?

Sony is becoming irrelevant in the mobile space. Its high-end phones are increasingly dull and forgettable, highlighted by the recent Sony Xperia X, and it’s now falling behind in the mid-range space thanks to the OnePlus 3, Moto G4 Plus and Vodafone Smart Ultra 7.

Sony needs something new, something exciting. Enter the Sony Xperia XA. Is this the phone to make people care about the Japanese brand’s smartphone business?

Probably not, but it’s still a better buy than the Xperia X.

WATCH: Sony Xperia XA video review

Sony Xperia XA – Design

The Xperia XA looks nicer than the more expensive Xperia X. While the boring Xperia X pales into middle-of-the-road territory, the Xperia XA has a spark that differentiates it from most budget phones.

It’s the near edge-to-edge display that really catches the eye. It’s nowhere near as pronounced as the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but it’s a design choice rarely seen in the lower end of the phone market.

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It looks good, but it also makes the phone feel very compact. It nestles easily in one hand and my thumb can move around the 5-inch display without too much stretching. With so few smaller phones on the market, it instantly makes the Xperia XA more of an enticing prospect to those who don’t want something with a 5.5- or 5.7-inch screen. It’s not as pocketable as the dinky iPhone SE, but it’s about as close as you can get to one running Android.

It’s light, too, probably because metal is kept to a minimum and only used sparingly on the sides. The back is fairly cheap-feeling plastic, which picks up oily residue easily and becomes slippery quickly, but it hasn’t gained any scratches during my time with it.

Instead of using the flattened home button that Sony switched to with the Xperia Z5 range, the Xperia XA goes back a metallic circular switch. It’s tiny and responsive, but lacks a fingerprint scanner. Some might say it’s harsh to knock a £240 phone for this lapse, but Moto managed to squeeze one into the £199 Moto G4, and the vast majority of budget Honor phones have them, too.

Related: Best budget phones

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Below the standby switch is a mushy volume rocker that doesn’t give much feedback when pressed, and under that is a physical two-stage camera shutter button. The shutter button is a great addition that gives you quick access to the camera and makes the XA feel more natural to use when taking photos.

I am a little bit disappointed by the XA's lack of water resistance. Sony championed water resistance on phones such as the Xperia M5 and Xperia M4 Aqua, and it’s one feature other budget options lack, so it would've given the Xperia XA something to set it apart.

Sony Xperia XA – Display

While the design isn’t necessarily budget, the 5-inch 720p LCD screen is. I'd expect a phone costing £240 to at least feature a 1080p screen. Being fair to Sony, the display is one of the better 720p panels I've used, but it’s far from great.

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My biggest gripe is colour – there just isn’t that 'oomph' you normally get from a Sony panel. Even with the bright purples, pinks, reds and oranges in the preloaded wallpapers feel washed out and dull.

There’s a distinct lack of brightness, too. Normally I'd keep a phone at around 60% brightness – I’m not a fan of auto-brightness – but with the Xperia XA I’m having to constantly keep it at about 80-90% to make it readable in the majority of lighting conditions.

Related: Best Android phone

Viewing angles are good, which is something that often trips up cheaper phones, as is outdoor visibility, but for the price I expected more. Motorola managed to fit an FHD panel into a £169 phone, as did Huawei on the Honor 5X.

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720p spread over a 5-inch display is still fine, but my eye can spot individual pixels and it makes videos and especially pictures look blurry. The display pales in comparison to those on the Moto G4 and iPhone SE.

David Horn

February 23, 2016, 6:20 pm

Is it waterproof?

geksje

February 27, 2016, 6:49 pm

Sadly, no

dario90

May 18, 2016, 8:55 pm

bad design, no waterproof...

I will miss you Z series!

Narendra Singh

June 2, 2016, 8:28 am

Any company in the world cannot satisfy every person. But I am waiting for this phone eagerly, this is far better than chines. There is only one SONY, one Samsung, one LG, one APPLE... but there are thousands of chines phone makers. They can make phone on any name.

raju

June 19, 2016, 10:16 pm

Aswsome phone

Lenny86

June 22, 2016, 9:18 am

Should be a slightly cheaper!In UK £239 is quiet a lot!Lets say £180 is more reasonable!Also the edges on sides quiet annoying when you swipe as it feels cutting a bit your fingers,too sharp and not rounded enough to level the frame!

paul

June 27, 2016, 10:31 pm

Sony XPERIA XA has only 5,93 GB storage left, too much pre-installed bloatware

Lenny86

July 23, 2016, 9:41 am

You mentioned the nexus 5x!Stay away from that phone.It is the worst nexus ever,very poor performance!Get the p9 lite instead.

cnccnc

July 24, 2016, 5:10 pm

Thanks for the detailed review!

Is there really that much difference between 294 dpi on this phone and 326 dpi on the iPhone SE? (That's a rhetorical question).

The issue with the alternative phones listed at the end of the review is that they're all huge, or in the case of the M5, won't receive updates much longer, if at all.

CnT Cabinets

August 5, 2016, 11:29 pm

"Its high-end phones are increasingly dull and forgettable..."

You can start every article about the latest iphone with that line.

LoWang

August 18, 2016, 12:40 am

Sorry but I have such a hard time understanding your speech man during the review! Is it just that British English language problem when you say just half of every other word omitting a lot of important consonants? Jeez...

sebanofear

November 4, 2016, 8:59 pm

anyone having lack of doze issue? I manage to make some battery saving tricks but still I woke up and I have between 3 and 6% loss of battery charge during the night, sometimes even more

nooodles

November 6, 2016, 4:35 am

I have had this phone for four months now. Simple.... Get a power block.it charges quickly. It looks awesome. I don't play games on it. There is always something better out there. I recommend it totally.

Cathryn Horton

November 16, 2016, 4:31 pm

Very quiet when trying to use via handsfree on Ssangyong Tivoli.
I have tried all sorts to change it.
Had an Iphone 5s before and it was loud as anything on handsfree!

Broadway2

February 7, 2017, 7:53 am

This phone is a disaster!!! Don't buy it!

Michael Owen

February 14, 2017, 10:34 am

I wasn't impressed by Max Parker's review at all, what he and so many other critics forget is that there are a good many who buy a phone to make phone calls on, not as a substitute computer. We are not all techno-geeks and some of us may use text, a camera function and even email, however, the idea of gaming, spotify and itunes simply isn't on the horizon. I am unlikely to ever play poker, gamble or do "bubble witch", etc, etc, so I want a solid phone that does the basics well not a cinamatic feature phone that would impress Holywood....

Michael Owen

February 14, 2017, 10:38 am

I was offered an Apple iPhone for free, sold it on Ebay, I hate, loathe and detest anything made by Apple.

Kelly Gentle

April 26, 2017, 8:53 am

Turn WiFi or data off it drains all the time

H.R.Laxmivenkatesh

May 23, 2017, 5:23 am

My Wife purchased the Mobile XPERIA model at Ghatkopar Mumbai, in January, 2017 ! Yesterday we noticed that the screen became blank. Not working at all. I and my wife are totally disappointed. Now, we will be visiting Bengaluru on 30th of May, 2017 without a mobile ! HOW MUCH WE WERE EXICITED TO HAVE A SONY MOBILE ! (WE HAVE SONY CAMERA ALSO !) IT'S A SAD EXPERIENCE ALL TOGETHER ! MY EMAIL I.D : hrl.venkatesh@gmail.com. M : 9004356819 .

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