Introduced at MWC last year, the Sony Xperia XA was arguably more interesting than the brand’s then flagship. It was a dinky mid-range phone with a screen that ran from edge to edge, with an ever-so-slight curve giving it a really nice look.
It was a shame that the finished product was underwhelming, falling below the glut of other more interesting – and cheaper – budget phones. But here at MWC 2017 Sony is giving it another chance with the Sony Xperia XA1.
Yes, it’s really called that.
Sadly, the Sony Xperia XA1 is the least interesting device in Sony’s new line-up. The Xperia XZ sells itself on a 4K HDR display, while the Xperia XA1 Ultra is huge and has an atypical front camera packed with features. The Xperia XA1 just updates what we saw last year.
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It has a quite striking design and it’s very pocketable, but it’s not quite as enticing as it was 12 months ago. The screen itself hasn’t been updated and it’s still stuck at 720p, which seems a bit meagre for a 5-inch panel in 2017. It’s OK to look at from a distance, but get a bit closer and jagged icons are clearly visible. It’s not just resolution either; the panel lacks vibrancy and just seems a bit dull. Cheaper phone displays have come on leaps and bounds, so the XA1 feels a bit left behind.
There are other areas that do seem a lot more positive – notably the camera. On the back of the Sony Xperia XA1 is the same camera that just 18 months ago sat on the brand’s flagship Xperia Z5. It’s a 23-megapixel 1/2.3 inch sensor with an f/2.0 aperture and phase-detection autofocus. On the front you’ve got an 8-megapixel sensor, but it lacks the optical image stabilisation and flash of its bigger brother.
It was, and hopefully still is, a good camera in varying conditions and its only major downfall was speed. That could again be an issue here, especially as the processor isn’t quite as beefy.
That processor in fact comes from MediaTek – a supplier that’s becoming more and more tied to mid-range devices – and it’s the latest Helio P20. I’ll have to spend a lot longer with the phone to really see how well it performs. There’s 3GB RAM too and a decent 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded via microSD.
The Xperia XA1 ships with Android 7.0 Nougat along with Sony’s skin that has steadily improved over the years. There are lots of Sony’s own media apps installed, but they’re mostly quite well-designed. A nice touch is that Google Now sits on the leftmost homescreen, like Pixel and Nexus devices.
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Inside the plastic body you’ll find a very small 2,300 mAh battery that Sony claims will last all day, which should be true considering the low-res screen, but I’ll have to test it further to see if it lives up to those claims. It’ll charge up via USB-C, just like all of Sony’s other phones. The lack of a fingerprint scanner is a shame, especially as lots of competing phones have that now.
We gave the original Xperia XA a 3/5 score, and the follow-up looks to be going along a similar path. It looks quite nice, has an interesting camera and there should be plenty of power, but that screen just isn’t up to scratch.