Sony Xperia XA1 review

After checking out Sony’s Xperia XA1 Ultra (you can read my review here), I recently got my hands on its smaller sibling the XA1 – and they’re right when they say “size does matter”.

Right off the bat I noticed how slim and slender the XA1 is in comparison to most other phones these days. It took a day or two to get used to its smaller size after wielding the larger Sony models – but once I’d settled, the XA1 seemed to fit right in.

Technical specifications
Dimensions: 145x67x8.1mm
Weight: 143g
Chipset: MediaTek Helio P20 MT6757
CPU: octa-core (4 x 2.3GHz Cortex-A53 + 4 x 1.6GHz Cortex-A53)
GPU: Mali-T880 MP2
Operating system: Android 7.0 (Nougat), update to 8.0 (Oreo)
Price and supplier information
Supplier: Sony
RRP: R3,999

After hitting the little power button on the phone’s side, the first thing that caught my eye is the substantial size of the top and bottom bezels of the screen. They’re quite distracting at first, but they’re also what give the phone its tall-drink-of-water look. Sony opted to keep the steel edges in its XA1 range, which almost gives it that premium feel (almost). In terms of the aesthetic value this adds, I had many people commenting on how beautiful this phone is.

The automated brightness optimization dulls the screen a bit too much for my liking, but once I turned it off, the screen shone bright like a diamond, day and night. I appreciate the vividness of the screen, and I couldn’t even tell that it’s only 720p until I looked a little closer while running certain apps.

General, everyday apps and usage cases saw no issues arise with the phone. I had it running all day with GPS, location services, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi running (all while listening to music as well), and only managed to drain the battery to 30%. It charged back up to 100% within an hour thanks to the USB Type-C fast-charge port down below. That said, you’ll most likely be charging the phone every night, if you aren’t topping it up during the day.

I’m a little disappointed with the front camera on the XA1. After using the XA1 Ultra and its fantastic front selfie cam, I was expecting the XA1 to perform similarly or at least come close to it – but Sony have placed a run-of-the-mill, 8-megapixel camera on the front, so don’t expect to pull off any spectacular “glamfies”. At least the 23mm wide-angle lens it uses is great for “groupfies”. The front camera is also equipped with OIS (Optical Image Stabiliser) and employs gesture control for selfies, so taking them is as easy as a wave of your hand.

The rear camera, meanwhile, is the same impressive 23-megapixel camera that Sony ships with its flagship phones, and it works a charm. I find it works quite well in both low and bright light – but you might have to set it to manual mode to bypass Sony’s image optimization, if it’s not to your liking.

7All in all, I found the XA1 to have that almost-premium vibe, even though it sits in the budget range. It falls a little short here and there, but it’s still a winner in my books.