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Sony Xperia XA1 review: Square one

Introduction

The Sony Xperia XA was our unlikely favorite of the last season’s Xperia X-series. Whilst the X proper and the XZ were rather classic Sony designs (read massive bezels), the XA showed signs that some of the extra padding could be chiseled away. Of course, the XA had less impressive credentials than its X siblings. With a midrange Mediatek chip, a 13MP camera and a low-res display, the original Xperia XA was more looks than substance.

A year later, some of that has changed. Inside the Xperia XA1 ticks a new generation Mediatek chipset and some of the body has been touched up to better fit the latest aesthetic.

Sony Xperia XA1 review

Clearly though, the looks are not dramatically different from the original and the chipset is still midrange at best. The screen resolution is the same too – so what’s the big deal? Well, the real change is the 23MP primary camera. Previously reserved for the Z and X flagships, Sony’s once top-grade shooter has oozed down into the midrange, replacing the XA’s run-of-the-mill 13MP imager.

Other tweaks can be spotted here and there. RAM’s up to 3GB, and storage has doubled – the XA’s 2GB/16GB allowance was barely acceptable last season, so it’s good to see Sony make amends. One key area where an update opportunity was missed is battery capacity – the original 2,300mAh power pack could have used a bump.

Sony Xperia XA1 key features
Body: Aluminum frame, polycarbonate back, scratch-resistant glass (>9H pencil hardness).
Display: 5.0″ TFT LCD, 1,280x720px resolution, 294ppi.
Rear camera: 23MP Type 1/2.3″ sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 24mm-equiv. focal length; autofocus; single LED flash; 1080p/30fps video recording, SteadyShot EIS.
Front camera: 8MP Type 1/4″ sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 23mm-equiv. focal length; autofocus; 1080p/30fps video recording.
OS/Software: Android 7.0 Nougat.
Chipset: 16nm Mediatek Helio P20: Octa-core CPU (4×2.4GHz Cortex-A53 + 4×1.6GHz Cortex-A53), Mali T-880MP2 GPU.
Memory: 3GB of RAM; 32GB of storage; microSD slot up to 256GB.
Battery: 2,300mAh Li-Ion (sealed); Mediatek Pump Express Plus 2.0 fast charging.
Connectivity: Single-SIM (model names G3121/3123/3125) and Dual-SIM (G3112/G3116) versions; Cat. 6 LTE (300Mbps/50Mbps); USB Type-C (v2.0); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; GPS, GLONASS; NFC; Bluetooth 4.2.
Misc: single bottom-firing loudspeaker, 3.5mm jack, dedicated two-stage hardware shutter release button.

Main shortcomings
Smallish battery capacity
Big top and bottom bezels and no stereo speakers to show for it
No fingerprint sensor

We’re suckers for more battery life, and would have liked to see a capacity increase on the XA1 – especially after the XA’s less than impressive visit to our battery testing lab. Well, yeah… but no, Sony says.

The company has the same stance on slimming down those top and bottom bezels too. But then again, Sony’s premium phones aren’t exactly screen-to-body ratio champs either, so why should they be held against the mid-tier?

Sony Xperia XA1 press images - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Sony Xperia XA1 press images - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Sony Xperia XA1 press images - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Sony Xperia XA1 press images - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Sony Xperia XA1 press images - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Sony Xperia XA1 press images - Sony Xperia XA1 review

Sony Xperia XA1 press images

As for the fingerprint sensor that pretty much every Chinese phone already has, and the Xperia XA1 doesn’t… Well, ‘less is more’ with this one.

We’ll have our say on the Xperia XA1’s retail package and design on the next page, so join us there.