Sony Xperia XA1
£229 inc VAT from fave.co/2mPPyPM
Sony’s Xperia XA1 offers 23Mp stills (as well as facial recognition and a bunch of nice photographic features) for £229. We test out the camera and feature set, as well as putting the phone through our rigorous battery of processor and graphics tests, to help you work out if this is the device for you.
The XA1 has an appealingly neat, simple look. Viewed front-on it’s a blocky design, with comparatively square corners, but this is offset by a very slight curvature on the left and right-hand edges of the screen.
There’s a refreshing lack of gumpf on the back, too: just a single camera lens and accompanying flash top left (these are arranged vertically, which seems to be the vogue this year) and a couple of discreet logos. Everything is flush with the chassis and it lies flat quite happily.
Part of the minimalism is made possible by the fact that the Xperia doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner, either in a home button on the front (there is no such button – the front buttons are all software-based) or in a module on the rear. But there are lots of other ways to unlock your device which we’ll discuss in the features section later on.
The hardware buttons have all been put on one side: the right-hand edge, which houses the volume rocker, dedicated camera shutter and power button (which sticks out a lot and is a different colour, and is thus both slightly ugly and nicely easy to find even without looking.) We’re not totally sold on having a dedicated camera button, particularly since it requires more force to press than the on-screen button and therefore causes very slightly more camera wobble, but we know that some people like this feature.
When held in the left hand the volume and power buttons are easy to access with index and middle fingers, but if you hold it in the right then the power button feels a shade too low for the thumb to hit it comfortably: one almost wonders if it would be worth Sony making two models depending on users’ dominant hand. However, we did find that having the buttons concentrated on one edge had the benefit – when compared to a symmetrical layout like the iPhone
7 Plus – of never accidentally hitting a button on the opposite side at the same time.
The XA1 has a 5in screen, a decent compromise point that offers plenty of real estate for video viewing and gaming without bulking out the body. (The side bezels are almost non-existent but there are quite large bezels at top and bottom.) The resolution is relatively underwhelming, however, at 720p and a pixel density of 293.7ppi.
For a comparison that even Apple fans will understand, that 5in screen sits neatly between the 7 (4.7in) and 7 Plus (5.5in) offerings while nestling into a chassis that is far closer in terms of length, width and weight to the former. (It’s thicker than both iPhones, however.)
The XA1 has a headphone port, and is compatible with both microSD removable storage and USB-C cables and accessories.
Water- and dust-resistance
Take careful note that the XA1 is not IP-rated and therefore cannot be relied upon to offer any degree of water-resistance. Sony is known for offering strong IP ratings on its flagship phones, but this is simply too much of a budget option to get that treatment. As a Sony support employee puts it, “I would advise keeping it away from any exposure to water.”
The XA1 comes in four colour finishes: matt black, white, gold and pink. Do note that the latter is far warmer and less garish than the colour picker on the Sony website would suggest.
The rear-facing camera is rated at a hefty 23Mp (note that if you want the full whack you have to shoot in squarish 4:3; the more widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio is capped at 20Mp), and produced huge, well-detailed photos in our tests. Indeed, the images files it produced are so large that our site has trouble handling them.
Our standard test shot of St Pancras was promising at first glance, with good detailing on the brickwork and solid colour and lighting given the difficulty of the weather conditions. And under a hard zoom the Midland Road sign was easier to read than we’d generally expect.
Dimensions: 145x67x8mm; 143g Credit: Sony