★★★★★ £270 • From www.amazon.co.uk
Sony’s Xperia XA2 is a good, if rarely superb, sub-£300 smartphone
It’s got some rough edges (and sharp corners) but generally, the Xperia XA2 is a worthy mid-ranger
SONY’S XPERIA XA2 was just one of a long, laundry list of smartphones to launch at this year’s CES, doing so alongside the plus-sized Xperia XA2 Ultra and the budget Xperia L1.
Take it out of the box and you’ll spot that the XA2 cuts a familiar figure, both to its new stablemates and to older Xperia phones. Aside from the smaller footprint, narrower top and bottom bezels and (slightly) more rounded edges, this looks identical to last year’s Xperia XZ1 (Shopper 359), which is no bad thing.
GETTING THE POINT
However, like the rest of Sony’s handsets, this design decision comes at a cost. While the XA2 adopts the same glinting chamfered edges at the top and bottom of the phone, and softly rounded edges, the corners where the two meet are – once again – hazardously sharp-edged, and primed to wear a hole straight through your pocket.
If that doesn’t bother you, or if you carry your smartphone elsewhere about your person, there’s not much to complain about in terms of the layout of ports and buttons. There’s a solitary USB Type-C port with Quick Charge 3.0 support on the bottom of the handset, complete with a volume rocker, circular power button and dedicated camera shutter button on the right-hand edge. The microSD and nano-SIM slots are on the left, beneath a removable flap.
At the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a circular fingerprint reader is placed just below the camera on the rear of the phone.
Alas, the screen isn’t one of these new 18:9 aspect-ratio wonders and, like the XZ1 Compact, its small, 5.2in Full HD (1,920x1,080) display initially feels somewhat old hat.
Luckily, it’s a superb display in every way besides size and resolution. Images look terrifically vivid, especially with the phone’s slightly saturated Super Vivid display mode engaged, and the screen is reasonably colour accurate, too. With Super Vivid mode engaged, it covers 96.5% of the sRGB colour space, the contrast ratio reaches a respectable 1,167:1 and brightness peaks at a sunlight-friendly 507cd/m2. This is one impressive display and, on a £270 smartphone, it’s a real treat.
As for the innards, the Xperia XA2 is equipped with Qualcomm’s 2.2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 630. It comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, expandable up to 256GB via microSD.
This Snapdragon chip was last seen powering the sluggish HTC U11 Life (Shopper 362), so it’s no surprise that the Xperia XA2’s performance also sits squarely in the middling range.
In fairness, it did a tiny bit better than the U11 Life in Geekbench, scoring 854 in the single core test and 4,157 in the multicore test. In everyday use you won’t feel the phone slow down too much, but launch an intensive application such as Google Maps or juggle multiple apps at once and the XA2 begins to stumble slightly.
Likewise, gaming performance could be better. While simple games such as Candy Crush or Wordscapes ran without any hiccups, as soon as the XA2 tried to tackle more graphically demanding games such as Asphalt or Modern Combat 5, drastic frame drops became a frequent occurrence.
Tested using the GFXBench Manhattan benchmark, the Xperia XA2 produced 14fps in both the onscreen and offscreen tests, which is on par with the U11 Life but well behind the identically priced Honor 9 (Shopper 359), which also easily beat the Xperia XA2 and U11 Life in Geekbench. Battery life, meanwhile, is decent, with the Xperia XA2 lasting 14h 27m in our continuous video playback test, with the screen set to our standard 170cd/m2 brightness and flight mode engaged.
With lower-priced smartphones upping the ante in the camera department recently, the Xperia XA2 faces stiff competition. The specifications look decent enough, with an f/2.0 23-megapixel snapper on the rear, in sensor, phasedetect autofocus and a single-colour LED flash.
The results are very impressive. The XA2 does a fantastic job at capturing detail-rich images outdoors in good light. Exposures are well judged and colours particularly well captured, with the camera picking up wispy cloud layers and neighbouring brickwork with effortless ease. In particular, the sunset in the background of some of our test shots was captured beautifully.
However, as soon as the light dims, the camera begins to fall short. Our low-light test shots were rife with compression artifacts and blotchy chroma noise, which is a big disappointment, especially considering how well the camera performs in good light.
STEADY AS SHE GOES
The XA2 isn’t capable of 4K video capture at 60fps. You’re limited to 1080p, and if you want to take advantage of Sony’s excellent SteadyCam electronic image stabilisation and HDR recording, it sticks to 30fps as well.
Low-light photography issues aside, the Xperia XA2 is an impressive smartphone, made even better by its highly reasonable asking price. Its display is fantastic, battery life is good and the handset itself looks like something you’ve paid twice as much for.
The problem is that for £270, you could buy either the Honor 9, with its far superior performance and dual rear cameras, or the Honor 7X, which has a 18:9 screen in a slimmer, sleeker chassis, albeit with worse battery life. This is the best Sony smartphone in ages, but think carefully before you buy.