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Sony Xperia XA1 Review: A Photography Powerhouse

The Sony Xperia XA1 was launched together with its more powerful brethren, the Xperia XZs. The dialled-down midrange smartphone cuts away the fluff and focuses on bringing to you a an incredible camera for photography enthusiasts whilst at the same time, packing a decent amount of power to run your day-to-day functions. Priced at S$398, the Xperia XA1 isn’t the most value-for-money or all-rounded device, but if you love Xperia smartphone’s optical eyes and aren’t willing to fork out close to a thousand dollars for a flagship-grade device, it’s worth considering the XA1 for a change.

Design

The Xperia XA1 has a similar design to the other Xperia smartphones. It sports a tall boxy design and curved lateral edges, which makes one-handed handling easy. The XA’s 145 x 67 x 8 mm dimensions alongside its 5.0-inch screen should make it sit nicely in most hands. Gripping it feels pretty good thanks to is curved edges as well as light 143g weight.

Unlike the more powerful XZs, the Xperia XA1 does not have a fingerprint sensor on the right of the frame, but it still holds a camera shutter button and the volume controls there, with only a slight difference. The volume controls are now placed above the lock button, which is actually better compared to the XZs, which had a lock button that was inconveniently located and hard to reach.

The glossy screen and slight matter background on the pearl-white XA1 definitely feels a tad more feminine than the jet black XZs, so despite its squarish build, ladies might find it suiting to their tastes.

Unlike the XZs, the XA1 is also not waterproof so it’s not a good idea to bring it anywhere near the pool.

Display

The display on the XA1 is slightly disappointing. It’s a HD display, not a Full HD one that most other midrangers possess. This clarity is not very noticeable for general users but those with a more particular eye may find it to be a disappointment.

Vibrancy and contrast is decent but it does feel less popping than others midrangers as well and it’s not where in the league of the XZs.

Performance

Granted that the smartphone isn’t a flagship, it’s speed is fairly average. It really spells midranger. Powered by a MediaTek Helio P20 processor, alongside 3GB of RAM, it doesn’t really lag when you use it for web browsing and texting, but if you try running more intensive processes alongside these basic functions, you will get some noticeable delays. Otherwise you should be fine. Antutu benchmarks gave it a score of 59,608 which is typical of a midranger. However, if we’re talking solely about speed, you will find more value for money options out there.

Gaming on this phone however, is probably not recommended. The XA1 is supported by Mali T880MP2. It doesn’t slow down much when you play basic games like Candy Crush, but trying to play Clash Royale, not to mention 3D games like Asphalt does cause some cracks to show. The device gave me a pretty low score on 3DMark’s benchmark tests, coming in at 673, which was just alright.

Camera

The camera on the device is superb for sure. All the fluff was cut from the XA1 just to deliver you a dedicated camera smartphone that sits in the midrange price tier.

The primary camera on the XA1 is a 23MP shooter, right from the Z5, with the same sensor. For its price, this camera packs a serious wow-factor that’s almost never seen before. It allows for extremely crisp photos to be taken, in good lighting and poor lighting conditions. It’s autofocus is also very quick and snappy, so those with shaky hands won’t have an issue using it too. The dedicated camera shutter button on the side is also very useful, it’s nothing new for Xperia smartphones, but it’s still worth mentioning.

The only thing I didn’t quite like about the XA1 was that despite its powerful sensor, burst shots still aren’t very clear and well-done compared to iPhone burst shots, which was a little disappointing.

The front camera 8MP, 23mm sensor-powered shooter as well, with autofocus technology often not present in other midrangers, so selfie-lovers should rejoice as well since the device is giving you a fairly well-balanced front shooters for your Instagram and Snapchat ventures.

Battery

Although the XA1 appears to have a rather small battery capacity at 2,300mAh, it is worth noting that the dialled-down processor and less than full-HD screen reduces the power consumption on the device, which means that the battery life should last you a full day on average, nothing to be wow-ed by or lament about either.

Verdict

The Sony Xperia XA1 is a decent midranger, which appeals quite well to those who love a powerful camera on their smartphones, but apart from that, there isn’t too much of a wow factor, especially when compared to its much more powerful XZs brother, which was absolutely mind-blowing. Nevertheless, priced at S$398, the XA1 remains a good buy.

Sony’s Xperia™ XA1 will be available from the Sony Store, Sony Centre, M1, Singtel, StarHub and authorised retail partners by 6 May 2017.

 

Zayne Seah
A tech geek going beyond specs.

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