Sony Xperia XA Review
Sony brings the budget back to its smartphone lineup with the Xperia XA, though you might get better bang for your buck elsewhere.
Sony has tried to cater to all corners of the market with its Xperia X family of products. Led by the slightly underwhelming Xperia X Performance and joined by the mid-range Xperia X, the Xperia XA is the budget member of the family, targeting a lower price point by cutting out premium features for a much more accessible device.
Sitting side by side with the other members of the Xperia X family, the absences are obvious – there’s no fingerprint scanner, the phone is lighter and feels cheaper in the hand, and the camera isn’t up to the same standard, both in terms of megapixels and focus speed. But does the price point make up for the sacrifices?
Upsides: Why you’d want the Sony Xperia XA
- Clean Android experience. Manufacturers have been customising the user interface of Android for years, but Sony has managed to find a nice balance between the raw Android platform and its own UI overlay. While it’s not quite vanilla Android, it’s similar enough that the changes aren’t uncomfortable for users switching from a different brand’s Android phone.
- Comfortable, compact design. There’s been a definitive trend in recent years for bigger phones. The Xperia XA is slightly more compact than many of today’s flagships like the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S, and feels comfortable in the hand as a result despite its generous 5-inch screen.
- Dedicated camera shutter button. It may not have the same 23-megapixel camera sensor as the other Xperia X phones, but the XA does feature a dedicated shutter button on the phone to make taking photos a quick, effortless process. Pressing and holding the button while the phone is in standby wakes it up directly into camera mode, allowing you to start shooting photos (or 1080p video) within seconds.
- Nicely detailed images. Despite its lack of megapixels, the Xperia XA’s camera is still extremely capable, with a good balance of detail in a variety of lighting situations. And while the Auto mode is more than capable, a simple swipe up on the phone’s screen engages manual mode for more granular control over a photo. The camera does struggle a bit with high contrast shots, but it's still impressive for the price.
Downsides: Why you might not want the Sony Xperia XA
- Lower battery capacity. Sony kept the battery capacity fairly low in the XA at 2300mAh, but to offset the lower capacity it made the battery capable of quick charging. Unfortunately the quick charger isn’t packed in the box, instead being an additional purchase. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the Xperia XA refused to run the Geekbench 3 benchmark tools we use to compare battery life (and general performance) here at finder, which makes it hard to objectively compare it. Anecdotally though, during our review we generally got a full day from the phone with general use.
- Unremarkable performance. As mentioned above, the Xperia XA refused to run the GeekBench 3 benchmarking tool, despite our attempts on two separate devices, so a complete objective comparison is currently impossible. We did manage to get results for the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited test, which showed the middle-of-the-road performance you’d expect from a sub-$500 device.
|Handset||3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result|
|Samsung Galaxy J2||3469|
|Alcatel Pop 4||3863|
|LG Stylus DAB+||4321|
|Telstra Signature Premium||9559|
|Sony Xperia XA||11173|
|Sony Xperia X||16648|
|HTC One X9||16877|
|Huawei Mate 8||17947|
|Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus||17981|
|Sony Xperia Z5||19197|
|Google Nexus 6P||24703|
|Sony Xperia X Performance||26125|
|Apple iPhone SE||29276|
- No fingerprint scanner. It’s probably not a surprise that the entry level Xperia handset replaces the fingerprint scanner found on the rest of the X devices with a regular power button given its price point, but it is a sacrifice some people may not want to make.
- Not waterproof. Sony’s Xperia Z family of devices changed the market by making a waterproof body standard for its phones, even though it led to a fairly stagnant design. While the XA has had a design refresh, the phone is no longer waterproof.
- Doesn’t support Playstation Remote Play. Gamers looking to connect the Sony dots and enjoy some remote Playstation gaming on their Xperia device will be disappointed to learn that the XA doesn’t support game streaming.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
Sony has taken the three-tiered approach to its Xperia X family of phones, and the XA is widely targeting the low-cost tier. The $499 price point makes it a relatively affordable phone for anyone on a budget.
But there’s very little in the way of specs or features here to make this stand head and shoulders above the crowd of more affordable phones. A Nexus 5X is considerably cheaper with performance almost on par with the more expensive Xperia X handset. Alternatively, you could grab last year’s flagship Galaxy S6 outright for just a few dollars more than the XA and get Xperia X level performance.