Sony Xperia XA review - Looks great but rather overpriced

DSC_0109.JPG

Back in February when Sony shockingly announced the cancellation of their Xperia Z series, they decided to show us their new X series lineup - the Sony Xperia XA, Xperia X and Xperia XA Ultra (some other countries got the Xperia X Performance instead of XA Ultra). In our review here, we will be exploring the Xperia XA, which is the smallest and currently most affordable among the three brothers (recently launched in Malaysia about 2 days ago for RM1199). But is it worth it? Read below to find out!

Design - The Xperia XA is aesthetically pleasing

Available in graphite black, white, lime gold and rose gold, the Xperia XA surprisingly stands out the most when compared with the Xperia X and XA Ultra in terms of design, as it's the world's first narrowest 5-inch smartphone with 2mm thin for the bezel for a nearly borderless experience and it makes one hand usage easy as pie. In short, the Xperia XA looks the more striking and beautiful compared to the metal bodies Xperia X (also partly because the side fingerprint sensor on the X makes it thicker).

Not only that, since the body is made out of plastic; the weight is only 137.4g so you can really imagine how lightweight it is, easily making it one of the most compact smartphones in the market now. I don't really mind the missing metallic body and lack of fingerprint sensor either, it doesn't need to jump on the bandwagon for having those.

DSC_0089.JPG

The front

DSC_0090.JPG

The back

DSC_0094.JPG

The power button, volume rocker and the return of the physical shutter on the right side

DSC_0092.JPG

The dual SIM-slot on the left side

DSC_0096.JPG

microUSB 2.0 and speaker at the bottom, the 3.5mm headphone jack is at the top

Tech Specs and Features - Entry-level to midrange at best

Here are the Sony Xperia XA specifications:

Screenshot_20160619-074824.png

  • Octa-core Mediatek Helio P10 MT6755
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage (expandable memory available up to 200GB)
  • 5-inch HD (720p pixel resolution, Mobile BRAVIA engine 2, Super Vivid mode) curved display
  • 143.6 x 66.8 x 7.9mm and 137.4g
  • 13MP Sony Exmor RS rear camera (Hybrid Autofocus, Image Stabilizer, LED Flash) + 8MP Exmor RS front camera (wide-angle)
  • Supports 4G LTE Cat 4, Dual SIM, Clear Audio+, FM Radio, AGPS, WiFi Miracast, Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC connectivity
  • Features a dedicated camera shutter button (>0.5s camera activation)
  • Android 6 Marshmallow
  • 2300 mAh battery (Qnovo adaptive quick charging, 2-day battery life)

Although the western media are dubbing this as a mid-range smartphone, it feels a lot like an "entry-level" with the tech-specs shown above. There's nothing much to be in awe of the specifications, but perhaps we can be glad that the dedicated camera shutter button is back, making photo-taking so much easier than having to tap on the screen all the time; pressing it before unlocking will bring you straight to the camera right away and has a 0.5s camera activation.

The camera doesn't have any OIS, but it does have a hybrid autofocus that allows the camera to track a moving object by predicting its movement so that the image won't have any blur shots. On the other hand, the video recording has a SteadyShot feature that minimizes the "shaky cam" effect, we will talk more about that later in the performance section.

And of course, it's not a Sony smartphone if it doesn't have the audio setting and the standard Sony camera features. It's exactly the same as the Sony C5 Ultra, check out our review here if you want to know more about those.

Screenshot_20160619-072722.png

The manual mode is not what you think, just a word for these extra modes

Screenshot_20160611-083549.png

Nice for a keyboard (Swiftkey) to actually remember my email

Screenshot_20160622-050044.png

The PlayStation Store is surely convenient for hardcore PS gamers

Screenshot_20160622-050251.png

Sony Xperia XA setup tutorial

Screenshot_20160622-050203.png

What's New app by Sony for app recommendation

Screenshot_20160624-042103.png

Xperia Lounge, this app is for announcing Sony news

Screenshot_20160622-052107.png

Sketch app, pretty fun if you're skilled

DSC_0087.JPG

TrackID works sort of like Shazam app, quite accurate but not for indie artists

Screenshot_20160623-033154.png

Stamina Battery mode, we will get to that later

Performance - What happened to the battery?

So far, the Xperia XA seems like a good phone to consider. But hold your horses, we just reached the performance section, and this is where the phone falls short. Badly, if I might add.

According to Sony, the Xperia X series has a Qnovo Adaptive Charging which maintains battery health while charging which sounds good. Also, it has a smart battery management that is known to be able to deliver up to two days battery life. Well, that is only half true; while it can indeed last two days, if it did, it'd only be barely alive.

I don't really know what's the problem, when I played Asphalt 8: Airborne for an hour it dropped 40% quickly. I was a bit taken aback at first, but I thought it should be logical since it's a high-end game after all. Then I started surfing Facebook and some YouTube, the same thing happened again. Goodness me, this phone's battery life is... disappointing. And it gets super hot after heavy usage, which forces you to get a cover to protect your fingers.

To add on to that, the volume speaker is underwhelming too. Even at maximum volume, it's really difficult to hear what the video content was saying from YouTube; ironically, it's a different story for the music player which does better.

Screenshot_20160621-030349.png

This was only half day of surfing Facebook and YouTube

DSC_0084.JPG

This was how hot it got after 3 rounds of racing

Screenshot_20160620-012634.png

Occasionally, I also got this Youtube video error when I switch the resolution or landscape viewing 
(YouTube quality can only reach 720p at most due to the display resolution)

Screenshot_20160622-062110.png

Asphalt 8 was fine, though. This is the highest setting

Screenshot_20160619-111414.png

Epic Citadel test

Screenshot_20160619-111102.png

GPUBench score

Screenshot_20160621-121051.png

AnTuTu score

The only way to prolong the XA's usage is switching on the Stamina Mode, it's great for gaming after that, but it also restricts some data and that would make your internet browsing less fun. So...yeah.

Moving on, the camera quality is alright for a mid-range phone I guess. Colours captured in the camera are vivid enough especially indoors, as for outdoors it has a weird habit of looking greater under the sun than in the shade.

The video recording could only go at 1080p 30fps, but the video quality is pretty good enough; in addition the SteadyShot feature that minimizes the "shaky cam" effect has a subtle difference, as long as you have a mini tripod attached the video recording should be just fine.

Anyway, below are some camera samples:

DSC_0002.JPG

Medium indoor shot

DSC_0001.JPG

Close up shot

DSC_0006.JPG

Selfie shot

DSC_0009.JPG

Colour contrast are excellent indoors

DSC_0010.JPG

A wide indoor shot

DSC_0011.JPG

Another close up shot, it's a book cover lol

DSC_0013.JPG

Night shot

DSC_0027.JPG

Day shot

DSC_0018.JPG

Another outdoor shot

DSC_0020.JPG

Comparing the two leaves, I personally think the top one
looks better than the bottom one thanks to the sunlight

DSC_0022.JPG

This one didn't look good, it was shaded

DSC_0032.JPG

Panorama shot

DSC_0030.JPG

Low light (top) and flash mode shot (bottom)


Conclusion - A nice looking phone, but a tad overpriced

I really like how the XA looks and the compactness, as a mid-range phone it does everything else alright (camera quality, features and basic functions), but the battery life performance alone is enough to make it look bad because it drains too fast even just for internet browsing.

Furthermore, there are better options out there that have better pricing and performance. Take the Huawei P9 Lite for one, it only costs RM1099, and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 which has a much better performance than the XA with a price tag of RM849 only. Go figure.

I hope Sony can do something about the battery as it they are practically famous for their 2-day battery life devices, perhaps sometime in the future for their next Xperia X model. If they keep the almost bezel-less design and better battery + specifications performance then it'd be one great smartphone. But that's just my two cents.

First impression hands-on video

Know anyone else using the new Xperia X models? Do they share the same opinions? Thanks for reading as always and stay tuned for more reviews in the future at Technave.com!