Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Our Verdict:

If you covet a slim, small phone that won’t make your pocket weep, but has a whole camera; the Sony Xperia XA1 is one of your best choices. You can get finer screens at a price, but the photo hardware is tough to beat. Let’s take an in-depth look at the details of its features and specifications in our Sony Xperia XA1 review.

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: What We Like?

  • Camera can take excellent pictures
  • Compact build
  • All-day battery life

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: What We Don’t?

  • Camera software is slow and fiddly
  • Sometimes abysmal performance
  • No fingerprint scanner

Highlights Of Sony Xperia XA1 Review:

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Before we move to our detailed Sony Xperia XA1 review; we want you to give a few mins to the highlights of Sony Xperia XA1 review below:

  • The Sony Xperia XA1 offers good battery performance
  • It misses out on a fingerprint sensor.
  • Selfie camera has Optical Image Stabilization and performs well.
  • It’s a good budget phone with all the mediocre specs and features.


You don’t have to waste a fortune on the phone. We have said it a multiple times before, but high-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone X still appear to be many people’s dream phones.

Fair enough, we can concede why.

The Sony Xperia XA1 is a collectively more realistic proposition. It’s the sort of phone numerous can manage to buy downright; or without a deal that costs as much as a good gym association.

Sony has aced this smartphone’s design in several respects. It seems and feels slick; with metal used in the right places. This is also one of the most affordable phones you’ll find with a camera; that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on a flagship a year or two ago.


Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Key Specs:

  • Review Price: £250.00
  • 5-inch 1280 x 720-pixel screen
  • A 23-megapixel camera
  • 32GB storage
  • 3GB RAM
  • 2300 mAh battery
  • USB-C
  • MediaTek Helio P20 CPU

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Design:

The XA1 has a 5-inch display, which has become a rareness these days; I speculate it’s simpler to make a big-battery smartphone with a large display – as it the case with the 5.5-inch Lenovo P2.

Sony faces this challenge by making the head and the bottom portion of the bezel more altruistic (by phone standards), while having the left and right parts super-slim. This provides the XA1 a somewhat elongated look, which I sincerely didn’t mind. The design doesn’t influence my ability to work with the phone, since the display is a standard size, nor does it make any issues when moving the device into my pocket.


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The design of the phone won’t be for all, and I wish I had one of the more attractive, colored models rather than the traditional white version. The back of the handset of plastic; the sides are of metal. There are notches visible all over the phone – and it didn’t take much longer for the XA1 to become perverted, with white paint chipping off above the SIM slot. Not a grand start, but it did sustain a fall underneath a seat on the tube; which was remarkable considering the amount of grit to be found on train floors.

All the keys are on the right side of the device, with a volume rocker, classic Xperia round power button, and a dedicated camera button. The latter enables you to take a light and focus reading; after which you can capture the picture.

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On the left side is the SIM slot, which has scope for a microSD card up to 256GB; this is beside the generous 32GB of internal memory. A 3.5mm headset jack can be seen at the top.

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Display:

The XA1’s display is a 1280 x 720-pixel thing. Screen elitists will have quit reading by this point, but for the rest, this screen is entirely fine. Yes, the text isn’t as explicit as it could be and hi-res images might not look great, but your Facebook and Instagram feed will look just fine. The display can’t compete with the Moto G5’s 5-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution screen, however.
For day-to-day performance, it’s nice. I could read it in straight sunlight at maximum brightness, although at nightfall I found even minimum intensity a little too bright for my tender, sleepy eyes.

Whites have a slightly blue tinge to them, and viewing angles are relatively narrow; but, again, color images are well designed, and there are no standout difficulties.

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On the audio aspect, the down-facing speakers are nothing more than ordinary. The microphone is a distinct story, however: it does a beautiful job of cutting out background noise and picking up the voices you want to hear.

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Interface And Reliability:

The Sony Xperia XA1 runs Android 7.0 with custom Sony interface laid on the top. You get current Android enhancements like the innovative notifications system and the Google Assistant, but Sony’s UI is really like a restoration of Android’s pre-version-5.0 design.

For instance, the apps menu appears on pages rather than as a large alphabetical scroll, and you can manage your apps menu into folders, and determine the position of apps. Google “simplified” features like this out of continuation some time ago.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Sony’s strategy, as long as you haven’t encountered a new ‘vanilla’ variant of Android and will see this as a step backward. Only one screen cuffs of the sort of bloat we like to bypass in custom interfaces, the “app suggestion” display.

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You do by swiping left-to-right on the apps menu, and it houses merely a few newly used app icons and a host of suggested downloads from Google Play. For most, it’s much useless but is also easy to scorn.

The Sony Xperia XA1’s interface feels relatively quick for the most part, with no annoying laggy moments as you navigate or type away at the keyboard.

However, app loads are slightly slower than some. Using DDR3 RAM rather than DDR4 (judging by our tests) probably doesn’t help, although the phone’s 32GB of storage is actually reasonably fast, writing at 124 MB/s.

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Water- and Dust-Resistance

Take particular note that the XA1 is not IP-rated and hence cannot depend upon to give any degree of water-resistance.

Sony is appreciated for offering strong IP ratings on the flagship phones lineups, but this is just too much of a budget choice to get that way. As a Sony support employee puts it, “I would advise keeping it away from any exposure to water.”

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Movie, Music, And Gaming:


Like other Sony smartphones, the Sony Xperia XA1 does the best to nudge various Google services into the background, trying to substitute them with its own media apps. There are music apps and Sony video, and the Sony PlayStation app for the PS4 owners out there.

The video app is not what you might expect at all. It’s not a video store but a local media player and a way to search what’s on TV, a sort of excellent channel guide. It’s not much utility if you mostly follow Netflix these days, but may appeal if you’re still playing it terrestrially.

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Its suggestion that a 1983 re-run of Top of the Pops is one of tonight’s favorite TV shows in the UK seems dubious, though. Take its recommendations with a critical eye.

The Music app is a decent iPod-alike local music player that also gives you hook-in Spotify.

Sony’s PlayStation app is reasonably the most impressive of the lot because it doesn’t just reiterate ideas found elsewhere innumerable times on Google Play. Instead, it gives you control a PS4 with your Sony Xperia XA1; to type things in without using the gamepad, for instance.

On its own, the Sony Xperia XA1 is a good, if not class-leading gaming phone. Its limiting factors are simple. You can get bigger, higher-resolution screens at a price and the interior speaker here is not that good.

While it seems like there is Sony’s signature front-loaded stereo speakers here; the Sony Xperia XA1 really just owns one speaker on the bottom edge. That indicates no stereo sound, and the lone speaker isn’t all that loud or powerful-sounding.

Every game we tried ran very well on the Sony Xperia XA1, though. While the phone doesn’t have a high-end CPU/GPU, it’s easily powerful enough to make games sing at the native 720p resolution.

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Performance:

Aside from the slow camera, the XA1 does have a few other minor performance niggles. The first is that apps hang when you first open them, which is similar to the camera. Websites in the Chrome browser loaded pretty quickly with minimal lag.

However, there was an occurrence where the smartphone hooked up to such a degree that even a 15-second press of the power button didn’t appear to do anything; the software and hardware ostensibly wholly disconnected for that period.

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Encountering such problems only a week into my time with the XA1 doesn’t fill me with confidence. Even under less extreme circumstances, I found switching apps could sometimes take several seconds, and the phone would be unresponsive during this time.

In the benchmark tests, the XA1 led 59,274 in AnTuTu, which puts it a bit way back the Lenovo P2, but it’s more potent than the Moto G5 by a pretty margin. But power doesn’t score for much if there are software stability difficulties.

Wi-Fi, too, showed an issue. Not only was the XA1 slow to connect to networks, it often failed to pick the best network when I found myself in a location with multiple access points, such as a house with Wi-Fi extenders. The device was also very slow to realize that I’d walked away from a Wi-Fi network and didn’t disconnect for far too long.

The XA1 also had a disturbing habit of disabling mobile data when connected to a Wi-Fi network, even if that network had no access. This is particularly irritating if, say, you walk past a Starbucks and get automatically connected to its free network but don’t sign in. The phone will complain it has no internet access but then proceeds to do nothing about it.

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Camera:

Not every bit of the Sony Xperia XA1 is a champ, but its camera is among the very best at a price. The rear camera utilizes a 23MP sensor of 1/2.3-inch size; the very scale as some dedicated compact cameras.

For handsets at this price, feature and general image quality are excellent. We had an opportunity to shoot alongside the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, and while the effects were a little distinctive, with the Premium building warmer-looking shots, you’d never pick one phone was almost three times the price of the other.

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The Sony Xperia XA1 also profits from Sony’s super-aggressive brightening of night photos. While the camera isn’t adequately stabilized, which is essential for high night shots in a phone, it’ll make night shots more transparent than most phones at a price. Just don’t expect fantastic detail at night too.
More from Sony Xperia XA1 review, the closer you look; the more you understand the character of the images just isn’t that hot, and the Xperia XA1 could make much better control of on-the-fly dynamic range optimization. However, where these difficulties were worth squealing about in the Sony Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z5, they are so much less questionable in a phone this much cheaper.

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Around the front, the selfie camera is much less capable. It has an 8MP sensor and produces budget-looking images typically. Unless lighting is right, there’s quite a lot of fuzzy noise and that classic ugly character to Sony’s processing.

We shouldn’t be too harsh, though, as we praised what is likely the same front camera in last year’s Xperia XA. With intelligent lighting, you can take a decent selfie, but standards in selfie cameras have advanced in the last year.

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Battery Life

The Xperia XA1’s 2300mAH battery is tinier than the 2800mAH pack of cells in the Moto G5. But with a lower-resolution screen, I didn’t encounter any difficulties getting through a full day of video and music streaming and browsing the web on the go. Although spending an entire out and about taking photos and checking maps, I did find myself reaching for the charger by about 8 pm.

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But you can plan, and the Xperia’s Stamina Mode is very effective at cutting out background tasks and keeping things neat and tidy on the battery front. If you know you have a long day (or night) ahead of you, flick on Stamina Mode, and you’ll be fine.

Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Our Take On:

The Sony Xperia XA1 is an excellent phone for the money. We rate its clean, simple look and the way it feels in hand in our Sony Xperia XA1 review, while the host of Smart Lock features and the raw specs and performance of that blockbuster rear-facing camera are majestic. Given how complicated Smart Lock can be, however, you may miss the fingerprint scanner, and keep in mind that dual cameras can be had for the same price tag if you look at the Honor 6X.

The screen isn’t the sharpest. And it’s not the fastest phone around: you should expect it to struggle with high-end mobile gaming or any processor-intensive activities such as video editing. But these are usual preoccupations for sub-£250 smartphones, and the Sony performed better than almost all of its similarly priced rivals in our graphics tests.


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