Sony Xperia XA review: Where did the bezels go?

£240
Price when reviewed

We’re now almost two years on from the launch of the Xperia XA and it hasn’t aged particularly well. It failed to hit the mark at the time, and Sony has since addressed some of our design concerns – and managed to fit even more advanced specs into similarly priced phones. 

Most recently, Sony unveiled the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra at this year’s CES. The rear camera on both is a 23-megapixel snapper, with ISO 12800 sensitivity, while the front-facing one boasts a 120° super-wide camera. The XA2 Ultra has an additional 16MP snapper with optical image stabilisation. O2 is offering the handset for £28 a month, with no upfront fee, and you can buy it unlocked for £299 making it much better choice, despite the fact the Xperia XA recently dropped below £200.

 

Either way, not everyone can afford a £300 phone so if you are keen to get your hands on a Sony, while sacrificing some features for price, read on. 

Sony Xperia XA review: In full

At the launch of the Sony Xperia XA early on in 2016, there was confusion among the attending journalists. Which was the premium handset? This one, or the Xperia X it launched alongside?

The reason for the confusion was not the phone’s specifications, but the design, which is exceptional. It’s the bezels, or rather the lack of them, that really catch the eye here. To the left and right of the screen, instead of the usual two to three millimetres, it appears there’s no gap at all. At least that’s what Sony wants you to think. Switch on the Sony Xperia XA and it’s evident there’s still a narrow black border surrounding the display, but it’s only 1mm thick.

In fact, to my eyes, the Sony Xperia XA is a more attractive phone than the company’s premium Xperia X. Even the plastic back feels nice under the finger, and a pearlescent finish gives it an unusually exotic appearance. The white version I’m testing here has a subtle, coloured sheen that glimmers pink when it catches the light. The phone is also available in Lime Gold, Rose Gold and Graphite Black.

And, given that it’s plastic, another bonus is that you’ll be decidedly less concerned about it shattering into a million sharp pieces if you happen to drop it. All in all, the Sony Xperia XA is a finely honed smartphone, which is impressive given the reasonable price tag.

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Sony Xperia XA review: Key specifications

Take a look at the specifications, however, and you’ll see that the Sony Xperia XA is firmly in the budget to mid-range camp. You don’t even need to see the price to know that.

    5in, 720p IPS display
    Octa-core MediaTek Helio P MT6755 64-bit processor
    2GB of RAM
    16GB storage
    microSD slot
    NFC
    Android 6 Marshmallow
    2,300mAh battery, with “two days” battery life
    67 x 144 x 7.9mm, 137g
    Price: £240 inc VAT Buy Now from Amazon

    Sony Xperia XA review: Display quality

    The first clue as to the Sony Xperia XA’s budget lineage is the screen. It’s an IPS panel measuring 5in across the diagonal, but it has a resolution of only 720p, the same as the ageing Motorola Moto G 3. It isn’t noticeably low-res, though: only those with keen vision will be able to see the pixels, and even then only when they look really closely.

    Display quality is solid but unspectacular. Although contrast is a decent 1,113:1, maximum brightness is down on the best IPS displays in the business at 407cd/m2. And with coverage of the sRGB colour gamut at only 83.7%, the display on the Xperia can look a little dull compared with even the best budget smartphones.

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