Sony Xperia XA Review

Introduction


The Sony Xperia XA is a new and affordable 5-inch Android _phone_ that aims to win your attention with its eye-catchy looks and futuristic, edge-to-edge display.

Powered by the Helio P10 system chip that is often used in even more affordable phones out of China, the Xperia XA is no performance beast, nor does it claim to have a ground-breaking camera or amaze with battery life. Apart from the wow-inducing edge-to-edge screen, this really is your run-of-the-mill Android _phone_ that does not seem to stand out with anything else at first look.

Sony Xperia XA Review
Is it really so? And is the Xperia XA worth your attention? Join us as we dive in the specifics to find out.

In the box:
  • Sony Xperia XA
  • Wall charger
  • MicroUSB to USB cable
  • User manual

Design

The edge-to-edge screen looks impressive and cool, and a metal frame is nice to have.

The Sony Xperia XA is a fairly good-looking phone and its cool edge-to-edge screen is the one feature that makes it stand out among its rivals. The slightly tapered towards the edges screen makes it easier for your finger to glide along the glass surface, and this type of design also makes side bezel almost non-existent, so that the phone can be very narrow and more compact. We don’t think this is a game-changer in any way, but such an edge-to-edge screen is nonetheless a nice feature to have. It's great to look at, for sure.

Sony Xperia XA Review
Sony Xperia XA Review
Sony Xperia XA Review
Sony Xperia XA Review
Sony Xperia XA Review

The handset also comes in four fresh colors: white, black, lime gold and rose gold.

Тhe Xperia XA features a plastic frame and a plastic back cover, but we think it still feels nice and, unlike trendy glass surfaces, it is not a fingerprint magnet.

Disappointingly, there is no fingerprint scanner on the Xperia XA. Fingerprint security has become the de facto security standard for our phones, so it’s a real pity that Sony has decided not to equip its XA with a fingerprint reader.

Just in case you’re wondering, the handset also lacks any form of special water protection.

 

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Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia XA
Sony Xperia XA
5.65 x 2.63 x 0.31 inches
143.6 x 66.8 x 7.9 mm
4.85 oz (137 g)

Sony Xperia XA

Google Nexus 5X
Google Nexus 5X
5.79 x 2.86 x 0.31 inches
147 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm
4.80 oz (136 g)

Google Nexus 5X

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
5.7 x 2.8 x 0.29 inches
144.8 x 71 x 7.3 mm
5.47 oz (155 g)

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
5.91 x 2.99 x 0.34 inches
150 x 76 x 8.65 mm
5.78 oz (164 g)

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3



Display

The 5” 720p display on the Xperia XA is not the worst, but it has cold and oversaturated colors that are not well balanced.

Sony Xperia XA Review

The Xperia XA features a 5” display with a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels. At this resolution, you can see a bit of pixelization and the screen does not look perfectly sharp.

Colors are also far from perfect: whites appear annoyingly bluish, and colors on the whole are way overblown and not well balanced. Why is this important? Simple: it makes all the colors in images and video appear different from what their creators intended them to look like.

On a more positive note, the screen does get quite bright and is legible even under direct sunlight. Viewing angles are not bad, as well, as brightness is retained at different angles.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Sony Xperia XA 568
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2245
(Excellent)
7880
(Average)
2.08
5.35
(Average)
6.23
(Average)
Google Nexus 5X 487
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
1:1498
(Excellent)
6799
(Excellent)
2.31
2.06
(Good)
3.54
(Good)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 479
(Good)
1
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6610
(Excellent)
2.04
2.52
(Good)
5.26
(Average)
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 441
(Good)
1
(Excellent)
1:1043
(Good)
7842
(Average)
2.43
4.57
(Average)
5.63
(Average)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all

Sony Xperia XA Review

Introduction


The Sony Xperia XA is a new and affordable 5-inch Android phone that aims to win your attention with its eye-catchy looks and futuristic, edge-to-edge display.

Powered by the Helio P10 system chip that is often used in even more affordable phones out of China, the Xperia XA is no performance beast, nor does it claim to have a ground-breaking camera or amaze with battery life. Apart from the wow-inducing edge-to-edge screen, this really is your run-of-the-mill Android phone that does not seem to stand out with anything else at first look.

Sony Xperia XA Review
Is it really so? And is the Xperia XA worth your attention? Join us as we dive in the specifics to find out.

In the box:
  • Sony Xperia XA
  • Wall charger
  • MicroUSB to USB cable
  • User manual

Design

The edge-to-edge screen looks impressive and cool, and a metal frame is nice to have.

The Sony Xperia XA is a fairly good-looking phone and its cool edge-to-edge screen is the one feature that makes it stand out among its rivals. The slightly tapered towards the edges screen makes it easier for your finger to glide along the glass surface, and this type of design also makes side bezel almost non-existent, so that the phone can be very narrow and more compact. We don’t think this is a game-changer in any way, but such an edge-to-edge screen is nonetheless a nice feature to have. It's great to look at, for sure.

Sony Xperia XA Review
Sony Xperia XA Review
Sony Xperia XA Review
Sony Xperia XA Review
Sony Xperia XA Review

The handset also comes in four fresh colors: white, black, lime gold and rose gold.

Тhe Xperia XA features a plastic frame and a plastic back cover, but we think it still feels nice and, unlike trendy glass surfaces, it is not a fingerprint magnet.

Disappointingly, there is no fingerprint scanner on the Xperia XA. Fingerprint security has become the de facto security standard for our phones, so it’s a real pity that Sony has decided not to equip its XA with a fingerprint reader.

Just in case you’re wondering, the handset also lacks any form of special water protection.

Front view | Side view
Sony Xperia XA
Sony Xperia XA
5.65 x 2.63 x 0.31 inches
143.6 x 66.8 x 7.9 mm
4.85 oz (137 g)

Sony Xperia XA

Google Nexus 5X
Google Nexus 5X
5.79 x 2.86 x 0.31 inches
147 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm
4.80 oz (136 g)

Google Nexus 5X

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
5.7 x 2.8 x 0.29 inches
144.8 x 71 x 7.3 mm
5.47 oz (155 g)

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
5.91 x 2.99 x 0.34 inches
150 x 76 x 8.65 mm
5.78 oz (164 g)

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3



Display

The 5” 720p display on the Xperia XA is not the worst, but it has cold and oversaturated colors that are not well balanced.

Sony Xperia XA Review

The Xperia XA features a 5” display with a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels. At this resolution, you can see a bit of pixelization and the screen does not look perfectly sharp.

Colors are also far from perfect: whites appear annoyingly bluish, and colors on the whole are way overblown and not well balanced. Why is this important? Simple: it makes all the colors in images and video appear different from what their creators intended them to look like.

On a more positive note, the screen does get quite bright and is legible even under direct sunlight. Viewing angles are not bad, as well, as brightness is retained at different angles.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Sony Xperia XA 568
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2245
(Excellent)
7880
(Average)
2.08
5.35
(Average)
6.23
(Average)
Google Nexus 5X 487
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
1:1498
(Excellent)
6799
(Excellent)
2.31
2.06
(Good)
3.54
(Good)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 479
(Good)
1
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6610
(Excellent)
2.04
2.52
(Good)
5.26
(Average)
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 441
(Good)
1
(Excellent)
1:1043
(Good)
7842
(Average)
2.43
4.57
(Average)
5.63
(Average)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all

Interface and Functionality

Sony uses a simple skin with some peculiarities and a bad keyboard.

Sony Xperia XA Review

Like all Sony phones, the affordable Xperia XA features the light and generally non-intrusive Sony custom skin. On the XA, it runs on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the current and up-to-date version of Google’s platform.

The interface runs mostly smoothly in daily tasks, but if you throw a new app at it, it can get stuttery and heavier apps and games will also pose a challenge.

There are a few puzzling peculiarities with Sony’s skin: unlocking the display happens with a swipe to the side or up, but if you swipe up, the actual animation shows the frame sliding to the side rather than up. Moving an app shortcut from the app drawer to the home panel is also more complicated than it has to be: you have to first slide the icon to a hard-to-see area on the top of the screen and only then place it on the home screen. Opening essential apps like the phone dialer and messages takes a while and you’re staring at a blank screen for a second or so every time. Little details like these go a long way in confusing users and compromising the experience.

Then, there are notifications and vibrations. The Xperia XA vibrates with a very strange and annoying pattern, its vibrations are intense and stress-inducing, even for the smallest of notifications.

We are also not big fans of the Sony on-screen keyboard: Sony uses SwiftKey and we just don’t find this keyboard on par with the fast and accurate typing experience on Apple and Samsung devices. We found ourselves typing slower than usual and making way too many typos.

On a positive note, you have nice customization options on the Xperia XA via Sony's “What's New” app. It features original skins built around a variety of themes, but you'll also find new styles tailored to Sony-produced video games and movies. Very few of these themes are available for free download, but those that are paid cost just a few bucks and are quite nice.

Processor, Performance and Memory

Mostly fast enough in daily use, but heavier tasks and larger documents make it stutter. Some apps like the dialer and messaging open with an annoying delay.

The Xperia XA is powered by the budget MediaTek Helio P10 system chip. This is an octa-core chip featuring 8 low-power Cortex A53 cores, 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM and built on the 28nm manufacturing process.

The chip delivers enough to have the phone running well for the most part, but there is a slight delay in launching essential apps like the dialer and we had the phone freeze with heavier apps like Google Docs.

Of course, you should not expect the Xperia XA to crush the benchmarks: it falls behind Snapdragon 808 phones like the Nexus 5X on most benchmarks, and its big weakness lies in single-core demanding tasks, where the weak A53 cores fall short.

Graphics are taken care of by the Mali T-860 MP2 GPU running at up to 700MHz. Again, this is not a perfect phone for games that are usually the most demanding type of content on a smartphone. Still, most simpler games ran fine on the Xperia XA, and you’d be able to run even the more graphically demanding ones at a slightly lower than ideal frame rate.

Internal storage comes in at 16GB on the XA, of which around 10GB are available to the end user. Luckily, you can also add a microSD card to expand that storage.

Sony Xperia XA Review

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 75698
Google Nexus 5X 53178
Sony Xperia XA 47445
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 35638.33
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 2574
Google Nexus 5X 2161
Sony Xperia XA 1206.33
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 1115
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 4217
Google Nexus 5X 4220
Sony Xperia XA 3243
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 1944
JetStream
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 49.425
Sony Xperia XA 27.955
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 32
Google Nexus 5X 38
Sony Xperia XA 28
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 14
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 9.4
Google Nexus 5X 16
Sony Xperia XA 15
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 5.6
View all

Internet and Connectivity

4G LTE connectivity and mobile Chrome as the pre-installed browser is a nice combo.

Sony Xperia XA Review
Chrome is the default and only browser pre-installed on the Sony Xperia XA, and we’re glad that it’s there and we don’t have to deal with nonsensical browsers. Chrome allows you to easily sync your bookmarks across all of your devices, including desktop and other platforms, it features a convenient touch interface with cards and the always useful reminder to shut down any open incognito tabs.

In terms of 4G LTE bands, they vary as the Xperia XA comes in different flavors for different markets. While it supports all major bands for Europe, it seems to be severely limited in its U.S. model.

In the United States, you can order the XA on Amazon and it comes with 4G LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 20. This means that the XA does not support band 4 and 17, and the latter is essential for good AT&T LTE connection. On T-Mobile, it lacks bands 4 and 12, which are both key to a good LTE connection. So chances are that you won’t get full 4G LTE support with the Xperia XA in the U.S.

In terms of other connectivity, you also have Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC support.

Camera

The 13MP main camera is not very good: it struggles with dynamics and focus (especially for macros), and in low light images look plasticky and with vignetting. 1080p video is not very good either.

Sony Xperia XA Review

The Xperia XA comes with a 13-megapixel rear camera and an 8-megapixel front-facing shooter. It’s rear cam features an f/2.0 lens and uses a 1/3-inch sensor size, which is smaller than many popular phones in the $300 phone price range.

You have a physical, two-step shutter key on the bottom right. Holding it for a second or so starts the camera app, but it takes a few long seconds until the camera app actually starts and it definitely feels like a slow process.

The app itself has a separate auto photo (Superior Auto), manual photo, video, and apps/effects sections that you switch between by swiping up and down. It takes a second or so to switch between shooting modes, and we’d be happier if one could start recording a video straight from the auto mode, without having to first switch to video mode. Interestingly, essential settings like HDR are only available in manual mode.

Camera UI - Sony Xperia XA Review
Camera UI - Sony Xperia XA Review

Camera UI


Image Quality


It does not take an expert eye to see that the camera on the Xperia XA takes bad pictures.

Even in nearly-perfect conditions with plentiful light, images have big issues with their dynamics as they are not able to capture the shadows and highlights for a properly balanced image. It would be that either shadows are underexposed to get highlights properly, or highlights burned out, but never a proper balance. Detail is smudgy, not sharp at all. Needless to say, this all becomes even worse in low light where images often turn out blurry and detail is resolved poorly.

The built-in single LED flash introduces a cold, greenish cast to images and while it does illuminate your subject when it’s dark, the quality of the images with the flash is definitely not good.

You might point us to the fact that this is an affordable phone, but let us remind you that it’s in the same price bracket as the Nexus 5X, for instance, which captures excellent images, which are way out of the Xperia XA camera league.


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Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 1.8
3.2
734
611
Sony Xperia XA 2
2.7
463
484
Google Nexus 5X 2.8
3.2
623
568
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 3
4
390
237
View all

Video quality


With all above, it’s not really a surprise that the Xperia XA does not record video in 4K. It can still record footage at 1080p at 30fps with a bitrate of around 17Mbps.

1080p video quality is not particularly great on the Xperia XA. Colors are captured mostly nicely, but focus is on the slow side, the videos lack dynamics and in low light they appear with bad vignetting. With no stabilization, video recordings also turn out very shaky.


Audio and speaker quality

The loudspeaker is way too quiet and audio lacks depth.

There is a single and small loudspeaker located on the bottom of the phone. Audio quality via that loudspeaker is way below average: everything sounds way too quiet even at the max volume, and the speaker lacks any depth whatsoever in the lows as well as clarity in the trebles.




Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 0.55
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 0.53
Sony Xperia XA 0.31
Google Nexus 5X 0.287
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 74
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 78
Sony Xperia XA 71
Google Nexus 5X 69.2
View all


Call Quality


Sony Xperia XA Review

Call quality is below average on the Xperia XA. Voices don’t sound very well through the earpiece with some distortion and the phone occasionally picks up side noises that also sound distorted. It’s not terrible and you’d still be able to understand your callers, but it’s not particularly clear either. On a positive note, it’s sufficiently loud.

On the other end of the line, we found the microphone output to be too low. Put simply, this means that other callers heard us a bit too quietly. Voice quality was not particularly clear, but not terrible either.

Battery life

It will last you a day with no heavy use, but put it under pressure and you’d need to recharge before the end of the day. No quick charging here.

Sony Xperia XA Review

With a 2,300mAh battery, the Xperia XA is not a phone that you have high expectation from in terms of battery life.

While it does last a full day under average use, heavier use could drain your battery easily by the end of the day and with no quick charging solution in tow, that’s a significant limitation.

In our custom battery test where we put devices under typical use loads, with the screen always on and set to a brightness level of 200 nits, comfortable for general viewing, we found the Xperia XA at the bottom of the charts with 5 hours and 48 minutes. It took a whopping over two hours to fully recharge the XA’s battery from 0 to 100%.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 12h 36 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 9h 55 min (Excellent)
Google Nexus 5X 6h 25 min (Average)
Sony Xperia XA 5h 48 min (Average)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 153
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 96
Google Nexus 5X 100
Sony Xperia XA 124
View all

Conclusion


Sony Xperia XA Review
When you draw the line, the Sony Xperia XA appears to be nothing more than a good-looking affordable phone with little extraordinary above that.

Apart from its looks and decent performance for most daily tasks, it’s really all downhill: the display has bluish, oversaturated colors and is not sharp enough, heavier tasks make the phone stutter, camera quality is uninspiring and battery life is below average. Lack of proper 4G LTE bands for the United States is also a downer.

With a price of $280 (some €300 in Europe), the Xperia XA has plenty of strong competition. The 5.2” Google Nexus 5X can be found for even less and it is clearly the way better phone: with a faster chip and more fluid performance, vastly better-looking display, much more capable camera that has 4K video, and even better battery life.

If you don’t mind a bigger phone, the 5.5” LG G4 is also sold for around $300 these days. It features a vastly better camera, 4K video recording, double the storage and a nice design with that optional leather back cover.

Then, there is also the popular Motorola Moto G4 Plus and Moto G 4th Gen that are sold at around the same or even more affordable prices. The Moto G lineup comes with a clean and fast performing Android, and the Plus edition features a fingerprint scanner.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to recommend the Xperia XA. It comes across as overpriced, lacks in performance and falls short in battery life; it also does not have any particularly inspiring features. There are much better choices out there these days. Although, it looks cool, we'll give it that.