Sony Xperia XA review

Does XA beat the XZ?

Sony Xperia XA

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  • Sony is using a MediaTek processor for the first time in years on a flagship line phone
  • 2GB of RAM is the current standard for most mid-range phones
  • Feels less reliable than the cheaper Moto G4

For a Sony phone, I have found the Xperia XA quite glitchy, though. The drop-down notification bar at times just refuses to respond, and more than a few times the interface just seems to have become stuck, making me turn the screen off and on to reset sanity.

These are minor little issues, but ones I'm not too happy about given Sony's phones are usually solid performers. One explanation for this is that the Xperia XA is one of just a few Sony phones to use a MediaTek chipset.

Sony Xperia XA review

For years its CPUs have been derided as "cheap rubbish" by some, a low-cost alternative to Qualcomm's more commonly-used Snapdragon processors. I've used good MediaTek-powered phones in the past, but the Helio P10 used here doesn't signal the MT renaissance some have talked about.

Performance is not that great, given you're paying a little over the odds for the hardware of a big brand name here. The CPU causes far more problems in the 1080p Oppo F1 Plus, though. In that phone you'll see grating frame rate drops in titles like Asphalt 8 (rendering the game almost unplayable at max visual settings), but in the 720p Sony Xperia XA, gaming works just fine.

Sony Xperia XA review

On paper, the Helio P10 sounds rather good. It is an octa-core processor, with the same Cortex-A53 cores used as the 'low power' cores in some of last year's flagship phones. They're clocked at 2GHz, a good few hundred megahertz faster than any of the cores in the rival Moto G4's Snapdragon 617.

In Geekbench 3 the phone scores 3250. However, in reality the phone feels less reliable than the Moto G4. It also seems to regularly get warm even under light strain. It never becomes uncomfortably hot, but this is a suggestion the Helio P10 may not be all that efficient. In this case at least.

There are better phones out there for gaming too. I'm not actually talking about raw power: while a dual-core Mali-T860 GPU isn't going to impress anyone, it is fine for 720p gaming. What does stick out as a notable weak point is the speaker. Other Xperias use front-loaded speakers to support the 'media' leanings of the phone series, but the Xperia XA just has a single speaker on the bottom edge.

Sony Xperia XA review

Lots of phones still use this layout, including the iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S7. The problem is that it's not much cop. It doesn't go very loud and its tone is weedy.

I often listen to podcasts through my phone's speaker as I'm wandering about the house, but this one just can't cope with any real amount of ambient noise.

One thing I found disappointing about the Xperia XA is it doesn't support PS4 Remote Play. The Xperia flagship handsets such as the Xperia X, Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z3 series all allow you to play your PlayStation remotely through the app but it doesn't work on the Xperia XA.

I can only assume that's down to the lack of processing power here, but it's a big shame that one of the big USPs of Sony phones is missing from this handset.

Battery life

  • Battery life just isn't up to scratch considering the lower-res display
  • Fast-charging tech doesn't make up for it
  • No wireless charging on the Xperia XA

The Sony Xperia XA's major problem is that while it's perfectly nice in many respects, it's beaten by some in almost every area, and lags behind clearly in a few. The worst example is battery life.

A 2300mAh cell is used here, small even by 5-inch screen, 720p resolution standards. Sony seems to feel that either a) the cut-down in size is worth it or b) the efficiency of the CPU will make up for it. But sadly a) it isn't and b) it doesn't.

Most days I've had to recharge the phone before dinner because it was in the red zone, and one day I even managed to drain the battery almost completely twice. I wasn't playing games or streaming video for hours, just using the phone out and about in London a bit.

Sony Xperia XA review

Our usual video playback test doesn't work too well for the Sony Xperia XA either. A 90-minute MP4 file played at max brightness takes 29% off the battery, which is not a good result. The Moto G4 for comparison lost just 17% and even that isn't a brilliant achievement.

Sony's get-out excuse is that the Xperia XA has fast charging. This is a dangerous trend popping up in a few phones: don't try that hard to offer great battery life, just make sure the charging process is quick. We still want sound stamina alongside fast charging though.

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.