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Interface and reliability
- Great general performance
- Standard Sony UI
- Android 8.0
The Sony Xperia XA2 runs Android and has Sony's custom user interface. A few years ago this was a lot like standard Android, but had Sony's characteristic moody look and a bunch of Sony apps.
But Android has changed since then, and the Sony interface, well, hasn't much. Use a Google Pixel phone with 8.0 and you get a vertical scrolling apps menu that you can summon with an upward flick, then scroll through with the same gesture.
The Sony Xperia XA2's apps menu can be brought up with that kind of swipe, but it uses horizontal pages like Android did back in Android 5.0 and earlier. It's not necessarily a worse style, but does feel different if you’re used to the vertical app drawer.
Sony lets you make folders in the drawer, and arrange icons as you like rather than forcing alphabetic order.
The Sony Xperia XA2's interface also supports themes. Rather than being made by "some person on the internet" like Huawei themes, most are created by Sony Mobile, making them closer to the skins used by a PS4.
Lots cost money, and many aren't much better than the user-made standard, even if they have been produced by Sony Mobile. Or maybe we're just too picky.
The default theme blocks off the last centimeter of display for the soft keys, which makes the screen appear even squatter. But it's a sharp-looking theme we're happy to live with.
We've noticed zero lag in the Sony Xperia XA2. It runs perfectly, with very little difference between this and a higher-end model. Get the stopwatch out and you'd see some change in app load speeds, but nothing that stands out much in general use.
The slight disparity between this and a top price phone isn't just about the CPU power. The Sony Xperia XA2 doesn't have the fast dual-channel DDR4 of the top phones and its 32GB of storage is quick, rather than faster than the SSDs of some laptops like the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus's storage.
Movies, music and gaming
- Good gaming performance
- Solid but unremarkable speaker
The Sony Xperia XA2 comes with more media apps than most Android phones, because this is Sony's area. There's a solid media player for your own videos, and a glossy music player app, made by Sony.
Kobo and antivirus apps are also pre-installed, but you can disable them if you think they are bloatware.
The Sony Xperia XA2's sharp and punchy screen makes games and videos look good, but at this point we've been spoiled by the recent glut of 18:9 phones. While made for TV content is a perfect fit for a 16:9 screen like this, console-style games and cinema-aspect movies just work better on a wider display.
Games run very well, though. The Xperia XA2 has a Snapdragon 630 chipset, with enough power to cut through high-end titles even if this is a mid-range processor. Asphalt 8 plays more smoothly than on some other phones of this sort of price, including the Huawei P Smart.
The phone also has a sound speaker, if predictably not one of Sony’s best. It's a single driver on the bottom edge, so the sound is mono and directional.
Top volume and sound quality are both decent, although you don’t get the same sound weight as the best-sounding premium phones.
Performance and benchmarks
- Snapdragon 630 has a good GPU, solid CPU
- Octa-core chipset
- Matches other phones in class in CPU tests
So, how powerful is the Sony Xperia XA2's Snapdragon 630 chipset? This is part of Qualcomm's mid-range series, but it uses the same Cortex-A53 cores as its low-end chipsets. Eight of 'em.
However, this matched with 3GB of RAM is enough to make Android 8.0 run well. This chipset also has an Adreno 508 graphics chipset. Again, while no match for the GPUs of the 8-series processors in more expensive phones, it's a good fit for the phone and a substantial upgrade over the Adreno 506 used in the Moto G5S Plus.
We're talking about a 30-40% performance improvement, which is huge when the difference between the Snapdragon 625 and 630 may otherwise seem minimal.
It scores 4,222 points in Geekbench 4, which is actually slightly lower than the score we squeezed out of the Moto G5S Plus with its Snapdragon 625. However, it just reiterates that the Snapdragon 630's most significant upgrade is on the GPU side, which is not a Geekbench 4 focus.
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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.