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Sony Xperia XA1 Plus review

Stuck in the middle of Sony's range, but something of a bullseye in practice

A return to old-school Xperia stamina

  • Excellent all-day battery life
  • Adaptive fast charging
  • No wireless charging

The battery life on this phone is impressive and reminds us of the glory days of immortal Xperia handsets like the Z3 Compact. Considering it has a 5.5-inch 1080p screen to power, 3,430mAh is very generous - particularly given the price.

It seems Sony has concentrated the budget for this phone in those two areas (screen and battery), which makes it an ideal model for movies and YouTube sessions.

You don't get wireless charging, unsurprisingly, but the phone does support Qnovo adaptive charging and MediaTek's Pump Express 2.0 fast charging.

We found the phone capably carried us through a full day of standard use (social media, gaming, a few calls and some reading) and often into the next. Even if you're a heavy user, this handset should easily last you the day.

When we ran our standard 90-minute HD video test on the Xperia XA1 Plus -
screen brightness set to full, accounts syncing in the background - the phone lost 16% of its full charge.

Comparison to similarly-priced phones shows this to be a good result: the iPhone 6 lost 26% in the same test, the Huawei P10 lost 20%, and the Sony's lower-end sibling - the Xperia XA1 - depleted by 27%.

However, it's not the best available: the Samsung Galaxy A5 lost 12%, the BlackBerry KeyOne 11% and the Motorola Z2 Play just 10%. This means the battery performs well for its price point in the market, but if battery stamina is your top concern, there might be better choices.

Say c-h-e-e-s-e

  • Slow to capture
  • Often misses shots
  • Light bleed issues

The XA1 Plus comes equipped with an impressive-sounding 23MP snapper on the back and an 8MP on the front. However, in practice, the phone is slow to capture, and likes to be absolutely happy with the shot before committing it to memory.

This means we've taken countless shots with this phone where we pressed the shutter button and the phone responded as if taking the photo, but then didn't actually take it.

It seems to wait until it has a better focus, which means if it's something fast-moving like a cat's facial expression (don't judge), you're likely going to miss it. This was the case for both the main and selfie cameras.

There are a lot of these on our camera roll

There are a lot of these on our camera roll

If you buy this phone, be aware that the blue progress circle in the bottom right corner of the native camera app doesn’t mean the photo's been taken. It means it's still thinking about it. The photo isn't locked in until you see the preview image on the bottom right - and this can be seconds after you pressed capture.

We experienced this delay in Manual as well as Auto mode, and also in other camera apps. It results in photos including motion to come out like a long-exposure, sometimes with odd processing artifacts (see the cars photo below).

When speed isn't such a concern, the XA1 cameras do a decent to good job depending on the lighting situation. With stronger or particularly concentrated light (like streetlights, for instance) we experienced light bleed fairly often, as you can see in the samples.

The HDR effect also came out too strongly on quite a few photos, leading a dark night to take on a surreal aspect that didn’t match the reality.

Video-wise, budding cinematographers should be aware that the camera only offers 1080p at 30fps - despite Sony's focus on 4K elsewhere, it’s not on this model.

Camera samples

Image 1 of 13

The bright light of M&M World results in good color and clarity in the foreground, but blown-out highlights to the right.

The bright light of M&M World results in good color and clarity in the foreground, but blown-out highlights to the right.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 2 of 13

Elsewhere in the same lighting environment, colors appear washed-out, the whole image is a little dark considering the shop lights and large windows, and areas out of the centrer appear quite out of focus (particularly to the extreme left and right).

Elsewhere in the same lighting environment, colors appear washed-out, the whole image is a little dark considering the shop lights and large windows, and areas out of the centrer appear quite out of focus (particularly to the extreme left and right).

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 3 of 13

Overall this indoor shot has come out clear with good color, but zoom in on any particular candy and you’ll often see graininess and soft edges. Again, the extreme edges of the picture are less focused than they should be.

Overall this indoor shot has come out clear with good color, but zoom in on any particular candy and you’ll often see graininess and soft edges. Again, the extreme edges of the picture are less focused than they should be.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 4 of 13

This indoor shot came out well because our budgie thankfully sat completely still. Other animal shots weren’t so lucky.

This indoor shot came out well because our budgie thankfully sat completely still. Other animal shots weren’t so lucky.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 5 of 13

This was a more common result when taking pictures of moving subjects. Yes, the cockatiel was in shot when we took the third photo - that’s how long it took to capture.

This was a more common result when taking pictures of moving subjects. Yes, the cockatiel was in shot when we took the third photo - that’s how long it took to capture.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 6 of 13

Strong light seems to pose issues for this camera.

Strong light seems to pose issues for this camera.

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Image 7 of 13

Lots of light bleed here. That lens flare on the left is not a filter!

Lots of light bleed here. That lens flare on the left is not a filter!

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 8 of 13

See how this looks like it’s a long exposure photo? That’s because it took so long to take. And what the heck is going on with the cars? Processing artifacts? Weird.

See how this looks like it’s a long exposure photo? That’s because it took so long to take. And what the heck is going on with the cars? Processing artifacts? Weird.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 9 of 13

The HDR’s gone too far here, making the whole thing look a bit eerie. The clouds weren’t that visible in reality.

The HDR’s gone too far here, making the whole thing look a bit eerie. The clouds weren’t that visible in reality.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 10 of 13

Good color and clarity here, although the bokeh has perhaps gone a bit too far to make it look ‘artistic’.

Good color and clarity here, although the bokeh has perhaps gone a bit too far to make it look ‘artistic’.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 11 of 13

No complaints here.

No complaints here.

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Image 12 of 13

Decent dramatic photo, but zoom in and we’ve lost a fair amount of detail. Still, good enough to Instagram, and that’ll be fine for some folks.

Decent dramatic photo, but zoom in and we’ve lost a fair amount of detail. Still, good enough to Instagram, and that’ll be fine for some folks.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 13 of 13

Selfies are very soft-focus on this phone, especially in low light. However, some people may prefer that to the HD truth.

Selfies are very soft-focus on this phone, especially in low light. However, some people may prefer that to the HD truth.

Click here to see the full resolution image