Think budget smartphone and you might imagine a Chinese knock-off called iFone that will break after two weeks. However, cheaper phones can still run all the latest software and possess all the latest hardware of far more pricier models, with the Sony Xperia XA being a prime example. We checked it out.
The Sony Xperia XA is an Android smartphone with all the classic Sony looks: square corners, pronounced circular power/wake button on the side, and a camera lens in the far corner of the body. It has a five inch screen, with a slight rounded curve to the edges, that reaches almost all the way to the sides of the phone, producing a pleasant edge-to-edge aesthetic.
The body is just 8mm thick, so not the thinnest phone we've ever held, but certainly good for this size and price point. Along the edges you get a Micro USB port for charging, a standard headphone port, and underneath a pop-off cover is the input for the SIM and optional Micro SD card. Button-wise, there is a volume rocker, the aforementioned Experia silver wake button, and also a button dedicated to the camera shutter, which is rare and always welcome in our book.
On that note, the main shooter boasts 13MP – again not the best, but definitely good for a phone with specs and price like this. The selfie cam is also quite impressive at 8MP, with both producing clear and crisp images in good conditions. Using the physical shutter button made the photographic experience far more enjoyable, as there is just something more natural about having it up there on the top (when held sideways) of the device. In terms of video recording, the max resolution you get is Full HD 1080p at 30fps. Good, but not amazing. Anyway, here's a pic:
What was amazing, was the battery life. We were a little dubious when we read claims that the Sony Xperia XA could last up to two days on a single charge, so we were genuinely surprised (and a little freaked out) to see that it did – almost. When we first received the review phone we gave it a hammering of testing and fiddling – as you do with all new phones. As a result the first charge lasted about 15 hours, which was still very impressive. After that we charged it up, then gave it just moderate and causal use, and that juice did indeed last for two full days. From a full charge on the morning of the first day, it didn't give up the ghost until 11pm of the following day. Kudos there, Sony.
Google's Android Marshmallow runs very well on the 64bit Octo-core processor, and the phone is pretty quick thanks to 2GB of onboard RAM and internal storage of 16GB. Again, none of that will blow your mind, but if you use for phone for... y'know... phone things like calling, texting, tweeting, and having arguments in YouTube comment sections, you won't notice any lag. We had several apps running at once, as well as a few active Chrome browser pages open, and nothing too worrying cropped up.
In terms of connectivity, there's nothing big to report on there, as everything you need is included like WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth, and LTE 4G. Our review device was hooked up to Three's 4G network, and everything was pleasingly quick to download and stream.
Speaking of Three (and why we referred to the Sony Xperia XA as a budget phone in the first place), right now it is available from them with no upfront cost for the handset at just £16 per month. For a smartphone running the latest version of Android, and with the features and specs it carries, that is a frickin' steal. That cheap deal included 500MB of data and 300 minutes, so if you were after more consumables like that, it stretches up to £26 for 2GB of data and “all you can eat' minutes and texts – again, alarmingly good for a phone like this.
So although we'll be honest that the Sony Xperia XA lacks a great deal of wow factor, it is a feature-packed and sturdy device that is weighing in at a sensible cost. And you can't say that about many new phones these days.