Sony is proud to bring a budget midrange device that's made for the average smartphone user with the Xperia XA1. With most budget smartphones, your going to have some high and low notes on the device. Sony aimed to make a well-rounded device and as much as I'd like to compare it to other devices I'm going to focus on giving you my impression after using it for 2 weeks.
The Camera is a hit or miss feature
The camera takes wonderful wide angle pictures and is able to make some really high definition shots. The camera does suffer, like most Xperia devices, from being too slow to launch the application and by taking a sweet time to take a picture after pressing the button. Sony has always taken care of using the best camera possible in their devices for the back and the front. Coming in with 23MP 1/2.3” Exmor RS on the back and 8MP 1/4″ Exmor R for the front, it's no wonder I've been able to get some of the best camera shots I've seen in a while.
While I'm praising the camera for the pictures, I can also say without a doubt that not all the pictures came out looking great, you do, at times get a reflective halo or some whitewash pictures. You'd best make sure you have the time to take a picture and not rush it. I can guarantee you that you can get some really bad shots and there's nothing you can do about it aside from taking another one.
The battery with QNOVO
Battery life is pretty good as the 2300 mAh is achieving 25 hours worth of usage with nearly 6 hours worth of screen time. Making use of the USB-C standard and providing a fast charging model to this phone was a great idea! It might be good to note that the fast charging is in part dealt with the Qnovo technology being used. While I'm sure many would have preferred to have a larger battery or at least a removable one, I can assure you that you'll get plenty far with this one.
720P for a display?
The display might only be 720P but in the body of a 5-inch smartphone pitted side by side with the Nexus 6P, there's no way you can tell the difference. Granted, I'm sure there will be people that will claim otherwise. I liked the display, it was crisp and clear when I was playing video games and watching some movies. Touch screen sensitivity could improve on the edges of the very thin bezels it's hard to actually get any responses, often having to press 3 times in a row.
Disappointing sound experience
The device features 2-Front facing speakers that don't seem to do more than play the audio sounds when you get a notification or an incoming call. Everything looks like it's pitched to the bottom speaker which is a single mono speaker. I was disappointed with Sony for going this route. While their past devices have been great, this isn't the case for the XA1.
The beast under the hood Helio P20
Unlike most device on the market harbouring the Snapdragon processor, the XA1 features the Helio P20 from MediaTek. This is an Octa Core 64bit (Quad Core 2.3GHz + Quad core 1.6GHz) which drives this device. The graphic processor that comes with this chipset is the Mali-T880MP2 which is sure to give a run for some. With the games, I played this device was ready to handle the crazy Role Playing Games that MMO's provides and also keep me on my toes when I started to go crazy playing Impulse.
I'm not your average smartphone user, I'm of the power-user variety. I use mine for a multitude of tasks; Office work, leisure, shopping to entertainment. I tried to overwhelmed it and in some instances, I could get a few hiccups but nothing that prevented normal use. Where I did notice some slight dip in performance is when using the camera app, this increased the device lag considerably by a few seconds between opening the app, taking pictures and pressing the home button.
Expanded storage option included
The XA1 sports 32GB worth of storage onboard, however, making not of that, Sony provided you with the ability to load a microSD card up to 256GB. I know that for an odd reason some may still load music on their smartphone VS streaming. I did see instances of people having well over 20GB worth of pictures in their DCIM folder.
A working GPS on a Sony device?
Some of you may not be aware, but with the different devices I've had from Sony, the GPS always sucked. In most cases, it would take a good 5 minutes to even lock and report accurately. This seems to be a thing of the past with the newer generations of devices. GPS lock was established nearly 10 seconds in. I'll give Sony some props on that because on my Z2 this pissed me off royally.
Android 7.0.1 with April 2017 patch level
The Sony Nougat interface is pretty stock, with some little changes here and there with the obvious Sony ecosystem apps. Seeing as they don't impair the ability of the device performance, I saw no reason to disable them. Yes, you read that correctly, for most, you cannot remove them. You may like the fact that Sony has made the swipe from left to right the Google Search app page, this avoids the need to launch the app, you can just swipe on the home screen, similar to the Google Now Launcher.
The newer Sony weather app had been in beta for a while even during the release of the initial Nougat pre-release they had done, but they've managed to push out a decent weather companion that doesn't require you to go and get something different.
Somewhat of a surprise was to see the Google Phone and Contact app included as the default within Sony's Nougat release.
I was actually impressed with the XA1 from Sony's line of Xperia devices, for a midrange device it did very well and performed to my expectation. It goes without saying that this would be a smartphone that would work in any situation. Not to be confused with a powerhouse device such as the Pixel. While I'm sure my opinion on the subject will brush some people the wrong way and that's ok. Nowadays, it comes down to a combination of hardware, software and features. I would recommend this to anyone that needs a good solid smartphone that doesn't need to be HIGHEND crazy while also taking into account the cost at $319.99 CAD.
*It unfortunately doesn't have a fingerprint scanner on it. This would have made it a bit more attractive.