Sony Xperia XA2 : Hands on review
We’re already rounding off the first quarter of 2018 and so far it’s been a stellar year for new phone releases. One in particular that has caught my eye is the Sony Xperia XA2, a mid-range phone boasting some high-end tech.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony's flagship phone the Sony Xperia XZ2 but for those who quiver at the hefty price tags, mid-range phones such as the Sony Xperia XA2 are a happy compromise. With phone enthusiasts chattering about the 23MP camera and wide-angle selfie lens, I was eager to test it out for myself.
First impressions - Chunky but funky
In case you didn’t know, curves are in! And this phone is embodying this trend perfectly. I personally thought it was stylish and good-looking but not all of my colleagues agree. Once I unboxed it, I found it to be a lot heavier than I was expecting. Much thicker than other phones of its calibre as well.
The phone stands at 5.6-inches tall and 2.8-inches wide with an edge-to-edge screen of 5.2-inches. Although it’s initially a bit weighty, it does fit snugly in your hand so you won’t have a problem with one-hand texting.
It currently retails at £299 so is a solid mid-range phone and in the same price bracket ast the Moto G5 Plus and Honor 7X. Pay-monthly deals are currently available from O2, Three and iD Mobile.
What’s going on under the hood
Do not turn it off! You’ll be collecting your pension before it turns back on. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it does take a while to power up. It’s longer the first time so have a snack ready when you first unbox the phone. After this, it does speed up but is still slower than the average phone (compared to a Huawei P Smart and Samsung J3).
Once it’s switched on, the 5.2 inch full HD display is bright and clear. Running on Android 8.0 Oreo with a dash of Sony’s own formatting, the Sony Xperia XA2 is easy to set up and navigate.
Clear and bright display on the Sony Xperia XA2
I told you in the last review that the adjustment to having no home button took a while to get used to. With this handset it was easier to come to terms with. Even my mum, who is even more of a technophobe than me, became a pro at using the phone in under 15 minutes.
For normal operation, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor combined with 3GB RAM mean the phone runs relatively smoothly and easily switches between apps. The processor is not the fastest on the market but efficiently gets the job done.
The fingerprint scanner, located on the rear under the camera, works well and picks up your print pretty quickly.
When it comes to storage there is 32GB internally, which you can boost up to 256GB by adding a microSD card. At least 11GB of this is taken up by the operating system and the pre-installed Google and Sony apps. Anyone that has tried and failed to delete Microsoft apps in a vain bid to free up storage (first world problems of a Samsung Galaxy J3 owner) will appreciate the fact that there isn’t a Microsoft app in sight. This isn’t throwing shade at Microsoft, it’s perfectly fine on my laptop – I just don’t need them clogging up my phone. OK, rant over let’s get back to the Sony Xperia XA2.
If you love playing with the filters on Snapchat, you’ll love the pre-installed AR effect app. It kept me amused for ages turning the office into a prehistoric rainforest with dinosaurs. Gamers may like the pre-installed app that allows you to connect to your PS4.
My second pet peeve about this phone is that it gets warm very quickly when you’re using it. I did find myself having to put it down regularly. It doesn’t burn your hand, but it can get a bit uncomfortable if you easily become paranoid.
As well as curvy, it’s durable too. Nothing compared to the beloved Nokia 3310, but the Corning Gorilla Glass gives a clear finish with the added bonus of being a little harder to crack. Me and my curvy butterfingers accidently dropped it on laminated flooring and it survived, completely scuff-free.
Lichfield Cathedral picture taken with the Sony Xperia XA2
Camera, lights, action
Now let’s get to the bit you really want to know: how many megapixels is it packing under its kilt? Everybody knows when it comes to cameras, once you go Sony you don’t go back. With a massive 23MP lens to brag about I can safely say it’s powerful. Staunch iPhone fans may take issue with this statement, but there is no denying you’re getting very impressive camera technology for a relatively low price (£299).
When tested on the the scenery around Lichfield, the 23MP lens did not disappoint. It was easy to use, focused quickly and I didn’t have to take several shots before getting a good-quality picture (like I do on the Samsung Galaxy J3 2016).
What sets it apart from other mid-range handset on the market is the in-built Exmor RS mobile sensor that gives you a clear picture with the first click. If you like to unleash your inner pro-photographer at dawn, the Sony Xperia XA2 is a good investment as the tech adjusts to the light levels around you, so pictures still have good sharpness and contrast even when it’s a bit dark.
Ever since Ellen Degeneres went viral with her group selfie at the Oscars in 2014, we’ve all been at it. Four years on, the Sony Xperia XA2 has a 8MP 120° super wide-angle front camera exactly for this purpose. It’s a bit weird at first but when tested on my stunning colleagues it proved to work pretty well.
A selfie taken with the 120° wide-angle lens
Generally I can’t fault the battery life. If you’re not attached to your phone like glue, then the 3300mAH battery can last you a couple of days. Come on, who am I kidding? According to Deloitte, 91% of UK adults admit to checking their smartphone at least once a day. If you’re in that percentile, then you can expect about a day and a half usage before you need to recharge it.
I was able to get through a season of Suits (for research purposes obviously) without having to scrabble for the charger. The battery-saving mechanism of dimming the screen when watching a show can be quite annoying but this is easily amended by adapting the settings. When it does run low, the Sony Xperia XA2 charges very quickly – in just over an hour you can go from an empty battery to fully charged.
There is not a lot that I don’t like about this phone. It’s a bit heavier than the average phone at first but you get used to this quite quickly and the curved design means it fits snugly in your palm.
There are no earphones in the box which can be a huge pain in the neck. At the moment a few providers are offering deals with free headphones but we don’t how long this will last so keep an eye out.
Design-wise not much has changed from previous models. The screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio which feels a little dated compared to the 18:9 screen that seems to be the new trend. Although it may look quite chic, the anodized aluminium casing feels quite cheap.
One thing that did put me off is how quickly the temperature of the phone increases with use. It doesn’t happen so much when you’re watching videos or streaming music/Netflix, but if you’re playing a game like Candy Crush or Angry Birds it starts to get warm pretty quickly. It’s not an unbearable heat but if you’re a bit paranoid like me it can make you feel a bit uncomfortable.
Final verdict - is it worth your money?
First words that come to mind are; a decent phone for a good price. I’ve got a bit of soft spot for the Huawei P Smart so if I had to choose between the two, Huawei would get my vote. This doesn’t mean the Sony Xperia XA2 isn’t a good phone, it’s great for anyone who has been a fan of Sony for a while and wants a new phone for basic everyday tasks without a huge price tag. If you’re looking to be wowed by your smartphone however, then maybe keep shopping around.
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