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Sony Xperia XA1 Plus Hands-on Review: Mighty mid-range mobile launched at IFA 2017

As well as revealing two new flagship phones, Sony used the IFA 2017 tech expo to unveil the more affordable Xperia XA1 Plus smartphone. This super-sized version of the original Xperia XA1 boasts a bigger screen and huge battery, hopefully for a price that won’t break the bank, and we went hands-on for this first-look review at Sony’s launch.

Although the big headlines this week have been reserved for Sony’s new flagship phones, the Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact, the Japanese giant also launched a third handset at the IFA 2017 tech expo. The Xperia XA1 Plus offers more modest specs than its siblings, although it also boasts a larger 5.5-inch display as well as a bigger battery, making it well-suited to media fans who like to watch a lot of shows or movies on the go.

We reviewed the standard Xperia XA1 earlier this year and really enjoyed its smooth user experience, excellent camera tech and long battery life. Which is why we’re already pretty excited to try out the Plus model, to see if it’s just as solid a mid-range mobile.

Of course, Sony has already launched a larger mid-range mobile in 2017, namely the Xperia XA1 Ultra. However there’s a fair few differences between that handset and the XA1 Plus, including the design work, camera tech and some of the specs. Plus, the Ultra doesn’t seem to be coming to the UK any time soon, while Sony’s newest launch is headed here in Autumn.

We’ve already had a play with the Xperia XA1 Plus and here’s our early thoughts on this affordable Sony phone, along with how it compares to the standard Xperia XA1.

UPDATE: You can now check out our full Xperia XA1 Plus review and Xperia XA1 Plus camera review!

Sony Xperia XA1 Plus hands-on review: Design

The Xperia XA1 Plus sports a similar design to the compact XA1 handset, except expanded in size. As this is a more wallet-friendly handset than the flagship Sony phones, you don’t get an all-metal finish, although the edges are still constructed from aluminium while the rest is rugged plastic. Sony’s loop design work is still present too, so you get symmetrical curved edging which feels nice in the hand.

Of course, those enlarged dimensions do make one-handed use rather tricky. As is typical with Sony phones, the bezels above and below the XA1 Plus’ mighty screen are quite chunky, which certainly doesn’t help matters. Don’t go fumbling the XA Plus into any liquids either, as this mobile isn’t water resistant.

Unlike the smaller XA1, this Plus-sized blower boasts a fingerprint sensor built into the right edge. This falls naturally beneath your finger or thumb and can be used to quickly unlock the handset, which sure beats punching in a PIN every time.

You can grab the Xperia XA1 Plus in gold, blue or black finishes when it’s launched here in the UK.

Sony Xperia XA1 Plus hands-on review: Media and features

That 5.5-inch Full HD screen is one of the biggest (in both respects) appealing features of Sony’s new mid-ranger. Not only is it more spacious than the XA1’s panel, it’s also sharper thanks to the Full HD 1920×1080 pixel resolution. And it’s good to see Sony’s image enhancement features on board, so you can boost the vibrancy of your photos, videos and apps with the Super Vivid Mode.

You can expand the 32GB of storage space with a microSD memory card, giving you plenty of room for a massive media collection. Great news if you don’t like streaming music and video on the go.

Android Nougat is the OS of choice, complete with Sony’s usual unified design overlay. Of course you don’t get many of the great features found on the flagship phones, so you can forget about PS4 Remote Play or Hi-Res audio support, for instance.

Sony Xperia XA1 Plus hands-on review: Performance and battery life

Like the smaller model, the XA1 Plus sports a modest Mediatek P20 chipset, which powers your apps and everything else. You once again have 3GB of RAM on board, which helps to keep Android Nougat running smoothly. In our hands-on testing, this Sony blower certainly seems to offer respectable mid-range performance, including the ability to use two apps at once in split-screen mode. We’d expect nothing less as the standard XA1 ran perfectly fine too, with the same specs.

Of course, if you do find the phone is struggling a bit, you have the Sony Smart Cleaner feature to help out. This analyses your handset to see exactly what’s running in the background and chewing up vital memory, before helping you to cull anything unnecessary. The result, hopefully, is smoother performance in just a few seconds.

Another benefit of choosing the Plus-sized model is that rather large 3430mAh battery crammed inside. This should give over a day of use per charge, even with that mighty display to power. We’ll be testing this in full for our in-depth Xperia XA1 Plus review, of course.

The same Qnovo Adaptive Charging tech found on the flagship Sony Xperia phones is present and correct here, so the battery shouldn’t overcharge when plugged in. That means you’re unlikely to notice any degradation in battery life over time, always handy when you’re planning to keep a phone for a couple of years.

Sony Xperia XA1 Plus hands-on review: Cameras

As for the camera tech, the XA1 Plus rocks the same 23-megapixel rear snapper as the smaller XA1 handset. This is a great smartphone shooter considering the relatively low asking price, capturing crisp, detail-packed photos in a range of conditions with Sony’s Superior Auto Mode, as well as Full HD video at 30 frames-per-second.

The f/2.0 aperture lens is particularly good at low light shots, beating many rivals at this price point. And the nippy shutter speed means you won’t miss those sudden action shots either.

Around the front of the Xperia XA1 Plus you’ll find an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens that’s similar to the Xperia XZ1 Compact’s selfie camera. That’ll suit anyone with loads of great mates, as you can fit in plenty of heads.

Check out our Sony Xperia XA1 camera review for samples and full thoughts on these excellent snappers.

Sony Xperia XA1 Plus UK pricing and release date

You’ll be able to buy the XA1 Plus some time in Autumn 2017, according to Sony. So far we don’t have an official UK price, so check back soon for an update.

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