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Sony Xperia XA1 vs Xperia XA: Hands-on comparison review

Sony Xperia XA1 vs Sony Xperia XA: We’ve been hands-on with the new Xperia XA1 and here we compare Sony’s latest budget blower with last year’s Xperia XA, to see what’s new from this 2017 refresh.

The Sony Xperia XA was the cheapest of Sony’s new X-series phones launched last year. We adored it for the gorgeous edge-to-edge screen design, which trumped the look of rival handsets effortlessly. But sadly the Xperia XA was a difficult handset to recommend thanks to its many flaws, including some rather stilted performance and unimpressive battery life.

Sony is back in 2017 with a remastered version of the Xperia XA, known as the Xperia XA1. Not the Xperia XA2, as you might expect. So how does the new Sony Xperia XA1 compare with the original Xperia XA and can we expect the XA1 to offer a much more rounded user experience?

Here’s our full Xperia XA1 vs Xperia XA comparison and hands-on review.

Read next: Sony launches new Xperia XZ Premium phone with 4K HDR screen

Sony Xperia XA1 specs

Phone Sony Xperia XA1
Screen size 5-inches
Screen resolution 1280×720
Water resistant? No
Fingerprint sensor? No
OS Android Nougat
Processor Mediatek Helio P20
Memory 3GB
Storage 16GB
microSD? Yes
Rear camera 23-megapixel
Front camera 8-megapixel

Sony Xperia XA1 vs Xperia XA: Design and screen

That edge-to-edge screen design is back again for the Xperia XA1, which is a great relief. Both phones stretch the 5-inch display across the full width of the front panel, with practically no bezel at all between the screen and edges. The result is stunning, especially at this price point.

The Xperia XA and XA1 both feel the same in the hand, with no real difference in size or weight. However, the new Xperia XA1 does sport a finish similar to the full-priced Xperia XZ handset. You get those same sleek rounded edges which curve from front to back and offer a comfortable grip, especially given the phone’s relatively compact build. In stark contrast, the top and bottom edges are completely flat, as if the XA1 has been sheared. The result is a unique Sony look and feel which only the X-series boasts.

Read next: Xperia XZ 2017 review with Android Nougat

However, like the Xperia XA before it, the Xperia XA1 is not water resistant. Not a massive shocker given the asking price. Neither phone has a fingerprint sensor either, unlike the more expensive Sony Xperia X-series models. Instead, the XA and XA1 have Sony’s old rounded power button and use standard PIN security, on top of Google’s Trusted features built into Android.

As for that screen, the Xperia XA1 once again packs a 720p 5-inch IPS LCD panel. It’s sharp and reasonably vibrant, making it a solid rival to other phones at this price point. However, you can upgrade to a Full HD screen for less money these days, from the likes of the Lenovo P2 and Wileyfox Swift 2 X.

Sony Xperia XA1 vs Xperia XA: Features and OS

The Xperia XA1 comes with Android Nougat pre-installed, complete with Sony’s standard Xperia overlay. As with the other X-series phones, you get Sony’s Unified Design language, which matches the phone’s software palette with the hardware’s colour scheme. The result is a stronger pairing and a satisfying look and feel.

Thanks to Nougat, the Xperia XA1 also has Google’s smarter battery management, which prevents apps from sucking excess juice when you’re on the move. You can also now split-screen with apps, if you want to get some multi-tasking on the go.

Read next: Best Sony phones of 2017

The original Xperia XA boasted the same Unified Design UX, but came with Android Marshmallow as standard. And at the time of writing, there’s still no Nougat update available for our XA. Bummer.

However, both Xperia XA phones boast Sony’s built-in tutorials and help features, which are perfect for helping smartphones noobs to learn the handset’s most useful features.

Sony Xperia XA1 vs Xperia XA: Performance and battery life

The Xperia XA’s main Achilles Heel was its limited performance. That Mediatek processor was basic at best and even everyday tasks such as nipping around the Android OS and browsing the web were often frustratingly slow experiences. The meagre 2GB of RAM certainly didn’t help matters.

Sony has thankfully boosted the processing power for the new Xperia XA1. You get a new MediaTek P20 octa-core processor backed by 3GB of RAM, and our hands-on session revealed a much smoother operator than before. We’ll be sure to perform full testing and benchmarking for our in-depth Xperia XA1 review.

As for battery life, the Xperia XA only gave us 24 hours of use if we were pretty restrained. More often than not it would be alerting us to low battery power before the evening was up, something that again was quite frustrating. Here’s hoping the Xperia XA1 can at least make it through a full day even with plenty of use.

Sony Xperia XA1 vs Xperia XA: Cameras

While the Xperia XA’s 13-megapixel rear camera was perfectly decent for snapping everyday shots, it wasn’t as strong as we’d hope from a Sony snapper. In low light particularly our shots suffered, while the camera also suffered from bouts of lag. And despite the image stabilisation, our Full HD video always looks a little murky and lifeless.

Thankfully one of the biggest updates for the Xperia XA1 compared with the old XA is the camera tech. Sony has added a brilliant 23-megapixel snapper like that found on the Xperia X and crammed it into the XA, meaning you can expect detail-packed shots in almost any conditions as well as great-looking Full HD video.

Read next: Sony Xperia X camera review

Around the front of the Xperia XA1 you get an upgraded 8-megapixel snapper too. This seems to better when capturing photos in low light, at least in our hands-on session. Shame there’s no OIS and front-facing flash, like there is on the Xperia XA1 Ultra.

Take a look at our full Xperia XA1 vs XA video comparison review below.

Check back soon for our full Xperia XA1 review and for more on Sony’s latest X-series smartphones, head to our MWC 2017 hub.