The Sony’s Xperia XA1 Plus has released earlier this October! The 5.5″ XA1 Plus stands in between the 5″ XA1, and the 6″ XA1 Ultra (both released in May this year). Apart from having a screen size in between the XA1 and Ultra, the Plus bridges other gaps too.

Due to Sony’s *ahem* naming of phones, I will call the XA1 Plus just Plus, and the XA1 Ultra just Ultra. It’s painfully annoying to differentiate XA1, XA1 Plus, XA1 Ultra, XZ1, XZ1 Compact, XZ1 Premium and other Sony’s phone. 

Overview

Released together with the XZ1 and XZ1 Compact, the Plus comes with a fingerprint sensor on the lock/unlock button on the side of the phone. After using the phone for one week, the unlock feels great (though not the best) and snappy, much better than Samsung’s S8 and S8+, and the iPhone series.

Since the Plus was released 5 months after the XA1 and Ultra, it performs much better. Though the screen size is in the middle of the other two phones, the Plus has increased battery capacity.


Xperia XA1 Plus Specifications

  • Body: Aluminum sides; plastic top, bottom, and back; Gorilla Glass 4.
  • Display: 5.5″ IPS LCD, 1,920×1,080px resolution, 401ppi.
  • Rear camera: 23MP Type 1/2.3″ sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 24mm-equiv. focal length; autofocus; single LED flash; 1080p/30fps video recording, SteadyShot EIS.
  • Front camera: 8MP Type 1/4″ sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 23mm-equiv. focal length; autofocus; 1080p/30fps video recording.
  • OS/Software: Android 7.0 Nougat.
  • Chipset: 16nm Mediatek Helio P20 – Octa-core CPU (4×2.3GHz Cortex-A53 + 4×1.6GHz Cortex-A53), Mali T-880MP2 GPU.
  • Memory: 3GB/4GB of RAM; 32GB of storage; microSD slot up to 256GB.
  • Battery: 3,430mAh Li-Ion (sealed); Mediatek Pump Express+ 2.0 fast charging.
  • Connectivity: Single SIM and dual SIM versions (market dependent); Cat. 6 LTE (300Mbps/50Mbps); USB Type-C (v2.0); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; GPS, GLONASS; NFC; Bluetooth 4.2.
  • Misc: Fingerprint sensor, single bottom-firing loudspeaker, 3.5mm jack, dedicated two-stage hardware shutter release button.

Downsides

  • Too much bezels at the bottom! Waste of space!
  • Plus comes with Android 7.1.1 Nougat despite being launched together with XZ1 and XZ1 Compact (both with Android 8.0 Oreo from the box)
  • Not IP67 or IP68 Dust and Water Resistant 

Design

The Plus comes with Sony’s standard build for phones; boxed shaped with curves at the edges. It’s been just over a year since bezel-less phones were a thing, but the XA1 series has not been catching up!

There are too much bezels. The entire bottom of the screen could be used for the Home, Back and Menu button, but Sony decided to move those buttons onto the screen instead! Which means less space on the screen!

Okay, enough bashing. The available colours of the Plus are really sexy.

XA1 Plus Colours
Comes in Black, Gold, Blue and Pink.

However, the full metal back of the Plus attracts fingerprints too easily. At the launch, there were 4 Sony staff who were constantly cleaning the phones! But it still looks really, really good.


Performance

The Plus runs on the Mediatek MT6757 Helio P20 chipset, same as the XA1 and Ultra, not your usual Snapdragon. Thanks to its Octa-Core Cortex-A53 CPU, the Plus is very power efficient while maintaining acceptable performance. The unit we received is 4GB, though there are 3GB versions too.

Though the fingerprint sensor unlocking is pretty decent, the phone itself does lag a little bit. I’ve noticed it takes a really short while (maybe 0.1 seconds) to load when swiping left/right/up/down on the home screen, launching apps, switching in between apps, and closing all apps.

No surprise there though, as the P20 specialises on single-core applications, whereas the midrange Snapdragon 625 does better with multi-core applications. Being a mid-range phone, the Plus’ performance is good enough.


Camera

The Plus, and XA1 and Ultra, all come with a 23MP single-lens rear camera. If you’re a person who loves taking photos, listen up! The IMX300 sensor and a 24mm-equiv. f2.0 aperture lens was once in Sony’s flagship phones. Since the Sony’s Z5 series, the IMX300 became mid-tier, and is installed in Sony’s mid-range phones.

Camera

The camera’s interface is Sony’s latest. On top of the standard Panorama and Timeshift Burst, the Plus features AR effects, Creative effects, Sound photos.

Camera Features

AR effects lets you put AR objects into your images or videos. AR effects in video will move, and it is pretty intuitive. Creative mode lets you doodle with pre-loaded images and effects.

AR Mode themes
Here are only some of the available themes.

The manual mode in Plus lets you control many features, including ISO, focus range, Exposure Value (EV), White Balance (WB), shutter speed, and more.

XA1 Plus Camera Manual

Not many phones allow you to control the shutter speed, but with the Plus, you can take long exposure shots!

XA1 Plus Shutter Speed
Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival: Me and my friends testing out the long exposure shot from the XA1 Plus.

Selfie Camera

The Plus’ Selfie Caemra comes with an 8MP 1/4″ sensor and a 23mm f/2.0 lens, complete with autofocus. You can choose between Superior Auto (recommended), or manual mode. In manual mode, there is no manual focus, but you can still adjust the EV and WB.

Indoor Selfie with Martin
Indoor Selfie with Martin with Soft Skin Mode activated
Selfie
Nightmode Selfie without Soft Skin Mode – Quality isn’t as good. Much Noise, Such Blur.

What I really like about the camera is the Shutter button.

Camera Shutter Button

Bringing back the good ol’ days of clicking a button. Feels really good, especially when phone manufacturers are removing buttons instead of adding them. Placing the button on the bottom right of the phone makes it feel very natural too!

Video Recording

The Plus records at 1080p/30fps, limited by the Mediatek chipset. Other premium Sony phones such as the XZ Premium records at 4K. Snapdragon 625 can also record at 4K.

You have the option of recording in HDR, but that doesn’t mean better quality.

The standard 1080p/30fps mode is encoded at about 17Mbps, which is the defacto standard. Audio is recorded in stereo at 128Kbps.


Audio

The Plus has only one speaker at the bottom beside the USB C charging port. Yep, only one. Being a phone meant for multi-media, it’s rather sad to have no stereo audio.

Single Audio Output

When watching landscape videos (i.e. on YouTube), I had to cup my hands to make the sound bounce to the front. Portrait mode is fine, as I usually hold the phone with my right hand, which already does blast the sound forward. The speaker is still loud and clear, just that it doesn’t have stereo, which I feel should be the standard for all phones by now.


Battery Life

Okay, the battery life is fantastic. 2 days of normal without a charge, no problem! The Plus has one of the biggest battery pack with 3,430 mAh! FYI, iPhone 8 only has mere 1,821 mAh.

The Plus runs on the efficient 16nm Helio P20 chip, same as the XA1 and Ultra, which has already proven its worthiness. Now that the Plus has more battery capacity (even more than the Ultra), the Plus simply just last amazingly long.

Charging

Nothing fancy here. Standard USB-C charing. No quick charge support.


Pricing and Availability

The  XA1 Plus (32GB) is available at S$498 in four striking colors – Gold, Blue, Pink, and Black. They can be found at official Sony stores, Sony Centre, M1, Singtel, and StarHub, and authorized retail partners.

Should you buy it?

The major plus point for this phone is the battery. If you need a phone that lasts long, this is the one for you. If you like the looks of it, go for it! It’s a super mid-range phone, with decent performance. You can check out our other Sony reviews here:


A big THANK YOU to Sony for making this article possible (:

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design
Build Quality
Features
Performance
Battery Life
Camera
Value For Money
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