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Sony Xperia XA1 Unboxing And First Impressions

Coming from the "not that well received" Xperia XA last year due to its uninspiring specs for the price, Sony has released its successor, the Xperia XA1.
Sony Xperia XA1 Unboxing And First Impressions
Is this the new midrange camera phone to beat?

This time, the legendary Japanese brand builds on the strengths of the Xperia XA and improved on its failures. As a result, the new Sony Xperia XA1 is impressive on paper! This compact handset is now equipped with a more powerful processor, larger RAM, bigger storage, and "improved battery efficiency" for better overall performance.

Aside from that, we were very impressed when we found out that Sony packed this midrange smartphone with the flagship grade 23 MP Exmor RS sensor.

Interesting right? Let's check it out!

Sony Xperia XA1 Specs

Display: 5 Inch HD Image Enhance Technology 1280 x 720 resolution w/ 2.5D curved glass, and Gorilla Glass protection at 294 ppi
CPU: 2.3 GHz 64 Bit Helio P20 octa core processor
GPU: Mali T880
RAM: 3 GB
ROM: 32 GB expandable via micro SD card slot up to 256 GB (dedicated)
Back Camera: 23 MP f/2.0 1/2.3 Inch Exmor RS sensor w/ Hybrid AF, Steady shot, and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8 MP f/2.0 1/4 Inch Exmor R w/ AF, wide angle, and SteadyShot
Battery: 2,300 mAh w/ Qnovo Adaptive Charging
OS: Android 7.0 Nougat
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, LTE, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS, A GPS, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, proximity, compass, light, 
Others: USB Type C, HiFi audio, Colors: black, white, pink, gold
Dimensions: 145 x 67 x 8 mm
Weight: 143
Price: PHP 14,990

Unboxing / Accessories

White cardboard box
White cardboard box

The Sony Xperia XA1 comes in a clean white cardboard box containing few of its key specs. What's inside is very basic. You'll get the unit itself together with a USB Type C cable, Qnovo charger, and some paper documentations.
Everything inside
Everything inside

Unfortunately, there's no other basic freebies such as an earphones with mic for calls or a free TPU jelly case for added protection.


Build Quality / Design

Boxy design, metal build
Boxy design and metal build with dedicated shutter button 

Sony is well known for their Japanese-grade craftsmanship, the Xperia XA1 is a living testament to that. The handset boasts a solid type aluminum frame with matter finish behind and slightly rounded side and corners. The 5 inch screen also has a layer of 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass (unknown version) for added protection.
Top view
Top view
Bottom view
Bottom view
SIM and SD card tray at left
SIM and SD card tray at left
Power button and volume rocker at right
Power button and volume rocker at right

Design-wise, the Xperia XA1 is still using the old familiar boxy aesthetics of Sony Xperia phones. For unknown reasons, the top and bottom bezels are very thick. As a result, it looks taller than most 5 inch phones. A more modern look would have made the style of this handset better, but it could still be appealing for some.

Design is old, build is decent, functions are great!

Fortunately, the bezels on the side are now narrower and the entire profile of the handset is slimmer than expected.

Ergonomically, Sony ensured this handset would be a joy to hold and would be usable even for one handed operation. It is a bit slippery, but with proper grip, your phone will be just fine. Just be careful.

Also, most of the ports and buttons are on familiar locations. The headphone jack is on top, USB Type C port and single speaker below, and power button, volume rocker, and dedicated camera button is located on the right side.

Interestingly, Sony has chosen to forgo the need of a SIM ejector tool on the left side. It isn't a hybrid slot as well, there's real dual SIM and micro SD card slotsHowever, there's no fingerprint scanner either in front or at the back.


Initial findings

1. Aesthetics is old and top and bottom bezels are very thick. Build is sturdy and good for the price. HD resolution is reasonably enough and sharp on a 5 inch screen. Viewing angles are also good.
2. Helio P20 is a joy to use! Heating is mimimal and performance is fast. It is even paired with a midrange gaming grade Mali T880 graphics. Sony also upgraded its RAM to 3 GB for a smoother multitasking experience.
3. Sony also used a cleaner type of stock-like Android 7.0 Nougat OS. UI is clean and there are less bloats.
4. At the back, this phone has the highest camera specs you'll find under PHP 20K yet. Mobile photographers on a budget should seriously consider this. So far camera experience is flagship grade. Colors are accurate, details are resolved, and dynamic range is WIDE for a phone. In front, the 8 MP sensor is wide in angle too. Software needs refinement and additional modes though. We suggest to use a different camera app to maximize the potential of its camera.
5. This phone is USB Type C ready with OTG support, Android keys are on-screen, LED notification is present

Related: Sony Xperia XA1: First Camera Samples


As of the moment

It appears that Sony is determined to make their midrange smartphone segment great again with the Xperia XA1. Even if it has the same old and uninspired boxy design with THICK top and bottom bezels, the price to specs ratio is CRAZY especially for mobile photography?

Why? At just PHP 14,990, this handset is loaded with a seemingly better 23 MP sensor compared with the more expensive Sony Xperia XZ last year. That's on top of the upgraded overall specs of the Xperia XA1 coming from Xperia XA.

So far, we're impressed, but stay tuned for our full review for our proper testing and assessment.
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