Friday 22 June 2018

Tech Review: Sony Xperia XA2 is a solid mid-range phone with a good camera

Sony Xperia XA2, €350

Pros: Good camera, nice metallic finish

Cons: Bezels look a little old-fashioned

Sony Xperia XA2
Sony Xperia XA2

Mobile World Congress kicks off next week and, with it, a host of new smartphones from the main manufacturers will be unveiled. Getting in ahead of the pack is Sony, which has released a couple of new models. Chief among these is its mid-range handset, the Xperia XA2.

It's a solid, even impressive device for the money.

The first thing you notice about the 5.2-inch phone is its relative heft. Sony isn't going for light and slim here. Instead, this is a full centimetre thick and weighs 171 grams (about 15pc heavier than the iPhone 8). It also has Sony's distinctively sharpish corner edges, with a bit of a chamfered effect. This latter design style is not a friendly one for trousers or jeans pockets, accelerating the fraying process. It's stylish, though, and makes the XA2 stand out in a sea of other Android models.

The next thing you'll notice is a dedicated camera button, which Sony has retained for about a decade. I personally like this feature, it allows you to get to your camera function much quicker than on other smartphones.

Speaking of the camera, the XA2's 23-megapixel sensor is excellent compared to other phones in its price bracket. You won't get a better rear camera on a handset under €500, even if its 24mm field of view isn't to everyone's tastes. (The iPhone uses a 28mm focal length, which is more flattering as a portrait lens.)

As for video, the XA2 shoots in 4K as well as ordinary 'full HD' video at 60 frames per second and it supports slow-motion video of up to 120 frames per second. Its stabilisation is decent and it also supports 'HDR video', which evens out harsher colour contrasts when shooting into shadows or sunlight.

An 8-megapixel selfie camera is a lot wider still ("super wide angle", according to Sony), which means it's even less flattering than the rear camera. It's a lot more suited to group selfies. In theory it should also be suited to lots of background detail placing a solo selfie in context, but the selfie sensor is much smaller than the rear camera - so you won't get anything like the same resolution.

The phone's built-in 32GB of storage memory is enough to hold a reasonable amount of photos and video, although there's also an extra memory card slot that you can take advantage of if you think you'll shoot more than the phone can hold.

The XA2 comes with a fairly impressive 3,300mAh battery, which gives it a very decent all-day performance under normal conditions.

There's a fingerprint-reader on the back of the phone, as is becoming the norm for lots of Android phones.

One aspect that might irritate some is the amount of bloatware (sorry, 'helpful apps from third-party partners') that Sony still puts on its Xperia phones.

Under the hood, there's easily enough power to keep things running smoothly, with 3GB of Ram and an octacore Snapdragon 630 chipset. It also retains a 3.5mm headphone port.

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