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Hands On with the Sony Xperia XA1 Plus

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Aug 31, 2017, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Sony today announced the XA1 Plus, a handset that finds some middle ground between the XA1 and XA1 Ultra. It's a mid-range handset that leans heavily on Sony's tired design language. The price point is more attractive than the hardware itself. Here are our initial thoughts on Sony's latest Android smartphone.

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The Xperia XA1 plus from Sony finds a find point in between the smaller XA1 and larger XA1 Ultra. It's the Goldilocks phone in terms of size, and packs better specs than either of its predecessors.

Sony can't seem to escape its chin- and forehead-heavy designs. The XA1 Plus has huge, unsightly bezels above and below the screen that look incredibly dated now that Sony's competitors are moving to taller, narrower devices with 18:9 aspect rations. The side bezels on the XA1 Plus are acceptable, but the phone looks like it came straight out of 2015.

XA1 Plus  

It's a significant piece of hardware. The 5.5-inch display and accompanying bezels give the phone a tall profile. It doesn't help that the phone is rather chunky. It's 6.1 inches from top to bottom and about 8.7mm thick. I thought the phone was weighty, but the materials and build quality are good enough. Sony didn't say what the phone is made of.

The full HD display gets the job done. It includes all of Sony's fancy technology, such as the Bravia Engine and TriLuminos display functionality. It looked bright and sharp under the harsh light in the display area where we played with it. The XA1 has a 5-inch screen and the XA1 Ultra has a 6-inch screen, by way of comparison. There are no hardware controls, as the UI is managed via on-screen buttons. Two slits reveal the location of the stereo speakers.

The left side of the phone houses the SIM and memory card tray. It fits in snugly, though you can retrieve it with your thumbnail. I appreciate that it is accessible without a SIM tool. All the buttons are pushed onto the right edge. I appreciate that the phone has a dedicated camera button, which is close to the right corner when you hold the phone sideways. It is a two-stage key with excellent travel and feedback. The flat screen lock button doubles as a fingerprint reader and is easy to find and use. The volume toggle is a bit stubby. It's too short, and I fear people will accidentally lower the volume when they intend to raise it and vice versa.

The 3.5mm headphone jack, which supports ClearAudio+ and SmartAmp technology, is positioned on top. The USB-C port is on the bottom of the phone.

Most of Sony's handsets these day have perfectly flat rear panels. The camera module is the only obvious element and you can find it in the upper left corner. The XA1 Plus a 23-megapixel Exmor RS main camera with an f/2.0 aperture and Hybrid Autofocus. The lens has a wide-angle of view and supports HDR photo/video capture, video stabilization, and 5x zoom. The selfie camera (located on the front) has an 8-megapixel Exmor RS image sensor at f/2.0. It also includes HDR image capture, anti-shaking tools, and Sony's gesture shutter.

The XA1 Plus is powered by a MediaTek Helio P10 processor clocked at 2.3 GHz with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The on-site samples ran smoothly and opened apps such as the camera without hesitation.

The phone has a large 3,430mAh battery with Qnovo Adaptive Charging for better battery health, as well as Sony's Pump Express+ 2.0 for rapid power ups. I wish the XZ1 flagship smartphone had a battery this big (it doesn't).

XA1 Plus UI  

The XA1 Plus ships with Android 7 Nougat and a bundle of Sony-branded apps and services. The phone supports the LTE networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. Sony says the Xperia XA1 Plus goes on sale October 20 for $380. It will be available unlocked online from Amazon.com.

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