The Album app is among the most comprehensive and feature-rich we've seen, it's fast and easy to use, too! Photos are organized by month, and you can use pinch-zoom to change the size of thumbnails (then they smoothly animate into the grid).
At the very top of the list is a slideshow, showing off your photos, lower down, the first photo of each month is shown at twice the size of other images.
You can instead browse photos on a map (you can manually add geotag info too) or by folder. This includes network storage so that you can view photos from a DLNA server (your home computer for one). Then there's integration with online albums - Facebook, Picasa, Flickr.
Image editing is handled by Sketch. It lets you fingerpaint over a photo or a paper-like texture, add text, stickers, photos and so on. If you're talented, you can share your creations on the Sketch mini-social network, and if you're not, you can just browse what others drew.
Movie Creator is similar to the Assistant of Google Photos. It automatically creates short videos from the photos and videos you've shot.
You can do it manually too: pick photos and videos, change their order, add color effects and music (you get a small audio collection to start you off, but can use custom files too). Then tap the Share button and send out your animated slideshow.
We mentioned it in the Display section, but we'll repeat it here. The Sony software uses image enhancements to make even average-looking photos pop. You can choose from Off, Mobile Bravia Engine 2 (sharpen and boost contrast) and Super-vivid.
The Music app feels like a part of the same software package as the rest of the custom Sony stuff. The contextual side menu offers much of the same browsing options - by folder, network folder and online services, in this case, Spotify (it's just a link to the Spotify app though). You can share music from the phone to compatible players.
The Infinite button as such is gone, but its functionality is still here in the menu. It can find the track's video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia and search for lyrics on Google. Gracenote is used here too and it can automatically download information about your tracks and album art.
There are presets for Sony headsets and a number of audio settings. ClearAudio+ determines the best audio quality settings depending on the track you're listening to. We liked how it changed the sound and carefully accentuated various details. You also get a 5-band equalizer if you want to do the tuning manually.
Dynamic normalizer evens out the volume differences across tracks, which is great if you've mixed multiple albums from multiple sources.
TrackID is Sony's trusted song recognition software, which has since evolved way past that. It can now show you music charts by country, give you live updates on recent searches across the world, and store your search history as well.
There's also an FM radio tuner with RDS. The app features multiple visualizations and integrates with TrackID to recognize the currently playing song. The interface is very intuitive and full of stunning animations. Possibly one of the best FM radio apps out there.
Of course, you would need to have your headset plugged in for the FM radio to pick up any signal.
The Movies app is gone, a simpler Video app takes its place. The app is simpler to use - you pick a file from one of the local folders or your home network. You can also use the Search feature to look up videos on YouTube. The app is missing the HTPC-like functionality though, which pulled movie and TV show info automatically.
A chapter view lets you find a specific part of the video, by letting you scrub through a virtual timeline.
Videos can continue playing in the background (it's an option), but you can't view the video in a small floating window. At least you get full subtitle settings.
The Sony Xperia XA delivered excellently clean output when used with an active external amplifier, getting top marks across the board. Unfortunately, its output loudness was below average so it failed to exceed the expectations set by its price tag.
Degradation caused by headphones is minimal with a moderate hike in stereo crosstalk a shakier frequency response and some extra intermodulation distortion. Volume remained low, but itís a decent showing nonetheless.
And now here go the results so you can do your comparison.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|Sony Xperia XA||+0.01, -0.18||-93.6||90.6||0.0030||0.010||-91.7|
|Sony Xperia XA (headphones)||+0.85, -0.18||-87.1||87.8||0.018||0.327||-54.9||Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus||+0.02, -0.08||-93.8||92.8||0.0037||0.034||-91.3|
|Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus (headphones)||+0.09, -0.03||-93.5||92.6||0.070||0.075||-49.0|
|Lenovo Vibe K4 Note||+0.05, -0.05||-93.3||89.3||0.0039||0.012||-93.6|
|Lenovo Vibe K4 Note (headphones)||+0.03, -0.07||-93.6||89.4||0.0035||0.015||-60.5|
|Huawei Honor 5X||+0.02, -0.08||-93.4||90.1||0.0028||0.012||-93.4|
|Huawei Honor 5X (headphones)||+0.10, -0.03||-92.9||89.8||0.0048||0.071||-78.2|
|Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)||+0.02, -0.07||-94.3||92.2||0.0065||0.010||-95.0|
|Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) (headphones)||+0.42, -0.01||-93.4||87.1||0.029||0.254||-53.0|
You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.