The Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra is an oversized version of the Xperia XA1 (review here). On this review, I will share the differences and my experience of the test unit.
Comparing XA1 Ultra to XA1
Here are the differences:
- Display – XA1 Ultra has a 6-inch 1080p screen, while XA1 is 5-inch 720p display.
- Front camera – the XA1 Ultra front camera is 16MP with flash, vs. XA1 8MP with no flash. Both have same 23mm f/2.0 specs.
- Memory – XA1 Ultra provides more RAM: 4GB vs. 3GB. The storage is also higher at 64GB vs. 32GB on the XA1.
- Battery – XA1 Ultra has 2700 mAh vs. XA1 2300 mAh
- Size and Weight – XA1 Ultra weighs 188g, 165 x 79 x 8.1mm. XA1 weighs 143g, 145 x 67 x 8mm.
- Price – $598 vs. $398.
Here are the similarities:
- Processor – both runs in MediaTek Helio P20 (4-core 2.3GHz, 4-core 1.6GHz)
- Rear camera – both comes with 23MP 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS 24mm wide-angle f/2.0 lens.
- Connectivity – both supports NFC, USB Type-C, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi Miracast.
- SIM and microSD – both comes with separate dual SIM and microSD slots, so you can insert all 3 at the same time.
The XA1 Ultra is an upsized XA1, where the side bezels are slimmed down and rounded to achieve relatively good ergonomics for its size. Its side frame is metal while the rear is plastic. There is slight colour variance between the different materials, which was obvious on the pink review unit, but maybe not with other colours. The power button, volume rocker buttons, and dedicated camera button, are located at the right side. I like that the SIM tray does not require a pin to eject. Every smartphone maker should learn from Sony.
The main reason for getting the XA1 Ultra must be the generous 6-inch full-HD display, and they do not disappoint. Although there are several display modes to choose from, the standard mode offers sufficiently pleasant colour tones. For more saturated alternative, there is Vivid mode. There is even an option to manually adjust white balance.
While the XA1 performs smoothly, I do not get the same impression on the XA1 Ultra. There are occasional lags when starting apps or switching tasks. The mid-range MediaTek processor could not keep up with the demands of social video apps, capturing low frame-rate Instagram Stories. The inefficiencies might annoy power users, but the phone still gets the job done, with no crashes.
Having so used to fingerprint unlock, the XA1 Ultra feels cumbersome to unlock. I felt it was almost unforgivable given even Xiaomi could throw in fingerprint sensor in smartphones half the price of XA1 Ultra.
There are audio settings that affect the sound quality of the speaker. With all audio settings turned off, the mono speaker produces loud audio with a little bloom around the vocal range. With ClearAudio+ enabled, the sound shifts upwards to the higher frequencies to deliver a more pleasant hi-fi quality, and I recommend turning this on. Even at the highest volume, there is little compression. But with dynamic normaliser enabled, the sound is compressed, becoming louder but less musically enjoyable. I do not recommend enabling this setting.
Testing with headphones, the audio processor offers clear treble and modest bass. I compared the listening experience with the NW-WM1Z Sony Walkman, which you might feel it’s rather unfair, but that’s the only premium music player I have, and I want to give you a perspective. WM1Z is known to produce a warm sound, where the treble is not bright. I tested with the Klipsch X12i Reference In-Ear headphones, a generally neutral earphones with good musical details for comparison.
The outcome of the test is clear: WM1Z delivers fuller bass response, more comfortable to listen to with less harsh highs and a better midrange performance. The XA1 Ultra offers clearer treble, less veiled. Even the Honor 8 Pro audio balance is closer to WM1Z, which surprised me. If you love your music to be sparkling, the XA1 Ultra will work to your favour. The smartphone also offers several audio tuning settings, like ClearAudio+, EQ, Surround Sound VPT, as well as Sony headphones preset profiles.
The camera performs similarly to the XA1. Overall tonal quality is balanced and well-exposed, slightly towards the highlights, which may be good for most consumers.
The massive 23 megapixels deliver better-detailed images than budget-level phones. Switching among the shooting modes is not prompt enough to capture the decisive moment.
The images are not excessively sharpened or deliberately contrasty.
For night shots, again, exposure is increased. This sample image original scene was rather dark and does not have such bright sky. Nevertheless, it is an impressive feat that the sensor can “see” the details.
Given the front camera is boosted from XA1 plus flash, the XA1 Ultra is clearly targeted at selifie lovers, allowing generous view of his or her appearance over the 6-inch display. However, the front camera is not as sharp as the rear camera.
I was expecting a larger battery in such a big screen. Despite only fitted with 2700 mAh battery, the smartphone lasts the entire day comfortably, barely dropping below 15% before I go to bed, 17 hours after removing from the charger.
Like all reviews, I used the Xperia XA1 Ultra as a daily phone for over a week. If I put aside the performance inadequacies for a power user like myself, the phone works well, with images that have good sharpness and saturation for social sharing. The size may be a tad big for single-hand operation, so I stuck a Popsocket behind to make sure I maintain a good grip on one hand while operating with the other. Sony’s premium Xperia devices have power button that doubles as fingerprint sensor, so it feels un-Xperia when the XA1 Ultra has none. But I believe the target segments would probably not use them much.
All said, the Xperia XA1 Ultra remains a solid 6-inch smartphone for moderate users who mostly consumes content, plays less demanding games, and do not need speedy performance. Camera quality is great for social sharing, while battery performance is commendable for a smartphone of this size. Xperia XA1 Ultra retail price is at S$598 available at your friendly mobile retailer and at Lazada.