As with most other smartphone manufacturers, Sony has released quite a few devices under the X-series umbrella in a bid to capture different buyers for the respective markets. The Sony Xperia XA Ultra is the fourth smartphone we’ve featured on FoS from the range now including 8 devices already.
The XA Ultra is the phablet device from the range, although it is only a mid-range smartphone at heart, and cannot compete with the likes of the Galaxy Note (not that it has to right now) or the Huawei Mate series. It’s actually the successor to the C5 Ultra range, although it’s been incorporated into the X-series mix. So where does the XA Ultra fit into the fold, and is it any good?
Build and Design
The XA Ultra, although it is a phablet, feels comfortable in hand. As previously stated, the XA Ultra is the follow-on of the C5 Ultra, and bares a lot of similarities to its predecessor. While it may be comfortable, it isn’t easily operated in one hand due to its size, even for myself being a Galaxy Note user. Despite its mid-range denomination, it certainly feels a lot better than the C5 Ultra did, and feels slightly more premium than the XA, even with its “satin” plastic rear cover.
The unit has a very thin screen bezel on the left and right sides, while the top and bottom aren’t half bad either. The front is made entirely of glass and has a 76.6% screen-to-body ratio. The ports and buttons on the XA Ultra resemble that of the other devices from the X range. Unlike the XZ, however, the charging port uses the microUSB port and not the Type-C connector, which would go a long way to future-proof the unit. It’s a bit annoying that on the sticker on the rear it shows the two different versions of the device and how to go about inserting the SIM for the single or dual SIM variants, when all you have to work with is the single SIM option.
The unit is available in three colours, White, Graphite Black, and Lime Gold, all of which are good looking, without really being flashy.
Screen and Display
Being a phablet you can expect a screen size that easily surpasses the 5″ mark. With a 6″ screen, it definitely does. The XA Ultra only has a 1080p resolution, which results in a poor 367ppi pixel density. In addition to this, Sony opted against Corning’s Gorilla Glass, reserved, it seems, only for their flagship units. Although they do specify that the screen is scratch resistant, not including any additional information makes me wonder how safe it really is from scratches.
Sony also doesn’t include the Triluminos display and X-Reality Engine on the XA Ultra, which means you won’t be getting the same bright and vivid colours. That said, it isn’t the worst display I’ve viewed, far from it. Images are crisp and detailed and fairly bright as well. The display does well for itself and is definitely a match for other mid-range devices.
Performance and Battery Life
With the strides Google have made to reducing the footprint of Android OS on the hardware of any device, the overall experience on the XA Ultra is smooth and without any issues with lag. The unit is powered by a Mediatek MT6755 Helio P10, which has an Octa-core (4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×1.0 GHz Cortex-A53) CPU, and Mali-T860MP2 GPU. In addition, it has 3GB of RAM and 16GB internal storage. The benchmark tests are quite average overall, although it doesn’t really matter if there aren’t any detectable issues to speak of.
The battery life on the XA Ultra is good, easily lasting throughout the day. Bearing in mind, though, that the hardware is only powering a 1080p screen, and has an average powered CPU driving it, the unit is expected to fair quite well in terms of battery life. With a 2700mAh battery, it does enough to pass the test, although given its phablet nature one would have expected a much larger battery, with a lifespan of up to 2 days between charges.
The camera fitted to the rear of the XA Ultra offers a higher pixel count than on the normal-sized Xperia XA, but the same you’ll find on the Xperia X. That said, the specifications are quite watered down compared to the latter, with a lower aperture size and smaller sensor size. It does, however, still offer HDR photography, and delivers quite reasonable photos when the lighting is above average.
What’s really interesting on the XA Ultra is it’s front-facing camera. It has a larger aperture size than the rear-facing camera, which essentially should mean better low light imagery, although the pixel count and sensor size are lower. In addition, the front-facing camera also has optical image stabilisation, which isn’t included on the rear-facing camera for reason only Sony could explain. I imagine, then, that the XA Ultra was designed to be geared more toward the likes of the selfie taker than the nature snapper.
When compared to the original Xperia XA, the Xperia XA Ultra ticks almost all the boxes as being the better device. There are a few factors that may not sell with all buyers, such as the large size and resulting bulk, but at less than R1,000 difference between the two devices, the choice here is fairly obvious given the added power, camera quality, screen size and display quality improvements.
The Sony Xperia XA Ultra retails for just R6,200, which is well-priced when looking across the current range of Xperia X-series smartphones. The XA Ultra isn’t quite able to compete against the likes of the Xperia X, but does come close to doing so in some instances. The Xperia X is a cool R5,000 more, which means you can buy both the XA and XA Ultra for the same price. Unless Sony decide on a price reduction on the Xperia X, my money is definitely on the Xperia XA Ultra.