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Highlights

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra Review




There are times when 5-inch screens are just not enough for your needs, and you would be left with wanting something bigger and wider. That’s when you would look into Phablets — the love child of a mobile phone and a tablet, with screens ranging from 6-inches to a monstrous 6.5-inches. This is Sony’s latest take on the Phablet market — The Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra. Here’s our full review.

Design and Construction

The phone takes after Sony’s signature design — Rectangular and tall yet slim. On the front, It has a 6″ edge-to-edge IPS screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 which equates to 367ppi. the screen-to-body ratio is great, and even though the top and bottom bezels are large the side bezels were kept minimal.

Above the display, you will find the 16MP 1/2.6″ Exmor R AF front shooter along with Sony’s logo, a LED flash, and the earpiece. Since the phone uses on-screen navigation the bottom half of the display, aside from the mic, is without capacitive buttons; this helps prevent accidental button presses when using the phone in landscape mode.

Flip the phone over and you will be greeted with the 23MP 1/2.3″ Exmor RS w/ Hybrid AF main shooter accompanied by a LED flash, a subtle NFC logo, and the Xperia logo.

On the phone’s right side, you will find the volume rockers, the power button, and a dedicated camera button. The left side of the phone is devoid of any buttons and ports aside from the SIM card and dedicated micro SD slot. Sony seemed to have strayed away from the more common Hybrid SIM card setup and opted to instead use a Dual SIM card tray.

Located down below is the phones USB Type-C port and the loud speaker. And up top is its 3.5mm headphone jack and a secondary mic.

On the hands, the Xperia XA1 Ultra feels solid and premium thanks to its aluminum body frame and weight (188grams). Users with small hands though would have a hard time holding the device due to its size, rectangular construction, and slippery finish. Thankfully it is not a fingerprint magnet, but it does pick up smudges a lot so keep your hands dry or have a cleaning cloth ready at all times.

Display and Multimedia

Thanks to its IPS display, the Xperia XA1 Ultra delivers good viewing angles, natural color reproduction, and good color accuracy. Blacks would suffer because of the display and this would become evident once you watch movies with dark scenes. From time to time, you will notice more pixelations of pictures and videos compared to smaller devices with the same resolution as the phone’s added screen size stretches the pixels of the display. Under direct sunlight, the screen is still bright enough to be operated.

Nonetheless, the screen still looks crisp and icons look good. Interestingly the phone is not protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass or any other 3rd party manufacturer glass but according to Sony, it is still scratch resistant. The speakers can get pretty loud and produce good sounds but it loses clarity and may sound distorted at times when in full blast. The provided earphones are standard, it has rubber edges to protect the ears and deliver normal audio quality boost when used.

Camera

Photography is handled by a 23MP 1/2.3″ Exmor RS w/ Hybrid AF main shooter, and a 16MP 1/2.6″ Exmor R AF front shooter. The software is intuitive as it autodetects lighting conditions, phone orientation, and phone movement. You could easily switch between the front and rear shooters by swiping diagonally from the upper left portion of the screen. Sony included a manual mode if you would like to tinker with the settings yourself. The 23MP main shooter takes great quality photos during daylight and above average photos during low-light conditions. The photos have good color reproduction and the camera rarely loses focus.

The 16MP frontal shooter, on the other hand, takes good quality photos during daylight and average photos during low-light conditions. There is a front LED flash to assist in shots should you need it. We did, however, notice that during low-light conditions the camera would have a hard time focusing on its subject even with the assistance of the LED flash.

As for video recording, it can only shoot at up to 1080p at 30fps in MP4 format. Watch the sample below.

OS, UI, and Apps

The XA1 Ultra almost runs on stock Android with only a few customized apps from Sony like their Album and Music app. Tapping on the app drawer brings up your list of installed apps with the option to arrange them in different orders.

As for apps, Sony did not include plenty of pre-installed apps aside from their Xperia ones. The 64gb storage leaves you with 51GB of usable space as the system takes about 12.97gb. You could further expand your storage via microSD.

As for other features, Sony has included a one hand operations mode which you can access by swiping diagonally from the bottom right of the screen. You can freely reposition and resize the screen during one hand mode. Sony also included an assist page via the settings menu which includes shortcuts to the battery, storage, and profile settings.

Performance and Benchmarks

Under the hood of the XA1 Ultra is the generation old MediaTek Helios P20 octa-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz, Mali-T880MP2, and 4GB of RAM. Its performance is good as apps installs and launches quickly. There are occasional lags during basic navigation but only during heavy multitasking. Multitasking is still not an issue even with the occasional lag as the phone has a whopping 4GB of RAM.

As for benchmarks, check out the results below:

  • AnTuTu – 64,330
  • Geekbench – 837 (Single-Core), 3,604 (Multi-Core), 2,792 (RenderScript)
  • Vellamo – 2,241 (Multi-Core), 1,363 (Metal), 3,444(Chrome)
  • AndroBench – 245.27 MB/s (Read), 168.74 MB/s(Write)

Gaming

For gaming, light to medium games like Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Assassins Creed Rebellion and Mobile Legends run silky smooth. Heavier games are a different story, they are playable but there is noticeable lag when we played Iron Blade: Medieval Legends; expect the same performance when playing similar games. Heating can be felt slightly around the top side of the device after prolonged gaming but it’s not much of an issue.

Connectivity and Call Quality

For basic connectivity, the XA1 Ultra has LTE, Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC. It also supports Dual-SIM configurations. Call quality and Mobile data are good and as long as the area is serviceable by your network provider signal won’t be a problem. Navigation via GPS is also smooth and we never encounter problems with apps like Waze, Grab or Google Maps.

Battery Life

The XA1 Ultra is powered by a 2,700mAh battery. Now it’s battery may be smaller than most but its performance might surprise you. It will comfortably last the day during light usage on a full charge and would only need to be plugged in at least once during moderate to heavy usage. During our standard battery loop test, the XA1 Ultra lasted 13 hours and 20 minutesat 50% brightness and 0% volume. PC Mark battery test ranks it at 12 hours and 56 minutes. These are impressive results coming from a 2,700mAh battery. It supports Qnovo adaptive charging and Fast Charging via MediaTek’s pump express plus 2.0. The provided adapter may not support fast charging as it took us about 2 hours to charge the device from 0 to 100%.

Conclusion

It’s hard not to consider the Xperia XA1 Ultra when looking for a smartphone with a big screen real estate. You would be hard pressed not to be impressed by its slim design, capable shooters, stellar battery life, large RAM and storage, and having Android Nougat out of the box. The Xperia XA1 sits dangerously at a price point where competitors could offer a better price to performance device. Its biggest disadvantage, aside from price, is its year old Helios P20 processor. The Xperia XA1 Ultra is available at Widget City for Php24,000. See listing here. The official local SRP is at Php 21,990.

Sony Xperia XA1 specs:
6-inch Full HD display w/ Image Enhance Technology
2.3GHz MediaTek Helio P20 octa-core CPU
Mali T880 MP2 900MHz GPU
4GB RAM
32GB/64GB storage
expandable microSD up to 256GB
23MP 1/2.3? Exmor RS rear camera w/ Hybrid AF, SteadyShot, LED flash
16MP 1/2.6? Exmor R AF front camera, SteadyShot, OIS
4G LTE
WiFi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.1
GPS, A-GPS
Android 7.0 Nougat
2,700mAh battery w/ Qnovo Adaptive Charging
165 x 79 x 8.1mm
Rainbow White, Black, Pink, and Gold

What we liked:
* Great screen-to-body ratio
* Good build quality
* Large RAM and starting storage
* Good performance
* Stellar Battery life
* Android Nougat out of the box
* Great front and rear camera

What we dislike:
* Quite expensive
* Dated processor
* Slippery finish
* Smudge Magnet



Zen Estacio is a Multimedia Producer for YugaTech. He is the team's laptop guru and one of their resident gamers. He has a monthly column compiling the latest and greatest the Nintendo Switch has to offer. Aside from that, he regularly writes gaming news, reviews, and impressions. You can hit him up at @papanZEN

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9 Responses

  1. Matthew says:

    Hi Zen, there’s a typo on the “Performance and Benchmarks”, the processor is 2.3Ghz, and not “4.3Ghz”. Hehe. BTW, nice review article! Cheers.

  2. Jasper Laguitao says:

    sony ba bibilhin ko sa bago kong boyfriend

  3. Bluefeather says:

    Hi, can you do a list of stock Android phones available right now in the local market? It would be great if we had a guide of which phones to consider at each price point (ex mid range and flagships).

  4. Ryan says:

    Does xa1 ultra support otg? Thanks

  5. Ivan says:

    I have this phone, and I love how it performs! The processor may be a year older but it performs well. The battery life is also great, it can last for at least 1 and a half day, and its not even drained. I believe Sony is a great smartphone brand, unfortunately, “tech experts” has been focusing only on Apple and Samsung and how great their phones are, but reality is, there are a lot of great brands of smartphone that can match or even exceed what Samsung and Apple has.

  6. yas says:

    xa1 plus or xa1 ultra?

    • Ivan says:

      XA1 Ultra. It’s been 7 months since I had this and it still performs like it’s just been out of the box, it also been updated to Android Oreo.

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