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Our Review on Sony Xperia™ XA1 Ultra

Sony has just released a mid-tiered device - the Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra to shake up the mid-range phone market segment.

Initial impressions may have you think it is an up-sized version of its sibling the Xperia XA1 with a bigger screen at 6-inches and more RAM space at 4GB. However it features a more powerful selfie camera at 16MP with a LED flash and greater battery capacity to boot.

What makes this phone tick? For starters, this beautiful beast embodies an intricately designed chassis that withstands manhandling - a tough yet glorious creation.

The 5-inch Xperia XA1 may be a tad smaller for my personal liking but the 6-inch Xperia XA1 Ultra certainly does the deed with a perfectly snug fit on my hands.

Here are some key features of the Xperia™ XA1 Ultra

  • Body: Aluminum sides; plastic top, bottom, and back; scratch-resistant display glass (>9H pencil hardness).
  • Display: 6.0" TFT LCD, 1,920x1,080px resolution, 367ppi.
  • Rear camera: 23MP Type 1/2.3" sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 24mm-equiv. focal length; autofocus; single LED flash; 1080p/30fps video recording, SteadyShot EIS.
  • Front camera: 16MP Type 1/2.6" sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 23mm-equiv. focal length; OIS, autofocus, single LED flash; 1080p/30fps video recording.
  • OS/Software: Android 7.0 Nougat.
  • Chipset: 16nm Mediatek Helio P20 - Octa-core CPU (4x2.3GHz Cortex-A53 + 4x1.6GHz Cortex-A53), Mali T-880MP2 GPU.
  • Memory: 4GB of RAM; 32GB of storage (64GB for G3226 version); microSD slot up to 256GB.
  • Battery: 2,700mAh Li-Ion (sealed); Mediatek Pump Express+ 2.0 fast charging.
  • Connectivity: Single-SIM (model names G3221/3223) and Dual-SIM (G3212/G3226) versions; Cat. 6 LTE (300Mbps/50Mbps); USB Type-C (v2.0); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; GPS, GLONASS; NFC; Bluetooth 4.2.
  • Misc: single bottom-firing loudspeaker, 3.5mm jack, dedicated two-stage hardware shutter release button

Granted there are some shortcomings to this device:

  • Phablet-sized yet packed with a minimally adequate 2,700mAh battery
  • The lack of the fingerprint sensor

Design

The Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra comes in 4 color variants (White, Gold, Pink, and Black). We managed to get hold of the black which incidentally was one of my preferred colors. The XA1 Ultra fares pretty well on a screen to body ratio at 76.1% with really slim bezels and a stunning edge to edge 6-inch display with 2.5D glass.

The sides are made of aluminum and the rear, top and bottom corners of plastic. However, they do not feel plastic-like, instead presenting a smooth metallic finish. This does bring about a premium treatment that Sony fans appreciate - without the pesky glossy surface that attracts fingerprints.

One hand usage of phablets are quite rare but this device sits well without compromising on any risky slip ups on typical glass surfaced mobile phones.

The Xperia XA1 Ultra does come with a 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as a USB-C port at the bottom alongside its loudspeaker on the right. The Xperia XA1 Ultra supports Quick charging Pump Express+ 2.0 as well as Qnovo Adaptive Charging that extends the lifespan of your battery.

It is one of the few phones that accommodate 2 SIM Cards and a MicroSD Card.

Performance

The Xperia XA1 Ultra is also one of the only few mid-range phones offering an Octa-Core Processor. Armed with an Helio P20, it offers better power efficiency, less heat and better performance compared to its predecessor Helio P10.

Camera

Sony is famous for their range of cameras, from their cyber shot to DSLR alpha series. They definitely know what to provide when it comes to camera functions.

The Sony XA1 is equipped with an impressive 23MP rear camera and a 16MP front camera. However, the high pixel count doesn't always mean high-quality shots.

For a mid-range smartphone, the Xperia XA1 ultra's camera fair pretty decent, not impressive though. The small sensors just don't fit well with the high megapixel counts of the camera, especially in low-light photography. The colour reproduction is reasonably good but it gets oversaturated at times. 

The front camera, however, offers a number of features you won't find in other smartphones. For example, you get a front facing flash, optical stabilisation as well as auto-focusing features (which Samsung is pretty proud of with the new S8). 

Both cameras take above-average photos, though you can't be expecting a really "High Quality" image from a mid-range phones. 

Here are some of the photos taken from the XA1 Ultra.

 

Battery

To be honest, I wasn't confident with the XA1 Ultra battery which came off with a 2,700mAh battery however the phone proved me wrong. The XA1 Ultra turns out to be an absolute battery tank which managed to last me an entire day with moderate usage. From taking phone calls, replying messages, web browsing and an hour of game play on the phone. I managed to get roughly 10 hours of battery life before I need to charge my phone at 3% at the end of the day. However, if you are a heavy user on your smartphone, the Xperia XA1 Ultra offers two different modes which can be used. The Stamina mode and the Ultra Stamina modes. Both modes prolong the battery time by disabling some functions on the device or limiting the available apps to minimum necessity. 

Conclusion

The Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra is a great device for phablet fans and it doesn't break the bank. Despite its shortcomings such as average camera, lack of fingerprint sensor and the small battery capacity. Its software has helped to make up with a great battery life - thanks to the Helio P20 chipset. Props to the face recognition sensor which helps to replace the need for a fingerprint sensor; plus the Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra is FREE when you sign up a 2 yr contract on a 4G 4 plan with StarHub else only $598 for non-contract purchase.

 


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