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Review: Sony Xperia XA Ultra

The Internet can be a scary place with its billions of users, but modern smartphones have a way to let you leave your mark - the selfie camera. That's exactly what the Sony Xperia XA Ultra is all about.

It's one of only two phones to feature optical image stabilization on the front-facing camera. And what a camera it is - a dedicated LED flash and a large 1/2.6" sensor of 16MP resolution. That's the same sensor size and resolution as the main camera on the Galaxy S6!


The rest of the Xperia XA Ultra is quite similar to the smaller XA, which (it is no secret) is our favorite looking phone of the new Xperia X line. Aside from the screen, of course, Ultra is Sony speak for a 6" screen.

It has a higher resolution, 1080p, which makes it sharper to boot. And slender it is too - the narrowest 6" phone in our database, despite its metal sides.

Sony Xperia XA Ultra Key Features


  • Monster of selfie camera: 16MP 1/2.6" sensor, optical image stabilization, LED flash
  • Narrowest phone with 6-inch screen
  • 6" 1,080 x 1,920px LCD with 367ppi, Mobile Bravia Engine 2; 2.5D scratch-resistant glass, oleophobic coating
  • Android v6.0 Marshmallow with Xperia launcher
  • MediaTek MT6755 Helio P10 chipset, octa-core 2GHz Cortex-A53 CPU; Mali-T860MP2 GPU; 3GB RAM
  • 21.5 MP camera with 1/2.4" sensor; 1080p@30fps video recording and hybrid autofocus
  • 16GB of built-in storage and a microSD card slot
  • Single and dual-SIM variants
  • LTE Cat.4 (150Mbps); Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; A-GPS/GLONASS receiver, Bluetooth v4.1, FM radio with RDS
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • 2,700mAh non-removable battery (Pump Express 2.0 charging supported)


Main cons

  • Tiny battery for the size, and not particularly efficient 28nm chipset
  • No fingerprint reader
  • OIS on selfie camera, but not on the main camera. Go figure
  • No increased water protection


The front-facing camera on the XA Ultra is impressive, more impressive than the main camera on the small XA. So the back camera had to be upgraded too, it got a 21.5MP sensor (1/2.4" Exmor RS IMX230, if you're keeping score). We don't want an Oppo F1 Plus situation where the selfie cam is better than the one on the back, do we?

The Ultra model also gets an extra gig of RAM and a bigger battery too, but that's where the differences end. It's the same chipset, same software, even the battery isn't that big - actually, at 2700mAh it's downright tiny for a 6" phone. Especially one that's 8.4mm thick. Well, we did love the XA and we are fans of big screens, so we're diving into the Sony Xperia XA Ultra a positive attitude (and a few worries).

Hardware

The Sony Xperia Z Ultra was one of the earliest - and one of the best - big phones. Seriously, that thing had a 6.4" screen back in 2013! It was super thin too, 6.5mm, and yet had a 3050mAh battery (bigger than XA Ultra's). It had a metal frame and a glass back, a round button on the side.

The T2 Ultra came later on in 2014 and C5 Ultra in 2015, and gradually Sony began having one of these 6" monsters every year. This year they're also continuing another feature from the C5 Ultra - the focus on selfies. The C5 Ultra had a 13MP selfie cam with its own LED flash.

The Sony Xperia XA Ultra's selfie camera is much better, of course. The sensor is bigger and of higher resolution, it has OIS too. The new Ultra is a more premium offering with a metal frame, even though it fills in the same midrange niche. None of that ugly glossy plastic on the back either, it's smooth, good quality polycarbonate this time around and we very much appreciate the change.

All this history lesson is to say that Sony has been doing large phones for years and if you liked the previous Ultras, you'll love this one too.

The 79mm worth of width is okay to hold with one hand, but to use the phone, you'll need both hands, which is understandable for such a big phone.

The whole thing is heavier than expected, which makes it more tiring to hold for long periods. We wish it weighed less. As it is now, it weighs as much as the 6.4" Xiaomi Mi Max and that thing is fully covered in metal and has a 4,850mAh battery as well.

Credit to Sony, however, for doing what it could to keep the phone as narrow as possible. In fact, as far as our research went, the XA Ultra might very well be the narrowest 6-inch phone there is.

The side bezels around the display are spectacularly thin. Any less than that and you'll be triggering unintentional touches from just holding the phone.

Read more on GSM Arena.

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