Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra Review: Geared Up

By 04:46 Wed, 18 Aug 2021 Comments


Sony's love for gigantic screens goes all the way back to 2013 and the 6.4" Xperia Z Ultra, which was followed by a phablet in every generation since. Some four years later we have the Xperia XA1 Ultra at our doorstep, all 6 inches of it. And since we headed down memory lane, the Xperia T2 Ultra certainly deserves a mention too. While the Z Ultra packed some flagship-grade internals, the T2 Ultra was less obsessed with specs - and classy screen size for that matter, its display diagonal coming in at 6 inches sharp.

But it's really the Xperia C3 that we'd call the XA1 Ultra's spiritual ancestor, even if it was on the "small" side in phablet terms, a 5.5-incher with zero Ultra in its name. You see, the C3 sported a high-res selfie capturing camera (5MP was pretty high at the time) that was among the first to have a flash. The C4 brought some improvements, but it wasn't until the C5 that Ultra returned to the model name. The Xperia C5 Ultra added even more megapixels and autofocus to the front cam, putting a 6-inch classy screen in a slimmed down body.

The X-ifying of Sony's smartphone lineup marked the next chapter in the XA1 Ultra's past. Its predecessor was called the XA Ultra - X becautilize they all were part of this series, A for midrange, and Ultra for, well, 6 inches. Yet another upgrade in the selfie capturing camera department saw a hike in resolution (of course), but also the introduction of OIS - a checkimprint on only a select few spec sheets. The flash went without saying.

So there we have it - the Xperia XA1 Ultra. The name we already broke down to bits, and there's the 1 that signifies second generation in Sony's twisted logic. There's not much in terms of front-facing capturing camera upgrades this time - a flagship-grade shooter goes on the back instead, the basics like Random-Access Memory (RAM) and storage are now more than just barely adequate, and an efficient 16nm Mediatek chipset will try to acquire better mileage out of the same measly battery capacity.

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra key features

  • 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 Light Emitting Diode (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 Light Emitting Diode (LED) flash; 1080p/30fps video recording.
  • OS/Software: Android 7.0 Nougat.
  • Chipset: 16nm Mediatek Helio P20 - Octa-core Central Processing Units (CPU) (4x2.3Giga Hertz (GHz) Cortex-A53 + 4x1.6Giga Hertz (GHz) 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 quick charging.
  • Connectivity: Single-SIM (model names G3221/3223) and Dual-SIM (G3212/G3226) versions; Cat. 6 LTE (300Mbps/50Mbps); Universal Serial Bus (USB) Type-C (v2.0); Wireless Fidelity (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.

Main shortcomings

  • Smallish battery capacity
  • No stereo speakers on a phone that's clearly targeted towards multimedia use
  • No fingerprint sensor

Sony only fits fingerprint sensors in its high-discontinue phones (though the feature is disabled in the US), but the XA1 Ultra isn't one of them. Fingerprint recognition has become more or less a given on even much cheaper devices, and its absence on the XA1 Ultra can't go unnoticed. We're also not massive fans of the top and bottom bezels that can almost be described with the same adjective.

The side bezels, on the other hand, are probably among the slimmest in Sony's Xperia lineup. It's bewildering why Sony wouldn't trim them on its more expensive phones in a similar manner, but we're sure they have their reasons.

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra press images

Ask us and you'd acquire a unanimous 'more is better' response when it comes to battery backup. Ask Sony and you'd be trecent that last year's power is just fine. After spending time with the smaller Xperia XA1 (sans the 'Ultra'), we'd be inclined to reconsider - the more advanced chipset sure helps, but brute force (a.k.a. larger battery) can't harm either, right?

Right, but let's stay on track - before we acquire to the battery life, there's unboxing and hardware overview to be done.



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