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MEGATech Reviews: Sony Xperia XA Ultra
Pros
  • Massive 6-inch display
  • Convenient camera button
  • Good selfie camera with flash and OIS
Cons
  • Uncomfortably large and heavy
  • Cheaper chipset, poor performance
  • No fingerprint reader
7.5Overall Score

In case you haven’t noticed, the primary function for most smartphones these days has very little to do with the actual “phone” part of the equation. We’re much more inclined to watch YouTube videos, catch up on social media and play some high-resolution games. And if you’re going to partake in all that multimedia, you may as well do it on the decidedly larger screen of the Sony Xperia XA Ultra, the largest device in the company’s newer X line of smartphones.

Because Bigger Is Better?

MEGATech Reviews: Sony Xperia XA Ultra

Announced way back in February and only recently being made available to the Canadian public, the Xperia XA Ultra is one of the newest Android smartphones from Sony. It is the sister device to the smaller but more powerful Sony Xperia X Performance. The primary focus here, as you can imagine, is that positively gigantic display.

With the Xperia XA Ultra, you get a 6-inch full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel) IPS LCD display with all the jazz that normally accompanies Sony’s smartphones. For comparison’s sake, there it is next to a first-generation Samsung Galaxy S Captivate, which had a 4-inch screen. The contrast is startling.

MEGATech Reviews: Sony Xperia XA Ultra

As with other phones in the X series, the XA Ultra ditches the glass back of the previous Xperia Z series. Instead, you get a satin finish plastic on the back that, when combined with the 2.5D beveled glass on the front provides what is meant to be a more comfortable grip. Of course, you’re still talking about a much larger (and heavier at 202 grams) than average phone. It still gets very unwieldy after more than a few seconds.

Running down the spec sheet, we find a MediaTek MT6755 Helio P10 octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, microSD expansion slot, 21.5MP main camera, 16MP rear camera, and Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box. Looking for that IP rating for waterproof protection? Keep looking. The Xperia XA Ultra is not at all designed to be dunked in the pool, quite unlike the Xperia Z cousins that preceded it.

X Gon’ Give It to Ya?

MEGATech Reviews: Sony Xperia XA Ultra

Sony is certainly no stranger to delivering smartphones that are larger than life. You might remember the Sony Xperia Z Ultra from a few years ago with its positively massive 6.4-inch display. The problem with that device at the time was that it was more of a tablet that could happen to make phone calls; the rear camera had no flash, for example.

The Xperia XA Ultra follows up on that heritage, but places itself squarely in the midrange in most other ways. There’s no fancy Snapdragon processor here. There are no real premium build materials aside from the metal frame. There’s no quad HD resolution on that big screen, but you do get at least full HD. Picky folks might notice the lack of pixels, but the somewhat muted colors and lower level of clarity will jump out for most other people. This is especially after you look at the higher resolution and punchier colors offered by the AMOLED screens on Samsung’s flagships.

The overall user experience is practically identical to what you would have seen from other Sony phones. The company’s own suite of apps can take over the native apps, like using Sony’s Album instead of Gallery or Google Photos. If you didn’t like Sony’s apps before, you won’t like them on a bigger screen either. If you liked them before, they’re even bigger here. And while the back is now made of plastic, the softer touch of the satin finish isn’t so bad. It’s smooth without being too smooth, but it’ll still grab all your greasy fingerprints. The screen has an oleophobic coating, thankfully, so fingerprints are less of an issue there.

The Dedicated Camera Button

MEGATech Reviews: Sony Xperia XA Ultra

When you’ve got that much length, you may as well use it. The XA Ultra aligns all of its physical buttons along the right side. This could be a problem on a smaller phone, as you might confuse the volume buttons for something else, but it’s less of an issue here. The round power button is distinctive to the touch and juts out a little more. The volume rocker is directly below that and you can find it easily based on touch alone.

For me, a highlight has always been the dedicated two-stage camera shutter button. That’s still here and, as before, holding it down will quick launch into the camera app even when the phone is asleep. This is fantastic for shooting pictures on the go with the very high resolution 21.5MP camera on the rear, which can also be used to shoot full HD video.

MEGATech Reviews: Sony Xperia XA Ultra

Perhaps a more notable highlight is the 16MP camera on the front, complete with flash and optical image stabilization. Those last two features are remarkably rare among smartphones, making this a great option for selfie lovers. You can use the dedicated shutter button or you can simply raise your hand in front of the camera to initiate the self-timer. Selfies can be good in low light too thanks to the larger 1/2.6″ sensor.

That’s cool in theory, but I personally found the OIS couldn’t really overcome my hand’s natural shakiness when holding up a phone this size and weight. I do like that you can simply swipe down on the screen to switch between the front and rear cameras though.

Benchmarks: AnTuTu, 3DMark, PCMark

MEGATech Reviews: Sony Xperia XA Ultra

The Xperia XA Ultra may be big on the outside, but it’s barely mid-range on the inside. By foregoing a more powerful (and more expensive) Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, Sony took on a performance hit with its ultra large phablet. Powered by a MediaTek Helios P10, the XA Ultra doesn’t fare terribly well with the standard suite of benchmarks.

The score of 48,127 in AnTuTu pales in comparison to the score of 124,000 earned by the more powerful X Performance. The same story holds true with the Sling Shot benchmark in 3DMark (427 vs. 2072) and the Work performance score in PCMark (4447 vs. 6228). In practice, I never really found myself waiting around for this phone to process anything, but that tune might change if you’re a heavy multitasking or you like to engage in particularly taxing tasks like video rendering or higher-end mobile games.

MEGATechie XA Ultra Sized or MEGATechie XL X-perience?

MEGATech Reviews: Sony Xperia XA Ultra

When I took a look at the Sony Xperia X Performance recently, I left myself wondering why it existed and how it set itself apart from the competition. With the Xperia XA Ultra, we get a raison d’etre from the over-sized display. For people who really want to stretch out their cargo pockets, it’s not a terrible option. It’s also useful for selfie fans.

I hesitate, though, for a few reasons. The mediocre performance can leave something to be desired and while 1080p may have been top-tier years ago, it’s not really good enough especially on a screen this size anymore. The display may be huge, but it’s nowhere near the best in the business. Pushing the relatively small 2700mAh battery to power such a large display doesn’t help either. But hey, it’s quite a bit cheaper than the flagships too, so a big screen doesn’t have to carry a big price tag.

The Sony Xperia XA Ultra is available in Canada exclusively from Wind Mobile for $0 with a $15/month WINDtab Boost. Alternatively, you can get it unlocked from Amazon for $340 US in your choice of black, white or lime gold.


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