There has been loads of hype over flagship devices that have been released at events such as IFA and MWC. While these devices are often really good, they are often pretty expensive compared to mid range phones, which are often what the average smartphone user needs. Sony recently unveiled the XA1 Ultra, the larger version of the XA1 and I have spent some time with it. Let’s find out if this midrange device can replace a flagship.
Picking up the device, the first thing you will notice is its size. There is no way avoiding the fact that the XA1 Ultra is large. Whilst the phone is large, it certainly feels really good when holding it. The device has a full metal body and I mean it when I say full. Inspecting the device, there is not one bit of plastic around the body. The metal body also gives the phone loads of grip and the curved edges ensure that the device is comfortable in the hand. At 8.1 millimeters the device is also pretty thin and sleek looking.
At the bottom of the device is a USB Type C port which most of the newer phones are starting to get. One of the main benefits of a USB Type C port is that there is no wrong way to insert the cable. There is also a headphone jack at the top of the device. I say also as a particular phone no longer has a headphone jack and it’s now becoming important to mention it.
At the sides of the device you get the power button, volume rocker and camera button. I found the power button and the volume rocker to be a bit high up and would have prefered if it was a bit more in the middle. On the other side of the device is the sim card and MicroSD card slots.
As said by MKBD recently, there is a major war to go bezelless and Sony has done a really good job with the XA1 Ultra. The 6 inch display takes up most of the front of the device with a small space on the top and bottom. At the sides of the device, the curved display runs very close to the edge with only a thin strip of metal body. This gives the front of the device a really elegant look. The display which has 1080 by 1920 pixels is rich and colours are vibrant. Images and videos are crisp and clear. The display is an IPS LCD which ensures that the display is easily visible from different angles even when outdoors.
Whilst this is a mid range phone, Sony are not playing games when it comes to what keeps the device running. With a Mediatek chipset, a 2.3GHZ Octa-core processor and 4GBs of RAM, the XA1 Ulta certainly has the specs of a higher priced phone. I found the phone to be pretty nippy. Apps load quickly and I was able to run a couple of apps at the same time thanks to the 4 GBs of RAM, which is what you get in flagship devices. With 32Gb internal storage and support of a microSD card up to 256GB you can store loads of selfies and videos of your cat.
Sony Xperia devices are well known for their cameras and the XA1 Ultra’s camera does not disappoint. Featuring a 23MP camera with phase detection autofocus and an LED flash, you will be able to capture high quality images on the go, which is what most of us want from our smartphones. The camera focuses very quickly and the dynamic range is good which means you can capture lighter and lower parts of the image. Selfie lovers will love the 16MB front camera which captures wide angle like shots. The front facing camera even has a flash, optical stabilization and autofocusing! You can shoot video up to 1080p in 30fps on both the front and rear cameras. While I was a little disappointed to see that there wasn’t support for 60fps, I found the video quality to be adequate for most users. My only concern with the camera was the speed at which the camera takes a photo. After pressing the capture button, it takes about 2 seconds before the photo is taken, this is a bit too slow for my liking.
The stock camera app is simple and easy to use. You get the option to shoot in Manual mode to tweak the settings or shoot in Superior Auto mode which lets the camera choose the best settings based on the scene. Modes such as AR effect, Panorama and timeshift burst are also available.
Sample Images taken in 23MP in Super Auto Mode: Notice how the colours pop 🙂
The device comes loaded with Android 7 (Nougat) but is upgradeable to Android 8 (Oreo) in the near future. Sony’s UI overlay keeps the interface looking neat and uncluttered and most of all it is simple to navigate. The UI is fast and responsive with smooth animations. There are a couple of apps that come installed that you may not actually want which can either be disabled or installed.
The XA1 Ultra is powered by a non-removable Li-Ion 2700 mAh battery. You may be thinking that the large screen together with the lower than average battery capacity would mean a poor battery life. Well you would be incorrect. I was able to get a day of normal usage. Even with loads of photography and video recording the device lasted most of the day!
Priced at R6469.00, the XA1 Ultra is nearly double the price of its younger brother the XA1 which sells at a recommended retail price of R3,999.00. Even though both devices have very similar specs, the ultra is much larger and has a bigger battery and RAM, hence the large price difference. You would expect the XA1 Ultra to be priced similar to devices such as the Galaxy S8 yet the device is in the mid range price range. Flagship devices are becoming pretty expensive so it is great to see a midrange phone that is able to compete with the flagships.
Overall I was really impressed with the Xperia XA1 Ultra. The build quality is superb, the device has good performance, the screen is large yet rich, the camera takes really good photos/videos and the battery life is adequate for a large device. So, in my opinion, the average user could easily save loads of money and go with the XA1 Ultra over a flagship device that may empty the average bank account.