Sony Xperia XA Ultra Review: Bigger Screen, Better Performance?

by Jamie Inocian  August 24, 2016

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Last week, we had a look at the beautiful mid-ranged device from Sony, the Xperia XA, but now it’s time to look at its big-screened sibling — The Sony Xperia XA Ultra. It shares some hardware with the slimmer, sleeker looking Xperia XA, but does the bump up in screen size, resolution, and RAM make for a better experience with the device? Before, we get into it. Let’s see the what has the big-screened smartphone from the Japanese brand has under the hood.

Sony Xperia XA Ultra Specs

  • MediaTek MT6755 Helio P10
  • 3GB of RAM
  • Mali-T860MP2 GPU
  • 6-Inch Full HD IPS LCD; 1080×1920, 367ppi, Bravia Mobile Engine 2
  • 16GB of expandable storage; Up to 256GB
  • 21.5-megapixel Rear Camera; Phase Detection Auto Focus, LED Flash, f/2,2 Aperture
  • 16-megapixel Front Camera; f/2.0 Aperture, AF, OIS, LED Flash
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth, NFC
  • 2700mAh Battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow

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Xperia C5 Ultra, Is That You?

The Sony Xperia XA Ultra will look very familiar to fans of the Xperia series. The design, from any angle, looks and is built similarly to the C5 Ultra that was announced more than a year ago. The only change to its appearance seems to be the camera placement of its rear shooter that mimics the layout of Xperia Z5. It has been reported the C5 Ultra was a bit of fingerprint magnet, which doesn’t seem to be the case with the polycarbonate back on the XA Ultra; plus it also gets bonus points for having a bit of a pearlescent effect it to its finish, at least for the White review unit that was lent to us.

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The phone is rather hefty coming it at 202 grams and, as you may have guessed, may be a little hard to operate with one hand unless you’ve got huge hands like we do. There are gentle curved edges on its metal frame that do help out a lot, but you’re most likely going to want to use both hands while using the device for the most part. There is a feature that helps with one-hand usage, but its such a waste of that great 6-inch display.

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Speaking of which, compared to the XA, the XA Ultra gets Full HD resolution on its 6-inch screen that’s protected by a 2.5D scratch resistant glass. The bump up in resolution makes for a better viewing experience and we were pleased with the color vibrance of the display even though we didn’t have any of the enhancements on, but we do recommend using the Mobile Bravia Engine 2 — because, it does make media consumption on the large phablet even more enjoyable.

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Same Helio P10 SoC, Same Problems?

If you’ve read our review for the Xperia XA, we mentioned that the Helio P10 struggled a bit and seemed to be in need of more RAM. That may have you worried for the XA Ultra that shares the same SoC, and it did have us worried too; especially since it had to push more pixels around. Generally though, we had a smoother time with XA Ultra than we did with the XA. It seems the slight bump up in RAM helped out the processor tremendously with day-to-day tasks and showed little slow downs when we had to multitask between apps, which launched much faster compared to the same ones we had on the Xperia XA.

Gaming on the XA Ultra was also smoother, though we would still generally advise you to stay away from heavier games. Asphalt 8 ran on high with a few frame drops here and there, and you’ll have to tweak NBA 2K16 down a bit — and close out app running in the background — to better enjoy gaming on the big-screened phablet.

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The front camera on the XA Ultra, much like the C5 Ultra, is probably the first thing you notice when you first see this phone and it does deliver the goods. Images were sharp and colors are pretty much dead on when you’ve got enough light plus a decent amount of depth of field with its f/2.0 aperture . Shots had somewhat of a bluish tinge to it in the late afternoon though, so you may out have to watch for that, but it is equipped with a LED flash for those night time selfies.

Move on over to its rear shooter and it’s pretty much the same there, it showed good dynamic range, colors get a thumbs up, and the f-stop gives you a decent amount of DoF; the Superior Auto Mode also eliminates much of the hassle of switching features on an off as well. If we were to nit-pick a little bit, it would be with the camera apps manual mode — this was the same for the XA as well, by the way — which is a little too simple for those with more photography game.

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Big Bod, Petite Batt

The Xperia XA has a petite battery and given its slender build we didn’t expect it to have a large capacity. You can imagine our surprise when we saw that the XA Ultra only had a 2700mAh battery within its much larger frame. It got pretty decent scores on our battery benchmark tests given its capacity, but we really wish it at least would hit the 3000mAh mark. In real world tests, we had to top up the Xperia XA Ultra in the late afternoon to make sure we had enough juice to run around and catch Pokemon for a few hours before heading home.

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The Veridct: Does Sony Get The Price Right?

You’ve always let us know loud and clear what you guys thought about the pricing on Sony smartphones. The Xperia XA Ultra comes in at Php 19,990 and we can’t imagine that the lot of you will be happy with the price tag, but it is priced competitively against other mid-range, big-screen phones in the market . The 6-inch mid-ranged phablet makes a compelling case for itself and could merit some consideration if it’s within your budget.

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    Actually, if you are going to splurge 20k, you might as well add a little more (6k, ok, 6k is not little) for the Samsung A9 Pro. The A9 Pro is superior in every aspect over the XA Ultra – better processor, better battery, more RAM, and a better brand to boot.

    Or you could get the year-old 6.8″ screen Lenovo Phab Plus, dated but still capable processor(for most daily tasks, not graphic-intensive games), just enough RAM for now (2GB, not future proof), worse camera, year-old OS with little hope for update (Lollipop 5.0, upgradeable to 5.1). But with Full HD IPS screen, 3,500maH Battery. metal back, and a price that is unbeatable. It’s probably stock liquidation, but at 6,999 (8,999 from third parties at Lazada), it’s the best value for the buck at the moment. It should still be available at select allphones outlets.

    Despite this sounding like an ad, I am not connected in anyway to any of the companies listed. Just to share a best-value phablet tip…

    For around P2K, give or take, the Zenfone 3 gives you better specs in nearly every field save for screen size and the stock Android experience (though YMMV). ZF3 wins easily.