Sony Xpe­ria XA2 Ul­tra

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Most new phone launches for 2018 will take place at MWC, but there were a hand­ful of shiny new hand­sets in Las Ve­gas for CES. One of those was the Sony Xpe­ria XA2 Ul­tra, a mid-range de­vice for those want­ing a huge screen and dual front cam­eras. Those are re­ally the main fea­tures here as, un­sur­pris­ingly, Sony’s XA2 phones aren’t the first from Sony to have mod­ern fea­tures like

an 18:9 screen. Still, a dual selfie cam­era phone will ap­peal to some, if not many.

Price

The cost of tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to rise and the XA range is more ex­pen­sive than ever be­fore. Although the XA2 Ul­tra isn’t quite at the top of the mid-range, it’s still a pricey €450, with the smaller Xpe­ria XA2 €100 lower. We’re still wait­ing for a UK price but won’t be sur­prised if it’s the same price in pounds. This is not only more than its pre­de­ces­sor but puts the de­vice in direct com­pe­ti­tion with some bril­liant phones that are ef­fec­tively flag­ships with a mid-range price. It’s hard to beat the OnePlus 5T and Honor View 10.

At the time of writ­ing, the hand­sets were ex­pected to go on sale in Fe­bru­ary.

De­sign

At the front, the XA2 Ul­tra looks pretty much iden­ti­cal to the pre­vi­ous model. The main give­away that it’s new comes via the two cam­era lenses in the top bezel.

Look­ing at the phone from the top or bot­tom makes it look quite nice, we like the curved shape of the ‘loop sur­face’ de­sign – com­plete with bev­elled edges. How­ever, the re­main­der of the XA2 Ul­tra looks dis­tinctly av­er­age and even dated. Granted, the screen goes right to the edges at ei­ther side but the phone has fairly hefty bezels above and be­low. The wait for an 18:9 bezel-free Xpe­ria goes on – and will hope­fully end soon at MWC with the XZ1 Pre­mium.

Our big­gest com­plaint about the de­sign is sim­ply how big and un­wieldy the XA2 Ul­tra is.

Pre­vi­ously, hav­ing a large 6in screen would jus­tify this but con­sumers have come to ex­pect slim and light hand­sets re­gard­less. Take the OnePlus 5T, for ex­am­ple, which also has a 6in screen, mea­sures just 156x75x7.3mm and weighs 162g. In com­par­i­son, the XA2 Ul­tra is a shock­ing at 163x80x9.5mm and weighs an ou­tra­geous 221g. Both cost the same price.

A down­side of the 5T and some other ri­vals is that they don’t of­fer wa­ter­proof­ing and while this is some­thing Sony of­ten does, it hasn’t trick­led down the XA range still.

What is new to the se­ries is a fin­ger­print scan­ner, which is the first time an Xpe­ria in the US mar­ket has had this fea­ture. The small change com­pared to the ones we’re used to is that Sony has moved it to the rear rather than hav­ing it neatly built into the power but­ton on the side.

Like the Xpe­ria XA2, the Ul­tra model is avail­able in black, sil­ver and blue but a gold op­tion in­stead of pink.

Fea­tures

As you’d ex­pect, the XA2 Ul­tra is a big­ger ver­sion of the reg­u­lar model. How­ever, there are more dif­fer­ences here than just a larger screen.

At 6in with a Full HD res­o­lu­tion, the dis­play is ac­tu­ally the same as the XA1 Ul­tra, re­sult­ing is a poor 367ppi. That’s a de­cent chunk big­ger than the 5.2in XA2, even though that phone’s dis­play is big­ger. It’s nice to have a large screen but you’ve got to re­ally want it here to live with the size and weight of the phone. Other hand­sets at this price have much better screens in a much slim­mer frame.

For this gen­er­a­tion of the XA, Sony has moved from Me­di­aTek to Qual­comm with a Snap­dragon 630 chip. It’s a mid-range pro­ces­sor, which makes some sense, but OnePlus of­fers the flag­ship 835 in­side the 5T at the same price. Still, the XA2 Ul­tra’s per­for­mance seems fair after some hands-on time.

In­side is 32GB of stor­age like the smaller model, but you get 4GB of RAM com­pared to 3GB. Sony con­tin­ues to of­fer a mi­croSD card slot, so you can add more stor­age if needed.

Sony of­fers the same 23Mp rear cam­era in both the XA2 phones, which should pro­vide de­cent re­sults even if it doesn’t have all the fea­tures of the more pre­mium XZ phones. The dif­fer­ence and rea­son to get the Ul­tra is the afore­men­tioned dual front cam­eras.

This isn’t the first phone to favour dual cam­eras on the front rather than the rear, but it’s un­usual for a mid-range de­vice and not some­thing you find on its ri­vals. One is a 16Mp with op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion (OIS) aimed at low light pho­tog­ra­phy, while the other

is 8Mp with a 120 de­gree wide-an­gle lens, so you can fit more peo­ple in. We need to test them out prop­erly, but on pa­per this is a great phone for those who have self­ies as an im­por­tant tick box.

A big­ger phone means a big­ger bat­tery, so the XA2 Ul­tra should last longer than many ri­vals. It’s 3,580mAh com­pared to 3,300mAh in the smaller model. That’s good ,but con­sid­er­ing the phys­i­cal size and weight of this phone, we hoped it would be much closer to 4,000mAh.

Lastly, it’s great to see the new XA2 phones ship with An­droid 8.0 Oreo, the lat­est ver­sion of Google’s mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tem. As with past de­vices, Sony of­fer a largely un­touched An­droid ex­pe­ri­ence but with some use­ful ad­di­tions such as Xpe­ria Ac­tions and Tips.

Ver­dict

Our ini­tial im­pres­sions of the Xpe­ria XA2 Ul­tra aren’t great. Apart from hav­ing dual front cam­eras and a pretty large bat­tery, the phone doesn’t have much go­ing for it. It’s huge and heavy and has big bezels de­spite Sony de­scrib­ing it as ‘bor­der­less’. Worst of all is that Sony has priced it the same as im­pres­sive ri­vals like the OnePlus 5T so we can’t see it top­ping the mid-range chart. Chris Martin

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 6in (1920x1080, 367ppi) IPS ca­pac­i­tive dis­play • An­droid 8.0 Oreo • Qual­comm Snap­dragon 630 pro­ces­sor • Octa-core Cor­tex-A53 CPU • Adreno 508 GPU

• 4GB RAM • 32/64GB stor­age, mi­croSD up to 256GB • Fin­ger­print scan­ner (rear mounted) • 23Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era (f/2.0, 24mm, 1/2.3in), phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, LED flash • Dual front-fac­ing cam­eras: 16Mp (f/2.0, 23mm, 1/2.6in, OIS, AF) and 8Mp (f/2.4, 1/4in) • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 5.0 • A-GPS, GLONASS • USB 2.0 Type-C • Non-re­mov­able lithium-ion 3,580mAh bat­tery • 163x80x9.5mm • 221g

The XA2 Ul­tra is avail­able in black, blue, sil­ver and gold

The 23Mp rear­fac­ing cam­era should pro­duce de­cent re­sults

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