Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
• 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