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Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra : Review

The Xperia XA1 Ultra  is an intermediate smartphone of big screen that Sony  is bringing here to Brazil in the month of August. Going straight to the point, you can summarize almost everything that matters on the device as follows: it is as if the device was a larger and a little better version of Xperia XA1 , which I analyzed here in TecWorld not long ago – click here to check.

That means a lot is very similar between the two phones  of the Japanese company, including its good cameras, old-fashioned design and even the processor. However, other specs have received some considerable upgrades. Even so, it goes without saying that the Xperia XA1 Ultra is the best choice among the current intermediaries.

Old-fashioned yet robust

To begin by addressing what has changed compared to the XA1, the most obvious point is the size of the device. The XA1 Ultra gained two centimeters of height and more than one of width relative to the smaller brother, but kept exactly the same square style and with large edges above and below the screen, but practically no borders on the sides. However, I still find this look old fashioned.

The quality of the construction has also been maintained, which means that the metal casing is rigid and must be able to withstand one fall or another without suffering major damage. Just like the XA1, the Ultra is also not waterproof, so nothing to take the device for a swim in the pool.

One negative side effect of the bigger dimensions was that it became harder to use the device with one hand – but that is something that will probably only really bother you if you have small hands.

Large and good screen

It was not just the body of the device that got bigger. The screen also evolved – not just in size. The XA1 Ultra comes with a 6-inch display with Full HD resolution, so you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite videos and games with a cool size and good level of detail . The panel remains IPS LCD, with strong brightness and presenting reasonable colors.

I say reasonable because the tones do not get as vivid as in an AMOLED or Super AMOLED. Even so, the user experience is pretty cool the way it is, so only those who are accustomed to more advanced display technologies than the IPS LCD should bother. And the nuisance is not the greatest even in this case.

Smooth Performance

As much as the processor of the XA1 Ultra is the same MediaTek  Helio P20 of the smaller model, the rest of the specifications have been upgraded. Instead of the 3 GB of RAM on the XA1, the Ultracomes with 4 GB in total, and the internal storage has doubled from 32 GB to 64 GB without giving up the micro SD card slot.

In practice, this means that the cell phone works great in everyday use and that many photos , videos and applications fit in , especially if you use a memory card. The XA1 Ultra is quick to open and switch apps, even when heavy games are involved. And speaking in games, the device did not suffer at all to run titles with demanding graphics, such as Mortal Kombat , Asphalt Xtreme  and Mobius Final Fantasy .

We also did not notice frames falling on titles that run at many frames per second, like Horizon Chase. The only moment of slowness that it gave to realize was stirring in the menus of Injustice 2 , but in the hour of the fights everything everything went smoothly. That is, you will be able to play what you want without problems.

Benchmarks

In order to compare the performance of the Xperia XA1 Ultra with some competitors, the device has been subjected to three benchmark applications. The tests used were 3DMark  (Ice Storm Unlimited), AnTuTu Benchmark 6  and Vellamo Mobile Benchmark (HTML5 and Metal).

3D Mark offers a series of tests to benchmark smartphones . Among them, Ice Storm Unlimited lets you compare directly between processors and GPUs. Display resolution is a factor that can affect the final result. The higher the score, the better the performance.

The AnTuTu 6 app lets you test the interface, CPU, GPU and RAM of the devices . The results are provided individually and added together to generate a total score. And here’s also the maximum for the points : the more, the better.

Vellamo Mobile Benchmark applies two tests to smartphones , evaluating the performance of the mobile phone during the access of Internet content through browsers in the first and the performance of the processor in the second. Again, larger numbers indicate better results.

Great cameras for the category

At the rear, it comes with a system very similar to the old top of the line Sony, the Xperia Z5 Premium . There are 23 MPs on the company’s great sensor, with a lens with aperture large enough to make good images by day and night, with plenty of detail , cool colors and good contrast.

The cameras of the XA1 Ultra are not perfect, but stand out in an intermediate mobile phone

The manual mode of the software also gives you enough control to fine tune the capture as you need it, and Sony has included Instagram style filters and augmented reality elements for you to take funny pictures . The only thing that bothers the rear camera is the lens flare effect, which appears when you have very strong lights reflected at angles at the edges of the lens. Even so, the rear camera of the XA1 Ultra really stands out among most intermediate smartphones , and maybe even rival the Zenfone 3 Zoom  – but we’ll leave it to see it in our comparison.

In the front camera, Sony stated that the XA1 Ultra brings the “ultimate experience” to selfies. As technologies are evolving all the time, this type of statement is certainly just an exaggeration of marketing. However, this does not mean that the front set of the XA1 Ultra is not very good. He really does a great job.

The sensor is very efficient with its 16 MP, which is twice the Xperia XA1. Images come out good in both light and dark places, and optical stabilization helps to reduce the effects of any shaking. Also, if the environment really is too dark, the XA1 Ultra has a good front flash.

When it comes to recording videos, the phone can also do a nice job, but the maximum resolution of the recordings is Full HD – no 4K recordings here. At least Sony’s SteadyShot system continues to work well to prevent videos from shaking.

Android almost pure

About the interface, the XA1 Ultra comes with Android Nougat already factory installed, and Sony continues to keep the experience close to the pure operating system. That way, anyone who is accustomed to devices from Sony, Motorola or Google itself will feel at home.

One of the differences is that some extra applications already come installed, such as the PlayStation, the Amazon store and a few others. Even so, as the phone has plenty of internal space, this does not bother much. In addition, the app drawer comes with a custom organization by default, but can be rearranged to show apps in alphabetical order, by the date of installation, or to display the apps you last used first.

Where’s the battery?

One of the points most weak of Xperia XA1 is the battery, and in that the XA1 Ultra could do a worse job yet, even having a greater power reserve. In our stress test, we put the phones to run a YouTubevideo  with the brightness of the screen at most for one hour, making three consumption measurements.

The XA1 Ultra can hardly stand a full day away from the power outlet.

That way, we can have an estimate of the battery life in total, which in the case of the XA1 Ultra was only 5 hours and 16 minutes. That is, the larger device, with a 2,700 mAh battery, lasts almost two and a half hours less than the smaller one, which is less than 400 mAh.

That means that people who enjoy playing hard, watch a lot of videos, and take a lot of photos on the phone will have to abuse Sony’s Stamina mode – and even then they probably will not be able to spend the whole day away from the shot.

Even in the case of more moderate use, it is probably a good idea to keep your charger close and use Stamina mode when you can, just to ensure that the unit will still have charge at the end of the day. Also, the battery takes about 3 hours to go from 0{60744f0919d53124c03a11d98318193fda80b8dce065a9d207ce3efef73ed2c9} to 100{60744f0919d53124c03a11d98318193fda80b8dce065a9d207ce3efef73ed2c9}, so it’s good if you plan to recharge during the day.

Extras

Speaking of sound output, the XA1 Ultra has the same problems as its younger brother. As much as the audio power is good and it does not get out very distorted in more volumes strong , the speaker is in the worst possible position. As it is in the bottom corner of the phone, it is very common for you to end up muffling by hand when playing or watching videos.

At least the smartphone comes with a headset in the box. However, I could not test the quality of this accessory because Sony insists on not sending the complete package for the reviews .

One cool thing is that the XA1 Ultra comes with separate slots for two SIM chips and a micro SD card, so you do not have to choose whether to use a second SIM card or expand the device memory.