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Hands-on with the Sony Xperia XA Ultra

In July 2016 Sony released the Xperia XA Ultra, a 6 inch Full HD smartphone with a 21.5 Megapixel camera, at a price point considerably lower than the likes of its Z series.

The Smartphone

At first glance the XA Ultra shouts premium, it’s made from high quality plastics and metals, with scratch resistant glass on the front of the device. The power button on the side is chromed steel and the device just feels and looks so solid in your hand. The 6 inch 1080p IPS display may have a lower dpi than most phones on the market, but it still looks sharp when playing games or consuming media, it also probably has the smallest side bezels of any smartphone I have ever used.

In terms of media the phone has brilliant audio quality and makes a great mobile YouTube player, if only there was an included kick stand. With only 2700 mAh, battery life is surprisingly good with me only having to charge the device at night when going to bed, no mid day charges – power users rejoice.

The Xperia XA Ultra

Performance

The XA Ultra is a snappy device thanks to its 8 Core Processor and 3GB of RAM. Navigating Android as well as switching between open apps is incredibly fast and the phone hardly suffers from a single stutter during multitasking. Gaming performance is also decent with more demanding titles such as Asphalt 8 running flawlessly. GPS triangulation is quick and after a drive on your dash the phone doesn’t get too hot, unlike my old Galaxy S6.
The full specifications of the Sony Xperia XA Ultra can be seen below

Spec Sheet taken from GSM Arena (http://www.gsmarena.com/sony_xperia_xa_ultra-8102.php)
Specifications taken from GSM Arena (http://www.gsmarena.com/sony_xperia_xa_ultra-8102.php)

Camera

The camera on the XA Ultra is quite arguably simultaneously the best and worst feature on the phone. The front and back facing cameras takes clear shots no matter whether you are indoors or out. The XA features a f/2.2 21.5 megapixel camera on the back, a much larger resolution than it’s per-price competitors as well as most flagship phones. The front facing camera features a 16 megapixel sensor with f/2.0 which helps take selfies while out at night in low lighting conditions, and even includes a flash on the front and back. Taking photos on the phone can be captured on it’s Manual mode where you can adjust features such as contrast and focus and use the dedicated capturing button on the side of the device, Sony has also included a “Superior Auto” mode which has quick autofocus and HDR support for more vibrant photos. It would seem that Sony have done everything they could to make sure that the Xperia XA Ultra has one of the best cameras on the market making this a perfect device for Social Media.

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Photo taken in Superior Auto mode with the 21.5 MP camera

 

Now, although photography on the XA Ultra is a class above the rest, what’s disappointingly the worst feature of the phone is its video functionality. Both front and back facing cameras are limited to 1080p video at 30 frames per second – a feature that was available on the iPhone 4S in back in 2011. Competing phones in the same price range have access to 1080p60 as well as 2160p30. Not only is the maximum video resolution really low for modern expectations but it suffers from frame stuttering when video stabilization is enabled and you move from dark to well lit rooms – this makes the video on the XA Ultra almost unusable. I recorded some video at a recent Nintendo event showing the poor video performance.

Verdict

The Sony Xperia XA Ultra is a great device for photography and daily media consuming power users. The major drawback is the limitation of low performance 1080p video on its front and rear facing cameras, which could be a deal breaker for most. It’s probably the perfect phone to compliment my girlfriend’s cat-filled Instagram, but won’t have me changing devices.

The Sony Xperia Ultra currently retails for R6499 at selected stores.

Post Author: Byron Trent

Geek / Gamer / Gadget Enthusiast. Been playing games since the age of 3. Currently CEO of Game Arena (Pty) Ltd. I write bad reviews.