Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra review: Hands-on

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 is 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, the 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 and release date

The cost of technology continues to rise and the XA range is more expensive than ever before. Although the Xperia XA2 Ultra isn’t quite at the top of the mid-range, it’s still a fairly pricey 450 Euros with the smaller Xperia XA2 100 Euros lower.

We’re still waiting for a UK price but won’t be surprised if it’s the same in pounds compared to Europe.

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.

Sony isn’t hanging around with the XA2 range and expects them to go on sale in February.

Design and build

At the front, the Xperia 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.

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra loop surface design

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 complain 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, is just 156x75x7.3mm and 162g. In comparison, the XA2 Ultra is a shocking at 163x80x9.5mm and weighs an outrageous 221g.

These phones 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.

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra fingerprint scanner

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 back 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.

Specs and features

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

The screen is actually the same as the XA1 Ultra at 6.0in with a Full HD resolution resulting is a fairly 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 big screen but you’ve got to really want it here to live with the size and weight of the phone. Other phones at the same price, as mentioned, have much better screens in a much slimmer frame.

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra vs XA2

For this generation of the XA, Sony has moved from MediaTek to Qualcomm with a Snapdragon 630. 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 performance seems fair after some hands-on time.

Inside the XA2 Ultra 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 rivals. One is a 16Mp with optical image stabilisation (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.

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra dual selfie cameras

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 got a 3580mAh compared to 3300mAh 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 4000mAh.

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.

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