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Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra vs Xperia XA Ultra: Hands-on comparison review

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra vs Xperia XA Ultra: We compare Sony’s new XA1 Ultra smartphone with last year’s XA Ultra, to see what’s changed for this new 2017 model. Here’s our full Xperia XA1 Ultra vs Xperia XA Ultra comparison review.

Sony’s biggest smartphone of 2016 was the Xperia XA Ultra, a 6-inch beast boasting a seriously impressive selfie camera and some decent media chops. Over at MWC 2017, Sony has just updated the Xperia XA Ultra in the form of the Xperia XA1 Ultra. And while the naming makes no sense whatsoever, we kind of like this all-new 6-inch phablet after our hands-on session.

So how does the Xperia XA1 Ultra compare with the original XA Ultra phone? Should XA Ultra owners consider splashing out for the upgraded camera tech and performance boost? Here’s our hands-on XA1 Ultra vs XA Ultra comparison, so you know what the difference is.

Read next: Sony XZ Premium vs Xperia XZs vs Xperia XZ hands-on comparison review

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra specs

Phone Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra
Screen size 6-inches
Screen resolution 1920×1080
Water resistant? No
Fingerprint sensor? No
OS Android Nougat
Processor Mediatek Helio P20
Memory 4GB
Storage TBC
microSD? Yes
Rear camera 23-megapixel
Front camera 16-megapixel w/flash and OIS

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra vs Xperia XA Ultra: Design

Just as last year’s Xperia XA Ultra looked like a super-sized version of the Xperia XA, Sony’s new Xperia XA1 Ultra looks like a mammoth version of the new Xperia XA1. In other words, the XA1 Ultra shares a lot of design language with the XA Ultra, but also adds some refinements to make the phone look even smarter.

Both mobiles are 6-inches in size, so only those with big pockets and bags need apply. Sony has added some one-handed features in to help make both devices more usable, but you’ll need to employ two hands to comfortably use them.

Like the XA Ultra before it, Sony’s new XA1 Ultra stretches that 6-inch screen across almost the entire width of the handset. The aesthetics are definitely pleasing to the eye, but the XA1 Ultra boasts some design improvements too. For instance, the left and right edges now enjoy symmetrical curving, for a comfortable grip and unique finish. And those top and bottom edges are perfectly flat, just like the flagship Xperia XZ phone.

Neither the XA Ultra or XA1 Ultra are water resistant, as you’d expect at this price point. However, there’s also no edge-mounted fingerprint sensor. Instead you just get Sony’s old-school rounded power button, and your bog-standard PIN or password entry. At least Google’s Trusted Unlock feature allows you to bypass PIN entry when you’re in your home or hooked up to a designated Bluetooth device.

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra vs Xperia XA Ultra: Screen and media

There’s no real difference between these two phones when it comes to media chops. Both the XA Ultra and XA1 Ultra pack a mighty 6-inch screen with a 1920×1080 pixel Full HD resolution. High-def images look impressively crisp despite that large panel size, while Sony offers its Super Vivid Mode to boost colours and make the visuals a little punchier.

Neither phone supports Hi-Res audio sadly, so audiophiles after super-crisp and detailed sound quality will have to look to the more expensive Xperia smartphones. However, both the XA Ultra and the XA1 Ultra offer microSD expansion, so you can carry around a good-sized media collection.

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra vs Xperia XA Ultra: Features and OS

The Xperia XA1 Ultra comes packing Android Nougat, something the XA Ultra is still waiting for. That means you get the latest Google Android features, including the ability to multi-task with two apps at once in split-screen mode.

However, while the XA Ultra is stuck on old Android, that software does at least look lovely thanks to Sony’s Unified Design. This gives you a colour scheme and general theme that’s married to your chosen handset colour (black, white, gold or pink), so the hardware and software complement each other in a very pleasing manner.

In both cases you get Sony’s add-on features, including a full tips and tricks guide to help smartphone noobs get the most from their handset.

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra vs Xperia XA Ultra: Performance and battery life

As you might expect, the Xperia XA1 Ultra boasts a performance upgrade compared with last year’s Xperia XA Ultra.

This 2017 model comes packing a Helio P20 processor backed by 4GB of RAM, which should offer a smoother everyday experience than the original phone’s Helio P10 with 3GB RAM. Especially good news if you want to multi-task with apps using Nougat’s split screen feature.

You also get the smart new Qnovo battery tech in the XA1 Ultra, something missing from the original XA Ultra. This monitors your battery charging habits and ensures that the XA1 Ultra’s cell isn’t damaged from overcharging. The result should be a battery life that doesn’t degrade over time.

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra vs Xperia XA Ultra: Cameras

Camera tech was pretty good on the original Xperia XA Ultra handset. That rear 21-megapixel f/2.2 snapper captured good-looking photos in most conditions, complete with HDR assistance for tricky contrast. And you could shoot up to Full HD footage too.

But the Xperia XA1 Ultra comes packing an updated 23-megapixel camera like the one found on the Xperia X mobile from 2016. This snapper packs a bigger 1/2.3” Exmor RS for mobile sensor, while the f/2.0 lens seems to give better performance in low light.

And like the XA Ultra, the XA1 Ultra is a selfie beast. You once again have a 16-megapixel camera with Optical Image Stabilisation and a flash, which helps you to capture a gorgeous night shot. And you can capture a selfie with just a wave of your hand, which is more comfortable than fumbling for the shutter button.

Check out our hands-on features with all of Sony’s new Xperia X-series phones launched at MWC (including the Xperia XZ Premium mega-flagship) over at our MWC 2017 hub. And come back soon for our full Xperia XA1 Ultra review.

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