We review Sony’s first huge smartphone of 2018, the Xperia XA2 Ultra. This 6-inch behemoth costs just £350 in the UK, making it one of the more affordable big-screen blowers that you can buy. So should you stump up for this Ultra model, or stick with the standard Sony Xperia XA2?
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra review: Design
The XA2 Ultra is one of the best-looking phones Sony Mobile has launched in recent times.
Just like the smaller Xperia XA2, you get an attractive combination of aluminium and polycarbonate. These blend together well, although not exactly seamlessly, complete with some aesthetically pleasing details. We particularly like the shiny chamfered finish surrounding those flat top and bottom edges.
The subtle curve of the rear plate and those rounded edges aid a comfortable grip. All the same, the sheer size of this device, combined with the sharp corners, mean it’s a struggle to use one-handed. Sony has at least added some help in the form of its ‘one-handed operations’ features. These can be employed to shrink your desktops, compress the virtual keyboard and so on. However, we found ourselves longing for the standard XA2’s ease of use whenever we wielded the Ultra model outdoors.
That said, the new rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is even better than those edge-mounted scanners found on older Sony phones. For one, it works the same whether you’re left or right-handed. It’s a perfectly accurate sensor too, although it’s not the fastest at unlocking the phone.
You don’t get any form of water resistance, but the XA2 Ultra is pretty rugged. An accidental drop did no noticeable damage, although the handset has picked up some light scratches on that plastic rear.
Read next: Best Sony phones in 2018
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra review: Screen and media
One of the prime reasons for bagging yourself this Ultra model over the standard Xperia XA2 is that display.
It’s no sharper than its smaller counterpart; in fact, you get the same Full HD resolution, which means less pixels-per-inch. Likewise, it’s the same IPS tech, for a similar colour and brightness output.
However, if you’re a fan of spacious smartphone screens, you can’t go wrong. As you’d expect from Sony, that panel produces crisp, great-looking images. On top brightness levels, it’s still perfectly visible in strong daylight. Viewing angles are as wide as you want and, combined with the size of this panel, means you can share a Netflix movie with a mate on the move.
We also love how customisable the whole media experience is. For instance, Sony has included its usual Super Vivid Mode, which boosts colours if you prefer punchy visuals. Likewise, the audio settings can be tweaked and played around with, to suit whatever music you’re enjoying.
You get a choice of 32GB or 64GB of storage space, with roughly 13GB of that used up by the OS and pre-installed apps. Therefore, if you grab the smaller storage model, you’ll want to invest in a microSD memory card. Cards up to 256GB are supported, to expand your space for more media and other bits.
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra review: Features
Packed onto the XA2 Ultra is the latest Android Oreo OS. However this has been spruced up with Sony’s own software, which changes quite a lot.
For a start, the general look and feel of Android has been tweaked. It’s still recognisably Google’s OS in terms of layout, but everything from the living wallpaper to the funkified icons are different. You can still customise everything however, to get it looking just the way you like.
Even better, Sony has added some bonus functionality. Sadly there’s no Remote Play support, for streaming your PS4 gaming session to the smartphone. However, you do get some nifty one-handed modes, which are a godsend on this massive mobile. And we like the assist feature too, which guides Xperia noobs through some of the best features.
Have a gander at our Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra tips and tricks guide to hear about our favourite Sony phone features.
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra review: Performance and battery life
Like the Xperia XA2, the Xperia XA2 Ultra is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 630 chipset. However, you do get more memory stuffed inside the Ultra model (4GB rather than 3GB).
Using the Xperia XA2 Ultra as your full-time phone is a perfectly smooth and pleasant experience. Occasionally you’ll have to wait a couple of seconds as an app loads, yet you won’t see many stutters. Likewise, the only apps that crashed on us are apps renowned for crashing.
The latest games also play with a pleasingly fluid framerate. Whether you’re smashing your way around a racetrack or racking up headshots, you won’t be put off by chugging gameplay.
When the phone is idle, very little power is drained from that mighty 3580mAh battery. Thankfully the XA2 Ultra also survives well over a day even with plenty of use, helped along by that efficient Snapdragon chipset. We generally enjoyed a day and a half of life between charges, or two full days with more restrained use.
Quick Charge 3.0 support means that recharging is relatively quick. Qnovo’s smart charging tech is also on board, so you shouldn’t see any degradation in battery performance over time. This seems to do the job on previous Xperias, so we’re expecting it to work well on the Ultra too.
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra review: Cameras
Around the back of the Xperia XA2 Ultra, you get the same 23-megapixel camera setup as the standard XA2. This produces identical good-looking photos in most conditions, thanks to Sony’s smart Superior Auto mode.
Home movie fans will rejoice at the solid video results also. You can shoot Full HD clips at either 30 or 60 frames-per-second, while the Xperia XA2 Ultra also boasts 4K recording.
However, where the XA2 Ultra really sets itself apart from the smaller Xperia XA2 is the selfie snapper. Above the display you get a dual-lens setup, alongside an LED flash for night shots. This proves much more flexible, for better looking selfies wherever you roam.
Check out our full Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra camera review for all you need to know.
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra review: Verdict
Sony’s Xperia XA2 Ultra offers two main advantages over the standard XA2. The first is that more spacious screen, a major draw for anyone who consumes lots of video on the go. The second is that updated dual selfie cam, which is particularly good for low light and night shots.
Of course, if you’re not bothered about either of those features and simply want a great all-round mid-range mobile, we’d point you at the standard Xperia XA2. For £50 less you get an easier-to-handle smartphone, boasting solid specs and impressive customisation.