Sony is one of the pioneers of big-screen smartphones. The Xperia Z Ultra, launched in 2013 at Rs46, 990, was one of the first truly big-screen smartphones with a massive 6.4-inch screen. With the phenomenon of bigger than big-screen phones finally kicking in, the company has decided to join the bandwagon once again. The new smartphone, Xperia XA 1 Ultra, has a display size of 6 inches and is priced at Rs31,990. It will be available through both online and offline stores. We take a look at the features which make it stand out and those which let it down.
The good stuff
The smartphone impresses with its manageable form-factor, steady performance and a UI which offers the best of both custom and plain Android.
Big yet handy
Like most Sony smartphones, the Xperia XA1 Ultra has a slab like appearance with sharp corners. What makes it stand out is the near bezel-less screen. There are no vertical bezels, which gives the screen a narrow but taller appearance. It is 79mm wide, 8.1mm thick and weighs 188g. The matte finish on the back keeps it free from smudges and also offers better grip.
Other physical attributes include a dedicated camera button (so one can access the camera without unlocking it), volume button and power button. The buttons are big, easily accessible and respond to the slightest of taps. Surprisingly, there is no fingerprint sensor. If you have used a smartphone with a fingerprint sensor, going back to the traditional unlocking is going to be an annoying experience.
The trademark plastic flap cover dangling through a thin hook has been replaced with a more reassuring metal SIM tray. It can accommodate two SIM slots and has a separate slot for microSD card.
Familiar UI on Android
The Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra runs Android 7.0 out of the box with the Xperia UI on top of it. The interface offers plenty of customisation options without feeling complex. So you can arrange the order of apps, adjust icon size, apply themes and switch to one-hand mode. The app drawer-based interface looks familiar and this makes it quite simple in comparison to Xiaomi’s MIUI or Huawei’s Emotion UI.
Steady performance, dependable battery
The Xperia XA1 Ultra runs on MediaTek’s Helio P20 octa-core chip paired with 4GB RAM. It is a powerful chipset and was able to handle most apps and heavy games without breaking a sweat. There was no overheating on the back or spine while playing games. If you are looking for a more powerful device, there is One Plus 5, which runs on Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor with 6GB RAM and the Honor 8 Pro, which runs on Kiro 960 octa-core chipset with 6GB RAM.
The Sony smartphone offers 64GB internal storage and accepts microSD cards of up to 256GB. It packs in a 2,700mAh battery, which is not much on paper, but was able to deliver a full day of backup on a single charge without difficulty.
We were expecting better camera from a smartphone selling upward of Rs30,000.
The smartphone uses a 23-megapixel camera powered by Sony’s Exmor RS Image IMX300 sensor. Despite the high pixel count, the camera fails to impress. Colours look accurate in most scenarios. However, the amount of detailing in landscape shots is poor compared to close-ups. Low-light shots look blurry and washed out most of the time. The 16-megapixel selfie camera is a different story altogether. It can capture sharp-looking shots even in indoor conditions and can accommodate multiple people easily.
The not so good stuff
The phone offers a truly big screen but then misses out on some basic elements which you can get from rivals at a lesser price.
Display looks pale
The 6-inch display has a resolution of just 1,920×1,080p. The big screen means there is ample space for typing, gaming and watching videos, but the low resolution mars the overall experience. Text in app icons and webpages don’t look sharp, colours in games and videos look a little dull. It is also a bit reflective and smudges too much. Also, unlike the LG G6, Q6 and Samsung Galaxy S8, Sony has stuck with the 16:9 aspect ratio so you won’t get the immersive experience of the 18:9 aspect ratio on this one.
Better options available
Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra has some good points such as the edge to edge screen, steady performance and handy design. We were expecting a bit more from it as there are many other smartphones with better features at this price point.
You can consider Huawei’s Honor 8 Pro (Rs29,999) which offers a slightly smaller (5.7-inch) but richer (2,560×1,440p) display, looks more classy, runs on a powerful Kirin 960 octa-core processor with 6GB RAM, offers 128GB of internal storage and has a better camera.
Then there is the OnePlus 5 (Rs32,999) which offers a 5.5-inch (1,920×1,080p) display, runs on a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset with 6GB RAM.
If you can spend a little more, you can go for LG G6 (Rs39,990). It has very thin bezels, has a 5.7-inch (2,560x1440p) display, offers great audio, superior camera and is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset with 4GB RAM.