Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra Review

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra

Posted: , by Kaloyan C. Kaloyan C.




Lots of pixels, decent photos, but finicky autofocusing

Sony just loves boasting about its cameras, and the XA1 Ultra is no exception: it’s equipped with an impressive-sounding 23 MP rear shooter and a 16 MP front one. But in true Sony fashion, the high pixel count doesn’t necessarily imply high quality.

The camera app is okay but somewhat confusing, as a number of different shooting modes, like panorama or burst for example, are delegated to separate, independent “apps” within the camera app. Another annoyance is the two-second delay between taking a picture and being able to preview it, as the gallery initially only shows a low-quality preview before loading the real thing. On the other hand, the dedicated camera button can be used to quickly launch the camera from stand-by, which is nice.

And speaking of delays: when using the dedicated shutter button, the camera would randomly decide not to immediately take a picture, but instead keep on focusing for as long as several seconds, ruining not just one or two shots. Also, focusing is problematic even when it supposedly works: more often than not, particularly in close-up shots, the XA1 Ultra’s camera would focus on a background object, even when you’ve manually tapped on one in the foreground.

Image quality

For a mid-ranger, the Xperia XA1 Ultra is perfectly adequate in terms of camera quality, though it isn’t nearly as good as Sony would like you to believe. Small sensors just don’t mix that well with high megapixel counts, and the XA1 Ultra proves it under more difficult conditions, such as low-light photography.

Color reproduction is reasonably good but finicky, sometimes veering a bit too much into oversaturated territory. In scenes with high contrast the XA1 Ultra’s camera often overcompensates, making otherwise good photos appear washed out. And lastly, Sony’s use of a wider-angle lens results in the corners of the photo becoming stretched around the edges, an effect most easily noticeable when taking a picture of a distant object.

The front camera offers a number of features you won’t find on most other phones: a front-facing flash, optical stabilization, and even autofocusing. However, its color reproduction is all over the place, with one photo being way too green, and another going hard on the purple instead.

For what it’s worth, though, both cameras still takes perfectly good photos – while there are a couple of kinks to be worked out here and there, no one can reasonably expect top-of-the-line photos from a mid-class device. So provided you take your photos under adequate lighting conditions, the XA1 Ultra delivers performance that is par for the course for its price range.


The XA1 Ultra records grainy videos and also has some troubles focusing. The rear camera doesn’t feature OIS like the front one does, and Sony’s SteadyShot does little to fix that problem. And lastly, the best available shooting option is full HD @ 30 FPS.


Being nearly the size of a small TV, the XA1 Ultra is a great way to enjoy a movie or TV show on the go, thanks to the surprisingly good-looking full HD screen. Being a mid-ranger, of course, it isn’t HDR-certified, but we’ll take what we can get.

Looking at the front of the device, one might mistake the top and bottom grilles as a placement point for front-facing stereo speakers. This, however, isn’t the case – the XA1 Ultra’s speaker is a single mono one, and can be found on its bottom. It’s sufficiently loud, but sound quality is, unsurprisingly poor, and sometimes prone to slight distortion. In headphone mode, the XA1 Ultra can easily reach painfully loud levels, and sound quality is sufficiently good.


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PhoneArena rating:
Display6.0 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (367 ppi)
Camera23 megapixels
MediaTek Helio P20, Octa-core, 2300 MHz, ARM Cortex-A53 processor
Size6.50 x 3.11 x 0.32 inches
(165 x 79 x 8.1 mm)
6.63 oz  (188 g)
Battery2700 mAh, 13.27 hours talk time

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