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.

Taking a pic Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec) Lower is better
Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra 2.7
Sony Xperia XA1 1.4
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) 1.9
Motorola Moto M 2.5

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.


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.

Headphones output power (Volts) Higher is better
Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra 1.16
Sony Xperia XA1 1.16
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) 0.53
Motorola Moto M 0.34
Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra 78
Sony Xperia XA1 74
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) 71
Motorola Moto M 80



1. zacsaturday

Posts: 262; Member since: May 09, 2014

I think they've just given up, they can't decide how to design the buttons on the side. First this (silver on the side) then a fingerprint scanner side button and now back to silver button....

5. Lumberjack

Posts: 306; Member since: May 04, 2017

Edgeless design does not allow FPS as power button.

2. tango_charlie

Posts: 347; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

If they had used the SD625 along with a 4000mAh battery the XA1 Ultra would have been the best Midrange device of 2017!

3. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

I feel you... But as it stands, the 2017 Galaxy A7 is the best midrange phone... It's battery life is ridiculously good, with a whopping 115hrs endurance rating at GSMArena, and also great SOT on PhoneArena.

12. tango_charlie

Posts: 347; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

@trojan the A7 has a great battery life but it's quite expensive for a midrange device. IF Xiaomi would offer the mi note 4 in Europe - Germany I would go for that: sd 625, 4gb RAM, 64gb storage and a monster 4100mah battery for under 200 us dollar.

6. Lumberjack

Posts: 306; Member since: May 04, 2017

Mediatek CPU's cost half. P20 is a bit better than SD625

13. tango_charlie

Posts: 347; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

@lumberjack indeed the Mediatek SOC is faster in bench marks but in every day usage you will hardly see a difference (maybe except for gaming) the SD 625 on the other hand is quite power efficient.

7. GreenMan

Posts: 2697; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

I beg your pardon...? Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 has "BOTH"; A 14nm Snapdragon 625 and slightly 'BIGGER' 4,100mAh battery and it cost just... $200...! Oh well, G'Day!

11. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2340; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Except the Redmi Note 4 doesn't have a great camera and I've heard from people who have bought the device have stated that the battery has problems with charging and longevity after about a month of usage.

14. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

best mid-ranger will be Mi6 or OP5..

4. Lumberjack

Posts: 306; Member since: May 04, 2017

Haven't read yet.. I bet PA said bad about cam, that front cam is not better than i7+'s ... Lets read...

8. GreenMan

Posts: 2697; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra with ultra bezels...? Ha! G'Day!

9. drahcir02

Posts: 102; Member since: Mar 03, 2016



Posts: 130; Member since: Mar 09, 2017

woooo far just 2700mah battery 10Hours of SOT great sony and mediatek just imagine if this phone comes with 4000mah battery

15. rsiders

Posts: 1932; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

Isn't the pixel density better than that of the iPhone?

16. dil2abu

Posts: 315; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

PA is so simple. If PA see SONY they give 7 :)

17. thechangeassociates

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 11, 2017

Recently, I bought a Sony Xperia XZ Premium and I love its performance and efficiency in terms of operations and battery. I further purchased another Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra which categorized as mid-range phone. I love this XA1 Ultra very much too; for its big screen and value for the money - which made available of its HD resolution screen, 4GB Ram and sufficient internal storage of 64GB (as compared to XA1 - its younger sibling). I love Sony phone products, in particularly these two new phones (Xperia XZ Premium and Xperia XA1 Ultra).

18. Furbal unregistered

Just picked up the US version today as well. So far this is a killer phone, although I wish it was $50 cheaper and used usb-pd so more chargers would work with it. Amazing screen, decent enough camera. Performance is surprisingly good. On pace for 7 hours SOT for the first charge. Only real desire is that is had double tap to wake.

19. siddha05

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 20, 2017

Everywhere I read issues with the battery life on the XA1 Ultra [Amazon and some other sites], but Phonearena has rated this as "Excellent" [better than many of the premium/top end phones based on their measurement methodology!!!]. Did anybody else notice that and were you surprised by this at all after purchasing the phone? The phone is really tempting to get - a phablet in gold!!!

20. siddha05

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 20, 2017

I got the phone and sure enough the battery life is anything but disappointing! It's pretty good!

21. markusinfinite

Posts: 77; Member since: Aug 05, 2016

Battery life is very good. I always have stamina mode enabled though,
Xperia XA1 Ultra
  • Display 6.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 23 MP / 16 MP front
  • Processor MediaTek Helio P20, Octa-core, 2300 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2700 mAh(11.88h 3G talk time)

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