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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.

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra Review
Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra Review
Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra Review
Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra Review

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.

Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)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
View all

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.

Image size:
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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.

Audio output

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
View all

  • Options

posted on 22 May 2017, 09:32

1. zacsaturday (Posts: 248; Member since: 09 May 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....

posted on 22 May 2017, 10:35 3

5. Lumberjack (Posts: 255; Member since: 04 May 2017)

Edgeless design does not allow FPS as power button.

posted on 22 May 2017, 09:43

2. tango_charlie (Posts: 341; Member since: 16 Nov 2011)

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

posted on 22 May 2017, 10:11

3. trojan_horse (Posts: 5325; Member since: 06 May 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.

posted on 22 May 2017, 13:13

12. tango_charlie (Posts: 341; Member since: 16 Nov 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.

posted on 22 May 2017, 10:44 1

6. Lumberjack (Posts: 255; Member since: 04 May 2017)

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

posted on 22 May 2017, 13:16

13. tango_charlie (Posts: 341; Member since: 16 Nov 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.

posted on 22 May 2017, 11:05

7. GreenMan (Posts: 1882; Member since: 09 Nov 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...


Oh well,


posted on 22 May 2017, 12:41 1

11. Dr.Phil (Posts: 1667; Member since: 14 Feb 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.

posted on 22 May 2017, 19:37

14. ibend (banned) (Posts: 6747; Member since: 30 Sep 2014)

best mid-ranger will be Mi6 or OP5..

posted on 22 May 2017, 10:34 1

4. Lumberjack (Posts: 255; Member since: 04 May 2017)

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

Lets read...

posted on 22 May 2017, 11:06

8. GreenMan (Posts: 1882; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)

Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra with ultra bezels...?



posted on 22 May 2017, 12:04 2

9. drahcir02 (Posts: 102; Member since: 03 Mar 2016)


posted on 22 May 2017, 12:27 1

10. Mr.mobile (Posts: 91; Member since: 09 Mar 2017)

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

posted on 22 May 2017, 20:12

15. rsiders (Posts: 1121; Member since: 17 Nov 2011)

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

posted on 23 May 2017, 03:47

16. dil2abu (Posts: 315; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)

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

posted on 11 Jul 2017, 20:10

17. thechangeassociates (Posts: 1; Member since: 11 Jul 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).

posted on 15 Jul 2017, 04:29

18. Furbal (Posts: 70; Member since: 19 May 2017)

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.

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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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