Most manufacturers, including Sony, opted to hold back their flagship devices until later in the spring, but that doesn’t mean the Xperia XA2 Ultra isn’t worthy of your attention.
If you go ahead and buy one today, it’s unlikely you’ll regret it, not least because you’ll save a fair bit of money compared to buying the Xperia XZ Premium.
Like many of today’s mid-range handsets, the Xperia XA2 looks every bit like a flagship device at first glance, and it’s not too far behind in terms of specs either.
For starters, it has a large 6in (1,920 x 1,080) screen, and there’s also a 23-megapixel rear camera and a dual front-facing camera (which features 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel sensors). A mid-range octa-core Snapdragon 630 processor powers things, with 4GB of RAM and the choice between a 32GB and 64GB model, both of which are expandable via microSD card. The phone also has a sizeable 3,850mAh battery and runs Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box.
Design - Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra Review
The first thing you’ll notice about the Xperia XA2 Ultra is its considerable size. There’s an enormous 6in screen on the front, which makes it a perfect device if you stream lots of Netflix, BBC iPlayer or Amazon Video on your commute.
However, it’s also the largest and weightiest smartphone I can ever remember holding. It’s 163mm tall, 9.5mm thick and tips the scales at an almost absurd 221g. While the bezels to the left and right of the display are suitably thin, its top and bottom bezels are considerably chunky by modern standards, too.
Despite this, you can just about hold the thing one-handed, and the phone looks and feels solid. It has rounded sides, making it easier to grip, and chamfered edges at the top and bottom, which although a little sharp, look great. Gorilla Glass 4 protects the front and the back is coated in a matte plastic, so it doesn’t pick up fingerprints as easily as say, the Honor 9.
On the bottom of the handset, there’s a USB Type-C port with Quick Charge 3.0 support and on the right side, you get a volume rocker, the circular power button and a dedicated camera shutter button. The microSD and nano-SIM slots are on the left, beneath a removable flap.
Finally, at the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a circular fingerprint reader is placed just below the camera on the rear of the phone. There’s NFC too, so you can use it for contactless payments, but what the Xperia XA2 doesn’t offer is any kind of dust or water resistance.
It’s available in silver, gold, blue and black, and looks nice in all but the gold that we were sent to review, which has an odd greenish tint when it catches the light and looks like it belongs in a Bond movie or a hip hop video - I’m not sure which.
Display - Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra Review
Sony is yet to adopt the trendy long-tall 18:9 aspect-ratio display we’ve seen other manufacturers slowly move towards over the last year. Instead, the XA2 Ultra uses the old-fashioned 16:9 aspect ratio and in many ways that’s not a bad thing – after all, it allows for more space for my fat thumbs when typing.
The Ultra’s 5.2in display may only be capable of reaching a Full HD resolution, but in the flesh, the screen looks great. Images are sharp, colours are punchy and a contrast ratio of 1,607:1 is fantastic.
Place our X-Rite colour calibrator on the screen, and you’ll see why. Engage the slightly-saturated “Ultra-Vivid” colour mode and the screen returns a coverage of 92.3% of the DCI-P3 colour space, which is excellent and the display is also capable of reaching a sunlight-friendly 616cd/m2 peak brightness. This is a pretty darn fancy screen for a sub-£400 phone.
Performance and battery life - Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra Review
With the XA2 Ultra ticking all the right boxes so far, there had to be some kind of compromise, and CPU performance is its biggest foible. With a Snapdragon 630 processor and 4GB of RAM, this is hardly the quickest phone on the market, and even compared to other mid-range handsets like the OnePlus 5T and Honor 9, it feels pretty sluggish.
However, the 1080p display keeps things reasonably smooth in casual games and the silver lining to its slower processor is that the XA2 Ultra has a decent battery life – its 3,850mAh battery means it can comfortably last almost a day and a half with moderate use, and it recorded an impressive 16hrs and 54mins in our video rundown test.
Camera - Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra Review
The Xperia XA2 faces strong competition in terms of camera performance, and it fends of its rivals in terms of specifications, at least. On the rear is a 23-megapixel snapper with an f/2.0 aperture, a decent-sized 1/2.3in sensor, phase-detect autofocus and a single-tone LED flash.
The front-facing camera arrangement combines two cameras – one with a resolution of 16 megapixels and an aperture of f/2.0 and the other an 8-megapixel snapper with an f/2.4 aperture. They’re also supported by single LED flash, which can help brighten your shots in low light.
In good light, the rear camera is great. It consistently outperformed the OnePlus 5T at sunrise, especially with HDR mode enabled, perfectly reproducing the winter sun’s golden tones. Things weren’t quite so good in low light, unfortunately, especially compared to the OnePlus 5T, which captured much cleaner images.
The dual front camera setup lets you capture both regular and wide-angle selfies, but unfortunately the quality of both cameras was also somewhat disappointing, especially in low light. As for video, you can capture 4K, but not in the main part of the video recording app. There’s also no image stabilisation in the phone's 1080p 60fps mode, but you do get HDR video at 1080p and very good stabilisation.
It’s important to remember that the Sony Xperia XA2 costs only £300 - not £580 - so in this context, its cameras still represent excellent value for money.
Price and competition - Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra Review
At only £300, the Xperia XA2 Ultra is £80 more expensive than its smaller alternative and launches later this February.
The stiffest competition probably comes from the OnePlus 5T, which is a smidge more expensive at £500. Other decent handsets at this price range include the moddable Moto Z2 Play (£299), the Honor 9 (£320), and HTC’s U11 Life (£350).
Verdict - Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra Review
There’s little you can fault with the XA2 Ultra. It’s great to look at; the rear camera produces excellent-quality stills and video; and it’s got a really solid battery life. When it comes to your next smartphone upgrade, those are three of the most important boxes ticked, especially for a mid-range handset, where you can’t necessarily have everything.
But personally, I find it slightly too big and weighty, so I’d much more likely opt for its smaller sibling, the XA2, which has more or less the same features, with the exception of its smaller battery and single front camera.