Hands on: Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra review

A simply massive phone with a 16MP selfie camera – one for the youth, then...

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

A massive phone, but one that operates well enough under one finger (if you can hold it straight, that is...)


  • Huge, rolling display


  • Lower-end processor

This is a TechRadar flash hands-on review to give you the chance to see what the phone is all about as soon as possible. We'll update the preview if more information becomes available.

There’s only one reason you’d want to buy this phone: the whopping 6-inch screen. It’s a phablet for the younger market, just like the XA Ultra of 2016, and Sony’s gone all-in on that screen.

Actually, there’s more than one reason: the camera setup is attractive too, with the 23MP rear sensor from the flagship range of 2015 and an 8MP selfie shooter too.

In short, photography at the (presumably) lower price this phone will command should be very good, whether you’re nabbing images of a lovely landscape or you and pals at the beach.

We’ve not heard anything about the Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra release date or price yet, but last year’s model was priced competitively to compete for the youthful dollar (or lack thereof) and the same principle should be repeated here.

In terms of design, well, it’s huge. This is a big phone for people who want a big phone, and the 1080p screen shouldn’t look as good as it does for the size of handset on offer.

However, the contrast ratio impressed in our early preview, and the octa-core Mediatek processor seemed more than capable of flicking around and opening apps, although it needs a proper stress test to see how far it can be pushed.

With 3GB of RAM on board, though, performance should be solid. This is a phone with decent specs from Sony, and it just needs a youth-friendly price to go with those specs.

The camera is powerful at 23MP, with a large 1/2.3 inch sensor and hybrid autofocus combining to bring good snapping abilities – but it will be interesting to see what Sony’s done with the technology on a lower-cost model. 

Will it be as powerful and tuned, or will it just take the sharp pictures but remove the smart processing that makes them look so good?

Another nod to the youth market is the use of a 16MP snapper on the front as well – this is a phone to take a sharp selfie often, assuming that you can hold this massive phone up for long enough in front of your face.

Early verdict

This is a big phone that’s aimed at the youth market, where screen size and a good front-facing camera are the key elements.

The larger size offers a bigger battery too, so it’ll last a lot longer than other phones of the same cost, although it lacks the features of some of those phones.

We’re still waiting to hear where Sony is actually going to be selling this phone – it’s more attractive than many would be expecting for a low-end phablet, so it would be a shame to see it stay in Asia.


Global Phones, Tablets and Wearables Editor

Gareth (Twitter, Google+) has been in charge of phones, tablets and wearables at TechRadar for the best part of a decade. He can instantly recommend the best phone for you, or can be found running around the nearest park with the latest fitness tech strapped to his wrist, head or any other applicable body part.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.