Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra review

Ultra by name, but is it ultra by nature?

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Battery life

  • All-day battery
  • Smart power management tech for long cell life

With a huge screen and so much bezel on display, one might have expected that the Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra would come packing a whopper of a battery pack - of course this was not the case.

Instead, Sony crammed a 2,700mAh power cell into the frame, a smaller capacity than is typically fitted on phones around 20% slimmer, and lighter.

So does the XA1 Ultra have terrible battery life? Thankfully not. Aided by software optimizations and a power-efficient chipset, this is a phone that will get you from the start of the day until the end with a little juice to spare.

Waking up at 6:30am, with a 50-minute commute, listening to music and answering emails throughout the day, with some video watching in the evening, we typically found that we had around 28% left by 11pm, a solid showing overall. With lighter usage this will extend to two days for many.

Running our battery test (a 90-minute video at native resolution with the screen at full brightness) we found that the Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra lost 21% of its battery life, which is short of, say, the 12% lost by the OnePlus 5T, but comparable to the 22% loss of the Honor 7X.

We found that web browsing in particular was a strong suit of this device, if you are someone who uses their smartphone regularly for reading this may prove to be of some interest.


  • Strong color and detailed images
  • Cluttered main app

It is a common refrain: Sony manufactures cameras, but yet its smartphone snappers are sub-par. Does this apply to the Xperia XA1 Ultra? Only to a degree, and it is mostly subjective.

The camera app itself is relatively straightforward. By default, users are placed in 'Superior Auto' mode, which judges things like ISO, shutter speed and activates HDR mode as and when required. By default, the camera makes use of the 23MP available, producing very large files.

Swiping up activates movie capture, swiping down activates the somewhat limited manual mode. Both are a little easy to activate unintentionally, but this is offset by the presence of an actual camera button.

A button which opens the camera from sleep and can capture images -  a feat of design straight from 2013, but one which is thoroughly appreciated.

The app is certainly quick to launch, and photos are captured quickly, essential facets of the smartphone image taking experience.

Certain features of the app are a little questionable. The panorama mode is a separate app in and of itself, while the inclusion of an AR mode is a bit gimmicky. Certain things like HDR mode are hidden in settings menus, something not exactly ideal for those who like to tinker.

That said, the images taken are, on the whole, pretty good. Color is well represented, with greens in particular appearing nicely saturated without looking 'nuclear'.

Detail too is very apparent, as you might expect with such a high-resolution sensor. It is when viewing images at 100% magnification that the situation changes somewhat.

How different manufacturers handle noise reduction is largely a matter of taste, and Sony has clearly chosen to keep the digital noise in the hope of also preserving detail, especially at lower shutter speeds.

This can occasionally make for muddy images which might not appeal to all, especially in low light. One factor in its favor other than detail (and excellent contrast) is the dedicated viewing modes.

When viewing images, the screen knows to alter colors accordingly (to suit preferences, and this can be toggled on and off) to make viewing images a more pleasurable experience.

The 16MP selfie camera captures detailed images with good enough dynamic range, while video capture is certainly nothing to write home about.

In all, those looking for top class stills won't find them here, however this is a photographic tool good enough for the majority of people who depend on their smartphone for photos.

Camera samples

Sean is a Scottish technology journalist who's written for the likes of T3, Trusted Reviews, TechAdvisor and Expert Reviews.