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Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra Review - Great Camera, Dated Design

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The Xperia XA2 Ultra uses Sony's trademark aluminum enclosure with reduced side bezels but retains the large forehead and chin bezels and is priced at PHP 22,990.
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra Review - Great Camera, Dated Design
Welcome to 2018

The headline features are the 6-inch FHD display with the Snapdragon 630, 4GB RAM, 64GB of storage and 3,580 mAh battery. The main disadvantage we see is the dated design.

Let's see, look at our full review.

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra Specs

Display: 6-inch FHD Image Enhance Technology 1920 x 1080 resolution w/ 2.5D curved glass and Gorilla Glass protection at 367 ppi
CPU: 2.2GHz 64-bit Snapdragon 630 octa-core processor
GPU: Adreno 508
RAM: 4GB
ROM: 64GB expandable via microSD card slot up to 256GB (dedicated)
Back Camera: 23MP f/2.0 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS sensor  w/ Hybrid AF, SteadyShot, and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 16MP 1/2.6-inch Exmor RS sensor f/2.0 w/ OIS + 8MP f/2.4 1/4-inch Exmor R w/ 120-degree wide-angle lens
Battery: 3,580mAh w/ Qnovo Adaptive Charging and Quick Charge 3.0
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, LTE w/ VoLTE, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, A-GPS, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, proximity, compass, light
Others: Fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C, Colors: silver, black, blue, gold
Dimensions: 163 x 80 x 9.5 mm
Weight: 221g
Price: PHP 22,990

Disclaimer: This is a loaned unit from Sony Philippines for our honest and constructive review.

Unboxing/Accessories

Everything inside
Everything inside

Inside is the phone with the inclusions of the following: USB Quick Charge 3.0 charger, USB to USB Type-C charging cable, earphones, SIM ejector tool, and the documentation. It doesn't have a free silicon jelly case.

Build Quality/Design

It is huge!

The build quality is strong and sturdy but dated. It is the aluminum design Sony has been using since the Xperia Z series with minimal changes. It looks dated but it is enduring and compared to competition it is bulky.

Not so 2018 type of design

The great thing about the design is that only the display has glass so only the front is a fingerprint magnet. Edge to edge of the phone is machined aluminum so without a case, the paint scratches off easily.
3.5 mm headphone jack slot and mic
3.5 mm headphone jack slot and mic
Triple slots
Volume button, Power button and dedicated camera button
Volume button, power button and dedicated camera button
Volume button, power button and dedicated camera button

On the front are the LED flash, dual selfie cameras, and several sensors.

The volume rocker, power button and the dedicated camera button are on the right side. The camera, LED flash, NFC and fingerprint sensor are at the back while the sim card and microSD card slot is on the left. 

On top is the microphone and the 3.5mm headphone jack while the another microphone, USB Type-C port and speaker grill is at the bottom.

Display Quality

Bright!
Bright!

The display is a 6-inch FHD Image Enhance Technology 1920 x 1080 resolution w/ 2.5D curved glass protected by Gorilla Glass at 367 ppi.

At max brightness, it is bright enough to overpower the direct sunlight when viewing the display at a 90 degree angle. 

The viewing angles are good. There is no deterioration of color or resolution but when there isn't a large or strong light source. When there is a strong and large light source like the sun, the curved glass actually reflects the light making it a little harder to read the display at specific angles.

It is a 10-point multi-touch display so it is made to handle games or apps that make use of multiple accurate and responsive taps or gestures simultaneously.

Audio Quality

There is a single bottom firing speaker at the bottom and it is one of the loudest speakers we've ever tested. At 90% volume, it is loud enough to fill a room and combat ambient noise. The sound from it is well defined with some separation with decent details and medium range. The mids, trebles and bass are balanced with minimal distortion.

At 100 percent, the sound gets noticeably distorted that we were comfortable just having it at 90 percent.

The stock earphones is a mixed bag. The cable is textured with a premium matte like coating but the metal jack and the ear pieces don't feel as premium. 

The sound quality is OK-ish. We find the sound muddy even though the volume can get loud. The separation and the definition is okay but it clearly isn't the best out there.

We hope Sony is able to give more love for their stock earphones like they do on their Extra Bass branded ones.

With our trusty RHA S500i, the sound quality gets better. The details and separation are more pronounced and it is overall more refined. Somehow, it is still a little muddy which we don't experience with other audio devices with the RHA.

The microphone experience is good. The sound recorded is clean with clear details and no concerns from callers with voice call or recording concerns.

Battery Life

It could be better
It could be better

In our usual PC Mark battery benchmark the 3,580mAh battery was able to push the large 6-inch display to more than 8 hours. It is respectable given that the display was a 6-inch FHD display. It could be better though.

This is consistent with our daily routine of email, texting, calling, social media, websurfing, YouTube streaming with LTE in between. The XA2 Ultra was yielding 9 to 10 hours of use. Without LTE, it would last longer.

It also has the stamina mode that limits most apps and allows only the most basic functions to work. This has three different levels where your can choose the priorities: battery time, balanced, or performance preference.

The charger charges the phone from 0 to 100 percent for under 120 minutes or under two hours.

Camera

Superior Auto
Superior Auto

The main camera is a 23MP f/2.0 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS sensor w/ Hybrid AF, SteadyShot, and LED flash. It is complimented with several modes like Manual, Superior Auto, Video, Sound Photo and Time Shift Burst.
Pro mode
Pro mode

The manual mode allows for you to modify the following: Shutter Speed: 1 second to 1/4000th of a second, ISO 100 to 3200, white balance and exposure compensation.

The Sound Photo allows you to record audio while taking a picture while the Time Shift Burst takes up to 30 photos with one shutter button click and allows you to pick the best shot.

In our experience, it can take spectacular pictures in daylight. The resolution (sharpness) and the detail are off the charts even at 100 percent crop when viewed from a laptop display. The color is decent but because the contrast is strong, it may look dim for some people.

In lowlight, the images are either really good, or decent. Barely did we get a bad image in lowlight unless it was total darkness.

The LED flash at the back is there and is strong enough to illuminate up to 5 to 6 feet away from the phone.

Rear Camera Samples

Very detailed daylight shot
Very detailed daylight shot
Another great daylight shot
Another great daylight shot
Close-up well-lit
Close-up well-lit
Close-up
Close-up
Close-up food
Close-up food
Close-up dim
Close-up dim
Lowlight
Lowlight

The front facing cameras on the other hand are the 16MP 1/2.6-inch Exmor RS sensor f/2.0 w/ OIS  and the 8MP f/2.4 1/4-inch Exmor R w/ 120-degree wide-angle lens.

The daylight images are okay with decent resolution, color, contrast and depth. It isn't as great as the main camera but the dual camera set up makes it versatile with either a normal field of view and a wide field of view.

In lowlight shots, grain starts to creep-in and it noticeably softens the images. It is quite usable though. In fact, the lowlight images are decent and can compete with the competition. 

It has an identical LED flash on the front from the rear camera. It is bright enough to illuminate up to five feet and will serve you well in those backlit and dark situations.

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight normal
Daylight normal
Daylight wide
Daylight wide
Normal again
Normal again
Wide again
Wide again
Lowlight normal
Lowlight normal
Lowlight wide
Lowlight wide

The the main camera allows up to 4K but without an option to pick the frame rate. In 1080p, you have an option to shoot 30fps or 60fps. It does not have OIS but has Steady Shot. We've recorded video without steady shot in day light and  low light and somehow the shakiness is there but it isn't jarring. The footage is good and smooth even without Steady Shot turned on. It is even smoother with Steady-Shot on. It does struggle with white balance though. Sometimes its either too warm or sometimes its accurate.

The selfie camera has OIS  but no option to turn on Steady shot and you can only shoot up to 1080p without a choice in frame rate. You can however switch from the normal lens to the wide lens on the fly so you can get interesting perspectives.

Like the main camera video, it struggles with white balance and to certain situations, ISO.  The colors are decent with high contrast and acceptable sharpness. The OIS allows for smooth video panning and with lowlight.

Video Samples


Performance

Decent AnTuTu and Geekbench scores
Decent AnTuTu and Geekbench scores

It is carrying a 2.2GHz 64-bit Snapdragon 630 octa-core processor with Adreno 508 and 4GB RAM. It is pushing a 6-inch FHD display without problem.

Apps launch quickly and run smoothly with out concerns. We've never had an instance wherein we are running multiple apps at the same time and it stutters. This was with 10 to 12 apps running in the background.

Decent performance, but not as fast as several similarly priced competing phones!

In games like PUBG it was able to perform well at medium settings. The gameplay was smooth enough though there were instances where frame rates would drop. But this was seldom enough for us to not mind it.
Near stock style
Near stock style

It is running Android 8.0 based Sony skin. Sony has been known to keep their version of Android near stock with customisations that they think the customers will love.
Xperia actions!
Xperia actions!

Some of these customized features like the Xperia Actions that allow you to leave a set of instructions when specific conditions are met. One example is the Good Night actions where you can set it to turn on at a scheduled time frame and you can have the phone mute notifications during that time frame and/or turn on airplane mode or the like. It is quite useful and should be marketed more often.

The fingerprint scanner is placed at the back and it is quick, accurate and responsive. When used for the lock screen, as soon as your finger hits the scanner, it unlocks instantaneously.

Our signal for GSM and LTE have consistently been strong and steady. Prolonged LTE usage can warm up the phone but never does it get warm to alarming levels. It does not have a gyroscope. The GPS is there and it quickly and accurately acquires our location without problem.

Pros - Great daylight camera, dual selfie cameras are versatile, decent performance, full microSD and dual SIM slots, USB Type-C
Cons - Dated design, bulky, video footage is soft, no face unlock

Verdict

The Sony XA2 performs well and it may have one of the best cameras in the PHP 23K price range.

Why? It performs well in day light and lowlight. Even if you zoom in, the detail is retained and the grain is rather pleasing.

The performance of this device is also respectable even if it is not as fast versus other similarly priced devices from the Chinese brands.

The only true flaw is that the phone has a dated design with THICK bezels and it is too bulky for 2018.

Otherwise this is a great phone we can recommend of you really want a Sony phone at that price point.

Build/Design - 3.25
Display - 4
Audio - 4
Battery - 4
Camera - 4
Performance - 4
Average - 3.875/5
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