Over the past year we’ve been very much up to speed with Sony products, testing each and every one of them as they came out. We played with the Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact after launch and the Xperia XZ Premiun in due time, plus we had the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra last summer. Now it’s time to see if the Xperia XA2 Ultra is just as good of a late winter companion as it was a summer one via the video review we have here. This phablet was announced at CES 2018 and it’s basically a bigger Xperia XA2. You can find it priced at $400 or so right now.

We’re dealing with a big device, meant for gaming and binge watching Netflix for sure. It’s a 6 incher, available in silver, black, blue or gold and it’s very much a selfie machine too, on account of having two front cameras and a front flash too. In that way it surely competes with the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018).

Design

As far as design goes, this device is clearly more rounded than the predecessor, on the sides and seen from the side. It’s got an aluminum, glass front and polycarbonate back, but it’s pretty well built. This is a pretty comfy phone for a 6 incher, even though it’s very wide and thick. It’s great for landscape usage, on account of having very narrow bezels on the sides.

I noticed that the back side draws some prints, but it’s not as serious as some of the glass covered phones out there. Buttons are pretty comfy and offer OK feedback, plus the device’s grip is quite good. The narrow bezels on the sides have been a bit of an Xperia XA series tradition, which is being properly kept. I find the top and bottom bezels to be quite big though, even if reduced a bit from the predecessor.

Compared to the Xperia XA1 Ultra, this model is 2 millimeters shorter, 1 mm thicker and 33 grams heavier, so it’s a beefy one. It measures 9.5 mm in thickness, weighs 221 grams and it’s very heavy, plus curved all the way around, like an NFL football. Some people may consider this device too heavy, while others will find its sturdiness reassuring. I find it pretty comfy to be honest.

Display

Time to see if the screen is any good. It’s a 6 inch Full HD panel we’re dealing with here, an IPS LCD with narrow bezels and 367 PPI density. It has a 16:9 aspect ratio, Gorilla Glass protection and on paper it provides 500 nits of brightness. The viewing experience brought on color colors (just a bit) and the feeling that the image was a bit too white for my liking. Still, the screen is bright, view angles are wide and the contrast is rather good.

Pixels have and RGB Stripes arrangement, according to our microscope and the luxmeter showed a value of 541 LUX units, which is excellent. We beat the Nokia 8 and Galaxy Note 8 with it, but scored below the Xperia XA1 Ultra and its 611 LUX. Also below the Xiaomi Mi 6. Settings include Smart Backlight Control, Color Gamut and Contrast (Off, Standard and Super Vivid Mode), plus white balance (R/G/B sliders), font size, Display Size, system icons and no special features, like X Reality, Triluminous or so forth, reserved for flagships. It’s a solid display, but a bit too white for me.

Hardware

Going up the ladder to major other parts, we find the CPU, this time finally a solid Qualcomm Snapdragon 630. I was never a fan of the Helio P10 and P20 on the Xperia XA and XA1, so finally some Qualcomm action. There’s also the Adreno 508 GPU, 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB or 64 GB of storage, of which 12 GB are being used from the start. Of course, there’s also a microSD card slot, with support for up to 256 GB cards.

I didn’t encounter any lag during my experience with the phone and Oreo was pretty fluid in motion. I also played Riptide GP Renegade on this machine, plus the heavy and hardcore and intensive Shadowgun Legends, which is a pretty heavy duty game in the graphics department. They all ran fine. Time to see if the benchmarks are any good. We did AnTuTu 6, where we scored above the Huawei P10 Lite and Xperia XA1, but below the Motorola Moto Z Play and Motorola Moto Z2 Play, while in AnTuTu 7 we beat the Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus and scored below the HTC U11 Life, which is not exactly flattering.

In GeekBench 4 (multi core) we got past the Google Pixel XL and OnePlus 3, but scored below the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) and Huawei Honor 8. In 3DMark Slingshot 3.0 we scored above the Huawei P9 Plus and Huawei Mate 8, but below the LG Nexus 5X, once again not very flattering. I expected a bit more to be honest, but benchmarks are more theoretical and in practice I was happy with the results. In some tests it the Xperia XA2 Ultra was inferior to the Xperia XA1 Ultra even…

We did temperature tests too, achieving 34.7 degrees Celsius in GFXBench and 39.7 degrees in Riptide GP Renegade, which means no overheating, even though we got pretty close to it.

Battery

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra features a 3580 mAh battery, with all the modern goodies: Qnovo Adaptive Charging, Stamina, Quick Charge 3.0 and its capacity is a major bump up from the 2700 mAh of the Xperia XA1 Ultra, that’s for sure. When it comes to video playback we achieved a top value of 15 hours and 17 minutes, which is great, no matter what your expectations and predictions were.

It’s placed on the 10th spot and beats the likes of Huawei P10, Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S7 Edge. Still over heavy hitters remain above it: Motorola Moto Z Play and ASUS ZenFone Zoom S to name just two. In PCMark we got another excellent result of 12 hours and 3 minutes, putting this phone on the 8th spot all time.

It beats the Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) and Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra. We scored below the Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) and Moto Z Play, still. Charging is done in 3 hours and 8 minutes, which is a bit on the long side, but it was expected, considering the excellent usage times provided. At least it’s better than the iPhone 7 Plus. We also did a step by step charging measurement, reaching 4% after 5 minutes, 13% after 15 minutes and 25% after 30 minutes.

One hour of charging means a 50% juice up. Battery Settings include Stamina Mode (which cuts the backgrounds data, GPS, vibration when the screen is off) and Ultra Stamina, that only lets you use the basic apps, like those for phone calls, messages and such. Then there’s Battery Care, which doesn’t let you over charge the battery overnight. A very, very good battery overall.

Multimedia

I find it very odd that the device doesn’t have stereo speakers, which are a must have if you want the proper multimedia experience. Even the Nokia 6 has them for example. There’s only a bottom speaker here, which is not easy to cover with the hand during landscape use, when it comes to gaming or watching movies.

Settings include the likes of Clear Audio+ and Sound Effects include the typical Equalizer (Genre settings, 5 custom channels and Clear Bass). There’s also Surround Sound, which can be set to Off, Studio and Club, as well as Concert Hall. Finally we’ve got Dynamic Normalizer, which equalizes the songs and movies to the same volume. The music experience is as follows: the back vibrates a bit, there’s no distortion, the bass is OK and the high notes are excellently rendered. The volume was very high and the sound was crisp.

We did a decibelmeter test and achieved 88 dBA with our typical acoustic sample, at the front and back of the device. It beats the Google Pixel 2 XL and Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra, as well as the Xiaomi Mi A1. It’s inferior to the BlackBerry Passport though. In Riptide GP Renegade we scored 101.5 dBA which is excellent and placed on the fifth spot all time. It surpasses its predecessor and also the Galaxy Note 8.

Nokia 8 does a bit better.

Camera

I remember being pretty happy with the performance of the Xperia XA1 Ultra camera, minus the colors a bit. On paper the hardware sounds similar: 23 megapixel back camera with Exmor RS sensor and hybrid autofocus. There’s also ISO 12.800, 84 degree wide angle lens and 5x Clear Image zoom. The camera also does Steadyshot stabilization, 4K video capture and 120 FPS slow mo capture.

Upfront there’s dual shooter: 16 megapixels with OIS and 8 MP with 120 degree wide angle lens, the latter being basically the Xperia XZ1 Compact front camera. There’s Super Wide Angle action here and Steady Shot for the front camera too. We also have a LED flash for the front camera.

The camera app starts up pretty slowly, so not a very good first impression. At least the focus was fast, but the zoom was slow and the picture taking is also slow. I would say that the typical Xperia UI stays untouched, minimal and white. We’ve got a manual mode, with HDR option, metering, white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter and autofocus. There’s also HDR video, Full HD 60 FPS video capture and Panorama, plus 4K capture. Selfies let you choose between wide or normal for captures.

Time to see if the pics are any good. First of all we have the day time photos. There we captured lots and lots of details, a huge amount, flagship worthy. Just zoom in a bit and have a look, you’ll be totally happy. I found the pics to be a bit dark, even though we did run into a cloudy (and snowy) day. Even for a cloudy day, things were TOO dark. I had to mess with Manual mode and exposure settings.

The HDR makes the pictures “vibrate” a bit, which may be seen as both a pro and con. I loved the clarity of shots and how crisp they were, while the colors were pretty realistic, no extra processing. The closeups are very close., a staple of the Xperia series for years now. There’s no blur, but the pics need to be brighter for sure. The dynamic range is quite OK and the panorama is generous: 21.696 x 3456 pixels. I liked the fact that the Panorama curve isn’t that big.

Selfies were… just good, not at all what I expected from such a potent setup of dual cameras. The fisheye camera was unimpressive and yes, there’s nice texture, good color for my face and pretty good clarity. However, the pictures pale in comparison with what the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) achieves with a similar dual front camera setup. Also the Xperia XZ1 had a better selfie capture.

I’d put the overall capture quality on par with the Huawei P10 Lite, but with many more details. It’s about 10% superior to the Xperia XA1 Ultra, but at least it gets the colors right this time. Still, it’s no match for the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018).

When it comes to the low light photo capture we caught some strange blue hue, especially when the flash was on. Details were great and I particularly loved the way the water texture lingered on the concrete. Street light halos had decent sizes, but they “radiated” too much around. Landscape shots were detailed and clear and the flash produced bright results. Too bad for the strange blueish skies and parts of the pics that are blue.

The yellow bits of the images are tolerable and I found the pics to be less dark than expected, especially after the day time pictures, which were rather dark. Zoom was excellent and I actually find the Xperia XA2 superior to the Xiaomi Mi A1 and Huawei P10 Lite. It’s much better than the Xperia XA1 Ultra, which had a pretty flawed night time capture. I’d say that the jump is as high as 40% from the predecessor.

On the video front, we shot stuff in MP4, Full HD, at 30 FPS frame rate and 20 Mbps bitrate. The details were a bit underwhelming, but the clarity was quite OK. I also felt that the sound was echoey and it’s most likely because I covered the microphone by mistake, which by the way happens quite often with this phone.

I also felt that the video capture was a bit dark and the wind negatively affected the acoustics. Exposure change was weak, but the focus was good and the colors were nicely calibrated. The 4K video captured with this device was solid, crisp, detailed, but below the quality of a flagship. The 60 FPS Full HD video goes to 31 Mbps bitrate. One thing I loved was the Steadyshot stabilization and the nice focus when walking around.

The selfie video capture was actually a two pronged approach. On the one hand we’ve got the first camera, which doesn’t seem to show my face clearly, but somehow the background is clear and on the other hand the secondary camera is much clearer, crisp and well lit. The front cameras stabilization was top notch all around. I have to say I’m reasonably satisfied with this type of filming, but I feel that the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) may have handled it slightly better, even though not as well stabilized.

Also, the Xperia XA1 ultra already had a nice front camera video capture, so I don’t feel an evolution. Maybe the exposure is better here… HDR video seemed a bit too white for me as well. Overall, I’d put this camera setup on par with the Galaxy A8 (2018) one in the video department.

Low light video capture seems to be a weak spot here, as the amount of blue hue is a bit annoying. There’s also quite a bit of grain and it reminds me of the buggy performance of the Xperia flagship cameras from about 2-3 years ago, maybe the Xperia X Performance if I remember correctly. It could even be the same camera sensor, who knows. I found the zoom to be poor, the object tracking OK and the focus also OK.

Things are too yellow, but the stabilization and focus were on point. Detaiils are decent (non zoomed in) and somehow after one or two annoying vids, the last one was actually quite solid. This is an area where the Xperia XA2 Ultra beats the Xperia XA1 Ultra, especially when it comes to colors and clarity. Also, it’s inferior to the Galaxy A8 (2018) and above the Huawei P10 Lite, minus the blue hue thing.

Browser/Connectivity

We are done with the camera, so let’s talk web browser. We’re using Chrome here, which is a bit sluggish when loading up our website, at times. At least the scrolling is fluid on the site. The benchmarks, like Sunspider and others for the web browser featured modest results. For input we have Swiftkey, with Swype and pretty big keys shown on the screen, which are comfy.

As far as connectivity is concerned, the phone is available in single SIM and dual SIM versions, with nano SIM card slots and it also provides support for LTE Category 12 or Category 13. There’s GPS and Glonass, WiFi, Miracast, Bluetooth 5.0 and Google Cast, as well as NFC. USB Type-C, WiFi a/b/g/n/ac are all here. Calls were loud and clear, noise canceling was fine and the SpeedTest we did showed a value of 112 Mbps on 4G download and 46 Mbps in upload.

On WiFi we got to a very solid 269 Mbps in download and 25 Mbps in upload, all of them solid.

OS, UI, Apps

As expected, Sony continues its excellent run of phones with Android 8.0 Oreo on board. I would have expected Android 8.1 by now, but we’re happy with regular Oreo nonetheless. It has the Xperia UI custom interface on top, all glossy and shiny and colorful. Multitasking happens via carousel and there’s also split screen in the mix here, all comfy to use on such a big diagonal. We have screenshots here.

The leftmost homescreen is dedicated to the Google feed and keeping one of the regular homescreens pressed triggers the widgets (lots of black and white ones), themes, transitions, grid and settings. The latter has to do with icon size and auto rotate of the homescreen. The dropdown bit includes the notifications and quick settings, pretty classic and stock. Now off to the full settings, this is where we find options like one hand use, activated with a single swipe, that decreases the diagonal size.

There’s also a fingerprint scanner at the back side, which has an annoying 14 step authentication, pretty OK unlock speed and accuracy. I’ve seen faster to be honest. There’s also a Smart Lock feature there, with support for on body detection, trusted places, face recognition, as well as voice match.

The preinstalled apps list includes 32 names, which is OK-ish. Among them we have the Amazon app, Files, AVG antivirus, Sketch, Video + TV and a few more. Classic Oreo experience overall.

Verdict

Here are the Pros:

  • fantastic battery life
  • comfy for its size
  • bright screen
  • OK performance
  • loud
  • lots of details
  • good colors in photo/video capture
  • actually not bad video capture
  • good stabilization
  • clear OS and UI

And the Cons:

  • very heavy
  • too white screen
  • so so contrast
  • underwhelming benchmarks
  • no stereo speakers
  • selfies below the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018)
  • blue low light capture
  • no waterproofing

The Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra is clearly a binge watching and gaming and music machine. It’s also pretty good for video capture, but one of its core purposes, selfies were a bit below expectations. Those expectations were rather high and I expected to be blown away by the dual front camera. Not quite… However, if you’re looking for a battery close to battery phone levels, this is the device for you.

Imagine losing yourselves in some PUBG clone for hours, only to have enough battery left for half of a Netflix show season and even some juice left to film a concert. Pretty nice, right? The phone is here priced at $400.