Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra is a good mid-range phone for those who want a large screen

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra

True phablet phones - the sort which make you stretch your fingers gingerly across the screen and which are an accident waiting to happen while with one hand - are a rarity these days, as phone manufacturers have found creative ways to fit large screens on ever-smaller bodies.

But it turns out Sony has yet to get the memo, as its latest Xperia XA2 Ultra brings back the giant phablet design of yesteryear in a 2018 mid-range flagship.

The XA2 Ultra is a solidly large device that is a huge phone by today's standards, where consumers have gotten used to sleeker, thinner but also taller devices.

It is the largest phone in the Sony line-up and is aimed at mid-range use. Equipped with a Snapdragon 630 processor, 4GB of memory and 64GB of on-board storage, the XA2 Ultra will not win specs wars, but is more than adequate for everyday use and media consumption.

At its retail price of almost $600, the XA2 Ultra is priced quite competitively for a mid-range offering, especially when other mid-range phones do not come in such a large display size.

There are some performance slowdowns that crop up every now and then. I notice a slight lag when pulling up the keyboard sometimes and some stuttering when multitasking between various apps.

While the top and bottom bezel do not give the XA2 Ultra the looks of a modern smartphone, I find them to be quite useful for a phone its size. Because the XA2 is so massive, the bezel gives me a good grip when I am using the phone in landscape mode while watching videos or playing games - a functional design feature which I have grown to miss on other phones.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $598

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 (Octa-core 2.2GHz)

    DISPLAY: 6.0-inch IPS LCD, Full HD, 1920 x 1080 pixels, 367 PPI pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 8.0

    CAMERA: 23MP, f/2.0 (rear); 16MP, f/2.0 with optical image stabilisation and autofocus, 8MP, f/2.4 (front)

    MEMORY: 64GB (microSD expandable up to 256GB), 4GB RAM

    BATTERY: Non-removable 3,580 mAh

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The XA2 Ultra also sticks with the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio rather than the modern 18:9 one.

The IPS LCD screen displays good colours and viewable resolution, even if it may not look as sharp as newer Oled-based displays. The display could go a little brighter, as I leave the phone on maximum brightness most of the time.

The XA2 Ultra has a massive 23-megapixel rear shooter that shoots decent and clear photos.

The camera struggles with dynamic range at times and it is quite easy to blow out the highlights under strong sunlight.

Hidden in additional settings is the option to shoot 4K video, which is a welcome feature in such a mid-range offering.

Sony touts the two front-facing selfie cameras as the XA2's killer feature. The two front shooters comprise a 16-megapixel lens for regular selfies and a wide-angle 8-megapixel lens for wider, group selfie shots.

The front-facing camera comes equipped with a skin beautification feature which smoothensthe face and tidies up imperfections. While this is already accepted as a mainstay feature in all selfie-cameras, the XA2 Ultra's beautification is quite noticeable, unlike some of its competitors which look a bit more natural.

The option to use both dual-SIM and a microSD card at the same time gives the XA2 Ultra great flexibility for a mid-range phone.

It is also outfitted with a large 3,580 mAh battery, which keeps the large screen chugging along for the most part of the day. I charge the phone the night before and am able to easily end the next day with a comfortable 35 per cent of battery life left.

•Verdict: The XA2 Ultra is the last of a dying breed of giant phablets and, as such, has a relatively niche appeal. It is a good choice of mid-range phone for users who demand a large screen and good battery life at an affordable price.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2018, with the headline 'Large display and good battery life'. Print Edition | Subscribe