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Sony Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra hands-on!

Sony's new Xperia XA1 and Xperia XA1 Ultra are two new premium-yet-affordable smartphones. Join us as we take a quick look at these new devices.

Published onFebruary 27, 2017

While Sony fans enjoy the recent announcement of the company’s brand new flagship phones, the Xperia XZ Premium and XZs, they also used Mobile World Congress 2017 to unveil its successors to the Xperia XA line that were introduced last year. For those who aren’t able to afford the pricey cost of Sony’s flagships, the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra should prove to be more cost effective – without sacrificing the charm with Sony’s designs. Focusing on beefy cameras, superior audio and visual technology, and near bezel-less displays, they’re certainly going to offer some bang for the buck.

The XA1 Ultra is on the complete other end of the spectrum with its gargantuan stature.
Following in traditional Sony design, the XA1 and XA1 Ultra are two very similar phones with their “flat” looks, but there’s obviously a huge size disparity. When it comes to being pocketable, the XA1 is one of the few high caliber phones in the market that can be handled with a single hand – allowing your thumb to easily encompass all corners without too much stretching. However, the Xperia XA1 Ultra is on the complete other end of the spectrum with its gargantuan stature.

Sure, Sony loves to tout the borderless designs with their edge-to-edge screen, but the compromise is seen in the space above and below the displays – where the huge bezels become eyesores for the phones. Despite that, we can’t deny that they look lovely, especially on the XA1 Ultra and its ginormous 6.0-inch 1080p display. It’s roomy to say the least, but unfortunately for the XA1, it’s stepped down to a 5.0-inch 720p screen.

Sony managed to slap 23MP 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS sensors into both phones
Moving onto the good stuff, Sony managed to slap 23MP 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS sensors into both phones, which are being pegged for their low light performance. They’re so confident about the performance of its news cameras, they’re promising stellar quality at ISO 6400. It’ll be intriguing to say the least, but we’ll save our reservations until we can snap some shots on our own and meticulously comb over the results. For the selfie lovers out there, they’ll gravitate towards the 16MP front-facing snapper that’s on the Xperia XA1 Ultra – with built-in optical image stabilization and an LED flash.

Specs-wise, they’re very similar if you look down the sheet, but there’s just a slight advantage with the XA1 Ultra – like its screen resolution, larger 2,700mAh battery, and front-facing camera. Everything else, however, are pretty much identical between the two. Take for example the processor, a 64-bit based octa-core MediaTek helio P20 processor, which handles all the basic stuff nicely from what we’ve seen so far. They’re both also running Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, with Sony’s usual custom skin.

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Interestingly, none of Sony's new phones sport fingerprint sensors
Sony has clearly bombarded us with a bunch of new devices, but are they any good? One striking item that’s missing in all of them, even with their “premium” nature, is that none of them have fingerprint sensors. Sure, we might see variants of them in other markets with fingerprint sensors, but it’s just a shame there are none whatsoever – it’s something we’ve come to expect today, including entry-level stuff. Overall, the strength of the new XA1 line seem to hinge mostly on their cameras, especially under low light conditions, which is an area where few phones excel in – so it’ll be intriguing to see how they fair.

In terms of release and pricing, Sony has announced that the XA1 will begin to go on sale on May 1, 2017 through retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, and much more, for the price of $299.99. That’s not too shabby when you think about it, but we’re curious to see where they place the XA1 Ultra later on in late spring. We’re hoping to see it under $500 at the very least, just because anything more than that, it’ll be competing against other giants in the premium space.

So, what are your thoughts on the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra? Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below.

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