Sony's love for big screens goes all the way back to 2013 and the 6.4" Xperia Z Ultra, which was followed by a phablet in every generation since. Some four years later we have the Xperia XA1 Ultra at our doorstep, all 6 inches of it. And since we headed down memory lane, the Xperia T2 Ultra certainly deserves a mention too. While the Z Ultra packed some flagship-grade internals, the T2 Ultra was less obsessed with specs - and screen size for that matter, its display diagonal coming in at 6 inches sharp.
But it's really the Xperia C3 that we'd call the XA1 Ultra's spiritual ancestor, even if it was on the "small" side in phablet terms, a 5.5-incher with zero Ultra in its name. You see, the C3 sported a high-res selfie camera (5MP was pretty high at the time) that was among the first to have a flash. The C4 brought some improvements, but it wasn't until the C5 that Ultra returned to the model name. The Xperia C5 Ultra added even more megapixels and autofocus to the front cam, putting a 6-inch screen in a slimmed down body.
The X-ifying of Sony's smartphone lineup marked the next chapter in the XA1 Ultra's past. Its predecessor was called the XA Ultra - X because they all were part of this series, A for midrange, and Ultra for, well, 6 inches. Yet another upgrade in the selfie camera department saw a hike in resolution (of course), but also the introduction of OIS - a checkmark on only a select few spec sheets. The flash went without saying.
So there we have it - the Xperia XA1 Ultra. The name we already broke down to bits, and there's the 1 that signifies second generation in Sony's twisted logic. There's not much in terms of front-facing camera upgrades this time - a flagship-grade shooter goes on the back instead, the basics like RAM and storage are now more than just barely adequate, and an efficient 16nm Mediatek chipset will try to get better mileage out of the same measly battery capacity.
Sony only fits fingerprint sensors in its high-end phones (though the feature is disabled in the US), but the XA1 Ultra isn't one of them. Fingerprint recognition has become more or less a given on even much cheaper devices, and its absence on the XA1 Ultra can't go unnoticed. We're also not massive fans of the top and bottom bezels that can almost be described with the same adjective.
The side bezels, on the other hand, are probably among the slimmest in Sony's Xperia lineup. It's bewildering why Sony wouldn't trim them on its more expensive phones in a similar manner, but we're sure they have their reasons.
Ask us and you'd get a unanimous 'more is better' response when it comes to battery backup. Ask Sony and you'd be told that last year's capacity is just fine. After spending time with the smaller Xperia XA1 (sans the 'Ultra'), we'd be inclined to reconsider - the more advanced chipset sure helps, but brute force (a.k.a. larger battery) can't hurt either, right?
Right, but let's stay on track - before we get to the battery life, there's unboxing and hardware overview to be done.