Sony Xperia XA Ultra review: Lord of the selfies

Lord of the selfies

GSMArena team, 20 July 2016.

Sony's Album is one great gallery app

The Album app is among the most comprehensive and feature-rich we've seen, it's fast and easy to use, too! Photos are organized by month, and you can use pinch-zoom to change the size of thumbnails (then they smoothly animate into the grid).

At the very top of the list is a slideshow, showing off your photos, lower down, the first photo of each month is shown at twice the size of other images.

The Album app is beautiful and functional - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review The Album app is beautiful and functional - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review The Album app is beautiful and functional - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review The Album app is beautiful and functional - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review
The Album app is beautiful and functional

You can instead browse photos on a map (you can manually add geotag info too) or by folder. This includes network storage so that you can view photos from a DLNA server (your home computer for one). Then there's integration with online albums - Facebook, Picasa, Flickr.

Image editing is handled by Sketch. It lets you fingerpaint over a photo or a paper-like texture, add text, stickers, photos and so on. If you're talented, you can share your creations on the Sketch mini-social network, and if you're not, you can just browse what others drew.

Sketch is a fun image editor with a mini social network for sharing art - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Sketch is a fun image editor with a mini social network for sharing art - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Sketch is a fun image editor with a mini social network for sharing art - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Sketch is a fun image editor with a mini social network for sharing art - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review
Sketch is a fun image editor with a mini social network for sharing art

Movie Creator is similar to the Assistant of Google Photos. It automatically creates short videos from the photos and videos you've shot.

You can do it manually too: pick photos and videos, change their order, add color effects and music (you get a small audio collection to start you off, but can use custom files too). Then tap the Share button and send out your animated slideshow.

The Movie Creator can automatically or manually make shareable slideshows - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review The Movie Creator can automatically or manually make shareable slideshows - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review The Movie Creator can automatically or manually make shareable slideshows - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review The Movie Creator can automatically or manually make shareable slideshows - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review
The Movie Creator can automatically or manually make shareable slideshows

We mentioned it in the Display section, but we'll repeat it here. The Sony software uses image enhancements to make even average-looking photos pop. You can choose from Off, Mobile Bravia Engine 2 (sharpen and boost contrast) and Super-vivid.

Screen settings - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review
Screen settings

Music app

The Music app feels like a part of the same software package as the rest of the custom Sony stuff. The contextual side menu offers much of the same browsing options - by folder, network folder and online services, in this case, Spotify (it's just a link to the Spotify app though). You can share music from the phone to compatible players.

Music app - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Music app - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Music app - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Music app - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review
Music app

The Infinite button as such is gone, but its functionality is still here in the menu. It can find the track's video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia and search for lyrics on Google. Gracenote is used here too and it can automatically download information about your tracks and album art.

There are presets for Sony headsets and a number of audio settings. ClearAudio+ determines the best audio quality settings depending on the track you're listening to. We liked how it changed the sound and carefully accentuated various details. You also get a 5-band equalizer if you want to do the tuning manually.

Dynamic normalizer evens out the volume differences across tracks, which is great if you've mixed multiple albums from multiple sources.

Audio settings - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Audio settings - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Audio settings - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Audio settings - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review
Audio settings

TrackID is Sony's trusted song recognition software, which has since evolved way past that. It can now show you music charts by country, give you live updates on recent searches across the world, and store your search history as well.

TrackID - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review TrackID - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review TrackID - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review TrackID - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review
TrackID

FM Radio

There's also an FM radio tuner with RDS. The app features multiple visualizations and integrates with TrackID to recognize the currently playing song. Of course, you would need to have your headset plugged in for the FM radio to pick up any signal.

FM radio with RDS and track recognition - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review FM radio with RDS and track recognition - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review FM radio with RDS and track recognition - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review
FM radio with RDS and track recognition

Video

The Movies app is gone, the Video app is more focused on TV and movies than watching local content (Movies had HTPC-like functionality). The app will insist you enter ZIP code and cable provider before it lets you into the main UI.

Then you get multiple tabs that cover what's on the air right now, browsing info about TV series, upcoming movies on TV, getting recommendations and so on.

It's only the My Library tab that is concerned with watching stuff from the Xperia XA Ultra memory.

Video player - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Now on TV - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Popular shows - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review Subtitle settings - Sony Xperia XA Ultra review
Video player Now on TV Popular shows Subtitle settings

Videos can continue playing in the background (it's an option), but you can't view the video in a small floating window. At least you get full subtitle settings.

Audio output starts off great, loses some brilliance with headphones

The Sony Xperia XA Ultra did greatly in the active external amplifier part of our audio quality test. The smartphone's output was clean and its loudness was nicely high, making up for one of the better showings out there.

Plugging in a pair of headphones does cause some damage to stereo quality and adds some intermodulation distortion, but neither reading gets too bad. Yet with volume levels also plummeting to below average the final result is only decent, rather than impressive.

Here go the results so you can do your comparisons.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia XA Ultra+0.02, -0.15-92.992.80.0330.038-92.5
Sony Xperia XA Ultra (headphones attached)+0.53, -0.25-90.891.60.0190.427-49.1
Xiaomi Mi Max+0.01, -0.03-93.593.50.00290.0068-93.8
Xiaomi Mi Max (headphones attached)+0.04, -0.02-93.493.30.0340.035-57.7
Huawei Mate 8+0.01, -0.03-97.899.10.00540.0087-97.3
Huawei Mate 8 (headphones attached)+0.02, -0.09-97.397.90.0150.078-81.3
Nokia Lumia 950 XL+0.01, -0.08-91.691.70.00350.012-89.3
Nokia Lumia 950 XL (headphones attached)+0.48, -0.07-90.491.50.0110.293-55.6

Sony Xperia XA Ultra frequency response
Sony Xperia XA Ultra frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

Reader comments

  • Anna

Camera is not good.... Takes too long to save photos

  • Disappointing Sony

****Dont buy this phone**** software issues Has wifi errors on purchase and sony not offering support

  • AnonD-724747

No spare parts after 2 years from released date. Not worth repairing as the spare parts were too expensive. It can costs you more than buying a new phone.