Hands On with the Sony Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra
Best Phone: Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra
Sony debuted several new smartphones at CES this week in Las Vegas, including the Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra, and L2. The XA2 and XA2 Ultra share nearly every feature other than screen size and battery capacity. Here is an early look at the latest from Sony.
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Sony revamped its mid-range smartphones this week, and while I don't think the company when far enough with the redesign Sony did make progress in several key areas. Primarily, the phones (finally!) bring fingerprint readers to the U.S. This alone makes them far more compelling than their predecessors, but there's plenty else to like about these two phones.
The XA2 and XA2 Ultra are practically identical. The most obvious difference is of course their relative size. The Ultra, as the name implies, is the larger of the two. They feature metal frames, aluminum rear panels, and 2.5D curved glass on front. The phones still put Sony's dated and blocky design aesthetic to use, something I was hoping they might avoid. The one thing I like is the "loop" appearance of the top and bottom edges. The shape of the phones comes across as an elliptical-looking loop when viewed head on.
The phones are much bigger than they need to be considering the screen sizes, and have sharp corners that are not so comfy with the phone is in your pocket. Sony desperately needs to move away from this design. The good news here is that the company did smooth over the side edges a bit and made sure the seams between the glass panel, metal frame, and aluminum rear are tight. I particularly appreciate that the rear panels of both phones are curved a bit. Previous generations of Sony handsets had flat rears.
In my limited time with the phones I'd say they are a step up in terms of quality when compared to the original XA series. The phones are much more appealing than their plastic predecessors and the build quality is top notch. Considering the price point, you're getting well-made handset.
The faces of the XA2 and XA2 Ultra are chock full of annoying bezel. The side edges around the display are pleasingly thin, and yet the forehead and chin are sorely over-sized. The issue here is that Sony is sticking with the 16:9 aspect ratio display for now. Sony has some of the worst bezels in the business and its 2018 phones don't make any strides to rid themselves of the dated look.
A slit near the top of the glass calls out the earpiece, and the user-facing cameras are quite obvious above the display. Where the XA2 has a single selfie cam, the XA2 Ultra has two selfie cameras and a user-facing LED flash. That's a huge addition to the phone and make it much more appealing to me.
The screens, which measure 5.2 inches and 6 inches, respectively, are fine LCD panels. Each has full HD resolution. Sony is a holdout on bumping its screens to quad HD, though I wouldn't necessarily expect to see such high resolution on a mid-range device. The phones put out plenty of light and offered nice color and viewing angles. There are no buttons, as the phones reliy on on-screen controls.
The tray for the SIM card and memory card is tucked into the left edge of each phone. It's a rather large tray, but you can pull it out with a fingernail. Three buttons populate the right side. The volume toggle is closest to the top. I like the size, travel, and feedback. Below that you'll find the circular screen lock button. It has a huge profile, so it is easy to find and use. Travel is great. A dedicated camera button is near the bottom, a rarity on phones these days.
Sony curved the rear aluminum panel and tucked it into the metal frame tightly. The shape is really nice. The metal finish has a reflective sheen. I'm so happy Sony placed the fingerprint readers on the rear. The readers are located right where they need to be. The circular camera is near the top, with the LED flash just off to the left. The panel is a little on the plain side, but it is better than plastic.
Audio fans will be happy to know both phones include a 3.5mm headset jack and advanced audio powers. A USB-C port is on the bottom, as are slits for the speakerphone. The phones are not waterproof, nor are they rugged.
I'm pleased that Sony will ship these phones with Android 8 Oreo. Too many phone makers are still shipping new devices with Nougat. The user interface is more or less unchanged from Sony's other, recent devices. The company has toned its UI skin down considerably. It's still noticeable, but most stock Android behaviors are intact.
The units on hand all ran well. A Snapdragon 630 processor is under the hood and it provides plenty of power. The XA2 has 3 GB of memory, while the XA2 Ultra steps it up to 4 GB.
Sony's new phones make strides, though I wish they had stepped further into the modern era. There's no question that they offer all the features required in 2018. We look forward to reviewing them in the months ahead.
Best of CES 2018
CES is the world's big consumer tech show. Every year we head out to Vegas to check out everything in person.
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