Sony's retail boxes barely differ from one model to the next but the XA1 Ultra's is special. As in larger. That's it. There's still a standard issue 5V/1.5A charger (so not really PumpExpress+ 2.0 capable), and a USB cable. There are no headphones in the box.
Once again though, this may not necessarily apply to the retail bundle in all corners of the world. Sony likes to tailor its package contents to different markets and carriers, so check before you buy.
The Xperia XA1 Ultra measures 165 x 79 x 8.1mm, so it's a millimeter taller than the XA Ultra, but also 0.3mm thinner while keeping battery capacity unchanged. More importantly though, the new model is 14g lighter and it tips the scales at 188g.
Six-inches is not an overly popularr screen size, but we've reviewed a few models with this diagonal already. The Oppo F3 Plus, for example, measures 163.6 x 80.8 x 7.4mm and weighs 185mm, while the Galaxy C9 Pro measures 162.9 x 80.7 x 6.9mm and weighs 189g. So for a phone of this display size, the Xperia XA1 Ultra is about right with points to be had for the almost 2mm less in width.
Now, here's a phone we've seen before. The Xperia XA1 Ultra is practically the XA1, only larger. Strictly speaking, it's not exactly a straight-up 'multiply everything by a factor of 1.2' type of upscaling. The XA1 Ultra actually fares a little better in screen to body ratio - the display of the Ultra is 22mm taller, while the difference in physical height between the two is just 20mm more. So not only are the bezels not proportionally larger, they're actually slimmer.
The Ultra's forehead does also have a prominent selfie camera staring at you, compared to the XA1's more incognito shooter. The front flash that's been a staple of the lineup since the Xperia C3 is also hard to miss. The smaller model doesn't have that, it's an Ultra feature.
Other than those peculiarities, the Ultra's top bezel arrangement is similar to the one on the non-Ultra - an earpiece, camera on its left, ambient light/proximity sensors to the right. There's also a notification LED in the top left corner.
You won't find anything under the display even if the cutout at the bottom would have you think otherwise - it's not a speaker, the XA1 Ultra doesn't have stereo speakers. That's a bummer, really, as a phone of such proportions is clearly built with multimedia in mind.
Even before Sony went all Xperia X with its smartphone lineup, the C5 Ultra was already a head-turner if minimal side bezels were your thing. That didn't change with the XA Ultra, and it doesn't change now either. In Sony's world that makes the XA1 Ultra the champ in fitting the most screen in the smallest footprint.
The sides are made of aluminum, and that's probably part of the reason they could be kept so thin. They also provide adequate grip for you to handle the device securely. The loop surface design where the front flows through the sides into the back is realized with a different set of materials on the XA1 Ultra (and the XA1 proper) compared to the XZ Premium - it's aluminum sides/plastic back here, compared to the Premium's nylon sides/glass back. It does achieve a similar effect more or less.
The XZ Premium has aluminum on its top and bottom, but that would have been too much metal for a mere mortal like the XA1 Ultra - the top and bottom plates are plastic here.
You'll find the USB-C port centered on the bottom, the loudspeaker to its right. Up top, there's the 3.5mm headphone jack and a secondary mic.
In what is a common Sony practice, all controls are on the right side of the phone. The power button is a centimeter above the midpoint and it's the old circular knob from the OmniBalance days - there is no fingerprint reader here. Above it is the volume rocker, which is a convenient location. Towards the bottom is the two-stage shutter button, which can also double as a camera shortcut.
On the left side is the card compartment - the SIM card has its own tray, which you need to take out to access the microSD slot. The memory card clicks into a push-to-insert, push-to-eject kind of slot but by the time you get to it, the phone will restart because you've taken the SIM card out.
The XA1 Ultra may be a different kind of smudge-magnet next to the Premium, but it still is one - the midranger is a little better at concealing the grease on its back, but it's also not quite as easy to wipe clean. Oh, well.
You'd be looking at the display and not the back, so let's see how that performs in our tests on the next page.