I’m not surprised that I didn’t even know this phone existed. Sony has confused the hell out of me recently with its moves in phones.
So I was very surprised to run across a new Xperia phone with a six-inch screen at Best Buy, the Xperia XA Ultra:
This is a lustastic piece of tech with a gorgeous HD screen. The fit and finish and design are very swank.
The only problem is the heart of it. It’s using, according to the specs at GSM Arena, a Mediatek MT6755 Helio P10.
And it seemed slow.
And it didn’t want to connect to any WiFi. Not at Best Buy and not at B&H Photo, where I also encountered it.
Despite Mediatek’s hype, I wasn’t impressed with the performance of the phone. Even Settings took a hiccup to pop up.
And maybe it was due to default Settings — I didn’t check or try to change anything — but even the dedicated camera button (a thing I like and wish all phones had) wasn’t as responsive as I wanted. A two-second press caused a haptic shudder and then, after another second, did the camera activate. That’s way too slow to capture something quickly.
Here’s the thing about Android and CPUs. Each CPU vendor optimizes Android for its chip. Hell, even Google optimizes Android for its Nexus phones. So when you get an Intel, Mediatek, Rockchip, ACTIONS, Qualcomm, or other CPU, with Android, it’s an Android each one of those vendors have tinkered with for their chip.
And I just don’t believe Mediatek does a good job of it on their end. So despite whatever alleged power their CPUs might have, their full potential is never realized because of the botched job they do with Android optimization.
Sony made a decision a few years back to go with Mediatek because of price. They’d be able to achieve lower-priced phones.
This move is now a false economy. Mediatek has no friends among techies; just check out XDA Developers. Without the support of techies, there’s no alternative to what Mediatek puts in ROM.
But besides that, from what I understand, Qualcomm’s 6xx-series CPUs are now cost-competitive with Mediatek’s offerings. So it no longer makes sense for Sony — or anybody — to stick with Mediatek when there are Snapdragon CPUs that are embraced by the rooting and customization techies.
As it is, Sony is in a bad spot here. As gorgeous as this new XA Ultra is, at $329 it just can’t compete with the $99 ZTE Zmax Pro available at Metro PCS. The ZTE phone has a Snapdragon CPU — the 617 — evidencing that it is now possible to create a low-priced phone with a Qualcomm CPU.
If the XA Ultra had a Snapdragon 6xx-series CPU in it, I’d really consider it despite it being priced over thrice that of the Zmax Pro. But that Mediatek CPU makes it worth less to me than a $99 Zmax Pro.