Flagship devices have been getting all the press, but mid-rangers are increasingly presenting themselves as a formidable class of competitors in the market, with handset manufacturers building capable handsets for the everyman at reasonable prices. Competition is fierce, however. The Xperia T2 Ultra, Sony’s latest midrange offering, is the successor to 2013′s Xperia T. As may be obvious with the “ultra” moniker, it is quite the monstrous-sized phone. In terms of specs, it packs a punch, too, at least on paper. But will it actually deliver in real world usage? We find out, in our review.
The Bottom Line
A monstrous sized phone that's packing quite the punch
Long Battery Life.
Sturdy build quality.
Only 8 gigs internal.
The Sony Xperia T2 Ultra is a mid-range phablet that offers reasonable performance, great camera, awesome battery life and good build quality. The only limiting factor here is its release markets. You may not be able to find the Xperia T2 Ultra for cheap with proper connectivity support within the US. But elsewhere, it could be a good buy for $380 to $420 if you’re in the market for a large-sized smartphone.
There aren’t any surprises in terms of the packaging. Inside the box, you get the usual reading materials and quick start guides. The package includes a micro USB cable, wall charger, and a pair of white earbuds, which are perhaps the only absolute necessities that come with a mid-range device. Overall, the packaging and item inclusion are quite decent for a mid-ranger like the T2 Ultra.
Design and build quality
Sony has been doing well in terms of smartphone design and build quality over the past several years, and the company’s design language is likewise evident in the Xperia T2 Ultra, with its sharp angles and an aesthetic reminiscent of a rectangular slab. Now – whether this is an ideal design remains a subjective decision. I tend to prefer handsets that have some curvature to them, but clearly, people appreciate what Sony has been doing with their Xperia line. I can understand why many people find Sony’s angular designs appealing. They’re simple streamlined and refined. A few notes: Construction. With regard to construction, the Xperia T2 Ultra is comprised of a unibody shell made entirely of plastic. While the material does feel sturdy and durable, the glossy back is such a fingerprint magnet! The smudges are not quite as evident with the white colored model than with the black, but either way you will find yourself cleaning the phone quite frequently because of this finish. Size and heft. Size-wise, the Xperia T2 Ultra does live up to its name, as it already ventures into phablet territory, with a 6-inch screen size. The T2 Ultra completely dwarfs phones like the Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S5. Despite its size, however, the T2 Ultra does not feel too heavy, which is partly due to its plastic construction and 7.7 mm thin profile. Therefore, even with the size, this mid-range Xperia will not strain your hand — or hands — too much. Ports and buttons. All of the Xperia T2′s ports and buttons are located on the sides, and this placement makes the device feel a bit awkward when you have headphones or the micro USB cable plugged in. On the left side are the micro USB and a microSD slot for storage expansion up to 32 GB. On the right side is the 3.5 mm headphone jack followed by the micro SIM card slot. The Xperia T2 Ultra also features Sony’s signature protruding power button with the volume rockers below. And as with most other Xperia devices, the T2 Ultra comes with a dedicated camera shutter button — something you rarely see on other Android devices out there. Speaker: The loudspeaker is situated on a slit at the back of the phone. While the speaker offers good quality sound, the placement at the back means the output could easily be muffled while holding the phone or when the device is set atop any surface. An observation about build quality: while the phone feels sturdy and well-made in general, the buttons feel cheap, as they wiggle and provide mushy feedback. This is especially evident with the camera button. You would expect Sony to make a shutter button that gives an assuring click when pressed. Also, the micro USB and microSD slots are covered with flaps, although this does not mean the phone is water and dust resistant like many of Sony’s other phones. These are basically just included for aesthetics.
True to its “ultra” name, the T2 Ultra is indeed a big phone. Its 6-inch display comes at 720p resolution, however, pixel density junkies are not likely to be satisfied here. If you look close enough, you might find jagged edges, especially with text. Still, the display itself is quite bright, with vivid color reproduction and great viewing angles. One gripe I have, however, is that despite the display’s brightness, it can be a little difficult to see outdoors at certain angles. But this is a relatively minor setback. And in terms of the 6-inch screen size potentially being too large for some people, I believe the bigger screen size will result in a better multimedia experience if you’re fond of watching videos and playing games on your smartphone, or even if you’re simply browsing the web.
The Xperia T2 Ultra is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.4 GHz, an Adreno 305 GPU. While it comes with 8 GB of storage, only 4 GB is actually usable, which means you’ll need to augment it with a microSD card. In day to day usage, I have noticed some lag when opening apps. Even scrolling through homescreens resulted in some dropped frames. However, this wasn’t enough to cause frustration or break the overall experience with the device. The Xperia T2 Ultra is also a capable gaming device, as I was able to play the likes of Clash of Clans, Dead Trigger 2 and Shadowgun Deadzone without hiccups. What’s great is that the large display provided a more enjoyable gaming experience than I would usually have with a smaller phone.
The Xperia T2 Ultra features a 13-megapixel Sony Exmor RS sensor, and it also has the same camera app found in other Xperia devices. This features modes and settings like Superior Auto, background defocus, AR effect, timeshift burst, and several other functionalities. The different shooting modes allow for fun smartphone photography, but if you would rather just have great photos everytime you take a shot, then you can simply set it to Superior Auto and let the camera do the thinking. You can easily take photos using the dual-stage shutter button or the on-screen shutter. Picture quality is impressive, and photos during our test run came out very sharp and crisp, with accurate color reproduction. Even in low light situations, there is very little noise. A drawback, however: the Superior Auto function can only take 9 megapixel shots, which still provides adequate detail but you will need to switch to manual mode to achieve 13 megapixel photos. Unfortunately, the Xperia T2 Ultra will then switch to a 4:3 aspect ratio. The shutter speed is a bit slow for my liking, but overall the phone’s camera does a great job and is fun to use. Here are a few sample shots:
The Xperia T2 Ultra packs a 3,000 mAh non-removable battery, and in my experience I got ample amounts of on-screen and standby time. I was able to get 18 hours of battery life with 6.5 hours of screen time. On another day, I was able to manage 5 hours of screen time 12 hours after unplugging and with heavy use. With moderate usage, the Xperia T2 Ultra can likely last two days without recharging. If you’re running low on power, Sony’s stamina mode will let you squeeze out even more juice out of the battery, although in my case, I didn’t find the need.
The Xperia T2 Ultra ships with 4.3 Jelly Bean, but I’m hoping a KitKat update will be released soon, which would hopefully address some of the phone’s performance issues. Sony has implemented Xperia UI on top of Android, which comes with the usual slew of Sony-branded apps like Walkman, PlayStation Mobile and Sony Select. These don’t necessarily feel like bloatware, though. Sony does a good job with adding its own touches to the UI while still leaving the core Android experience intact. Overall, the Xperia UI is one of those skins that is not very intrusive, in my opinion. Sony is aware that the Xperia T2 Ultra is a big device, and the company has made adjustments to its Xperia UI to provide a better one-handed user experience. This includes the centralized dialer, which enables users to dial without having to reach across the display. The keyboard can also be offset either to the left or right. Meanwhile, you can also pull down the notification shade simply by double-tapping on the home button. Multitasking is also possible through Sony’s Small Apps, although support is still limited at this time. This lets you check websites, read emails or do quick calculations without leaving your current app.
Pricing and connectivity
The Xperia T2 Ultra is not meant for the US market, although you can get one for yourself, taking note of some differences in model number. All models support HSPA+ and LTE, although only one model supports US bands: the “5306″ model, which runs on both T-Mobile and AT&T. The model we reviewed is the “5303″, while another model, the “5322″ comes with dual-SIM capabilities. With regards to pricing, expect the Xperia T2 Ultra to retail between $380 and $420 for the 5303/5322, depending on where you look. The 5306 however, is a bit harder to come across. So far, we’ve only managed to find it through one retailer for $650, and frankly, you might be better off going for a flagship device at that price. Or, you can go for alternatives like the HTC Desire 816, which we earlier reviewed. The Desire 816 offers high-end features for a mid-range price, which makes it a worthy competitor to the Xperia T2 Ultra, in terms of price and specs.
Sony Xperia T2 Ultra specifications
6-inch TFT LCD, HD (1280 x 720), 245 ppi, Triluminos, X-Reality