Review - Sony Xperia U


Review - Sony Xperia U
Great design and specs at a budget price, with a few caveats...
Newly rebranded Sony Mobile has rolled out another couplet of handsets, including the iPhone killer the Xperia P and the eminently pocketable Xperia U which we’re going to take a look at today.

The Xperia U acts as a companion handset to the P and theXperia S in some ways but also flies in the face of modern smartphone design and implementation by delivering a smaller form factor that is closer to the candybar design of yesteryear. In this way, you might consider it a successor to Sony Ericsson’s tremendous Xperia ray, which packed a huge amount of quality into a slick and slim form.

The Xperia U sports a 112 x 54mm body, which makes it within a millimetre of the size of the ray, though at 12mm thick it’s a little more stocky. That’s in keeping with the new square design which moves a away from the ‘human curvature’ organic shape. Personally, I like how solid the U feels in the hand, and the size helps make it easy to find in the most voluminous of bags.

Sony Xperia U. With some added pink. For flava...
Sony Xperia U. With some added pink. For flava...Enlarge Enlarge
You’ll find a 3.5 inch display on the U that runs at 854x480 pixel for a strong ppi of 280. It may not be highest specced on the market but the screen is bright and clear, rendering images naturally and showing high levels of detail for web browsing. The bottom of the touchscreen features Sony’s familiar hardware inputs - back, home and options – and it’s great to see them still feature. These inputs are responsive and actually easier to locate than those on the Xperia P, though beware of accidental presses.

The rest of the handset includes an easily accessible USB port without fiddly covers, standard headphone jack and the lock screen and volume rocker on the right side. Happily, you’ll also find a physical camera shutter button on this side, which can automatically launch the shooter app and even immediately snap a photo. It’s not the easiest button to use, as its action requires a very firm press, but it’s a great thing to see sneaking back onto phones.

Finally, and most obviously, the U sports a transparent strip near the base which not only houses its antenna but also changes colour to match your music and notifications and will even mimic the colour scheme of your photos as you browse. It’s a neat and eye catching addition but it can be distracting in dark situations.

In operation, the Xperia U is a speedy little beggar, thanks to throwing all the power of a 1GHz dual core processor at a smaller screen than most handsets. The touch screen is responsive and the layout and apps will be familiar to Android users, while an Ice Cream Sandwich update is planned for later in the year. There are a bunch of more and less useful widgets pre-installed, including more streamlined versions of Timescape and new ways to track the media munching of your online acquaintances. None are totally useless but you may want to repopulate with your previous apps.

Websites render quickly and can be scrolled and panned with ease, while Sony’s media options remain well above average, especially the music player which will accept MP3, WAV, Ogg and SMF formats and includes a new cover flow browser that’s very nice indeed. Add in the merrily blinking strip in a variety of disco colours and a powerful speaker and this is a great media device. Movies are smooth but only support MP4 and 3GPP.

The Xperia U’s rear mounted camera is rated at 5MP which is a shame given that the Xperia ray’s had 8MP and produced some of the finest results we’ve seen. Regardless, the camera app itself is a lot speedier than the previous generation and results are decent, particularly in well lit conditions. Grain is always a problem though and you’ll also find some mixed results on the video side, with some jerky 720p video. I do like the quick launch option, which takes you from the lock screen to snapping a picture in a split second with a stab of the shutter button.

The Xperia U includes onboard storage only, with 6 gigs available to the user. It's hardly capacious but is sufficient for a decent number of apps and an average sized music collection. Be cautious with HD video recording (which eats 40 megs a minute) and you'll be fine. Battery life is above average, with the phone lasting a day under moderate to heavy use.

The Xperia U is a verylikeable phone – it feels good, looks great and isn’t afraid to have some personality with the illuminated strip and interchangeable bases. And, for the most part, it performs admirably – basic use is speedy, zipping around the net is a breeze and the multimedia options are effective. Thestorage maybe an issue for some but the Sony Xperia U is another great handset most definitely worth a look, particularly considering its competitive price point.

The Sony Xperia U is available now from from on contract and from €219.99 on Pre Pay.

9 Stars: Recommended
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