Sony Xperia U is a small, attractively priced handset with some surprisingly good features. Sony’s Xperia range of smartphones is now an established brand, and the new Xperia U follow the precedent quite well. It is a small handset, in size as well as in price, and it might well have its greatest appeal among those who like a bit of bling with their gadget.
In fact, the Sony Xperia U is the smallest of the current Xperia crop which also includes the Xperia P and Xperia S. Weighing just 110gram with a 3.5-inch screen it feels relatively tiny compared to the massive-screened devices we’ve been seeing at the top end of the market this year. But 3.5 inches is still what you’d get from an iPhone, and considering its price of around $310, the Sony Xperia U certainly have a lot been going for it.
The blocky physical design of the Sony Xperia U aren’t going to be to everyone’s taste, though there’s no denying it is different, or that it delivers a very solid feel with no creaking or flex in the bodywork. With its squared-off corners and 12mm thick chassis it feels a bit chunky in the hand even though overall it is relatively tiny.
We aren’t sure we particularly like the white strip along the bottom of our white backed review sample. It looks a bit out of place to us, and the fact that the handset comes with a yellow pop-on replacement doesn’t endear us to it any further. The black version of the phone comes with a pink replacement cap.
That’s not the end of the bling, though. Between the replaceable bottom section and the business end of the phone, its shortcut buttons and screen, there’s a transparent strip that Xperia fans will be familiar with. This glows when you tap the buttons below the screen and its colour changes to mimic the theme. Blue, green, white, red, mauve, gold, the choice is yours. This all adds up to a handset that is aimed at a young audience. The touch buttons below the screen are reminiscent of other Xperia handsets. Three tiny dots indicate where you need to tap to get a reaction, while icons embedded in the white strip indicate that the middle button is for Home, the left one for Back and the right one for Menu. It’s not the clearest system we’ve ever seen, and at first you’ll probably find yourself trying to click the strip rather than the spaces above it. There’s another design quirk in that the SIM card slot is on the right edge under the backplate. It’s a full-sized slot, and Sony kindly provides a converter.
The rather boxy physical design of the Sony Xperia U is bound to split opinion caddy in case you already own a micro SIM. The headset slot is on the top edge where it should be, though the micro USB connector’s top-left side position isn’t our favourite – we prefer it on the bottom-edge. The right edge houses the camera shortcut, on/off button and volume rocker. The Xperia range is certainly distinct in its styling, which is great for creating an identity, but there’s quite a few decisions that we’re not sure about.
Get past the physical design though and the Sony Xperia U impresses greatly with its internal specifications. We really did not expect to see a dual-core processor in a $310 handsets, but we’ve got one here and the dual-core 1GHz offering delivered well. It’s backed up by 512MB of RAM, which is sufficient for everyday use but doesn’t stand up so well to heavy multitasking.
The screen is sharp and responsive. While it’s 3.5 inches makes for a cramped keyboard, the resolution of480x854 pixel is good and quality impresses, particularly given the price of this handset. The pixel density of 280 ppi makes text crisp on the display as well.
Sony headlines 8GB of internal storage on its website but this actually breaks down into 2GB for apps and their data and 4GB for your own content, with 2GB not accessible to the user at all. It’s here where we encountered the biggest snag with this device – unbelievably, there’s no micro SD card slot. It will limit how far you can use the phone for music, especially if you make full use of the camera.
It is nice to see a front camera as well as the five-megapixel main camera, with the latter capable of720p video recording. We continue to like the fact that Sony puts a dedicated shutter button on its devices, and is something we’d like other manufacturers to adopt. The performance of the camera is not quite up with Sony Mobile’s best but the quality is more than acceptable in the stills department, and above average in our opinion when shooting 720p video.
The Sony Xperia U run Android 2.3. It’s difficult to see the justification in that given that Sony began updating its handsets from last year back in March. Surely, the company has had enough time to launch the Sony Xperia U with Ice Cream Sandwich. Still, an update will be available in Q3 of 2012, and this should not detract too much from what is a generally very impressive device. It’s a solid mid-range handset, and while we’re not enamoured with every aspect of it, the very appealing price point does make us more inclined to overlook some of its quirks. Sony has squeezed a dual-core processor into the chassis, which is impressive for a handset of this price.
720p video shooting is a neat achievement for a nearly low cost phone.
The camera’s slide button makes access to it speedy. Dedicated shutter button is cool.
The relatively high resolution is good for detailed webpage viewing.
The 1, 290mAh battery delivers okay result’s thanks in part to the smaller screen.
A very capable handset, so long as you don’t run out of storage space.
Sony Xperia U design blocky and uninspiring looks; It feels larger than it really is.
There’s lots going on here, but lacks the necessity of a micro SD card.
Low price point makes the Sony Xperia U highly attractive.