Sony Xperia U review

Reviews Paul Briden 13:56, 8 Jun 2012

The Sony Xperia U is a low-cost Android device which packs quite a punch on performance, we get to grips with it in our full review

Rating: 
4
Pros: 
Good build quality, Compact, Lightweight, Very portable, Fast performance, Excellent display
Cons: 
Poor camera, Interface is a bit intrusive
Verdict: 
For the price this is an excellent smartphone, if you're looking for a great Android device on a budget look no further

Can Sony successfully storm the middle-to-lower spectrum of the market with the £200 Sony Xperia U?

It's a popular price-point and there are already plenty of big names occupying the space – is there room for one more? We spent a week with the Xperia U to find out.

Aesthetics

Sony's new Xperia brand handsets are blockier, thicker and more slab-like than Sony Ericsson's ever were, but it all appears very deliberate, which makes the devices extremely striking and very sturdy.

Curves have been replaced by very sharp, angular lines and razor-like edges are now broad and flat to give good grip. Sony appears to use better quality materials for its handsets as well, which is yet another reason to prefer the company as a sole trader.

The Xperia U is made from plastic, yet despite this it still feels well built and durable in the hand. We prefer the look of the Xperia S but we cannot doubt the quality of the Xperia U either.

The touchscreen is quite small on the front of the handset so it does feel like there’s a lot of ‘excess’ bodywork around the outside, further contributing to the ‘clunkiness’ of the phone.

Although all three Sony Xperia devices feature a clear plastic band at the bottom of the handset the Xperia U implements it in a unique way. Like its stable-mates, the Xperia U’s bar has button icons for the three capacitive controls positioned just above it, but unlike the other models this is filled with LED lights, which light up according to what colour scheme you've selected.

Another unique design point is the cap below the transparent bar, which can be removed and replaced with a variety of coloured options. The model we tested was a white handset, which by default came with a white cap fitted, but in the package there was also a yellow cap.

Conceptually it’s not the worst idea but the implementation is all those garish colour combinations which, along with the LED light, can end up making the phone look a bit like a tricked out hatchback, complete with bodykit and neons. Maybe that’s your thing, but it’s certainly not ours and it doesn’t earn the phone any extra ‘points’ in our mind.

Hardware

The Xperia U uses a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 processor on the ST-Ericsson NovaThor U8500 chip clocked at 1GHz. Graphical capability is handled by a Mali-400MP graphics processing unit (GPU).

This is surprisingly snappy and responsive, touch sensitivity is well on the mark, navigation through the home screens is smooth and apps and widgets load and operate fluidly.

Display

The 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen is a little on the small side compared to many other handsets currently on the market. It’s an LED backlit LCD with four-finger multi-touch and scratch-resistant glass.

The screen resolution comes in at 854x480 pixels and gives a pixel density of 280 pixels-per-inch (ppi), which is not at all bad for the lower-ranked model in a device range.

This is a very sharp display with good brightness, but the Sony Bravia engine enhances things further and means you’ve got excellent contrast, deep blacks and rich colours.

Camera and video

Imaging technology is an area in which Sony has a high degree of expertise thanks to its pioneering work with back-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensors which absorb much more light than your average camera sensor.

We’re not too sure what’s happened with the Xperia U, however.

It’s not a bad camera and has plenty of useful settings, but things can come out quite fuzzy and washed out, while video looks particularly dodgy.

To keep the phone's retail price on the cheaper end of things we suppose production costs had to be cut somewhere and that somewhere appears to have been the camera.

Specifications

Typical Price £200
UK Launch May 2012
Frequency GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, HSDPA 900 / 2100 - ST25i, HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 - ST25a
Phone Style Touchscreen
Thickness 12mm
Length 112mm
Width 54mm
Weight 110g
Built-in Memory 8GB, 512MB RAM
Additional Memory No
High-speed Data GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA
Connectivity Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Hotspot, DLNA, MicroUSB
Screen Size 3.5-inches
Screen Colours 16 million
Camera 5-megapixel
Designer Lens No
Camera Resolution 2592x1944 pixels
Zoom Yes
Flash LED
Video Resolution 720p
Ringtones Yes
Music Player Yes
Music Formats MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV
Song Storage Yes
Radio Yes
Speaker Yes
Video Calling N/A
Internet Yes
Browser HTML
Games Yes

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