New Delhi: With the entry of Sony's new Xperia U handset, the battle of mid-range Android smartphones has further heated up. Joining the battle, this new warrior has managed to attract eyeballs. But the big question is - how powerful is this new warrior?
Apart from the Xperia U, currently, there are two Android phones in the market in the price bracket of Rs 15, 000 and Rs 18,000 - Samsung's Galaxy Ace Plus and HTC's One V - which are already in the spotlight, and are Xperia U's tough competitors.
Priced at Rs 17,399, does the Xperia U have in it what it takes to top the segment? Read on to find out.
Hardware and styling
The phone is neatly designed and its simplicity is what makes it look sexy. There is an illuminating translucent strip along the bottom of the device, which makes the Xperia U stand out in the crowd. This colour changing translucent band starts flashing different colours when you browse through your music. Also, when viewing photographs, it changes colours to match the shades in your photos. Though this colour changing transparent strip looks cool and distinguishes the Xperia U from its competitors, but can be an irritant at times, too. Some users who may not like this colour changing strip and would like to turn it off. But the disappointment is that there isn't an option to do so.
But this isn't the biggest turn-off. The biggest disappointment for me was the absence of a microSD card slot, which means that you cannot expand its memory. The phone has an internal storage space of 8GB of which up to 4GB is user-accessible memory. However, the company offers 50GB of storage on cloud, but it can not accommodate the benefit of having an expandable memory. Also, accessing data stored on the cloud means the need for an Internet connection that can also incur additional data costs. The lack of a microSD expansion slot on this phone cannot be ignored.
The Xperia U comes with an exchangeable bottom cap - either yellow or pink. You will either find a yellow or pink-coloured bottom cap in your box. our review unit had pink. The colour of the cap looks fugly, and I really doubt that anyone would love to replace the original black bottom cap with a pink one. Sony could have come up with some better colour options.
The LED notification light located on the top right (next to the front camera) tells only about the battery status. But it is of no use as it is too dull to be noticed.
The touch-sensitive spots for back, home and menu are not located near their corresponding icons in the translucent strip. Also, these points are marked with hardly visible silver dots. Initially, it might result in mis-hits, but once you get accustomed, it will no longer seem to be a problem.
The phone has a 3.5-inch capacitive scratch-resistant screen, but the width of the screen is a minor disappointment. However, this is a matter of personal choice; some people may not have any problem with its width.
The phone has a 5 megapixel rear camera with an LED flash, a 3.5 mm jack, a dedicated camera key, a strap hole, proximity sensors, microphones and speakers.
The phone encases a 3.5-inch reality display with Mobile Bravia engine, with a resolution of 854x480 pixels. And the screen is also scratch-resistant.
The display produces excellent colours and has high contrast and brightness level. Thanks to its reality display with mobile Bravia engine. If you don't know, Sony's reality display is the result of both hardware and software. With the view to improve the screen clarity and to give viewers a good representation of reality, Sony has changed the way of making the physical screen. Now, the screen is said to be glued directly on the glass to avoid any air gap between the screen and the glass, which in turns makes the screen brighter.
In addition, the Bravia engine, which is a piece of software, enhances sharpness, increase contrast and does a lot of noise cancellation enhancements. It makes images on the screen look sharp and crisp, and colours look more vivid. The mobile bravia engine cleans the picture to the best of quality before it reaches the screen.
The display offers good viewing angles, and is sunlight readable. Reading books on the kindle app on this phone is a treat and the touch is quite responsive.
The only thing that lets me down is the width of the display. The screen should have been a little wider. The low width size makes it a tad inconvenient to press keys on its virtual keyboard, when in the portrait mode. The keys are so closely located that, at times, you end up pressing other keys.
Operating System, UI and performance
The phone runs Android 2.3 operating system (upgradable to Android 4 Ice cream sandwich). The user interface is pretty intuitive, engaging and fluid.
The phone comes powered by a powerful 1 GHz dual core processor, which in turn makes multitasking on this phone a breeze. The browsing experience is amazing on this superfast phone. As the phone runs Android, you can access Google Play to download numerous apps. Instagram is one of those apps which you must download if you are a shutterbug and loves capturing pictures.
It is a DLNA certified so you can share content with other DLNA compatible devices including TVs, mobile phones, PCs, laptops and others over WiFi network.
Sony's Timescape app, which comes pre-installed, looks interesting but is not user-friendly. It collects all communication into one place including email messages, Twitter and Facebook updates. It lets users view a snack-size preview of an event before choosing to view the full content. Though snack-size previews look appealing, but the screen looks cluttered, and hence the app is not of much use.
Being a music lover, I quite liked its Sony's TrackID app. It lets you record music from TV or any external speaker and gives the artist and track information. I found it quite useful.
The phone sports a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash and 16x digital zoom. It offers you various options including portrait, landscape, night scene, beach and snow, sports and party to customise images. The camera captures quality snaps in both bright light and low-light conditions and produces sharp and detailed images. The catch here is that the zoom is a bit jerky.
The 3D Sweep Panorama feature lets you create wide-angle, panoramic photos at the touch of a button. It uses the sweep motion to capture scores of pictures in a row, and then stitches them together.
The Xperia U has a front facing VGA camera from which I didn't expect much and it lived upto my low expectations.
In the video mode it records HD videos at 720p but the zoom smoothness is again a spoilsport.
Altogether, the camera is more than satisfying.
The Xperia U has 512 MB RAM. The audio quality is clear and loud, listenable even in noisy surroundings.
The phone comes in two colours - black and white.
Its connectivity options include WiFi and WiFi Hotspot functionality, Bluetooth technology, USB High speed 2.0 and Micro USB support.
The phone comes engineered with a 1290mAh battery. It has a long lasting battery, and can easily survive for more than one day if put to normal use. The call quality is also good.
The phone's memory is one of the most important features and its matters a lot. Considering the fact that the Xperia U has a non-expandable memory, the phone isn't highly recommended. But if memory is not an issue for you, then you can put the Xperia U on your shortlist.
Narrow keypad on the portrait mode
Lights on translucent strip can not be turned off.