Sony Ericsson XPERIA ray Review
Here I have another of their Xperia devices and this one is named the 'ray' and if you have seen the recent TV Ad the company seem to be aiming this is people on the move as they focus heavily on the devices' camera.
To find out if it really is a handset for people on the go or whether it would be hard pushed to find its own place in the heavily crowded market please read on.
What's in the box?
- Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray
- UK Charging Adapter
- USB Sync/Charge Cable
- Information Booklet
- Important Information Leaflet
- Start up guide
Sony Ericsson XPERIA ray specification:
- 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
- 3G Network: HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 - ST18a
- Dimensions: 111 x 53 x 9.4 mm
- Weight: 100 g
- Display: LED-backlit LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 480 x 854 pixels, 3.3 inches (~297 ppi pixel density)
- Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate
- Bravia Mobile engine
- Multi-touch input method
- Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
- Touch sensitive controls
- Timescape UI
- 3.5mm jack
- Memory: 1 GB ROM, 512 MB RAM
- MicroSD: up to 32GB, 4GB included
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP, EDR
- USB v2.0 microUSB
- Camera: 8 MP, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, 720p, video light
- Secondary front-facing camera
- OS: Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread)
- CPU: 1GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU, MSM8255 Snapdragon chipset
- Stereo FM radio with RDS
- GPS: A-GPS support
- Digital compass
- Battery: Standard battery, Li-Ion 1500 mAh
The 10 Second Review:
- Product: Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
- Price: Various prices Sim free ranging from £213 to £300 and various contract prices on various networks too, ranging from £18.
- Summary: A very nice little handset with a lot going for itself in terms of screen quality and how fast the device is etc but it does have its flaws, overall though a decent effort.
- Best of: Amazing screen, build quality, expensive feel, very fast, camera
- Worst of: Too small for my liking, overpriced, parts of the Timescape interface, small on screen keyboard
- Buy from: Various
- Also Consider: Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, Mini Pro and even the upcoming Arc S.
On the top of this handset is the Power/lock & Unlock button in the middle and to the right of that is the 3.5mm headphone Jack.
On the bottom of the phone there are 3 holes and a little dent to allow for the back cover to be removed. The first 2 holes on the left are for a lanyard or eyelet and the 3rd little hole on the right is the one to speak into when having a phone call.
The left side is where the MicroUSB slot for sync/charge is placed and the rest of that side is smooth.
On the right is where the up/down volume rocker is and again like the left side the rest of it is smooth.
The 8 megapixel camera with single LED flash are placed on the back of the phone just next to the little hole for the second microphone (noise cancelling), smack bang in the middle is the XPERIA logo and then at the bottom is the Sony Ericsson logo and the external loudspeaker.
Finally on the front of the device is the things that you are going to spend most of your time, at the top is the front facing VGA camera for video calls, next to that is the Sony Ericsson name. Just above the name is the speaker to listen when having a voice call. Then underneath all of that is the 3.3 inch display, underneath that are 2 touch sensitive buttons- Back and menu, in between those is another Xperia logo and underneath that is the physical Home button.
- Fantastic screen
- 8 megapixel camera
- High class look and feel
- Faster than expected
- Too expensive for what you get
- Too small for a modern day smartphone
- Some features within Timescape overlay just aren't nice
- On screen keyboard
Sony Ericsson in the past have produced some let's say interesting handsets, with even more interesting sales results. For example the Xperia X10 was both loved and hated around the world for being 'different' plus the fact that it took Sony Ericsson over a year to update its software!
Moving on from the not so good time for the company to the half decent that they have released now...I have here the Xperia Ray in for review; I have to admit first of all that since reviewing the Xperia Mini Pro a couple of weeks ago I was quite looking forward to this review as I had heard pretty good things about the device.
Were the good things I'd heard for real? Or were they all just for marketing purposes to sell a few phones? Read on to find out.
Build Quality and Design
I will begin with how I feel the handset is built, I have been quite impressed overall by the way the phone feels and performs in everyday use regarding sturdiness. The materials used in the build give the feel of a premium device but when you take a closer look it is mostly plastics, so well done Sony Ericsson for producing quality out of cheaper materials and leaf that other manufacturers should probably take.
The design of the product is really impressive compared to previous releases by the company, such as the Xperia X10 range of phones as prime examples. The phone is arguably one of the prettier phones to be released this year so far and I am pretty sure most people would agree with me on that. The version that I have has the gold coloured back cover which I personally absolutely love the look of, I have always been a fan of gold coloured anything really so I guess it's no surprise that I am a fan.
Anyway enough waffling, we've determined that the aesthetics of the handset are awesome so now for the boring stuff like placement of ports etc. I have no complaints apart from the volume rocker being on the right side, this is ok for left handed people but I prefer the rocker to be on the left, guess I'm just used to it being there. I mentioned in my review of the Xperia Mini Pro that I would prefer it if manufacturers stopped mixing physical buttons with touch sensitive buttons as I'd prefer one or the other as it just doesn't seem right. Other than that I'm quite impressed with how the device looks, feels and performs.
As with most new android handsets released today the Ray has a version of Android Gingerbread 2.3, in this case it has 2.3.3 installed. The experience is pretty much the same as the Mini Pro apart from the obvious differences in hardware such as screen size and the fact that there's no physical keyboard.
Once you have set the phone up for the first time you will be greeted with 5 default home-screens which quite frankly I didn't like so for the purpose of the review (and personal use) I downloaded lots of apps that I use every day and customised the home screens to my liking. See the home screens along with the nice lock screen in the below screenshots.
The above screenshots will hopefully show the lock screen clearly enough, you will see that in the second of the pictures I partly swiped the bar from left to right to illustrate the unlocking process, simple but with the nice large clock it's nice as well I think.
Now obviously the above screenshots have been customised for personal but there are so many options for customisation that anyone can change the screens to their own tastes, I suppose you could say that is one of the biggest plus points for the android platform really.
There is one other screenshot that I would like to show you and it is of Sony Ericssons' attempt at a 'helicopter view' but to be honest it's more of a jumbled mess rather than a view of any sort, I personally don't like it so wouldn't use it but other may like it and use it so I will show it for the benefit of those people.
If you read my review of the Xperia Mini Pro then you will have seen the settings section in screenshot form, for those who didn't read that review below are screenshots of the Xperia Rays' settings menu just to give you an idea of what you are able to tweak with and what you can't.
Moving on now to where all of your apps are kept, of course I'm talking about the app tray/s. How many there are usually depends on how many applications are installed on the device or the device' memory card, but in this phones' case there are 3 to begin with and due to the applications that I downloaded I had an additional 2 pages.
Below are screenshots of all 5 pages of apps, you will notice that it looks exactly the same as any other Xperia device running the Timescape overlay. One thing that I hope you do notice though is the fact that the first 3 pages below are all pre-installed out of the box! I have to ask why the heck would you want some of them?! But some are very useful actually.
Internet and e-mail
A pivotal part of making a smartphone today is making the internet browsing experience as good as it can be with the hardware and software available, have Sony Ericsson created this with the Xperia Ray? The answer is both yes and no.
I will start with why it is a nice experience and I will end with why it isn't. Due to the simply brilliant screen and fast 1GHz processor under the hood, the internet browser on both Wi-Fi connection and 3G are superb to say the least. I did a speed test against an Apple iPhone 4 which has essentially the same hardware with a 1GHz processor etc, and the speed test from typing the web address in to loading the page was exactly the same! 14 seconds give or take a couple of milliseconds either side. Pretty impressive don't you think?
As for the interface of the browser it is basically just a larger screen version of what we saw on the Xperia Mini Pro, which I did enjoy using but my 1 qualm with it was the screen size. Fortunately on this device it has a slightly larger screen which makes browsing both easier and overall better to use than the small 3 inch screen on the Mini Pro. There is though an unfortunate but...this is because the screen is still too small! I mean come on it is only .3 of an inch larger than the tiny Mini Pro, what's that about? Yes the screen I gorgeous to look at and beautiful to use for most things but to fully enjoy browsing it still needs to be at least 3.5 inches if not more!
Below are a few screenshots of the interface to show you how good the browsing looks on the device but also to get your feedback on whether the screen would be an issue for you guys or not?
Onto e-mail functionality on the handset now, I really enjoyed the e-mail experience on this device as everything is fast and so nice to use because it has some really great features that you don't really see on other devices.
A big example of this is the preview pane mode that you can choose which basically shows you a nice preview of your e-mail without the need to fully open it! A little like on an iPad actually, it makes using an e-mail application fun for a change! Below are some screenshots of the e-mail application to show you how nice it actually is, in my opinion it would be superb for business use as well as personally use which would obviously be a huge bonus.
There is one thing that I thought I would mention, the 3.3 inch screen again makes reading e-mails difficult at first but once you get used to the size it becomes easy to read and lovely to use.
As with every single smartphone on the planet nowadays social networking is a massive part of the infrastructure so it really has to be fantastic right? Well with the Ray it fortunately is very good for both Facebook and Twitter with the latter being much better with the official application rather than using Timescape.
We will start with Facebook, I will start by saying that if you have seen the application on any other Android handset then the following paragraph and screenshots won't really mean a lot to you but if you haven't seen or heard about it before I will try and explain how it all works.
First of all the screenshots are below for you to take a look at the interface so that the explanation below it makes more sense.
As you will see above you've got your main screen showing you all of the options within the app, and then the following screenshots are what are shown when you press an option from that screen. You then have the options to check in, update your status and send messages to your friends. Basically everything you can do on the desktop version of Facebook apart from play games which is very cool and also very easy to get used to after a few days of use.
Overall I have to say that using the official application is very nice although limited as it is an app after all but it does do all of the 'essential' actions very well indeed so I would say it is a recommended app to use on a daily basis. There is another way that you use your Facebook log in to do things like update statuses and send messages etc but I will explain that in a little while.
Twitter is a different kettle of fish to Facebook in a couple of ways, the first of which is the fact that you have to download the application from the market to get the full experience as when using the Timescape application is not good at all! So once you have downloaded the app and set up your account etc the app will look like this.
You will now be able to see the application interface in all of its glory, as you can see it looks bright and clear and there is nothing to make using it daunting at all. With the app you can look at your twitter feed which will show you any tweets from the people you are following, you can also see any mentions with your twitter name in it and basically anything else that you are able to do with twitter on a desktop but in a very simple good looking little package that enables you to tweet on the move.
I mentioned earlier that there was another way of accessing your social network feeds and I mentioned that it was called Timescape. Well basically what the application is-is Sony Ericssons' attempt at bringing together all of your social feeds and text messages into one simple to use interface. The problem with that theory though is the fact that the app sucks! It is so pointless it's untrue, sorry to be a little blunt but it's true, I mean the application looks lovely but that's the only thing I can find that is good about it. I will tell you the main problem with it, it is way too limited! When I had both my facebook and twitter feeds connected to Timescape I wanted to upload a photo to both but guess what...the app doesn't allow for such things! The thing with this though is that Timescape isn't the only 'manufacturer social feed app' that doesn't have this function as HTCs' Friend Stream is just as bad, the major difference between the 2 apps though is that friend stream is nice to use.
Below are screenshots of the Timescape app.
As this is an android handset I thought I had better show to you the public Sony Ericssons' market, I say Sony Ericssons' because it is slightly different to any other android handset as you will see in the below screenshots but first a brief explanation of some recently added features that surprised even me!
First of all Google have added Books into the market to enable users to purchase books to read in their reader applications, a nice addition I think you will agree although Apple did this first with their iBooks application and store which had a lot more books to purchase, but a welcome addition in my book and I am sure it will be a hit with customers around the world.
Another addition to the market is Films, now this is literally brand new and it brings with it the ability to rent films both new and old to watch within I think it is 30 days, this feature in particular is an amazing addition to the store because I for one love watching films as often as I can and I am sure there are loads of you that do too so well done to Google there. That coupled with the superb screen on this device could make for a beautiful friendship if you ask me.
Below are the screenshots I mentioned earlier.
I thought that at this point it was appropriate to talk about the devices' on screen keyboard choices and how they are to use. On almost every smartphone (excluding maybe the iPhone range) there are a few different keyboard variants to choose from, and the Xperia Ray is no different as there are 2 variants available to choose from, you will see my personal choice in the screenshots below, then you will also notice an option to change the keyboard to 'phonepad' which is basically the old style candy bar keyboard in on-screen format which to be honest I don't see anyone using, hence why I haven't shown It to you. The only issue that I found when using the keyboard was the screen size yet again, because the screen is so narrow for some reason the keyboard is too small!
As we know times are changing faster than we can comprehend in the technological wonderland but one thing that seems to stay unchanged is the need for a nice calendar in our smartphone. The Xperia Ray delivers in this department as the calendar app is really nice to use for creating events and amending appointments etc, everything you would do on your laptop or PC in Microsoft Outlook for example, you can do in an application on your smartphone! If I had said that 10 years ago people would have looked at me as if I was a total moron for saying such a farfetched statement.
Anyway back to the application, below are some screenshots of the app in action.
You will be able to see in the above screenshots that there are different views to choose from and they are-Month, week, day and agenda. This is a nice option to have because for example if you had a jam packed day full of appointments with clients you would be able to simply just view that day, so this would be brilliant for business men/women but also for everyday use to add events such as pay the bills, pick the children up from school etc.
Overall I really liked using the calendar application for a number of reasons, the main of which is the fact that everything was so easy to get used to but the other big reason is that Sony Ericsson have made the app attractive as well which is always nice.
Onto the most important feature of a mobile phone, of course I am talking about making phone calls! This particular device has an added hardware feature to enhance the clarity of voice call but to also reduce external noise. The feature is a 2nd microphone; in my opinion all smartphones should have 2 microphones because from personal experience they really do help to improve call quality a lot.
As for the calls themselves I was very impressed with the overall quality, what I mean by overall quality is that everything from how quickly the phone connects to a call to the in call clarity was very impressive. The handset connected to ringing the other person within 10 seconds of me pressing call which from experience is very good but the most impressive thing about calling was the clarity of voice, I say this quite often but in great signal areas this phone makes you feel like you are stood next to the person having a normal conversation.
Below is the screenshot of the phone dialler to show you what it looks like and how simple it is to call people.
I mentioned earlier that the TV advert for this phone seems to be aiming it at people on the move and I think the main reason for that marketing plan is the 8 megapixel camera in the device.
The big question that I am sure most of you want answering though is 'is the advert telling the truth about the quality of the camera?' well I hope to answer that question and any other you may have with the photos that I took on the device.
First of all I will show you screenshots of the camera application just so you have an idea of what the interface is like so that you have a clear idea of what you would be buying.
So above you will see some of the camera interface, these are just some of the options available in the app but I thought I would just show you the above as I didn't want to over phase you with lots of technical talk. In the application you can see that there is an option to reduce the resolution of the photo before you take it, although I'm not sure you would want to use any other than the 8 megapixel setting, I say that because when I was testing the device I tried all of the settings and the quality of the photographs decreases massively even at 6 megapixels.
Other settings include the ability to change scene modes (options shown above). The problem with reviewing a smartphone with a decent camera is that when there are lots of different scene modes to choose from most of them can't be tested due to them being for such a variety of things, an example of something that I was simply unable to test was beach and snow scene mode. There were some that I was able to test out though like Portrait mode which performs really well actually, it captures the person accurately and provides a really nice photo nearly every time.
So as you can tell the camera on the device is as in depth as it can be for a phone but it is also so simple to use as all you have to do to take a photo is tap on the screen and hey presto you have a photo! That simple, but if I am honest I am a sucker for a physical camera button so it is a shame that for such a good camera the device lacks one, maybe next time.
Of course what makes a great camera isn't the amount of megapixels in the lens it is in fact down to the quality of the lens itself and fortunately in this device the lens seems to be very good indeed as you will hopefully be able to notice when you see the photos below.
The photo of the coffee mug was taken using macro mode which as you can hopefully tell works amazingly for a camera in a phone. The picture next to that was taken with the same macro mode but with daylight white balance turned on to give it a bit more light into the photo do you think it worked? The final photo was taken with daylight white balance, landscape scene mode but auto for everything else, and in my opinion the photo is brilliant as it is so vibrant and clear.
There is also the option of taking 720p video which is a brilliant feature to have in your pocket wherever you go, if the recordings turned out to be of any use that is. Fortunately the recordings on the Ray are actually pretty good all things considered, it isn't as good as some other handsets I've used with the feature before but it sure isn't the worst either.
Below are again some screenshots of the initial video camera interface to give you an idea of the settings that will be available to you if you bought the phone.
Again with the video camera you have similar options to tweak the quality of the video just like you have on the camera, there is one feature that works brilliantly as opposed to some others and that is the image stabiliser, this is a feature that helps to stabilise the video while recording so that If you wobble or shake then the video won't, and in practice it works really well.
Below is a YouTube video that I uploaded after I recorded it on the device itself to show you what the image quality is like, feel free to comment and ask any questions about it.
There is one pretty cool feature that I nearly neglected to mention about this phone and it is again to do with you photos and videos, the feature I'm talking about it of course the Gallery.
This is an area that Sony Ericsson excel at to be quite honest because they make it look so good with the partial 3d slant that they add to make your content almost disappear into the screen when you tilt your handset in any direction, in 1 of the screenshots below I have attempted to display this little quirky feature but it was quite difficult but hopefully you will be able to understand what I am trying to say.
Music and video playback
Here is where things go downhill for Sony Ericsson because for starters they don't even allow you to use your own flipping headphones! I have a set of £80 headphones that 'Aren't compatible' and I had exactly the same problem with the Xperia Mini Pro, this issue wouldn't be that much of a problem if the bundled headset was any good but I'm afraid it just isn't at all! The sound is clunky, there isn't any in line controls for skipping track or changing the volume which for music lovers has become a must have feature, but if you are a music lover and have your own headset that you like to use then this phone is NOT for you! And that really is where me talking about the music playback ends I'm afraid.
I will however show you the players' interface with some screenshots below.
The Xperia Ray has a beautifully bright and vibrant display so you would imagine that video content such as Youtube HQ and correctly converted video files to look incredible right? Well actually yes this is true, the video playback is nothing short of amazing actually! Out of the box there is a video of a Final Fantasy Online short movie and I was totally blown away by how awesome it looked, it is a very fast paced video with explosions and sword fights all over the place and the phone just ate it all up with one big gulp and said here you are enjoy! Superb!
Onto Youtube now and I have to be honest again and say that due to unforceen issues that I have no idea about I was unable to take screenshots of the application in action due to the actual image not showing up on the shots so I do apologise for that and again you will have to take my word for it.
Youtube is a huge part of my evening time and I am sure I'm not the only person who loves it, you can watch such a huge variety of videos on there the opportunities are almost endless, so as we at tracyandmatt.co.uk have said on countless occasions in the past when reviewing android handsets, the Android Youtube application is by far the best on the market because it looks good, plays video the best and is so fast as well that it makes for a the ultimate video viewing package. Very Impressed yet again!
Although I wasn't able to show you youtube video actually working I am able to show you a couple of screenshots of the initial interface so that you have an idea of what it looks like etc.
Battery Life and Performance
Battery life on smartphones today are never brilliant, in fact most can't even manage half a day before you need to charge them again so how does the Xperia Ray do when it comes to staying alive?
It does ok actually I mean it isn't fantastic as I did find myself recharging it as often as I charge my iPhone 4 but I would say that's about average for a mid to top range smartphone these days, In an hour by hour test with little use, medium use and heavy use I managed to get decent hours out of the phone. With little use I got 2 days out of a 100% charge, with medium usage I got 1 day and with heavy usage I still managed 8 hours so all in all if you think about it logically it's quite good by today's standards.
Finally I will talk to you about the overall performance of the phone in everyday and abnormal situations. In everyday use the phone performs super fast, it makes using applications and internet browsing such a breeze and the Quadrant Benchmark test score below backs that theory as well.
Here we are at the end of another review and I have really enjoyed writing this one also because this phone has surprised me in so many ways and disappointed me in very few to be honest so I have to say it has been one of my favourite reviews to date.
I would say that this phone IS aimed at the younger generation as well as people who love photos and who love to have a phone for lots of jobs while they are on the move so I would recommend this handset to any young gun that is looking for an awesome and lightweight smartphone that has a premium feel as well as look so nice.
Review by: Chris