Sony Xperia U Review
Positive:The Sony Xperia U is a budget Android Smart Phone that Feels nice to hold, performed well in all basic tests like calls, texting, general usage and battery life.
Negative:Camera is lacking especially the front facing camera and has no oleophobic coating on the screen. Over tilting the screen, you also notice some loss of picture quality.
The Sony Xperia U is a budget Android Smart Phone that Feels nice to hold, performed well in all basic tests like calls, texting, general usage and battery life.
Sony Xperia U is one of the Xperia Series out of the trio; just like HTC One series the Xperia U is like the One V been the budget or entry level Android handset of the series. The Xperia U however might be a budget Android handset but after playing with it for over a week with the One V in mind, it has a lot of positive things to say about it that over powers all the negatives that I could think of whilst using it as my main phone for the week. Although it would be classed as a budget handset it is still packed with a dual-core 1Ghz processor, 854×480 3.5-inch screen, and 5 megapixel camera and a front facing camera.
Let’s take a look at different areas of the handset that matters to you as a buyer and potential user of the Sony Xperia U
Hardware and design
Building on from the series, it carries the same resemblance of the Xperia S that I reviewed previously; it has the same sharp screen edges, matte finishing on the back and the transparent antenna bar at the lower area of the handset. The bar also changes colours according your mood but you’d need t set it before it happens. Sony also mixed things up a bit and allow you to change the colour of the cover at the bottom, but only supply the black and pink option in the box although there might be other options available from Sony’s website.
The Xperia U feels really nice to hold and surprisingly the small screen handles most things very well like playing games, watching movies and also general internet browsing. The screen does not come with olephobic coating and that is something I found annoying as wiping the screen doesn’t simply leave a nice clear screen as you would on the HTC One V. The screen also loses picture quality when viewed from certain angles but those angles you probably wouldn’t normally view your phone from it. I didn’t like the way the lens area has been cheaply made with some elements left exposed and you can almost see the guts of the lens area when viewed from certain angle.
The small form factor of the Xperia U is perfect for a budget handset and you can remove the back cover to gain access to the battery and sim card; I also noticed the buttons are built as part of the back cover so losing or damaging your back cover can be a problem. Sony has opted not to include the option to expand the handset memory with not support for memory card expansion. You get a 4GB memory available to you which will fill up in no time if you put all your music and are taking a lot of photos on the move. The way around that however could be the use of cloud service like Dropbox which offers huge amount of extra storage and also use Spotify for streaming your music to save storage.
Software and Apps
Xperia U ships with the Gingerbread version of their Android OS and when the U will get ICS blessing is another story entirely because as of recent pushing out ICS to devices as become something you have to just hope and pray for. I have the Samsung Galaxy Note and been a really good seller, I would have expected it to have the ICS software but no, I have to join the queue. The software is fluid and changing between apps is a joy with no lag. You can easily get into your settings and make it your own by changing themes, dashboard options and many more. There seems to be a lot of preloaded apps on there and some can’t be uninstalled for one reason or the other.
Amongst all the preinstalled apps, Sony have included some cool apps and functions like Media Remote for controlling their flagship TV, the Sony Bravia over WiFi; Sony also included TrackID which has been around for a long time; I remember using TackID on the Sony Ericsson W880i which worked really well and will identify over 90% of tracks playing even from a quite noisy environment. Just in case you don’t know, TrackID works just like Shazam to identify any songs playing that you don’t know the details of.
There were variety of apps available to the Sony Xperia U, however I was a little disappointed when I realised that Instagram a very popular app that some buyer would be excited about using the Android device for is no compatible with the OS on the Xperia U. The keyboard is very small for fat fingers but you will be surprised with how well the precision is when typing even with fat fingers, alternatively you can simply turn it landscape for spaced out QWERTY keyboard.
Performance with Processor, signal, battery life and sound quality when calling
The Sony Xperia U scored very well when compared to other bugget Android phones, and in fact came on top some other handsets of the same calibre. The battery life is also very good considering that the transparent strip is always lighting up and using it for taking pictures, videos, listening to music, some social media interaction, playing games and making calls just like I would my every day life, the battery life lasted all day and I didn’t charge it so I managed to get another half day out of it the next day before needing a charge however I left settings default because changing brightness and many other settings would have taken it’s toll on the battery life.
Call quality and signal was no issue at all and performed very well with 4 out of 5 bars of signal available in most places as I would have on my iPhone, Galaxy Note and Blackberry device that I usually have with me. Call quality was very good and when connected to my in car bluetooth system, it slightly lacked quality in sound but was nothing to worry about. Using the phone for a personal hotspot and browsing the internet on the Xperia U was also very acceptable delivering good speeds baring in mind I used it with a Three network sim card which boasts fast internet speeds on 3G.
Most handsets on the market now have camera, some with just the back camera and some with both the back and front facing camera. Having a front facing camera is a blessing but only if it actually has good quality otherwise it would make no sense to include the front camera at all in the first place.
The back camera performed very well up to standards taking bright, colourful detailed pictures although the shutter speed is quite slow and sometimes took a while to capture the moment. There aren’t that many options available to users with no option for filters or some other basic functions but when you remember that it’s a budget Android device, you quickly realise it’s ok. Very few times, the Camera crashed as a result of heavy usage which was cause for concerns but hopefully a software or firmware update will be released to rectify that issue.
The 5MP camera is capable of recording at 720p HD and works well in day light or good lighting environment and just like taking pictures, it appears washed out when used in low lighting conditions. The camera does not include any touch to focus as ou would expect and would focus on it’s own accord which was quite disappointing. The front facing camera was really poor and would hardly use it since the quality is not as good as I would have loved it to be. When recording, the microphone placement can become an issue so be careful not to cover it up. Taking the camera to a football match, I also noticed that it found it difficult to perform a “fast movement/sports mode” very well.
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Sony not including a memory card slot is somewhat baffling as most smart phones on the market would either have expansion slot or have bigger memory to compensate for it. No oleophobic coating also meant that the handset didn’t look new after first day of use but buying a screen protector would fix that issue. On the positive note, it performed all the usual and common tasks very well and for a budget Android handset, it’s what I would expect. After reviewing the HTC One V also, no doubt I would recommend the One V rather than the Xperia U but for the price point of around £180 in comparison to HTC One V £230 on Three network, it is clear the pricing matches the quality of the handset, so you get what you pay for.
Where to buy
The Sony Xperia U is available on Three from about £23 per month on the Ultimate Internet 500 with All you can eat data.