Sony Xperia T Review
Sony Xperia T: a James Bond review
Review by Damian Carvill.
It’s good enough for James Bond, so does the Sony Xperia T have a licence to thrill or is it Dr. No good? With the promise of no further dodgy James Bond puns, we take a closer look.
Less than a year after releasing the Xperia S, a hugely promising but somewhat flawed smartphone, Sony Mobile launches the Xperia T, its new star handset, and this one pushes the company a step closer to the Android market leaders.
A little more than a year after announcing its split from Ericsson, Sony Mobile is gaining market share. The company recently leapfrogged HTC, Nokia and RIM, makers of BlackBerry, to move comfortably into the top three best-selling handset manufacturers. Although some way off Apple and Samsung, its latest array of handsets are making waves and product positioning in the latest James Bond film Skyfall has clearly added much needed credibility.
With a pretty powerful dual-core 1.5GHz processor, 13MP camera and 4.55-inch fully HD screen that’s scratch and shatter-proof, the Sony Xperia T is backed up with some impressive specs. While there remain a few issues that might not trouble the likes of Samsung and Apple too much, with the Xperia T, Sony Mobile is certainly moving in the right direction.
Most people’s first reaction upon seeing the Sony Xperia T is that it’s a bit chunky. And this isn’t directed as a criticism. It’s only slightly heavier than the Samsung Galaxy SIII, and lighter than the iPhone 4, but feels solid to hold thanks to its good dimensions. slightly sloping back (similar to the Xperia Arc) and plumping for a matt backing rather than the slick gloss plastic used in some designs.
It’s 139g in the hand, so about the same weight as the iPhone 4S, but slightly heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X. At just shy of 130mm in length, we’re looking at a handset midway between a Samsung Galaxy SII and Samsung Galaxy SIII, so this fits snuggly in your hand.
One thing that Sony has learned from its previous flagship smartphone, the Xperia S, is to remove the ridiculous clear plastic strip at the bottom of the phone. Buttons are now soft-touch and part of the screen. This gives the T a much more slick appearance and with the 4.55-inch screen stretching from the top to the bottom of the handset’s facia, we’re looking at a rather attractive, sleek looking smartphone.
On the right hand side we have three silver buttons, one to turn the phone on and off, a volume rocker and the other to operate the camera. Maybe it was just me, however the close proximity of these buttons led to a number of comical fumblings when I attempted to wake the phone up on a number of occasions. Practice makes perfect I guess.
Next to these is a section for your sim and SD cards, which is hidden behind a flap that opens with a simple click. On the opposite side is the power point, which also doubles up as a mini HDMI output.
Surrounding the screen is a small lip where the phone’s casing wraps around. This is in contrast to many smartphones, whose display is neatly integrated with the case to give a smooth surface. This also resulted in a build-up of dust and pocket fluff gathering around the lip – not good considering the state of my pockets.
Phone Set Up
The phone ships with Android 4.0,4, Ice Cream Sandwich, on board, although an update to 4.1 Jelly Bean was available to me as soon as I took it out of the box.
The OS will be familiar to most Android users, so no major surprises there. A few things irked me a bit, like not being able to cycle through home screens in a loop as you can with the HTC and Samsung Android phones. Instead, you come to a stop when you’ve reached the last one.
I also noted one or two other usability issues with the keyboard not automatically displaying when adding in a contact’s name for example. Admittedly these aren’t deal-breakers but certainly areas for improvement.
Talking of the keyboard, I found this to be one of the best available on a touch-screen. Sony uses haptic feedback, which is a slight vibration each time you touch a key, which I like, although this can be turned off easily. The main reason I liked it however was that it quickly learned words, wasn’t over-sensitive to touch and wasn’t quick to suggest ridiculous words in placement of the actual word I wanted to use, unlike some other keyboards I’ve trialled recently.
Under the hood there’s a powerful 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM. Internally, there’s 16 GB of internal storage, with a slot for a microSD card to boost this up by a further 32 GB. While memory can be added via a side-slot, the battery is sealed and cannot be replaced.
I’ve been hugely impressed by the 4.55-inch scratch proof and shatter-resistant, HD screen. With 323 ppi and a resolution of 720 x 1280, this is as bright and sharp as any smartphone on the market right now. The live wallpapers look great on the display as does gaming, pictures and video - more of that to come.
Although Apple shunned NFC on the iPhone 5, most of the new Android and Windows Phone 8 handsets are now featuring NFC, or Near Field Communication. Including this Sony Xperia T.
While NFC has been widely promoted as a method of paying for stuff with your mobile, it can also be used as a means to share files wirelessly, which the Xperia T offers. This is as simple as holding one phone to another in order to transfer your files.
Sony has teamed up with its PlayStation and Walkman (remember that!) brands in order to beef up the available media on the phone. The Walkman app allows you to listen to your saved music as well as access the music your friends have shared on Facebook and also Music Unlimited, Sony’s version of Spotify. The earbuds that came with the phone are good and comfortable enough.
A huge draw for any PlayStation fan is that the Xperia T is a certified handset, which means it can run the PlayStation Mobile service. It feels like the mobile service was pushed out quickly in order to launch at the same time as the handset because it’s not pre-installed on the phone and you have to take a rather convoluted route to adding it. However when you’re set up, there are a number of games you can download and play with.
However as this runs separately from Google’s Play store, with a separate payment service, it may take a while, and a few hit games, before it really takes off.
Also new to the Xperia T is a feature I really like that Sony calls Small Apps. These are a series of relatively unique applications that can be selected from the multitasking menu (far right soft touch button). Here we’ve got a mini calculator, an alarm, sticky notes and a voice recorder, which, when selected, sit permanently on top of your home screens above your apps in a semi translucent window. These can be moved and removed as you wish.
Did I also mention that James Bond uses this phone? That’s quite a cool feature too.
Camera & Video
Let’s start with the figures – the primary camera packs a whopping 13 MP, up one on the previous Xperia S, with 4128x3096 pixel resolution. While on the front you’ve got access to a 1.3 MP camera. All very impressive numbers on what is a very impressive camera.
As with most smartphones these days, general features like red eye reduction, smile detection and geo-tagging are all on board alongside panorama.
One of the things I liked about the Xperia S was the ability to hold down the camera button on the handset’s side in order to quickly bring the camera to life and take a shot in less than two seconds. This again features on the Xperia T.
The camera tends to handle close-up shots well, so pics taken of my cup of coffee (see image gallery to the left) or your latest cupcake creation will pick out the detail easily.
There aren’t that many smartphone cameras that perform well in low-light situations and the Xperia T is perhaps only marginally better than most. The image taken at the Christmas market one evening (without flash) demonstrates a small amount of lens flare from the lights with washed out colours and a lack of detail beyond that.
Indoors, with no flash and the lights turned on, the camera responds as well as any other smartphone.
With the lights turned off and the flash turned on, the camera doesn’t do too badly at all. In fact, I didn’t get that super-artificial white glow from the flash like you get from so many LED-based smartphone flashes and this came out better than the shot taken with the lights on. When taking photos, the flash actually felt a little softer, with better timing, which may contribute to this.
With the lights off and flash off, the camera struggled, picking out a fair amount of noise in the detail.
Overall, this is a fantastic camera and perhaps the best I've used, in terms of quality of image.
In the time that I’ve spent in its company, I’ve been mightily impressed with the Sony Xperia T’s battery life. The battery life of any smartphone can only be judged properly when it’s been used in different conditions and with different operations over a period of time.
Sony reports 450 hours stand-by and seven hours of talk and I’d say this was fair.
I’ve consistently found that the Xperia T’s standard Li-Ion 1850 mAh battery holds up better even than the Samsung Galaxy SIII’s more powerful 2,100 mAh. I put this down to the dual-core processor inside the Xperia, which doesn’t require as much juice to run as the quad-core in the S3.
I took both the Xperia T and the Galaxy S3 on a trip to Cardiff, and although I didn’t perform exactly the same tasks on both phones, I used them both for email, internet, about 5 text messages on both, directions from the maps app (I don’t know Cardiff as well as I hoped), taking a few photographs and making about 15 minutes of calls on both, alongside the usual scrolling through the home screens looking for various apps.
I found that by the time I arrived in Cardiff, at about 1.30pm, I was down to 76% on the S3 while the Xperia T was on 89%, quite a difference.
By the time I arrived back to Birmingham New Street, the Xperia T’s energy had sapped down to 59%, while the S3 was positively wilting at a lowly 29%. Quite a difference.