For the past few days, I have been using Sony Ericsson’s lovely little smartphone, the Xperia Ray. I’ve been putting the device through its paces and have some positive, and some negative, feedback for you.
First, here is a basic overview of my experience with the Ray’s hardware.
- Very speedy and utilises its hardware very well
- Camera is good at taking HQ pictures in low-light conditions
- Battery is capable of long periods of media playback
- Very well thought out positioning and styling of the Power button
- Sufficient internal storage and the capacity for expansion
- Display is very small
- Lack of a Search button
- The capacitive buttons are far from perfect
The first thing you notice about the Xperia Ray is its size – it’s tiny! Unfortunately this also means the screen of the phone is tiny too. It measures just 3.3” diagonally which is even smaller that the iPhone’s which is infamous for its small screen. You’re probably thinking the screen must be brilliant quality if the size has been sacrificed, and in a way you’d be right. The pixel density of the display is pretty impressive with 297 pixels per square inch – only 3PPI below the point at which the human eye can see no more detail. While this is good, the screen has nowhere near as good contrast as others on the market. For example, Samsung’s SAMOLED+ displays have a near infinite contrast ratio. So, the screen’s small and has bad contrast, but a good pixel density – you can choose which is more important.
Specifications:854×480 pixels / 3.3″ 16,777,216 colour TFT
The Ray boasts an 8.1 Megapixel camera with f/2.4 aperture offering fantastic low-light shots. It has a 16x digital zoom which I must say works very well. There is little in the way of customisation available in the camera app, but all images are enhanced by Sony’s Exmor R. The device also has a panorama mode in the camera, almost identical to the one in the Android Ice Cream Sandwich, but it certainly isn’t the easiest thing to use.
The phone also has a pretty good quality front-facing camera. There’s not much t say about it except it is good enough for video calling and for quick self snaps, if anyone actually does that.
Specifications:8.1 megapixel camera, up to 16x smart zoom, aperture f/2.4, auto focus, flash/LED, image stabilizer,Sony Exmor R™ for mobile CMOS sensor,720p Video recording
That’s the visible hardware of the device covered; let’s get on to the internals. The phone is powered by a Scorpion processor which allows the device to run very smoothly. While there are other devices out there with better processors, that shouldn’t matter if you’re interested in this phone – it is aimed at the middle of the smartphone market, selling as a reasonably powerful, easy-to-use device. The chipset is perfect for the phone with no trouble powering through everyday tasks.
Specifications:1GHz Scorpion processor (paired with an Adreno 205 graphics chip)
The device has a total of 1GB internal storage – 300MB of which is available for the user - and 512MB of RAM which is plenty for the device to multitask in the Android style. If that amount of storage isn’t enough for you, you can always expand it with support for up to a 32GB Micro SD card and with Apps2SD it is easy to install hundreds of apps. You will have no trouble with storage space on this phone!
Specifications:1GB (up to 320MB free) internal storage,512MB RAM, support formicro SD™ (up to 32GB)
As a media and entertainment device, the Xperia has very good battery life. The 1500mAh battery charges fully within a few hours and has more than enough juice to power the device for a whole day with background syncing and services. It is very good at coping with the strains of media playback over long periods of time. Sony Ericsson state it is possible to get 7 hours of talk time out of the device – it is fully capable of all normal Android users’ needs.
Specifications: Standard 1500mAh Li-Ion Battery
The Xperia Ray is pretty good at connecting to other devices for media playback and transferring files. The device has a 3.5mm headphone jack on its top, a HDMI output slot on its side and a standard Micro USB slot too. This allows you to connect and synchronise to many devices and mirror video to larger displays with ease. Of course, it also sports Bluetooth capabilities along with Wi-Fi and DLNA. Depending on the carrier, the device may also support the ability to be used to tether other devices via Wi-Fi and share its mobile connectivity.
Specifications: 3.5 mm audio jack,aGPS,Bluetooth™ technology, HDMI, modem,DLNA,USB mass storage,Wi-Fi™
That’s it for the proper hardware: now on to the Ray’s controversial design. The Ray is pretty thin and sleek, but it’s not for everyone. The body is very comfortable to hold and makes talking during a phone call easy. The Ray is perfectly designed to fit in the hand with a slight teardrop shape. It seems to me that the basic form of the device is very nice, but the button design at the bottom of the device is not so appealing. The Home button is cut off from the rest of the device by a harsh semi-circle that seems to tear split the phone, taking away from the otherwise beautiful design.
Specifications:111.0 × 53.0 × 9.4 mm (at thinnest point)
Conclusion of Hardware
Well, that’s the basic build-up of the Xperia Ray and, as you can see, it is a mixture of ups and downs. The phone has a small screen which just isn’t up to standards in my opinion; however the processor and GPU are very good for the device. The camera is industry leading and frankly amazing for such a small device. The design is very nice too – but maybe only from behind.
That’s all I have regarding hardware; now on to Timescape UI and Sony’s other customisations to the Android platform.
- Comes with lots of useful software out of the box
- Well deigned Xperia UI interface overlay
- Customised themes applicable across the UI
- The launcher is unreliable and crashes quite often, resetting the app drawer
- I personally think the customisations are ugly and would prefer stock Android
The latest software update for the Xperia Ray included Android Gingerbread – updated to 2.3.4 in September – which was customised by Sony Ericsson. The Timescape UI is at the heart of the software and I am sad to report I have grown to hate it. To me it seems to be trying to have a simplistic feel with minimal buttons, but it just doesn’t work. Stock Android is the most minimal and I think most beautiful UI and to me it seems crazy to stumble over the work of the Android team, making the phone harder to use in the process.
One thing I do like about Timescape is the theme engine. It lets you choose a background for all menus and the like and will use your preference across the phone; nice, but not as good as the extreme minimalistic design of stock Ice Cream Sandwich, or even Gingerbread.
The homescreen is the heart of your interaction with your phone, so let me explain the nifty enhancements Sony Ericsson has made to the homescreen of the Ray. One is the ability to quickly see an overview of all the widgets placed on the homescreen. This works much like the pinch gesture in HTC Sense, but instead of displaying a plain grid of homescreens displays widgets floating around making it easy to quickly navigate to a specific one. I have spent entire second playing with the feature – yeah, it’s not incredibly useful.
The widgets included in the Xperia UI are pretty standard; however, toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Data, GPS, etc. are included. Apart from this, only basic widgets are available
I must say, the folders of Timescape are pretty good. They are much like those in Ice Cream Sandwich and iOS – a drag and a drop and you have a folder!
As I said, Sony Ericsson has included their Timeline application in this device and a new ‘infinite’ view in the contacts application. The Timeline presents all of your social feeds in a beautiful carousel layout. You can scroll through all of your friends updates on cards. Timeline isn’t limited to standard services like Facebook and Twitter though – it links with Calls and Messaging too, and the API can be used by developers meaning there are many different plug-ins available. Music, Pictures, Gmail, Foursquare and YouTube are just some of the extra plug-ins available.
Gaming on the Xperia Ray is very smooth. I tried Need for Speed Shift and They Need To Be Fed on the device and the 1GHz processor had no trouble with running them. Even when multitasking multiple games, the device ran very smoothly.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray is branded as the ultimate media device and, as you would expect, video playback – both streaming and local playing – is handled very well by the device. The video player included in the device is completely capable of all users’ needs.
Conclusion of Software
The software on the Xperia Ray has its positives and negatives. It is highly customisable – very important to most first time, average Android smartphone buyers. The device has many applications pre-installed which could save you some time searching the Android Market and the web for the best apps. However, the great number of applications on the device could also be seen as a negative thing to more experienced users who do not want ‘bloatware’ using up the free space on their device. Therefore, I would say that the software on the Xperia Ray is suited to users who want to use their phone as they get it, and perhaps do not consider themselves power users. But, if the user is experienced in applying custom ROMs to Android phones, they certainly should not be deterred as the Ray boasts an impressive set of hardware specifications.
For Power Users…
You probably know that Sony works very openly with the CyanogenMod team so there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to rooting and applying custom ROMs. But it is also worth remembering that the Ray is going to be updated to Android 4.0 which will bring you one of the best mobile OSs out there.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray is very fast and very small. It is the motorcycle to the Xperia Arc - a good alternative to the Ray for people looking for a larger screen more power - which is the car to the Galaxy Nexus lorry. It is perfect for anyone who is looking for an inexpensive Android phone, but wants something powerful. The 3.3” screen leaves a lot to be desired, but it is the perfect size for anyone making the leap to their first smartphone from a feature phone – you know, those old brick things that no-one really has anymore.
I feel it necessary to say that I would not buy this phone. It will work for many people, but I need a decent screen and a lot of dev support – that’s why I chose to get my HTC Desire, and that is why I have stuck with it even though it’s years old now.