Excitement is mounting ahead of the IFA tech trade show, which kicks off in Berlin this week and will see all the major tech companies (except Apple, that is) launch their latest products.
As usual, there has been much speculation about what the likes of Samsung and Sony have up their sleeves. Supposed leaked images have been doing the rounds and some companies have even stoked the intrigue by teasing us with what they have in store.
Last week Sony released a mysterious image featuring the silhouettes of three devices, thought to be its new range of Xperia products, and has since tantalised us further still with a video teaser.
The devices are rumoured to be a new compact tablet (Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact), and two smartphones (Xperia X3 and Xperia X3 Compact). Recently leaked details and images of the eagerly anticipated Xperia X3 Compact claim that it will have a 4.6-inch 720p display, 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, a 20.7-megapixel camera, and come in black, white, green, and red variants.
If the rumours are true, it could be a major contender in the smartphone market. All will be revealed at the Sony press conference on Wednesday…
What announcements are you most looking forward to from IFA 2014?
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray has been out for around 9 months, but it’s by no means a bad phone even now which is why we think it’s a good idea to review it and tell you why it’s a worthy phone for your money. Not that you’ll have to cough up much because as said, the phone has been out a while so those great deals get cheaper and cheaper every week. But this is not a money saving review of the Xperia Ray, it’s a just a tech review of it’s strengths and weaknesses and what makes it a smart phone. Literally.
A quick run down of it’s features – the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray has a gorgeous 3.3″ LED-backlit touchscreen with multi-touch capability, a Bravia Mobile engine which makes photos and videos look better and scratch resistant glass for protection. It’s not the biggest phone on the market, but as the phone is slim (9.4mm) a small screen is in keeping with the style. Taking care of all your photography requirements is a spot on 8mp camera pumping out 3264×2448 pixels(great for blowing prints up) with autofocus for simplicity and an LED flash for low light shots.
The Xperia Ray runs on a 1GHz Scorpion chip which although is only a single core, does the job nicely. The phone’s Operating System is Android OS v2.3.3 Gingerbread with a planned upgrade to v4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, though the phone has been out a wee while and not got it yet. It is planned so in my eyes that means it will come. Below the screen are the ubiquitous Android back, home and menu keys. I like that the back and menu buttons are touch sensitive controls, but the home button being a physical button doesn’t sit well with me, I just kept touching it and not doing anything, a real press was needed. This isn’t in keeping with the other 2 buttons.
So, with the technical bit laid out, just how good is it to live with? Well, I used the phone for 48hours solid to get a real feel for it. That may not sound a lot to you to be living with a phone, but when you consider that this phone was so simple to use, I had logged into my Google account, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, synced my contacts and calendar, a load of other apps I logged in to, loaded my 3 favourite music albums and a video from my PC to the 4GB microSD card via USB lead along with downloading the MX Video Player app to play it all, in the time it took to have a cup of tea (and a couple of biscuits, or 9) I think you’ll agree 48 hours was plenty to test this phone.
If I was selling the phone, I would say give yourself an hour to have all your social sites logged in to, contacts and calendars updated and play around with the phone. My next step was to have a look at the camera as an 8MP snapper on a little phone like this intrigued me, so I loaded the menu and hit the Camera icon. It wasn’t the fastest loading camera ever, and not having a dedicated camera shutter button annoyed me ever so slightly, but the image on screen was impressive and very crisp. Needless to say once the photo was taken, looking at the still was just as good. The shutter speed is very fast so there’s no real delay in waiting for the image to be taken. A little niggle is the LED flash, but hey, most phones have this these days. Even the wonderful iPhones have LED flashes. To touch just quickly on the quality it certainly is good on screen, but better when uploaded to a PC. I put this down to simply the phones screen being small and not enough pixels to do the photo justice. The Bravia Engine did help here though. One can only imagine how poor they’d look without that nice bit of tech.
While we’re loosely on the subject of the screen, I’ll briefly talk a little more about it. A 3.3″ capacitive touchscreen is really good but it’s not huge. This makes the phone small and highly portable, just not great for video playback. YouTube and videos played were good quality, no delays or judders, I just couldn’t sit there for long watching such a small screen.
I downloaded a few games for entertainment, one being the new Angry Birds Space app and Air Control, both of which I have on my Motorola Xoom so I know the quality of the app itself. They looked stunning and the colours were deep and rich, smooth play thanks to the 1GHz processor and good audio from the loudspeaker. My two complaints here are the screen size being almost a little too small for playing apps, my finger covers half the screen and having touch controls for menu and back on the front of the phone below the screen, I was often pressing them by mistake.
The music side of the phone is great. Loading it brings up the ability to search by album, artist, track or playlist and shows the album covers too, if you uploaded them. The sound quality through the loudspeaker was average, little tinny and no bass tone but through my own set of headphones was so much better, but we have come to know all phones with the Sony influence are good, regardless of whether they are a Walkman phone or not. This is just not a boombox! The 3.5mm jack lets you put any headphones in, which is good and I think it’s great that all phones do this now. Do you remember those old days of 1.5mm jacks and being forced to you the boxed headphones? Bad times.
To quickly touch on some other areas of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray, Google Maps was good but I wouldn’t use it in a car as a sat-nav replacement as the screen is too small. Plugging into a PC was quick and simple, my PC recognised it and I was able to just drag and drop files in there in the folders I wanted, and went straight to the memory card. Battery life is ok. Talk time of around 7 hours, though I ate into it a lot quicker when downloading lots of apps from Google Play over Wi-Fi. On that, data transfer speeds are good, it supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and you can create a Wi-Fi hotspot, Network dependent of course, and with Bluetooth there as well you can connect to a wireless earpiece. Does anyone send files through Bluetooth anymore? The web browser was good, zoom function worked well being pinch-to-zoom, and the key pad can be changed from full Qwerty to the numeric phonepad like good old fashioned mobiles. The Qwerty I found a little too crowded for this screen size. Texting, emailing and making good old fashioned phone calls were all simple, but a phone that can’t handle that well shouldn’t ever be bought..!
In summary, this is a good phone. A really good phone. As with all phones it’s appeal is down to the end user but I do feel anyone would appreciate this phone. The LED-backlit screen is a real pleasure to look at, and does well on showing photos and videos, but for me it is just a little too small. Do I sound like a broken record here? Gosh I’ve said that a lot! I’m too used to big 4.3″ screens to convert back to anything smaller, not sure if I’m ready for the Samsung Galaxy Note’s 5.3″ screen yet mind. Occasionally I found I had to touch the screen a couple of times to select something, but this could be small icons or my stubby thumb. If I wrote a list of pros and cons for the Xperia Ray, there would be only a couple of cons and a lot of pros, which I have talked about already. I’m sure you are now aware of the first drawback, the second is the 1GHz CPU. It did struggle on occasions. When whizzing through Facebook I did have to pause and wait for the phone to catch up at times, even on the most up to date version of the app. I’m not sure if I can put this down to the processor alone, or the app being slow. The CPU did handle calls, texts and menu navigation without skipping a beat though.
I guess if I was in the market for a new phone, and not after the absolute newest phone out now, and I liked the smaller phones this would certainly be in my line up, and I’m not just saying that because Sony Ericsson are paying me too, as they’re not, this is just a really good phone. If my two reasons for buying a phone were to have Android and a good camera, this would be in a very small shortlist.
Ultimately I cannot speak highly enough of this little Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe it. I’m sure anyone would like this phone, be it a 16 year old boy or a 50 year old woman.