Like a dark horse sprinting the last few meters to take the win, Sony Ericsson had a surprise hit in the Xperia Arc, one of our highest-rated ever phones, and definitely Sony E's best handset in a long, long time. Now its Android-powered Xperia range has a new member - the super sleek, fashionista-friendly Xperia Ray. We got in some good hands-on time with this slinky little smartphone.
DesignAt 111 x 53 x 9.4 mm and 100g, the Xperia Ray is a Mini Cooper of a phone, a teeny smartie that harks back to olden days when smaller was better and you texted rather than emailed. Props to Sony Ericsson for making it as uber-functional and great to use as it has. The velvety plastic chassis is fronted by a full-touch 3.3-inch glass display with two touch areas and a hard home button. A 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM and Adreno 205 GPU keep graphics smooth and pretty, while the 300MB storage is bumped up by a bundled 4GB microSD card.
Timescape The Ray runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread with much reworking by Sony Ericsson. One of these main features is Timescape, Sony E's app that syncs Facebook, Twitter and text messages to display it in a Rolodex-like widget. It's not the most fluid news feed integrator we've seen - HTC's Friend Stream for instance is easier to use - but it's also easily deleted.
HD touch display Like the Arc and Neo, the Xperia Ray has a superb display using the Bravia graphics engine from Sony's HDTVs. Screens are pin-sharp with gorgeous colour definition, and the touch-screen has been absolutely nailed this time - not only is the capacitive screen slick and responsive, the keyboard has been massively improved from that of predecessors'. Autocorrect was on-point with speed and general accuracy upped since the keyboards of the Arc and Neo too.
Ease of useA small but crucial change has been made to the setup menus - where in the Neo the so-called startup screen was essentially an e-manual, the Ray comes with screens that take you through setting up your Google and Facebook accounts.
Portrait or landscape? Held for a phone call, the Xperia Ray feels as small as the classic phone of yore, the Nokia 8210. When typing, you'll want to turn it sideways as the portrait QWERTY (an option you have to activate) will be too small for most fingers.
Camera The eight-megapixel snapper in this baby isn't quite as stunning as in its bigger bros - colours are slightly more faded but the clarity of images is still better than most mobile cameras while the LED flash worked a treat in lowlight. There's no dedicated camera button - instead, you tap an area in the image to focus on and the shutter snaps on that.
Overall Smartphones might be getting bigger but the Xperia Ray squeezes most of the mojo its bigger predecessors manages into a slinky, classy chassis. Its camera is up there with the Xperia Arc, and though its lesser RAM will mean slower multitasking, this 3.3-inch Android Gingerbread smartie is shaping up to be one stylish addition to Sony Ericsson's growing range.