The flat glass front and tactile rubber back of the Xperia T are reassuringly sturdy in the hand, though its plain rectangular form feels a step back from the modern, squared look of its predecessor, the Xperia S
Android Ice Cream Sandwich contains gorgeously streamlined apps, while Sony’s distinctive interface adds many useful, well designed flourishes to an already intuitive interface
The 13-megapixel camera takes sharp, vibrant photos, while the 1.5GHz dual-core chip with 1GB of RAM ran games, video recording and HD movies easily.
Sony’s ‘Reality display’ now packs enough pixels in to offer a better-than-the-printed-page resolution, making it brilliant for movies and games. Multiple apps are handled with aplomb, while the excellent sensitivity of the touch-screen makes general navigation a breeze
The Xperia T easily lasts overnight on regular moderate use
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,9/28/2012 12:19:31 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Excellent camera in any situation, brilliant HD display, solid build, unique and useful interface
Uninspiring design, well-executed but not terribly exciting feature set
If there ever was a comeback glory story, Sony is probably the star. Since it ditched the Ericsson part of the Sony Ericsson brand that pretty much owned 90s telecoms (OK, except for the other comeback kid, Nokia), it’s hit high after high with its camera/music/movie-centric Xperia phones, culminating in the slick flagship Xperia S. Now next-gen Xperia T is here with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a beefed up processor and 13-megapixel uber-camera to its name - but is it a case of being that difficult second superphone after a runaway first hit?
The Xperia T feels a lot more substantial than its predecessor, with a wider 129.4 x 67.3 x 9.35 mm chassis and 4.55-inch screen to the Xperia S’s 4.3-incher. The Xperia S’s square silhouette has only barely been adhered to, with the Xperia T packing a flat back, flat screen but sloping edges and silver hardware buttons down the side.
Obvious seams give it a much less modern look than the Xperia S, though in classic Sony style, its heavy retro body feels designed that way.
The barest sliver of a physical bezel traces around the high-definition “Reality display”, though actual screen real estate doesn’t stretch as far to the edges like one of our recent loves, the Motorola Razr i.
An impressive screen resolution of 1280x720 (323 pixels per inch) ponies up crisp, vibrant graphics, helped along by the Bravia engine, borrowed from Sony’s HDTV technology. For comparison’s sake, the ‘Retina display’ of the iPhone 5 boasts a 326 ppi, a difference that is negligible to the naked eye.
A tactile, soft rubber back cover gives a reassuring sturdiness to the phone, while a shatter-proof sheet on scratch-resistant glass helps avoid scuffs and nicks. If you hold the handset up you can even see the slightest curve inwards, to help protect the exposed 13-megapixel camera lens when the phone is on its back.
Under the hood, a 1.5GHz dual-core chip and 1GB RAM kept performance smooth. 16GB of built in memory can be expanded by up to 32GB in the microSD slot.
One clear advantage the Xperia T has over the S is that it runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich. We also love the styling on Sony’s custom interface, with its thin, sharp fonts and clear cut icons lending a unique look to vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich.
The colour scheme of blues, purples, blacks and greys is modern and nowhere near as gaudy as the graphics on the hyper-bright Super AMOLED screens some smartphones pack.
Even Sony’s custom widgets are more interesting than most – our favourite was a weather toolbar that when tapped, folded out into a full square displaying more information. Sony has also designed all kinds of social widgets, including a ‘Friends’ music’ box that shows the latest links to music posted by Facebook friends. You can tap on the widget to view and play the latest song, as well as comment or ‘like’ it.
Then there’s Timescape, Sony’s much-maligned, overly animated Facebook feed, now with Twitter integrated. Technically, it works just like any other social aggregator, but with a system of isometrically drawn cards that take up loads of room but only display the first few words of anyone’s post, it’s incredibly inefficient. However, Sony’s clearly left it in more as a foundation to power other social widgets, as it’s the much simpler Feed box that’s preloaded on the default homescreen, with Timescape buried in the all programs menu.
One you’ll want to hunt down is LiveWare, a setting (in Settings, as it were) that you can flick on for prompts on whether you want link particular actions with launching certain apps. For example, when we plugged in our headphones, Live Ware asked if we wanted to set a rule to always launch the music player then; when we plugged in the charger, if we wanted to launch the alarm clock. Smart Actions on the Motorola Razr did get there first – but the Xperia T does it more sleekly.
The Xperia T supports HSDPA internet, not the superfast 4G frequency that EE recently switched on, but right now, that’s not necessarily a huge issue – we find that the problem with mobile internet isn’t so much that it’s too slow, but that coverage is erratic.
The Data Usage app in Settings let you turn mobile data on and off, as well as set a data limit or a warning to be sent when you hit a certain level.
The Xperia T also supports NFC, though like so many phones right now, there’s little indication of what you’re meant to use it for. As an Ice Cream Sandwich phone, there’s Android Beam for instanteous file and weblink transfer, but the Smart Tags that came with the Xperia S have been omitted, perhaps because the whole act of automatically launching actions has been partly fulfilled by LiveWare.
With Sony’s Cybershot pedigree and the 13-megapixel lens here, we expected a lot from the camera, and it fully delivered. On the screen before even taking a photo, colours are stupendous thanks to the Bravia HD graphics engine. We found the lens occasionally slow to focus, but when it did, images were snapped in incredible clarity, with gorgeous colours on photos both in daylight and indoor fluorescent light.
The view from Mobile Choice HQ
Pinks, oranges, whites and greens all displayed accurately and vividly without us having to put on a scene mode, and a particularly ornery orange blind that has never been reproduced accurately showed up exactly like it looks in real life.
A delicious, medium-rare burger with rosemary fries
Though there’s no macro mode, the lens focuses of its own accord on close-up objects, and a photo of a burger showed every crater in the patty, every drop of grease glistening. It can’t handle objects closer than six inches though, but for such impressive clarity and colour, it’s hard to take too much offence.
Sony’s Exmor sensor and a pulsing LED flash proved capable at lighting lowlight scenes – again on auto mode – with good clarity and brightness, and minimal overexposure.
The camera can take 1080p HD video as well, and we found video capture smooth no matter how fast we panned. Colours are touch less vivid than in still images. The built-in mic records sound competently though it doesn’t play back very loudly on the on-board speakers – which oddly are on the back of the phone, which isn’t ideal for watching movies if you’re not wearing headphones. Sony has bundled in a decent pair of in-ears though.
Any Xperia phone these days is basically all about media, and the size and clarity of the screen makes the Xperia T an excellent media machine. HD movies displayed in delicious definition, though cinematic 16:9 movies can’t go properly full-screen, showing instead black bars at the top and bottom. We found transferring movies onto the phone’s internal memory quite slow at about 20 minutes for a few gigs worth of video. As in other phones, it’s often faster to transfer to a microSD card independently of the phone, then slot the microSD into the handset.
With music, Sony has gone back to calling it the Walkman app – and it now includes links to Facebook posts about music. However, tapping these links doesn’t actually play them in the player. Instead you are taken to the site hosting the link, and switching to another app automatically stop it. If you just stick to your own tunes though, all is as normal with the ability to make playlists, organise by track/album/artist and browse cover art. Xloud and Clear Bass let you control your own audio, while the Equaliser tab on every track lets you seriously fine-tune the sound.
We found the battery to easily last overnight when simply using the internet, apps or games and general messaging and calling. We’ll update the review with tested time for playing video.
Sony has uncovered the right formula with its Xperia smartphones, and like a craftsman will continue turning out fine phones that deftly check all the right boxes. The Xperia T is well built, its interface sleekly designed, and more than almost any other Android phone, it is packed with unique styling and handy features. Though its design feels a step back from the modern, squared Xperia S and there's a bit of a feeling that we've seen all this before, the fantastic camera, brilliant screen and all-round ease of use make the Xperia T a solid, likable choice.