Look and feel
The Sony Xperia J boasts a sleek, curvaceous design for a mid-range mobile. From the soft-touch rear to the metallic rim, and the net-but-pointless glowing base, we love the look and feel.
Ease of Use
We found the four-inch screen fine for browsing the web, while the virtual keyboard is mostly angst-free thanks to its excellent auto-correct (despite being fiddly when it comes to numbers and symbols). Any real usability issues came from the sub-standard performance...
The Xperia J’s 5MP camera is perfectly fine for everyday family shots and posting pics to social networking sites, with some neat extra features like the panorama mode. Other features are thin on the ground.
The 1GHz single-core processor struggles to cope with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, and we regularly noticed pauses, jitters and long loading times. Intensive games suffered low frame rates, so gamers should look elsewhere.
We easily managed a full 24 hours even with moderate use, while caning the Xperia J with movie streaming and games kills it dead in around six hours (a typical result).
The Sony Xperia J is baby brother to James Bond’s Skyfall phone, the Xperia T, with some cut-down features and a much more affordable (£200) price tag. So, for budding secret agents on a budget, is it worth a punt?
T, meet J
Sony’s latest range of Xperia phones share a similar look, with soft-touch rears that gently curve inwards for a comfortable fit in the palm. We’d happily stroke the Xperia J’s back all day if we didn’t get dodgy looks on the bus for it. The Xperia J weighs around the same as the larger Xperia T but is more compact, with a stretched four-inch screen that sits in the centre of the phone’s glass panel. Above it you’ll find a front-facing camera alongside the Sony branding, while beneath it you have three touch-sensitive buttons for Back, Home and Menu. This is a stark contrast to the Xperia T, which stuck with Android’s virtual on-screen buttons.
Another departure from the Xperia T is the removable back, which allows you to access the battery. Both the SIM card and Micro SD memory card slots are tucked away inside, while the back is easy to prise off providing you don’t chew down your fingernails. A metallic bar marks the edge of the rear panel, and gives a solid finish to the phone. On the right side of the Xperia J you get some sturdy power and volume controls, which need a firm push to activate, while the left edge houses the open Micro USB slot for charging and hooking up to your home computer.
No Jelly For You
Sony seems to be behind the rest of the pack when it comes to Android. The Xperia S lingered on the creaky Android Gingerbread for far too long before finally receiving an update to Ice Cream Sandwich, and now the Xperia J and Xperia T have to suffice with Ice Cream Sandwich when other Android users are already enjoying the latest version, Jelly Bean. But what does this mean for users, and does it really make much of a difference?
Thankfully, Ice Cream Sandwich is still relatively fresh so you shouldn’t miss out too much before Jelly Bean finally makes an appearance. You get the standard five desktops to populate with apps and widgets (which now of course can be resized to your liking), all overlaid with Sony’s Xperia interface. We still like the electric design even if it hasn’t changed much over the past couple of years, although once again Sony’s Timescape widgets are a poor cousin to the likes of HTC and Samsung’s social media feeds. They’re a bit too clunky and slow to update for our liking.
You have mail
Like most smartphones, the Xperia J has a notifications light above the screen to warn users of waiting messages and other items. However, the Xperia J takes things even further by adding a second light at the base of the phone. We love the subtle glow, which actually changes colour depending on the theme you’re using, but the strange positioning meant we completely forgot it was even there, especially considering it isn’t the brightest light around.
When it comes to bashing out texts or emails of your own, Sony’s virtual keyboard is a decent effort. The keys are well-spaced and fast typists will love the excellent auto-correct, as well as the built-in SWYPE mode (where you only lift your finger from the screen between words). Our only bugbear was adding numbers and symbols as they’re accessed via a fiddly little button, inconveniently positioned next to the ‘hide keyboard’ key. No prize for guessing which one we hit most often. We’d recommend holding the phone horizontally if you’re struggling, as this extends the keyboard.
While playing around with the Xperia J we noticed a fair bit of laggy performance that detracted from the overall user experience. It was never as bad as apps crashing or other issues that had us resetting the smartphone, but occasionally we’d tap a menu option or an app shortcut and nothing would happen, making us wonder if we’d tapped it wrong or the Xperia was simply struggling to keep up. Quite often it was sadly the latter.
We occasionally found ourselves growing impatient as the web browser or an app took longer than expected to load. Some of our processor-intensive games such as Blood & Glory: Legend also suffered from low frame rates. Stick with more simple 2D games and you’ll have no such worries, but if gaming is one of your favourite ways of passing the commute, you’d be better off with a dual-core device such as the HTC Desire X.
Still, if portability is a big sell for you, we can happily report that the Xperia J lasts over 24 hours with moderate use (apps, email, texts and music), even with screen brightness boosted to max and Wi-Fi enabled. Gamers and movie fans will find the battery is sapped much more quickly, dying in around six hours with constant use.
The Xperia J’s 5MP camera does an admirable job capturing general outdoor shots, so will suit anyone who likes snapping their family on fun days out. The photos lacked sharpness when reviewed on a computer screen, but are fine for posting to Facebook or other social media streams and featured realistic colour reproduction. There’s an LED flash for taking low-light shots, and you get some neat features like a panorama mode. Not forgetting the front-facing camera, which is super grainy but does the job for Skype chats.
You have 4GB of internal storage, but only 2GB is usable for your photos, apps, etc. Thankfully you can slot in a Micro SD memory card to expand this, which is essential if you take lots of photos or plan on carrying media around.
While movie and games fans may appreciate the Xperia T’s larger 4.55-inch screen more, we still found the Xperia J’s 4-inch TFT display was fine for browsing the web, playing with apps and enjoying your media. Sony’s usual excellent design makes for a pleasing mid-range screen, with vibrant colour reproduction and satisfyingly wide viewing angles. Our photos and videos looked good, although some of our films were a little dark in places. Another notch on the brightness levels would’ve helped, but we still found we could comfortably read text when out in the sun’s glare.
Sony’s Xperia J is one of the more fashionable mid-range smartphones around, boasting a similarly flare design to the Xperia T at half the price. Unfortunately Sony’s had to cut back the specs to lower the cost, and performance takes a hit. Gamers are best off looking elsewehere, but anyone demanding good looks and portability on a budget will find plenty to like here.