The Xperia Ray lands itself smack in the middle of Sony Ericsson’s smartphone range; with a footprint almost precisely between the Xperia Mini and Xperia Arc, but without the former’s excessive thickness, or the latter’s expansive touchscreen. How does it fair against its Xperia siblings? Can such a small, thin smartphone compare?
What we like
Aiming itself squarely at the role of mid-range Android smartphone, it’s – perhaps surprisingly – a very classy look piece of kit. Despite the plastic backing, it’s curiously solid – feeling much more rigid in the hand than its bigger brother, the Xperia Arc. Something slightly minor but worth mentioning is the improved power button, not the niggly nub found on other Sony Ericsson phones.
Below the screen, you’ll find Sony Ericsson’s increasingly typical three-button arrangement, with a home button semicircle in the centre similar to the one found the Xperia Mini and Mini Pro. What is different is that the semicircle here also acts a status notifier, alerting you with a green glow for received messages, emails and status updates. Plug in the Xperia Ray to charge, and the light-up arch will glow orange to show it’s charging, switching to a green hue when it’s done.
Conversely, dip below 10% of the battery, and it’ll send out a desperate red glow. It’s a considered way of keeping a notification light without ruining the phone’s style, and something it keeps throughout the handset – including the screen.
Smaller, but retaining the resolution of larger Xperia phones, this has resulted in a pin-sharp display. Whilst it display image may not float tantalisingly close to the surface like the Xperia Arc, the Bravia Mobile technology at this resolution and at this size – is a revelation.
The camera is an eight-megapixel camera with an Exmor R sensor; and like other Xperia phones, it gave a great performance with detailed stills and 720p high-definition video.
The 1GHz processor in the Xperia Ray means the phone is more than capable of running more intensive tasks, like one of our major yard-sticks, the BBC iPlayer. The loudspeaker is respectable, given its size, though it won’t fill a room with music.
With a huge range of apps available from Android, the phone is more than capable of running what we threw at it without any issue. The 1500mAh battery, too, is enough to keep to phone running, with moderate use and notifications on, for close to two days. We did find that increasing the brightness to its maximum did have a substantial effect on battery life.
One of the first phones to arrive with new baked-in Facebook features, once we logged into our Facebook profile, we were impressed to find access to all of our Facebook photo albums, and it meant we had plenty of pictures to choose for wallpapers.
What we don’t like
Priced Sony Ericsson’s mid-priced wonder, this has meant there are some shortcomings; there is no physical camera button, meaning you’ll have to focus with the touchscreen. Fortunately, tweaking with the camera options means you can use the touchscreen to choose different areas to focus on, but it doesn’t have the same charm of a physical button.
As we’ve said earlier, the screen has pretty poor viewing angles, but at this size, it’s not really built for sharing movie clips with a group.
Due to its petite size, we found a touchscreen phone this size a occasionally a little difficult to use – especially the on-screen keyboard. We had to continually use the landscape keyboard, as our fingers often erred towards the space-bar and punctuation symbols. Given its size, it behaves admirably – especially with downloadable keyboards like SwiftKey – but some people may find it too frustrating to deal with
We’re also not sure why the headphone socket has been set, protruding from the top edge. It’s a minor niggle, and there’s presumably a technical reason for it, but it does detract from what is otherwise a very sharp-looking phone.
We were pleasantly surprised with the Xperia Ray. Expecting a plasticky, miniaturised Xperia Arc wannabe, what Sony Ericsson have made here is perhaps what the Xperia Neo should have been. Noticeably smaller than the Xperia Arc, arguably as thin, and lighter it has carved out a place for itself, and not just as Sony Ericsson’s ‘cheap Android phone’.
With a more powerful processor, and better performance than its Android rivals, and somehow managing to build a sturdy phone despite the plastic backing, we sense Sony Ericsson could have a big hit on its hands.
Granted, it can’t stand up against the Super AMOLED delights of the Galaxy S2, or the dual-core power of LG’s Optimus 2X. It may be all the rage to have a screen larger than four inches, but the Xperia Ray is a great entry to a whole new category of phone – that of the compact smartphone. At this price, it’s hard to complain.