There has been a lot of hype surrounding Sony Ericsson’s latest Xperia collection after the manufacturer claimed to have dusted itself off from last year’s failings and promised its new smartphones are worthy of top billing.
Joining the Sony Ericsson Arc and Xperia Play is the Sony Ericsson neo, the successor of the Vivaz. If ‘camera’ instantly springs to mind, you’re on the right track as the neo boasts an impressive photo-packed smartphone experience with a generous helping of great multimedia capabilities on the side. Does it deliver the goods? Find out after the jump.
From the moment you first set eyes on the Sony Ericsson neo, it’s blatantly obvious that it belongs to the Xperia family as it bears a striking similarity to its siblings. While the glossy plastic case makes the handset look pretty sleek, it does feel a bit cheap and slightly weak. On the plus side, the choice of material used for the shell is really light in hand, despite being listed as weighing 126 grams. The chrome edges bring a bit of jazz to the overall look of the handset and its rounded back and curved edges add some personality.
The neo proves that looks are everything once the 3.7 inch TFT Reality Display springs to life. Just like the arc, the neo’s screen is powered by Sony’s Bravia Engine and demonstrates exactly why Sony Ericsson are pitching it as a multimedia powerhouse. The whole idea behind a Reality Display is to enhance the quality of pictures and videos as a means of making them look as close to reality as possible. It’s clear from the word ‘go’ that this is something special as the homescreen graphics and colours are stunning before you even get on to viewing any video content. The reality display achieves these great results partly as a result of being attached directly to the screen, rather than leaving an air gap between the screen and the glass, so that no light can seep in. So, whether you’re using the neo indoors or out, the screen will always be clear to see.
Power and Operating System
The neo comes with the latest version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread and while we’re a little unsure on the update situation at present, you can be sure that when Google unleashes the latest Android software, Sony Ericsson will be quick to get it, if only to make up for their past failings on this front. Plus, the way it has rearranged the Xperia user interface so that it’s layered on top of the operating system (as opposed to integrated into it), makes updates less of a hassle.
We finally get to see Android on the neo with features like animated wallpapers and the usual customisable homescreens (there are five available here). The Xperia UI is a lot more pleasant to use as a result of its makeover and it’s simple to get your head around should you be new to the Sony Ericsson scene. Timescape and Mediascape appear in widget form and the manufacturer has thrown in some neat added extras including a pinch to widget overview and customisable homescreen folders.
Running the show is a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, which handles everyday tasks very well. It may not have a dual-core job on offer, but the neo’s main purpose in life is to deliver in the multimedia department and when it comes to playing films and viewing pictures, they render perfectly and run without a hitch.
Camera: The neo’s speciality is taking photos and it comes with two cameras for you to do this. There’s a front-facing VGA and on the back is an 8.1 megapixel camera joined by an LED flash. The neo is capable of shooting HD video in 720p and comes with a whole host of shooting options including image stabiliser, autofocus and red eye reduction. However, the real beauty lies within as it’s kitted out with Sony’s EXMOR R sensor, a technology that captures high-quality, bright images even in low-light conditions. This feature really gives the neo a boost over the rest of the smartphone pack and the end result is really quite pleasing. The pictures it takes are detailed and rich in colour, making it more than worthy of its photography-master tag.
Another nifty feature worth mentioning is the neo’s HDMI port. It might sound nothing out of the ordinary but once connected to a TV set, you can navigate through the phone’s media using your television remote. It makes a change from having to sit right next to the screen with your handset, laboriously swiping and prodding to get your phone’s content up on screen.
Internet: The neo has a WebKit browser onboard plus 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. It has Abode Flash 10.1 support and websites load quickly and render nicely, regardless of how much content pages contain. Pinch to zoom is responsive too. Overall, it’s great to see that this handset isn’t a one trick media pony.
- Music player – supports MP3, WMA, WAV, eAAC files
- Video player – supports MP4, H.264, WMVA files
- MicroSD card slot that supports cards up to 32GB
- 320MB internal storage
- TrackID music recognition
- MicroUSB port
- Access to the Android Market
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 7 hours talk time (3G)
For a multimedia-orientated smartphone, the Sony Ericsson neo doesn’t offer a lot of storage and so investing in a decent sized microSD card seems to be a necessity if you want to get a decent amount of media onboard. The same goes for the file types the neo supports too – they’re fairly limited, and we’re surprised that DivX and Xvid support didn’t make the cut either. Sony Ericsson have missed a trick here.
All things considered, the Sony Ericsson neo hasn’t done too badly for itself. Yes, the limitations in storage and type of file support could cost it dearly, especially when it’s a phone with the multimedia experience as its main focus. However, the Reality Display claws back a lot of points and there’s little arguing that it produces one of the best pictures available on a smartphone right now. When compared to the arc, it really boils down to personal preference. While it’s bigger brother is probably better off in the hands of those who put more emphasis on tech, the neo will be the ideal companion for those who prefer for media to come first.