Sony has unveiled a new flagship device to head up its Xperia range, taking the helm from the Xperia S released at the start of this year. The Japanese manufacturer’s new addition features a 13 megapixel camera, one of the most powerful ever seen on a smartphone, and has a display powered by Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA Engine, producing some excellent visual results.
- 1.5GHz dual-core processor
- 4.6-inch display
- 16GB internal storage
- 13 megapixel camera
- 1080p video recording
- 9.35mm thick
- 139g weight
- Android Ice Cream Sandwich
- 1850mAh battery
- PlayStation Certified
Design and Build
Whereas the Xperia S had a clear plastic strip at the bottom of the phone marked with icons denoting phone’s navigational keys, the Xperia T sports a solid, unibody chassis which has few seams. Sony has moulded the new device’s backplate in a similar arched form to that seen on the Xperia Arc, again somewhat of a departure to the Xperia range’s previous flagship.
The Xperia T doesn’t feel particularly slim, possibly due to that arched frame leaving the top and bottom ends thicker than the middle. Although the device is only 9.35mm thick it feels chunkier but the shape of its body (coupled with the textured backplate) makes it comfortable in the hand.
Although not as dazzlingly bright as other high-end smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy SIII the Xperia T’s 4.6-inch display is still impressive, with Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA Engine ensuring excellent visuals. The BRAVIA technology is lifted from Sony’s television range and creates more saturated and contrasting images onscreen, which look great when coupled with the 720×1280 pixel Reality HD display.
Although the Xperia T’s user interface is visually impressive on screen it is when photos and videos are displayed that Sony’s technological experience really comes into play. Images have a great deal of depth to them, with the BRAVIA Engine’s colour contrast improvements having an excellent effect, whilst videos are crisp and clear with.
Under the Hood
Sony has shied away from including the sort of quad-core processor seen in many high end handsets with the Xperia T, instead opting for a dual-core, 1.5GHz Qualcomm Krait processor. There’s no lack of power and functionality is fluid without any hold-ups, so it’s interesting to see a high-end handset that hasn’t gone down the quad-core route following the headlines manufacturer’s such Samsung and HTC grabbed when releasing their latest flagship devices.
Sony has made use of Qualcomm’s MSM8260A processor, only a very slight upgrade on the one that was seen in the Xperia S, with a similarly minor upgrade to the Xperia T’s graphics processor. These improvements mean the Xperia T is more of an evolution of existing devices than a brand new handset in its own right. But this is no bad thing – the new offering offers some up-to-date specs but will still offer a familiar experience to existing Sony users.
Along with the processor there is 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, along with a microSD card sot which can support up to 32GB.
With such a comendable screen on the Xperia T the device could be forgiven for having a less-than-impressive battery life, and this is an allowance that we have to make for Sony’s new device. While testing the Xperia T we noticed quite a rapid drop in battery power over a short space of time, with a reduction in screen brightness being necessary to curtail this slightly.
Few can expect the likes of Motorola’s Razr Maxx and its 3300mAh battery to become the standard, but we would have liked to have seen a more powerful power source included with the Xperia T.
Operating System and User Interface
Sony is launching its new device with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, with an upgrade to the more recent Jelly Bean promised soon after release. The increased functionality of the latest version of Google’s mobile OS would have been excellent when used in conjunction with Sony’s BRAVIA-powered display, so it’s a shame that users will not get the new operating system from launch, even though it is something to look forward to.
In the meantime, Sony’s user interface doesn’t do a great deal to alter the basic Android experience, making just a few changes along the way. One of the most noticeable of these is the way in which widgets and wallpapers are controlled from a bar which appears at the top of the display after long-pressing on any homescreen.
Although maybe not quite as easy to use as the widget controls of HTC’s Sense UI, the way in which Sony has grouped several elements of the user interface into one controller is interesting, demonstrating that the manufacturer has focussed only on changing those aspects of Ice Cream Sandwich’s which it feels need to be altered.
As an extra to the Xperia T package Sony has included its Music Unlimited service, which gives access to a large library of tracks on a subscription basis much like Spotify. The manufacturer has also been putting a lot of focus on the way in which the new phone utilises NFC technology to transfer music, photos or data between devices, in a similar way to Samsung’s S-Beam and Google’s Android Beam functionality.
Tracks can be shared to other NFC-compatible devices (including the new Sony speaker unveiled at IFA 2012) alongside the Xperia T. With the new smartphone being a Sony creation it is also PlayStation certified giving users access to a wealth of games associated with the leading games console.
Sony’s Smart Tags are also supported, allowing users to assign specific aspects of functionality to a Smart Tag and then activate that profile by swiping the phone against it. This means that different profiles can be created which tailor the device’s functions for different environments, e.g. swiping a tag in your car can instigate the opening of the phone’s navigation app and turn on Bluetooth.
Sony is going some way to creating a creating a wider mobile ecosystem with the compatibility it is building into its devices. While the uses the manufacturer has highlighted for the Xperia T’s NFC capabilities are very similar to existing features on other Android phones, the range of electronics that Sony manufactures (aside from phones) means that the possibilities for interactivity between devices is an exciting prospect.
Camera and Video
While the Xperia T has some impressive specs, its overall stand out feature is the 13 megapixel camera, one of the most powerful ever seen in a smartphone. Although the number of pixels which can be read by a digital camera’s sensor is by no means the only factor in determining performance, the high quality of images produced by Sony’s offering are testament to the Xperia’s camera hardware. The firm’s broader electronics experience is certainly evident in its Exmor R camera sensor.
However, the photography app which supports the Xperia’s camera does have some unusual quirks. Utilising the full 13 megapixels means having to select an aspect ratio of 4:3, something which does not use the whole of the phone’s screen. Taking fullscreen shots means having to switch the aspect ratio to 16:9 and reducing the quality of the images to 10 megapixels. There is also the option to capture images at different levels of quality, down to 2 megapixels, which seems a little unnecessary.
These are minor gripes though and, overall, the photography experience offered by the Xperia T is is excellent, with the device being especially good at capturing detailed macro shots of small objects. Along with still images, video footage can be recorded at 1080p HD and there is a front-facing camera which can also capture 720p video, excellent for use with video-calling.
Connectivity and Multimedia
Sony has continued with the Walkman name for its music player, first introduced to the firm’s smartphone range with the Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Xperia S. Harking back to a much older range of technology, the name is instantly recognisable as one that signifies portable music, and the Walkman app itself is an adept music player which offers powerful audio playback augmented by detailed information about tracks that are playing.
Audio output can be tailored to suit through the use of a number of presets for different genres of music, and there is a versatile EQ control to make even more detailed adjustments too. The Walkman app also includes a variety of search options which allow users to look for more information on a track using a variety of sources, including searching for music videos on YouTube.
Along with the audio controls there is also an MHL-compatible port allowing the device to be connected to a high-definition TV.
Performance and Verdict
Sony’s stand-out feature with the new Xperia handset is its 13 megapixel camera which is capable of producing excellent results and, in terms of the camera sensor’s power, is a step-forward for cameraphones. Otherwise, it is interesting that the Xperia T has been launched with a dual-core processor when a number of flagships have quad-cores, but this is something that could add credence to the opinion of many mobile industry movers and shakers that questions whether or not the more powerful chips are actually needed.
Either way, Sony has evolved its Xperia range and created a device which provides excellent visual performance and a powerful camera, and if a Jelly Bean update emerges as promised then the Xperia T could become an even more interesting prospect.