Mobile Phones Guide

Sony Xperia U review

Sony Xperia U - Funky Xperia

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Launch SRP S$488

Overall rating 7.5/10
Design:
8
Features:
7.5
User-Friendliness:
8.5
Performance:
7.5
Value:
7.5
THE GOOD
Sony design imprint
Solid build quality
THE BAD
No memory card slot
Limited internal memory
Battery life could be better
Runs on Android 2.3


Where Colors and Fun Intersect

Overview and Design

With the Xperia S and P occupying the high and mid-tier market segments, the Sony Xperia U has only the entry-level market to move into. A look at its specs reaffirms its target audience, which are first-time smartphone buyers. Besides its affordable price tag, what else does Sony throw in to entice consumers to choose the Xperia U? Before we explore the phone further, here are the key highlights of the Sony Xperia U: - 

 

  Key highlights of the Sony Xperia U

  • Android 2.3 (Upgradable to Android 4.0 ICS)
  • 3.5-inch Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA Engine / 854 x 480 pixels
  • 1GHz STE U8500 dual core-processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 8GB internal memory (no memory card slot)
  • 5-megapixel camera / 16x zoom / Auto-focus
  • 1,320 mAh battery
  • 110g
  • 112 x 54 x 12mm
  • Black and White (with exchangeable caps available in the box)
     
  • Availability: S$488 without line contract (inclusive of GST)
     

 

If you have seen the Xperia NXT family of smartphones, the design of the Xperia U will not come as a surprise to you either. It is easily identifiable as a Sony Xperia by its angular body and signature transparent strip. In fact, the Xperia U looks like a downsized clone of the Xperia S with its smaller footprint and display. Its matte chassis also helps to keep the phone clean of any smudges and fingerprints, which we feel will be appreciated by consumers who dislike glossy surfaces.

Having said that, the Xperia U is actually quite compact, and has the smallest footprint in the Xperia family. Due to its compact size, the Xperia U feels right at home in our hands. Build quality is not an issue with the Xperia NXT family and the Xperia U is no exception. For a smartphone of its class, the Xperia U has set the benchmark pretty high. 


 

Features

Like its fellow counterparts in the Xperia family, the Sony Xperia U runs on the dated Google Android 2.3 with some slight modifications to the user interface. As mentioned in the review of the Xperia Sola, the Android 4.0 update will arrive sometime in Q3. Further aspects of the user interface have also been covered in our much earlier review of th Xperia S if you would like to refresh yourself.

If there is one distinct feature of the Xperia U, it will be the transparent strip that lights up whenever you press the Power button to 'awake' the phone from 'sleep mode'. The color depends on the theme you select, the dominant color of the image you are viewing in the default image gallery or the album art in the music player.

 

 

Performance

The Sony Xperia U is equipped with ST-Ericsson NovaThor U8500 dual-core 1GHz processor and 512MB RAM, which is considered quite decent for a smartphone in the mid-tier market segment. 

We will be comparing the Xperia U against its siblings, the Xperia P and Xperia S to see where it stands in the Xperia family, and its main competitor, the HTC One V. For those who are unfamiliar with the Quadrant benchmark used below, it evaluates the CPU, memory, I/O, and 3D graphics of Android devices.

How the Phones Stack Up
Device Sony Xperia  U Sony Xperia P Sony Xperia S  HTC One V
CPU STE U8500 1GHz dual-core STE U8500 1GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8260
Snapdragon 1.5GHz
dual-core
Qualcomm MSM8255
Snapdragon 1GHz
single-core
GPU Mali-400MP Mali-400MP Adreno 220 Adreno 205
RAM 512MB 1GB 1GB 512MB
OS Google Android 2.3 Google Android 2.3 Google Android 2.3 Google Android 4.0

 

Based on the scores above, the Xperia U is on-par with the dual-core 1GHz phones. Daily usage-wise, the performance on the Xperia U was generally zippy and page transitions were smooth with hardly any lags. 

 

Imaging Performance

The Sony Xperia U is equipped with a 5-megapixel rear autofocus camera, a single LED flash and handles HD video recording up to 720p resolution. As usual, we will subject the Xperia U to our imaging test to see how well can it handle photo taking tasks. In short, it didn't live up to the rest of the phones in the Xperia family and was rather middling - not that we can fault it much given its target market segment. Check out the outcome for further scrutiny:-

 

Battery Mileage

Using the same 480 x 800 pixels resolution video that we use across all our mobile device battery tests, we set the same test parameters which includes having the video looped under the following conditions:

  • Brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
Test Phones Compared
Specifications/Device Sony Xperia U Sony Xperia P Sony Xperia S HTC One V
Processor
  • 1GHz
  • 1GHz
  • 1.5GHz
  • 1GHz
Display Size
  • 3.5-inch
  • 4.0-inch
  • 4.3-inch
  • 3.7-inch
Display Type
  • LCD
  • LCD
  • LED-backlit LCD
  • LCD
Display Resolution
  • 854 x 480 pixels
  • 960 x 540 pixels
  • 1280 x 720 pixels
  • 480 x 800 pixels
Dimensions
  • 112 x 54 x 12mm
  • 122 x 59.5 x 10.5mm
  • 128 x 64 x 10mm
  • 120.3 x 59.7 x 9.24mm
Weight
  • 110g
  •  120g
  •  144g
  • 115g

 

 

Not surprisingly, the Xperia U lasted 4 hours 11 minutes, a timing good enough to edge out the Xperia P and S. This is expected as the Xperia U sports a smaller 3.5-inch display that draws lesser power compared to the larger displays of its Xperia siblings. This is evident in the Power Consumption chart where the Xperia U consumed less power compared to the competition. However the HTC One V still packs a much higher battery capacity than the competitors here, even against the larger Sony phones. This gave it 40% more battery up-time over the Sony Xperia U and that's a significant advantage.

Thanks to its compact body, the Xperia U ranked second in the Portability Index, where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage with its size and portability. The ratio is derived from dividing the battery life (in hours) to its product of weight (in kg) and volume (in m3). Despite its showing, HTC's strong battery still garnered it a much better Portability Index without much actual physical differentiation from the Xperia U.

Compared against older phones like the Sony Xperia Ray and even the outdated HTC WildFire S, again the Xperia U doesn't stand out in either battery performance nor in the Portability Index and it just comes off as an updated mobile phone to keep up with the times, but without improving these basic aspects.

 

Conclusion

Retailing at S$488 without line contract (inclusive of GST), the Sony Xperia U is a mid-tier Android smartphone that offers an overall decent performance. While it has nothing really unique to boast about, its color-changing transparent strip and replaceable color cap should appeal to the young crowd. Those who are looking for a well-built phone will not go wrong with the Sony Xperia U (or any other Xperia phone).

Alas, the Sony Xperia U is going up against stiff competition in this market segment and it has a few shortcomings. The most glaring of which is its lack of a memory card slot. With only 8GB of internal memory for downloading apps and multimedia content, it may be a deal breaker for some who want to do more on their phones. It's overall battery life performance also leaves much to be desired as it's average at best, while elsewhere in the Portability Index, it couldn't best its predecessor models. The HTC One V on the other hand has a memory card slot, has much better battery life, comparatively good Portability Index and comes out much more affordable. Oh and it even has Android 4.0 preloaded. The Sony Xperia U will also be getting the Android 4.0 update, but it's sometime later this quarter.

So while there's nothing really wrong with the Sony Xperia U, it just wasn't able to address the core aspects of this stiff competition. Having said that, its unique design, good build quality, the 'bling' factor and the nice user interface are probably its strongest salient points. If you're attracted by the Sony design imprint, that could be enough reason to forget about our competition comparisons, but only if you're not a heavy mobile phone user as its battery life isn't one of its strong suites.