Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Preview

Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone. It can beused with T-Mobile USA andAT&T, but without 3G.


The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo might not have come out of the Matrix like Neo, but it nonetheless can impress with some of the features it packs in its light rounded body. The handset has a gorgeous 3.7-inch screen with BRAVIA technology for better looking images and videos, Sony's EXMOR R camera sensor for superior low-light performance and a capable second-gen Qualcomm chipset. What else could you want for a device that serves Gingerbread to the masses at a more affordable price than SE's flagship, the Xperia arc?

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Preview - Introduction:


Unlike the Xperia arc where Sony took a new approach to design with a sleek body and an inward curve, the Xperia neo has the signature Sony Ericsson look, very reminiscent of the Vivaz with rounded shapes and more volume (0.51 inches in thickness) which contributes to a weight of 4.44 ounces (126 grams). No wonder about that the Xperia neo was codenamed Vivaz 2/Hallon prior to its official unveiling! The plastic back cover of the phone might not be as durable as a metal one, but it helps keep the handset not too heavy and with the graceful curves and gradient on the back it fits well in the overall design. The body itself comes in midnight blue, like our unit, as well as two more color variations – a silver and a red one.

You can compare the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The front side holds a gorgeous 3.7-inch LCD screen with visuals enhanced by Sony's Mobile BRAVIA Engine technology, coming to your phone straight from Sony's HD TVs. What it does is adjust the sharpness and contrast so images look punchier and plain cooler, but it's solely a software trick which you can disable from the Settings menu if for some reason you prefer regular picture quality. The resolution is close to the de-facto standard for high-end Androids at 480 x 854 pixels, slightly short of Apple's iPhone 4 640 x 960, but still providing a great amount of detail.

Just above the screen is a 0.3-megapixel front-facing VGA camera, perfect for video calls. Neatly arranged to the side are the proximity and ambient light sensors. Below the screen you can find three physical buttons, which are easy to press and overall a welcome addition as you can operate them without constantly looking down to see what are you pressing as is often the case with capacitive buttons.

The whole left handside of the Xperia neo is beautifully plain. We could imagine this has something to do with the phone's photographic affiliation and the fact that you might want to balance it on the left handside when taking landscape pictures, but that's just a guess. The right side holds the lock key, volume rocker and a dedicated camera shutter key. The shutter functions in your usual two-step camera manner – first you press slightly to focus and then push further down to take the picture. Its presence definitely underlines the ambitions of the Xperia neo in the camera department.

The back of the phone holds one of the phone's prides – the 8.1-megapixel camera equipped with LED flash and capable of recording 720p HD video. We'll take a closer look at the performance of the EXMOR R sensor in the camera overview.

Finally, on top the phone has a lid-protected HDMI-out port for easy video output to your HD TV, a similarly protected microUSB slot used for charging and syncing the handset, and a 3.5mm standard headset jack.

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo 360-degree View:

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Preview - Design:

Interface and Functionality:

Sony Ericsson has been particularly keen on modifying the vanilla Android experience we love so much, but it seems that with the passing of time, the company has taken a more easy-going approach, stripping off some of the elements like Mediascape. We've already taken a detailed look at SE's User eXperience (UX) skin on top of the Gingerbread interface on the Xperia arc and almost nothing has changed on the Xperia neo, so we suggest you take a quick look here for the latest of UX skinning.

The 1GHz Snapdragon processor does well with most of the tasks we fiercely threw at it. But if you want even speedier performance you can sacrifice the visual candy of animations from the Settings menu.

When it comes to connectivity, the Xperia neo has pretty much everything covered except for 4G – HSPA runs at 10.2 Mbps on the downlink and the not-so-fast 2 Mbps for uploads; Wi-Fi b/g/n, HDMI, Bluetooth, A-GPS, FM Radio with RDS and DLNA support for your media streaming needs are all on board.

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The main menu has also received a slight facelift with a transparent background. Icons in the menu can also be sorted to your heart's content using predefined settings putting the most used ones first or arranging everything in alphabetical order.

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Preview - Interface and Functionality:

Internet, Connectivity and Software:

The stock Android browser is a capable tool, especially given in the hands of the second-gen Snapdragon processor. It manages Flash content quite well and you'll love the desktop-like experience if you switch from another platform like iOS. The power of an Adreno 205 graphical core is definitely felt here as the GPU supports hardware-accelerated Flash and promises to be up to 4 times faster than the previous Adreno 200.

Web pages with no heavy Flash content were loaded even faster and we found scrolling around as smooth as butter. Double-tapping was the only thing that stumbled with jittery framerates, but hopefully this will get fixed in the final unit. Unlike previous handsets by Sony Ericsson, the latest members of the Xperia family have no problem with multitouch – you can pinch to zoom and pan around without any delay from the browser. Well done, SE (finally)!

There is no denying that surfing the web is as fast as your connectivity is. The Xperia neo has the basics for its price point covered – HSPA 3G radio capable of up to 10.2 Mbps on the downlink and up to 2 Mbps on the uplink. The inclusion of an HDMI-out port means easy transfers to larger TV screens and Sony has also thrown in basic integration with its line of HD TVs, which recognize when the phone is connected and automatically start up appropriate content like the gallery. You can even navigate content on your phone by using the TV remote. Pretty convenient, right?

On the software side, we're happy to see less of the heavy load of Sony Ericsson skinning and more of vanilla Android Gingerbread. Your standard Google suite of apps is nicely represented with a state-of-the-art Gmail and YouTube client. Unfortunately, just like on the Xperia arc, we didn't have the latest version of Google Maps (5.0). Hopefully, this will get fixed in the final unit as we love the two-finger rotations and 3D tilting you can do along with caching the maps so you can use them offline on the latest Google Maps.

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Preview - Browser, Connectivity and Software:

Camera and Multimedia:

Camera is one department where Sony Ericsson excels and the Xperia neo comes to challenge the best. Its 8.1 megapixel auto-focus camera equipped with LED-flash produces shots of great quality and detail. It still fails to the reigning leader in the face of the Nokia N8's 12 megapixel snapper, but for a handset more affordable than the current SE flagship it has a lot to offer. But let's not forget that we had a prototype unit and SE might improve on the camera in the final one. The Exmor R sensor is what's behind the superior low-light performance and to illustrate our point, see it in action for yourselves here.

We took the Xperia neo for a ride on a cloudy day, but despite the weather, it captured good looking images with plenty of detail. Colors were reproduced accurately with good sharpness, but we noticed that the dynamic range was poor in the default scene mode. With some adjustments from the settings this could easily be fixed. The camera shoots images with a maximum aperture of f/2.4 (the bigger the value the more light can reach the sensor which results in better low light performance). In addition, the Exmor R CMOS sensor is the same one that Sony uses on its Cyber-Shot line of digital cameras. It performs well, but a yellow hue appeared in our indoor samples – something we hope to see fixed in the final unit. One thing we wished for is a Xenon flash, but the LED does a decent job illuminating objects in the proximity of nearly ten feet.

Video recording at 720p is as detailed and accurately colored as the stills produced by the Xperia neo. But while 30 frames per seconds sounds good on paper, on our prototype unit we had a slight issue with skipped frames disturbing the smoothness of the video. The tap to focus option, present for stills, was absent when recording video which is a pity. Again, we'll attribute these flaws to the early build.

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Sample Video:

The Mobile BRAVIA Engine is the perfect addition for watching videos and still pictures during those long hours of commute and we have to say that with it, colors become nothing short of impressive. We managed to play MPEG-4 and H.264 files at a resolution as high as 720 x 1280. But DivX/XviD playback is easily solved with a quick download of a basic player like the RockPlayer Lite from the Android Market.

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Preview - Camera and Multimedia:


We'll abstain from final conclusions as what we have is a prototype unit, but our expectations for the device are high, especially if Sony Ericsson manages to get the pricing right. For the time being, it is certain that the handset will be cheaper than the company's Xperia arc flagship. But what you get is a similarly great set of features – a snappy second-generation Snapdragon CPU, Mobile BRAVIA Engine, the Exmor R sensor on the 8.1-megapixel camera and HDMI all in an appealing package. The Xperia neo is expected to hit shelves as soon as the end of March/beginning of April at a price of slightly more than $500 off contract. It has all the potential to continue Sony Ericsson's comeback in smartphones, so stay tuned for our full review of the handset.

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Preview - Expectations:

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