Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Review

Introduction and Design

The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo aims to find the sweet spot between price and functionality, but in a world crowded with Android offerings, will the 3.7-inch screen enhanced with Mobile Bravia technology and an 8.1-megapixel sensor manage to stand out? The Xperia neo comes with a robust connectivity package and the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread, all woven in a curvy rounded body which manages to be elegant in carrying a distinct Sony Ericsson look and feel. Actually, the Xperia neo somewhat resembles the Sony Ericsson Vivaz in terms of design, while in terms of functionality it borrows a lot from the high-end Sony Ericsson Xperia arc. But before we jump into any conclusions, let's take a closer look at the design and performance of this handset.


First and foremost, a 3.7-inch LED-backlit LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels defines the experience on the Xperia neo. Dubbed Reality Display, it comes with Sony's Mobile Bravia engine, which is a software enhancement bringing punchier, more saturated colors to your screen when viewing pictures or video. You can turn it off in the settings menu, but we doubt you would – it offers a noticeable improvement in overall image quality.

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

The touchscreen is scratch-resistant, but despite that after a couple of days of use our unit surprisingly had the tiniest of scratches. What muds the waters of the generally beautiful colors on the Xperia neo is the below average sunlight legibility and viewing angles of the screen as it lacks in both brightness and proper anti-reflective coating. The tidiest of users will also find themselves wiping the front often - the screen picks up smudges and fingerprints easily.

In terms of design, we have to give it to Sony Ericsson – in a world of uniform-looking slabs, the company manages to retain its unique design and actually build on it. The Xperia neo is a Sony Ericsson handset at heart – brand recognition is instant and that's a good thing. The body is curvy and rounded, fitting well in the hand with its healthy heft of 4.4 ounces (126g). The Xperia neo doesn't run circles around the idea of being the thinnest of thin, but it's not overly bulky either with its 0.51 inches of girth (13mm). We had the silver version of the handset, but it also comes in midnight blue and red leaving you plenty of choice.

A quick run of the buttons reveals three physical keys on the front, a plain left side, a lock button, volume rocker and camera shutter key all on the right. Except for a somewhat hard to press lock key, we had no complaints operating the buttons and we appreciated the camera shutter key – a great addition underlining the photographic ambitions of the Xperia neo.

The front also holds a surprisingly large in size VGA camera along with proximity and light sensors, while on the back you can find an 8.1-megapixel auto-focus camera equipped with LED flash. Finally, a 3.5mm headset jack sits on top, encircled by lid-protected microUSB and HDMI ports.

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo 360-degrees View:

Interface and Functionality:

Sony Ericsson seems to have drawn conclusions from its constant struggle with software updates and the Xperia neo ships with the latest version of Android – 2.3 Gingerbread. But it's the performance that truly counts and responsible for that is a 2nd generation single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 chipset clocked at 1GHz with Adreno 205 graphics. RAM memory stands at the healthy 512MB. We ran the Quadrant Standard Edition benchmarking app and results hovered around a rather average 1600, placing the Xperia neo well below the dual-core crowd. But the score itself doesn't speak much about how the interface actually runs. It seems that Sony Ericsson has finally nailed it when it comes to speed – even though you could still notice a slight stutter in rare occasions, navigation in the menus is fluid.

The handset is skinned in the Sony Ericsson way, which basically comes down to a couple of changes including the lockscreen, the home screen which allows you to pinch to zoom out and get an overview of all the active widgets, neatly arranged to fit the screen, and a transparent main menu panel supporting easy app rearrangement in an alphabetical, most used or recently installed order. The whole UI is spiced up with very smooth animations, which you can opt to turn off from the settings menu.

The basic calling/messaging functionality on the Xperia neo is your typical Android experience with indefinite space for contacts and information about them. The on-screen QWERTY keyboard is relatively comfortable to use, but we still prefer the stock Android one as we subjectively found it a tad bit more precise and with clearer visual aids.

Internet and Connectivity:

The stock Android browser supports Adobe Flash and runs fairly smoothly. Pinch-to-zoom and double taps all work flawlessly. The browser also supports text wrapping, so you get a better view of the text when you zoom in.

In terms of connectivity, the Xperia neo offers pretty much everything except for 4G – it comes with HSPA, supporting down speeds of up to 10.2Mbps, Wi-Fi b/g/n, hotspot functionality, DLNA , GPS, Bluetooth 2.1 and a microSD slot supporting cards of up to 32GB. It's a global, quad-band GSM device, so you can use it without a problem when you travel abroad.

Camera and Multimedia:

The 8.1-megapixel camera with LED flash is one of the main selling points of the Xperia neo. What's so special about it? Sony claims that the EXMOR R sensor improves significantly low-light performance. In our view, though, it ranked rather average as colors looked slightly washed out, while most of the images we took looked undersharpened and weren't as rich in detail as we would expect from an 8-megapixel camera. The camera managed to handle well contrasting objects, but we could notice that sometimes it picked up side light and overexposed pictures. Surprisingly enough, low-lit scenes - where we expected to see the handset outshine competition - lacked sharpness, especially when we used the flash, and noise was also prevalent.

In terms of manual settings you have plenty of choice including focusing and scene settings with only effects like black and white shots and sepia missing. The rich and well-optimized interface didn't help much with image quality, though. Considering the not-so-stellar price tag of the Xperia neo, we wouldn't want to be overly critical, but for what it's worth the camera is a far cry from the best ones out there.

When it comes to video recording, you have 720p HD capture at 30 frames per second. You can also use the LED flash to illuminate nightly scenes. We weren't all that happy to see the same issue with undersharpened footage and disappointing overall quality. One feature we wish we had is manual focus in video, but save for that Sony Ericsson seems to have put a lot of effort into crafting a rich and comfortable interface, just like in the stills department. Unfortunately, that doesn't solve the issues of SE's camera sensor. The Xperia neo also comes with a basic video editor allowing you to trim your footage.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Sample Video:

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Indoor Sample Video:

The 3.7-inch wide screen with punchy colors delivered by the Mobile Bravia engine is a valuable asset when you turn to video playback, but the handset doesn't support DivX/Xvid codecs out of the box. Luckily, a quick free download of a player like the RockPlayer solves that problem. The 1GHz processor runs videos encoded at up to 720p without a hitch – you just have to get an HDMI cable to stream that content seamlessly to your HD TV.

Needless to say, the phone comes with the standard Android music app and supports FM radio. Sony Ericsson audio is traditionally top-notch and we weren't surprised to hear clean, deep and loud sound from the speakers of the Xperia neo.


In terms of software, most notable is the inclusion of the Timescape app, which integrates your messaging and social networking updates all into one place. We only wish it supported hyperlinks so you could get redirected instantly! When it comes to other applications, the Google suite including Maps/Gmail/YouTube and Talk covers the basics in a brilliant way.

Sony Ericsson has also added LiveWare – a cool little app allowing you to customize what happens when you plug in a headset or the charger. For example, you could have the music app automatically fired up when you connect your headphones, which is neat. Pre-loaded on the phone are also Track ID, a Shazam-like music recognition service, and Postcard, giving a vintage postcard look to your images.

On the downside, the office app only allows you to view documents, but not edit them, while in our search for a file manager we had to resort to the Market.


A phone is above all a phone and that's why we were pleased to hear a very loud, crystal clear sound coming from the earpiece of the Xperia neo. Our callers reported hearing our voice in all of its natural tones with no side sounds thanks to the noise cancellation dual-microphone setup that Sony Ericsson has used.

The 1500mAh battery sounds good by itself with a quoted 7 hours of talk time on a 3G network, but real-life performance was slightly underwhelming as the handset sometimes struggled to get us through the day. We should mention that we used the camera extensively, however, so the average user should be just fine, but two days without a charge seem to be a tough call.


The Xperia neo comes with a retail price of just above $500 in Europe. For nearly $150 less than the Xperia arc, it delivers most of the functionality of Sony Ericsson's flagship including an 8-megapixel EXMOR R camera along with outstanding calling and audio quality. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't meet Sony Ericsson's promise of superior low-light quality and is rather average. The Xperia neo shines in two departments: its design stands out in a world of “me-too” devices and while it doesn't deliver the latest dual-core chips and benchmark cracking performance, it's a well-though all-around player with a fluid, polished interface. We wouldn't recommend it for die-hard nerds, who can rightfully argue that the device will deprecate quickly, but for the rest the price and feature balance of the Xperia neo may prove alluring.

Software version of the reviewed unit: Android version: 2.3.2, Build number: 3.0.A.2.181

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo Video Review:


  • Refined, signature design
  • Outstanding call/audio quality
  • Punchy colors with the Mobile Bravia engine


  • Sub-par camera
  • Disappointing battery life
  • Below average sunlight legibility

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