Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

No matter how you slice it, the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray  is the embodiment of cuteness. It’s stylish, with bikini waistline and shiny black mirrored face, available in various colors, sports the newest version of Android beautified by the Timescape overlay, and has the acclaimed 8MP Exmor R camera sensor.

From the looks of it, only a very few things can ruin this munchkin, chief among which would be an eventual high price tag. Is that the case? Read on our review of the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray where we try to solve this puzzle for you...

Design:

As small touchscreen smartphones go, the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray is almost the perfect size, not getting lost in your palm if you have big hands, and fitting admirably if you are regular. The handset is one of the thinnest smartphones out there, at 0.37” (9.4 mm), and feathery at just 3.53oz (100 g). We also noticed that the Xperia ray is extremely comfortable for one handed operation due to its dimensions - your thumb just reaches everywhere like an anteater's tongue.



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

A big part amidst the phone's positives plays the screen, which is 3.3” LCD,  and Sony Ericsson didn't skimp on the level of image detail, gracing the Xperia ray with 480x854 pixels – a pretty high resolution for a screen of this size. Plugging the numbers in a pixel density calculator returned 297ppi, which is just shy of the 300ppi threshold. This threshold became mainstream knowledge when Steve Jobs introduced the 326 ppi Retina Display iPhone 4, and said that above around 300ppi a normal human eye can't detect the individual pixels from 10-12 inches of distance.

Unlike the Xperia arc, the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray’s screen sports rather wide viewing angles, with nary a change in contrast or brightness when looked from extremes. Couple that with above average brightness and visibility outside, plus very good sensitivity, and we can say that the Xperia ray flaunts one of the best little LCD screens we’ve encountered so far.


This alone makes it a pretty enticing handset, running the latest version of Android - 2.3 Gingerbread, but when you add the 8MP Exmor R camera sensor on the back with LED video light (yep, you can't use it as a flash, it has to be turned on manually), which proved its virtues in the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc, we might have a formidable category contender.

Unlike the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc, the Xperia ray sports a front-facingVGA camera for video chat, but it skips the HDMI port – something had to give. There are also only 300MB of user-available ROM for apps, and a 4GB microSD card is included in the package.


The Sony Ericsson Xperia ray is the first to hit retail with the new Xperia line design, which boasts a huge semi-circle in the middle for a physical home button, and two capacitive keys on its flanks. We dare to say it's better than the previous design, which had overly thin buttons arranged in an arc under the display, which took getting used to.

The resulting design looks very stylish – a thin handset with shiny black front, but lighthearted at the same time, with the choice of pink, black, white and gold colors. It is actually one of the few handsets that look even better in person to us than the press shots, which don't do the glossy front justice. It has every chance to grab the hearts of the design-conscious and/or female smartphone lovers, plus it delivers on the functionality front as well. The only thing we disliked is the placement of the microUSB port on the upper left side, which makes using the phone with the cable plugged in a bit uncomfortable.




Sony Ericsson Xperia ray 360-degrees View:




Interface and Functionality:

We examined the Timescape UX Android overlay extensively in our Xperia arc review, and, while we wouldn’t exactly say it’s as elaborate as HTC Sense, it’s pretty far out there, and certainly more visually pleasing than Samsung’s TouchWiz, for instance.


The new Facebook inside Xperia integration comes woven into Timescape over Android 2.3 Gingerbread on the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray. It goes as deep as warning you that the Facebook friend who's calling has a birthday today. You can "like", share and comment on songs and pictures right from the music player or gallery on the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray, and update notifications appear on your lock screen. The lock screen notifications are static - you still have to unlock the phone and then select the respective app, unlike in the newest versions of HTC Sense or TouchWiz.


Even if we leave aside the new deep social networking integration, intricately woven in the UI, it is a beauty, with transparencies and transitional animation galore. You almost never see the underlying Android Gingerbread interface on the Xperia ray, except when you run some of the Google Services apps, or the gallery. The 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 and 512MB RAM have proven themselves already in the other phones of the Xperia stable this year, and don't disappoint here too, running the interface smoothly and without lag.
 

Messaging, Internet and Connectivity:

Typing on the fairly small touchscreen of the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray isn't very easy, especially with bigger hands, but there is not much you can do about it. Still, both the portrait and landscape keyboards have well-spaced keys and act with responsiveness, but the screen is just too small for correctly typing on the portrait keyboard in a quick manner - we mainly used the landscape orientation, unlike what we do on phones with 3.5”+ screens.

This Qualcomm chipset powers very decent Adobe Flash display in the browser, which is a joy to use not only because of the smooth performance, but also since the 480x854 resolution on the 3.3” display makes for a good reading experience on the smallish screen. Text doesn't reflow automatically like on the HTC Sensation 4G, when you enter an article to read, you have to double-tap the screen for it to fit the screen's width, but that's a minor quibble.


The Sony Ericsson Xperia ray comes with 3G connectivity, plus the usual set of radios – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, A-GPS, and FM radio. It also features DLNA for wireless streaming of multimedia, and there is a Media Server app, which is used to manage your DLNA sessions.

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Camera:

The Timescape camera interface of the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray is the newest version, so we can now zoom digitally with the volume buttons for images of above 2MP of resolution, which we couldn't on the Xperia arc, for example. Not that digital zoom is any good to begin with, but it's nice to have options.

You take a picture by directly tapping on the screen, same with video mode for start and stop. The most used presets like Sports, Night shot or Snow and Beach are present, but we were looking for a Macro mode in the settings and couldn't find it. Turns out it is automatic, with the little flower icon appearing on the screen when you approach the closest distance from which the Xperia ray can take a clear macro shot, which seems to be from about 6 inches. The automatic option is pretty good, quickly recognizes the lighting environment around you and adjusts accordingly, displaying what preset mode it will be using for the next shot with an icon on the display.



The pictures taken outside are characterized with washed out colors and  the amount of detail captured should have also been higher from an 8MP shooter. Indoors the pics and video come a bit noisy when it's darker, which most phone cameras can't shake off, but decent when there is enough light. The LED light has to be turned on manually, which is a bummer, and sometimes messes with exposure compensation – when you have light shining in the lens it would be good to counter it by firing up the flash, as most decent cameraphones do, but not in our case, unfortunately.



Video capture is done in HD 720p at 30fps, and the handset consistently repeats the fuzzy colors that are visible in the stills as well. The videos  are lacking detail as well, but the handset doesn't skip frames even in a fairly busy setting. The dual mics record stereo sound, which is a plus, but the sound is not very clear and wind noises managed to sneak in. 

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Sample Video:



Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Indoor Sample Video:



Multimedia:

Xperia ray features Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine, borrowed from its LCD TV sets, for enhanced sharpness, saturation and contrast while watching pictures or video, which you can turn off if you don’t like. It does make a slight difference in boosting those aspects, which increases the noise in the imagery, but then it also applies noise reduction, so the end result has similar noise levels, which are barely discernible on the smallish screen of the phone.



The gallery interface is the standard Android one, and the handset doesn't have DivX/Xvid codecs hardwired in the video player by default, but it plays MPEG-4s up to 720p definition with no issues.

The music player has a minimalistic interface and sports album art backgrounds while playing the song. It also groups your tunes by artist, album, or playlists, and has 10 equalizer presets to choose from Music playback through the loudspeaker is exceptionally strong and clear for such a svelte and tiny handset – good speakers are a trademark for the Xperia line of Sony Ericsson.




Performance:

The earpiece of the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray produces good enough volume and the sound comes out clear, with no audible distortions, even at the highest level.

People said they can hear us very well, and the second microphone for noise cancellation played their part to filter out the surrounding noise. One of the mics is on the back though, so you will be often cupping it with your palm when you talk, thus diminishing the usefulness of a dual mic setup.

Sony Ericsson also supplied the Xperia ray with a 1500mAh battery, which is rated for 7 hours of talk time in 3G mode, and that is another plus we don't see often is smallish Android handsets.

Conclusion:

To summarize our impressions from the tiny phone – it is tempting to dismiss the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray as a less-capable version of the Xperia arc, but what you get is in fact a more compact variant, without sacrificing much but an HDMI port. Actually, the fact that the 8MP Exmor R camera didn't perform as well as we expected, and also that the LED on the back has to be used as a light instead of automatic camera flash, are the only letdowns we experienced with the Xperia ray.

Most everything else works like a charm, and looks good in the process. Props for the great pixel density on the 3.3” screen, it really makes a difference while reading, and the pretty UI overlay. The loudspeaker is very strong and clear, as with all handsets in the Xperia line, and we have dual mics for noise cancellation.  All of this is wrapped up in a slim and stylish chassis that you wouldn't be hesitant to whip out even in the VIP section of your favorite club, unlike some smartphone clunkers we've met. It's without a doubt a chic and capable miniscule handset that runs the latest Android version beautified by the Timescape UX without a hiccup, and that places it in a unique category of its own.

In a nutshell, the attractiveness of our Sony Ericsson Xperia ray turned out to be not only the stylish design, but also the fact that it doesn't cripple functionality compared to the bigger sibling Xperia arc, but rather adds some, like a front-facing camera, and that makes it a very enticing small Android handset.

It, however, hovers in a price range that is only about $50 less than the Xperia arc without a contract, so you will be likely to choose it before the larger handset only if you are mesmerized by its compact nature. If you want an even smaller alternative with similar specs, the Xperia mini seems a good bet, but it's not more compact, as the chassis is thicker.

Going downmarket for something cheaper, we come across the Samsung Galaxy Ace with its slightly larger screen, but its outer shell is a far cry from the beautiful Xperia ray, and the processor/screen/camera trio is inferior as well. It is, however, roughly $100 less, so the pricing of the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray might really put you in a bind, unless it becomes an impulse purchase.

Software version of the reviewed unit: 4.0A.2.368

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Video Review:





Pros

  • High pixel density display
  • Design-conscious chassis
  • Good loudspeaker
  • Dual mics for noise-cancellation and stereo sound capture

Cons

  • Camera could be better
  • LED light doesn't serve as automatic flash

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

User Rating:

9.0
8 Reviews

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