- STE U8500 NovaThor SoC with dual core 1GHz processor
- Mali-400MP GPU
- 512MB RAM
- 8GB Flash Storage
- 3.5 inch LCD 'Reality Display' with 480x854 resolution
- 5MP camera with autofocus, 720p30 video recording
- Quad band GSM
- Dual band/Tri band 3G (depending on model) HSDPA 14.4Mbps
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
Unique to the Xperia U is that the transparent strip actually illuminates in a colour of your choice. The band will light up for a couple of seconds whenever the menu buttons are touched. These colours can be switched by changing to a different theme and range from pink, green to blue and red. It is very bright and can't be switched off, much to my annoyance. Still young people, the target audience of this device, will likely appreciate it. As if to further confirm the device's youthful aspirations, the cap below can also be swapped. My black Xperia U came with interchangeable pink and black caps.
For under £200 sim-free, Sony aimed to introduce a smartphone featuring specifications that were only exclusive to high-end smartphones just last year to a new breed of smartphone newcomers. With a dual core 1GHz Ericsson processor paired with Mali-400MP GPU (the same GPU that powered the amazing Samsung Galaxy S2), the Xperia U sounds like a stonking good deal, on paper at least.
Still it isn't all bad. The dual core processor does keep third party apps pumping along nicely. Some might complain about the 512MB of RAM as a limit, but it isn't really an issue unless you are planning on running multiple apps concurrently. As the Xperia U runs on Android Gingerbread, hopefully performance will improve once Sony gets their act together and actually delivers the much overdue Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update.
The NXT launcher is the same one that powers the Xperia S and it doesn't appears to be any different. It is based on the same launcher that powered most of Sony Ericsson's 2011 Xperia line-up, which I was rather fond of. While aging, any power users will feel right at home. Despite looking rather complex, it is simple to use. However the widgets can get quite a bit overwhelming for a first time user.
In order to get the best out of the Xperia U, you will first need a Googla/Gmail account. This will allow you to sync your emails, contacts and calendar while also giving you access to the Android Market (now called Google Play Store). Sony has also added their own section on their Android market where you will be able to find a smaller section of curated apps optimised for their phones.
The 5 megapixel camera here is likely to prove sufficient for its target market. It won't win any photography awards, but images taken are usable. Despite the ample processing power, the video camera is only capped at recording at 720p30. The default setting for the camera is a poxy 3 megapixel widescreen, which one should always rectify by switching to the standard 4:3 aspect ratio mode. In addition to sweep panorama, the camera is also capable of capturing images in 3D format, including panorama 3D. Unfortunately I do not own a 3D TV or display so I have no way of testing this feature. The two-step camera shutter button is a little small, but it does fire up the camera app from sleep in a couple of seconds.
more samples here.
Suffering from storage deficiencies, the Xperia U isn't quite the multimedia player it could have been. Sony's delayed roll out of ICS has also been rather discouraging, considering how much they promised last year regarding their older Xperia handsets. Despite my misgivings, the Xperia U is immensely pocketable and the price is just about right for a device of this caliber. For £15 a month, I suspect this model to be particularly popular among teenagers and young adults.
Many thanks to Three UK for loaning the Xperia U. It is available on PAYG for £169.99 and on monthly contract from £15.