Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray
4.3Overall Score

Price (RRP): $499; Available on Vodafone
Manufacturer: Sony Ericsson

Phones have becoming physically larger in recent times, but Sony Ericsson’s latest model bucks the trend with a more pocket-friendly form factor. With its 3.3 inch capacitive touchscreen, long, thin design and 8.1 megapixel camera, is the Xperia Ray the perfect compact phone?

Features

The fourth Sony Ericsson handset we’ve seen this year, the new Ray shares the “Xperia” moniker with all the company’s previous Android phones.

Like the models before it, you’ll find the company’s own brand of Google Android, and the latest version too – Gingerbread, 2.3. Under the hood, Sony Ericsson has packed in much of the same technology found in the Xperia Neo: a 1GHz processor, Adreno 205 graphics chip, and 512MB RAM.

Storage is similar, but there’s room for improvement, with 1GB built-in but only 300MB available to use. Sony Ericsson has thrown in a 4GB microSD, an acceptable amount for a midrange phone. You can, of course, purchase a larger microSD, with up to 32GB cards supported.

Sony Ericsson’s choice of screen makes the Ray unique, and the positively teeny 3.3 inch display even manages to support the same 450 x 854 resolution of other Xperia handsets. With no compromise in resolution, the image quality is superb and text is super-easy to read. It’s also covered by scratch-resistant mineral glass, similar to Corning’s Gorilla Glass used on other mobile phones.

It’s not just the screen size that’s small, as the unit is tiny, too. In comparison against all of the other phones we’ve been seeing lately, the 100g Xperia Ray is positively compact, feeling smaller than small handsets such as the Huawei X1, a $99 phone with an even smaller screen that’s much lower quality than the high-end one found on the Ray. Here, the display technology borrows from Sony’s Bravia TVs, with the Mobile Bravia Engine in use here designed to deal with video noise, contrast, and sharpening.

The high spec visuals continue with the camera, an 8.1 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash. Video is also catered for, with 720p HD recording supported.

Regarding connectivity, you’ll find support for WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, and GPS. MicroUSB is also provided, and is your only real way of charging and moving data to and from the handset.

You’ll also find a 1500 mAh battery on the Ray, a similar capacity to what we normally see in smartphones with screens measuring 4 inches and above.

There are only two ports on the Ray, with a headphone sockets on the top-right edge and an exposed microUSB port on the left-side edge. Two soft buttons are located on the front – back and menu – with a physical home button on the front centre. A power button is positioned on the top, with volume buttons on the left side.

Performance

The design of the Ray is a little different to previous Sony Ericsson mobile phones. The more fashionable styling does away with the silver function buttons typically seen on the company’s Android phones and turns them into soft buttons that blend into the plastic face.

Only one physical button exists on the face of the phone – the home button – and it’s accompanied by an LED that changes colour according to what’s happening. Plug the Ray in to charge and – depending on battery level – you’ll find it switches to red, orange, or white as the handset recharges. The light will also flash when there are messages or other notifications, bringing back that old notification light and making it useful again.

In the hand, the combination of graspable plastic on the rear and mineral glass on the front makes the Ray very satisfying to hold.

We’ve talked about Sony Ericsson’s customisations of the Android OS before, and they’re still here in the Ray. The homescreens are all as customisable at the bigger handsets, supporting lots of widgets, folders, and shortcuts, and there’s still an easy left-to-right application menu system, similar to the menu screens seen on other popular smartphones.