Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 15 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Super-slim frame; 8-megapixel camera with 720p video recording; powerful Android 2.3 Gingerbread software; bright display.

The Bad Screen is very small; battery life could be better.

The Bottom Line The Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray's small display causes a few headaches when it comes to typing, but it's hard to fault any other aspect of the design. As a mid-range Android phone, it takes some beating.

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The Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray is a mid-range smart phone that runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread . It has a 3.3-inch capacitive touchscreen and a 1GHz processor, as well as one of the thinnest frames we've seen on a device in this class.

The Xperia Ray is available for free on a £20-per-month contract, while the SIM-free edition retails for just under £300.

Should I buy the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray?

Sony Ericsson is positioning the Xperia Ray slap-bang in the middle of the Android battleground. It lacks the large display of the Xperia Arc, yet boasts a surprising amount of the same internal tech.

There's an 8-megapixel camera with 720p video capability, as well as the fancy Exmor R for Mobile sensor, which is brilliant at taking photos in dimly lit environments. You'll also find that the Ray comes with the very latest version of Sony Ericsson's Timescape user interface, and sports Android 2.3 Gingerbread, putting it at the vanguard of the Android scene.

The Ray's biggest failing has to be its 3.3-inch screen. Its small size seems quite strange in this era of monster handsets like the HTC Titan and Samsung Galaxy Note. While the resolution is fantastic and the image pin-sharp, it's a display that's likely to cause large-handed people a massive amount of problems.

By keeping the screen small, Sony Ericsson has succeeded in crafting a truly pocket-sized blower, but there's a danger that many potential purchasers will ignore it in favour of a device that's more suited to adult-sized fingers.

If you're not dissuaded by the tiny display, then the Xperia Ray is something of a steal. The amount of tech included is stunning, and it's all wrapped up in a wafer-thin frame that will slip effortlessly into any pocket.

Interface and OS

Like its siblings the Xperia Play , Xperia Arc and Xperia Neo , the Xperia Ray runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread. This is the latest flavour of Google's smart-phone operating system, and it offers a fantastic degree of functionality.

You can run several applications in tandem, download games and apps from the Android Market, sync your email, contacts and calendar with the cloud, and use real-time widgets to keep yourself fully up to speed on everything from the weather to your Facebook feed.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray Timescape
The Timescape widget aggregates your Twitter, Facebook and text messages in one place.

Like HTC and Samsung, Sony Ericsson has chosen to embellish the core Android experience with its own custom-made Timescape 'skin'. This sits on top of Android and brings with it unique menus, applications and widgets.

Timescape is now up to version 4.0, offering a raft of enhancements, including tighter integration with Facebook, allowing you to share content from your phone more easily.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray Bravia Engine
Timescape 4.0 boasts a few new features, such as xLOUD volume boosting. Mobile Bravia Engine video technology is also included.

Another new addition is the introduction of xLOUD technology, which augments the power of the phone's speaker. This is really handy if you happen to work in a noisy environment and often can't hear your phone's ringer, but we noticed that the boost in volume actually distorted the audio.

Other features in Timescape 4.0 are cosmetic rather than functional -- the screen shut-off animation seen on the Google Nexus S has been included, for example. It mimics the power-down sequence of an old cathode-ray-tube television set. Admirers of retro chic will love it.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray Qriocity
The Xperia Ray can beam images and audio to your DNLA TV set (left). Movies can be purchased using Qriocity (right).

The widget overview has also undergone a slight visual change. By using a pinch-to-zoom command, you can display all of your widgets on a single screen. Timescape 4.0 also now allows you to shake your phone and cause the widgets to float around. That's a neat party trick to show to your iPhone-owning mates, but it actually makes it harder to select the widget you want.

Other changes in Timescape 4.0 are similarly disappointing. Sony Ericsson has removed the popular 'power control' widget, presumably because it's quite close in functionality to its own 'status switch' variant. The problem is that Sony Ericsson's version omits the ability to disable auto-syncing of apps -- something we think hard-core Android users will miss.

Screen

The Xperia Ray's screen is likely to divide opinion. On the plus side, the LED-backlit LCD screen is sharper than a tailor-made Armani suit, packing a resolution of 480x854 pixels. 

This has much to do with the fact that the screen only measures 3.3 inches. The image appears crisp largely because all those pixels are crammed into a display that's much smaller than that of the Samsung Galaxy S2 or Google Nexus S . The Xperia Ray boasts 297 pixels per inch compared with 217ppi on the S2 and 233ppi on the Nexus S.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray compared to Xperia Play
When placed alongside its sibling, the Xperia Play, the small size of the Ray's screen is accentuated.

Compared to its stablemate the Xperia Play, the Ray's screen is gloriously bright and colourful. It very nearly matches the brilliance of Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus screens. The Ray uses the Mobile Bravia Engine feature also seen in the Xperia Arc and Xperia Neo to offer enhanced images and better viewing in direct sunlight.

On the negative side, the long, thin profile of the screen makes it feel rather cramped, especially when you're using the Qwerty keyboard option.

Fans of super-responsive touchscreens will be pleased to learn that the Ray sports a capacitive display. This type of screen type doesn't require pressure to register your touch, which makes it quicker, more precise and more accurate than resistive touchscreens. Multi-touch commands are also possible.

Keyboard

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Where to Buy

Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray

Part Number: CNETSony Ericsson Xperia Ray

Typical Price: £300.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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