Sony Xperia J review: Sony Xperia J

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CNET Editors' Rating

2 stars Mediocre

Average User Rating

3.5 stars 23 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Appealing design; Decent screen; Impressive battery life.

The Bad Sluggish performance; Terrible camera; Not much internal storage.

The Bottom Line Despite its uncanny resemblance to the high-end Xperia T, the Xperia J offers an underwhelming user experience and is outclassed by similarly priced Android handsets.

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Everyone knows James Bond is rocking an Xperia T on his top secret missions these days, but what if you can't afford Sony's top-tier smart phone? What if you still want that secret-agent vibe whenever your other half calls asking you to pick up some milk on your way home from work? Sony has clearly anticipated this quandary, hence the release of the Xperia J -- the T's little brother.

The Xperia J has a 1GHz single-core Snapdragon processor and is running Google's Android operating system , version 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich.

It's possible to pick up the Xperia J on a monthly contract for around £16, while a pay as you go version will set you back around £150.

Should I buy the Sony Xperia J?

If you simply cannot resist the allure of the Xperia T but don't have the bank account of a serial casino winner, you might assume the copycat Xperia J is a safe bet. Aside from a few cosmetic differences and a smaller 4-inch screen, this mid-range offering bears a startling resemblance to the handset brandished by Daniel Craig in the James Bond movie Skyfall .

Sony Xperia J back
The back of the Xperia J curves inwards, just like the Xperia T.

You shouldn't expect the same user experience from this cheaper alternative, however. For starters, instead of a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU it has a 1GHz single-core variant, which is akin to putting a 1.3-litre engine inside an Aston Martin Virage . Although it's running the same version of Android as the Xperia T, it's missing several of the embellishments that made that phone's operating system so interesting. It's also lumbered with a dire camera and just 4GB of internal storage, of which only 2GB is available for use (although it's expandable with microSD).

You really are better off resisting the urge to play pretend spy and looking elsewhere for your smart phone fix. To be perfectly honest, you could say the same of the otherwise underwhelming Xperia T too.

Design and display

The Xperia J clearly owes a massive debt to Sony's much-advertised 'Bond phone' when it comes to design, but it's a bit like Pierce Brosnan to the Xperia T's Craig -- it looks and feels less impressive.

The construction is a veritable profusion of plastic, from the soft-touch back panel to the chrome-effect strip which makes an unbroken run around the edge of the handset. Unlike the Xperia T, the Xperia J's back is removable, granting access to the SIM card slot (standard size, none of that micro-SIM malarkey here), microSD card slot and 1,750mAh battery.

Sony Xperia J front
The excellent 4-inch LCD display is one of the phone's few positive features.

Sony has spurned Google's guidelines on interface design and has included three capacitive buttons below the display -- another change from the Xperia T, which incorporated them into the actual screen itself. As if to show additional disdain for Google's suggestions, the buttons don't match those on 'stock' Android devices, such as the Galaxy Nexus , Nexus 7 and Nexus 4.

There's no multi-tasking command -- instead, there's the old-fashioned settings button, with multi-tasking resigned to a long press of the Home symbol. The placement of these capacitive buttons is a little misleading. They're positioned right at the bottom of the phone's face, yet the 'active area' of touch actually extends further upwards. This means you'll often prod lower than you really need to, something that can occasionally lead to the Xperia J flipping out of your grip, due to the low position of the button symbols.

Sony Xperia J side
Don't get too excited -- that chrome-effect ring is actually made of plastic.

Elsewhere on the phone, there are only two other physical inputs: the volume rocker and the power button, which also doubles as the screen lock and wake key. The latter is a little on the small side, making it hard to press when you're in a hurry. On the top edge of the device you'll discover the 3.5mm headphone jack, while turning the phone 90 degrees will reveal the microUSB data and charging socket. Aside from the twin cameras -- a VGA one on the front and a 5 megapixel snapper on the back -- and dual notification LEDs, that's your lot as far as cosmetic features are concerned.

The phone's 4-inch, 480x854-pixel LCD panel is something of a pleasant surprise, given the otherwise disappointing elements of the Xperia J's design. It offers a pixel density of 245ppi -- not to be sniffed at -- and the overall image quality is surprisingly punchy. Colours are bright and faithfully replicated, and the contrast is near-perfect. Viewing angles are also pleasingly rocksteady.

Processing power and software

When you consider that just 18 months ago, Sony (or Sony Ericsson, as it was then known) was pushing out single-core 1GHz handsets like the Xperia Arc and attempting to convince everyone it was the market leader, it shouldn't be all that surprising to learn that the Xperia J is rocking a Snapdragon S1 clocked at the same speed, and with just 512MB of RAM to support it.

Sony Xperia J notification
The Xperia J has not one but two pulsing notification lights.

Equally unsurprising is the fact that with this particular setup, the Xperia J is plagued by slowdown and jerkiness, even when performing very low-level activities such as moving between home screens or opening the application drawer. This general sluggishness and lack of grace impacts practically every aspect of the phone's functionality, sullying what could have been an enjoyable user interface experience.

Sony has already confirmed that it is updating its 2012 range to Android 4.1 (otherwise known as Jelly Bean) next year , and the Xperia J should be one of the devices that benefits. However, for the time being at least, it's stuck on Android 4.0.4.

This means you'll miss out on cool Jelly Bean features like Google Now, which allows you to talk to your phone -- Siri -style -- to extract information about the weather, what appointments you have in your diary or the age Elvis Presley would be if he were still with us today. All good fun, and all sadly out of reach for prospective Xperia J owners -- for now, at least.

Interface, applications and storage

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Where to Buy

Sony Xperia J

Part Number: CNETSony Xperia J

Typical Price: £150.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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