The Sony Xperia U is a petite, budget Android blower that packs a dual-core chip into a dainty, pocket-sized format. It boasts a strip of coloured lights that pulse and change as you swipe around. It's an eye-catching feature although jazzy mood lighting won't be to everyone's taste.
Another colourful flourish is the U's swappable end caps. These let you personalise the look of the phone, turning a monotone blower into a snazzy two-toner, should you so desire.
Should I buy the Sony Xperia U?
You'll either love or hate the Xperia U's coloured mood lights. If you're a hater of this sort of peacocking, you might prefer the more conventional looks of the Samsung Galaxy Ace Plus instead. But if you're a magpie type attracted to bright shiny stuff, you'll dig the U's chameleon tendencies.
It's a small phone so large-handed folk should steer clear. The screen size is 3.5 inches on the diagonal, which is the same as the. However, the U's display is lots narrower so it's considerably more cramped. Typing can be very fiddly and desktop versions of websites feel very hemmed in.
If you're happy with a petite phone, the U has enough power to handle most everyday mobile tasks. It's not an Android powerhouse like its more premium sibling, the . But its 1GHz dual-core chip is no slouch either. Indeed, it's the same as the engine inside its other more expensive stablemate, the Xperia P, but as it's paired with a smaller screen, there are fewer pixels to throw around.
Design and build quality
The stand-out design feature of the Xperia U is the transparent strip near the base, which pulses with different coloured lights depending on what you're looking at on screen. Shades are selected to match the hues of photos from the gallery or the album art of the music you're listening to. So if you're viewing a snap of one of London's iconic red buses, expect the lights to blush a deep co-ordinated rouge.
Some people will find the U's festive mood lights tacky. Others will be mesmerised by their joyous, jewel-like colours. You decide where you fit on this colour spectrum. Just don't expect to be able to turn the mood lights off -- there's no settings for them. So bad luck cinemagoers trying to surreptitiously use your phone during a film.
The Xperia U's swappable plastic pants can add another splash of colour to the bottom of your black (or white) handset -- if mood lighting isn't quirky enough for you. The bottom cap isn't always easy to pop off but at least that means the phone's trunks shouldn't fall down of their own accord.
Like its big brother, the, the U is entirely sheathed in plastic. I found its matte plastic back quite slippery to the touch. The phone's dinky dimensions do mean you can easily wrap your mitts around it though, so only real butterfingers should have to worry about dropping it.
Being small, the U is relatively lightweight although it does have more heft (110g) than you might expect for a phone of this diddy size. And while it's not the thinnest phone in smart phone town, it doesn't look or feel too chunky.
Build quality is not super-premium -- it's more plasticky than classy. Squeeze the U around the middle and it will creak. But since you can remove the backplate to get at the battery, that's not a huge surprise.
If you're keen on the white model, be aware the plastic easily picks up dirt so it quickly starts looking grubby.
Also on board are Sony's xLoud and 3D surround sound technologies. The phone's rear speaker can pump out noise fairly loudly but audio quality isn't as rich as the Xperia P or S. To my ear it had a distinctly flat and tinny quality.
Internal memory is 8GB but only 4GB of that is up for grabs to house your photos and apps. There's no microSD card slot for expanding the U's digital shelves so if you want to load on lots of video and music, you'd be better off with a phone with more roomy storage.
Ports wise, there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge and a micro-USB port on the left side for charging and getting your snaps off the phone. Crack off the back of the phone and you'll find a SIM slot in the side and, above that, a removable battery.
The Xperia U has three physical keys housed along its right-hand edge -- the power key, a volume rocker and a dedicated camera button. The latter is a nice addition on a phone of this price.
I found all these keys a little low lying and spongy, especially the camera key. You have to squeeze pretty hard to fire off a shot.
The Xperia U's TFT screen is definitely one of the areas where Sony has shaved a few yen off build costs. Push down hard and the glass will flex to touch the surface of the display, producing an oily sheen and discoloured patches of pixels. This sort of flex is unsightly but it's also typical of cheaper phone screens.