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May 19, 2012

Sony Xperia Sola Review

Now that you’ve seen our first impression of the Xperia Sola and how it’s somehow different from its siblings, let’s delve deeper and uncover its other features. Catch our unboxing and full review after the break.

The handset comes in a small square box. It comes with a pair of NFC Smart Tags, a headset, charger and a USB Cable.

The Xperia Sola has a 3.7″ TFT LCD Screen that has an unusual resolution of 854×480. This resolution is a bit higher than what we typically see from other smartphones. By having a slightly smaller screen and a bit higher resolution, the Xperia Sola was able to achieve a somewhat higher pixel density of 265ppi. But apart from that, Xperia handsets are equipped with Sony Mobile Bravia Engine technology for a crisper and more vibrant display. The screen should be able to give its users a pretty decent viewing experience.

However the screen doesn’t really offer much of a viewing angle which is often the case for devices with LCD screen. Outdoors, the screen is able to provide average sunlight legibility.

The sound quality out of this handset is actually pretty good compared to most smartphones of the same price range. This is attributed to the xLOUD sound technology applied to it and its Xperia siblings. Although the sound isn’t that loud especially when listening through the loudspeaker, but it is still enough for comfortable listening and audible calls.

This handset has DIVX support out of the box. I was able to play an AVI clip using the phone’s default video player. It’s something to have support for AVI files from the get go but playing it properly with little or no lag is something else. Watching a movie using the Xperia Sola was a delight. Thanks to its processor (which will be discussed later), there was no lag and no delays between sound and movement while I was watching a film.

Along with its smooth movie implementation, the movie watching is furthermore enhanced with the handset’s Sony Mobile Bravia Engine and xLOUD sound technology. The result is an outstanding viewing experience which few phones in the same price bracket can rival.

The Xperia Sola sports a NovaThor U8500 1GHz dual-core processor. This is the same processor used on the Xperia P and U. This processor was developed by STMicroelectronics and Sony’s previous partner Ericsson. If anything, we think that this is the Xperia Sola’s (as well as its siblings) strongest selling point. This chip may also be attributed for the handset’s affordable price as it’s also an SOC (System-on-chip), meaning it offers most if not all the essential smartphone’s features.

The SOC is becoming trend for processors nowadays. This is good news for consumers because we can expect better performance from devices in the future and not having to worry about the price.

We’ve done our usual synthetic performance benchmarking (AnTuTu, Quadrant Standard and NenaMark 2) with the Xperia Sola and it has scored pretty well on those tests. Here are the screenshots of how the handset fared on those tests.

The Xperia Sola got a pretty good score of 2,266 on Quadrant Standard and a very decent 5,352 on Antutu Benchmark. Nenamark 2 placed the graphics performance of the Sola at around 28fps.

In terms of usability, the handset was able to handle almost everything that we’ve thrown at it. The TimeScape UI was smooth with no lags. Apps that we’ve installed ran effortlessly and we didn’t encounter app crashing while using the handset. The phone remained responsive even though our SNS and email was running at the background almost.

The only part where we noticed a bit of a hiccup is on the browser. The browser takes some time to respond to even the most basic task like scrolling. But other than that, the Xperia Sola with its dual core processor works like a charm.

As we’ve mentioned on our first impression, the Xperia Sola comes preinstalled with Gingerbread. Although most of the recently released devices already have ICS out of the box, this shouldn’t be a deal breaker as Sony confirmed that an ICS update should be rolled out within this quarter.

But even if it didn’t come in the said time (which is usually the case for ICS updates), it wouldn’t be that much of an issue as this phone, along with its NXT siblings, relies heavily on its TimeScape UI for the most part.

Other than the usual features and optimizations that ICS brings to the table, we believe that there won’t be any easily noticeable change on how the phone looks and operates. Case of the statement is the recent ICS update on the Galaxy Note that, just like the NXT handsets to its TimeScape UI, also relies greatly on its TouchWiz UI.

Typing is relatively easy on the Xperia Sola. The keys are well-spaced and are responsive. Typing can be quite tricky though if you have a slightly bigger finger and is using the portrait mode but should be just fine when on landscape.

Taking photos and recording video is not the Sola’s strongest feature. Although the handset’s 5MP camera is capable of shooting pretty decent stills, it does require a couple of retakes in order to get a good shot. Not really ideal for most shooting situations. This is mainly because of its poor focusing capabilities.

Another thing to be blamed for this is the physical shutter key on the right side of the phone. We’re not sure if this is isolated to this unit only, but it’s really challenging to press that key. We didn’t have problems with the half-press, unlike with other phones, but what we are having difficulty with is capturing a picture after the half-press.

We initially thought that it may be the casing that causes this, but even after removing the casing we are still faced with the same issue. Here are some pictures taken using the Xperia Sola.

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The Xperia Sola is capable of shooting 720p clips. But just like taking pictures, the autofocusing difficulty is also evident on this sample video that we’ve capture using the Xperia Sola.

One of the key features (accoding to Sony) of this device is its browser, more specifically its “Floating Touch” functionality. We’ve tried this feature several times but we’re still startled with its practical use. We hope to see more practical use and availability on other native apps in the future. Nevertheless, a pretty neat feature.

One thing that slipped our mind when we do the Xperia S review was the Smart Tags which is one of the key selling points of the NXT lineup. For the uninitiated, the Smart Tags are small NFC accessories that can be programmed to activate/deactivate some of the phones features and apps by just tapping the phone to it. It’s basically an easier and more practical way of managing how the device operates in certain situations.

A 1320mAh battery capacity may sound too lacking for a dual core handset. We don’t blame you, we also thought of the same thing when we first saw it. But we had a change of hearts after spending almost a week with the device. The phone (not the battery) exceeded our earlier presumptions about its battery life. We were blown away with how power-efficient the dual-core NovaThor U8500 is. But as good as the processor is, there’s not much a user can do about the low battery capacity but keep a charger handy. Attached are the screenshots of how the battery fared during our time with the phone.

Here’s the screenshot taken after playing two movies which are almost 2 hours a piece w/ 3G connection and Wi-Fi hotspot left on. Beside it is the screenshot taken after a day of moderate usage with 3G Connection and SNS running on the background the entire time.

In summary, the Xperia Sola has its fair share of pros and cons but as we always say, it boils down to how you plan to use the device. Some of the probable deal breakers in this unit are the lack of secondary camera, poor rear camera performance and its battery capacity. Even though the processor can compensate for the low battery capacity, it would’ve been better if the phone is equipped with a battery with larger capacity. At least 1500mAh is what we have in mind. We’re a bit tossed up with its design, so we’ll just leave that you to judge.

Sony Xperia Sola MT27i specs:
3.7-inch display @ 480×854 pixels, 265 ppi
NovaThor U8500 1.0GHz dual-core
512MB RAM
8GB internal storage (5GB usable)
up to 32GB via microSD card
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, WiFi hotspot
Bluetooth 2.1 w/ EDR
NFC
5MP rear autofocus camera with LED flash
720p video recording
FM radio tuner
GPS with aGPS support
Android 2.3 Gingerbread
1320mAH Li-Ion battery
116 x 59 x 9.9mm
107 grams

On the positive side, the Xperia Sola is a perfect music and movie companion. The sound was great thanks to its xLOUD Technology. The Sony Bravia Mobile Engine really helped the handset to produce crisp and detailed display. Although a bigger screen would’ve made viewing experience even better, we think that the 3.7 inch should suffice in most cases.

In addition to that, the unit is also equipped with a pretty decent processor that is not only snappy but also power-efficient to make up for the low battery capacity.

In our opinion, the Xperia Sola is a worthy purchase for its Php16,990 price tag. Not bad of a price for a decent dual-core handset.

Disclosure: Widget City provided for the review unit in this article. They are also a display banner advertiser on this site.

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36 Responses to “Sony Xperia Sola Review”

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This article was written by Ronnie Bulaong, a special features contributor and correspondent for YugaTech. Follow him on Twitter @turonbulaong.

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