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Hands-on review: IFA 2012: Sony Xperia T
3:06 am | September 27, 2012

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Hands-on review: IFA 2012: Sony Xperia T

The Sony Xperia T ushers in a new era for Sony Mobile, as the Japanese smartphone manufacturer looks to double its handset ranges, with a new series of devices which carry on from the now defunct Sony Ericsson design.

At the top of the new pile sits the Xperia T, leading the revolution of Sony Ericsson design, backed up by the Xperia V and Xperia J which will follow later this year.

TechRadar managed to get some time with the Xperia T before its big reveal at IFA 2012, but it’s worth noting that the software was not completely finished, with Sony promising better performance and functionality come the final version.

Sony Xperia T review

Sony says that the Xperia T will land in stores in the coming weeks, and while there’s currently no word on cost, expect it to carry a lofty price tag, probably higher than the Xperia S, as it sports a bigger display.

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When you ogle the Xperia T for the first time you’ll note the arched back – a design nod to the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and Xperia Arc S, however the plastic rear which adorned the co-branded predecessors has been ditched, with Sony opting for a rubberised finish instead.

Sony Xperia T review

We must stay we much prefer the rubber texture on the rear of the Xperia T, compared to the glossy finish on the handsets it mimics – as it provides a solid, firm grip in the hand, with the arch in the chassis allowing the phone to nestle snugly in the palm, so no risk of dropping this one.

The Sony Xperia T feels tough and well made, although this has come at a slight cost in practicality terms, as you can no longer whip the back off and access the battery, with a seemingly flimsy flap (we hope this will be sturdier on the final product) to the side covering microSD and microSIM slots.

Sony Xperia T review

Sony is making a big deal of the 4.6-inch, 1280 x 720 display it’s slapped on the Xperia T, and we reckon video playback will be top notch, thanks to the inclusion of Sony’s Bravia Engine technology, made famous by the Japanese firm’s TV sets, enhancing the visual feast for your eyes.

However the movie clip on the handset we got our hands on didn’t want to play – we’ll put it down to the software being incomplete and we’ll test this fully with another phone while at IFA and duly update here.

Update: We got to grips with another Sony Xperia T at IFA 2012 which had a more recent, but not yet final, software build on it and we’re pleased to report videos played just fine.

We watched several full HD movie trailers on the Xperia T and we must say they looked fantastic, with sharp lines, smooth playback and clear detail making movie watching on the handset a pleasing experience.

Of course the Xperia T only features a 720p display, not full HD, but it’s good to know that it can cope with 1080p files, plus Sony’s Bravia Engine adds extra quality to the 4.6-inch display.

Sony Xperia T review

The Sony Xperia T does away with any physical or touch buttons below the screen, instead opting for the Google-encouraged, button-free interface, with the trio of Ice Cream Sandwich menu options housed at the base of the screen, providing a sleek finish on the front of the device.

Sony Xperia T review

The large screen which adorns the Xperia T puts it up there with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, although its innards are not quite as powerful, offering up a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, instead of the quad-core chips found in its rivals.

However the dual-core chip is by no means sluggish, with Ice Cream Sandwich running smoothly on the Sony Xperia T, allowing us to breeze through the five homescreens, floating widget selection and app list.

Sony Xperia T review

To be honest it easily feels fast enough, and the lack of four cores isn’t something you should worry about, and it could even keep the price below beefier competition.

Apps opened speedily and we didn’t experience any lag during our short test, however the handset didn’t have a SIM card in it, nor was it connected to Wi-Fi, so there was no background syncing action going on here.

Update: We managed to nab some time with a Wi-Fi connected Xperia T at IFA 2012, and it didn’t seem be suffering from any sort of lag.

Sony Xperia T review

Sony likes to tweak the visual appearance of Android on its smartphones and the Xperia T is no different, however it doesn’t go overboard and the handset is still easy to navigate, while providing a more unique style to a system which can look samey on different devices.

We’re fans of Sony’s exploded widget display it’s developed for Android – pinch out on any homescreen and you’re greeted with all the widgets available, which float around the screen in a cloud-esque manner.

There’s your standard array of Android widgets as well as some extras Sony has added, including its Timescape social widget – which will pull in all your social networks into one tidy feed – and a handy settings toggle, allowing you quickly turn on/off features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC.

Sony Xperia T review

The Android multitasking menu, accessed from the dedication on-screen button, has also gone under the Sony design knife, and to good effect too.

It not only shows the thumbnailed previews of currently running apps (which you can close which a swipe from right to left), but also links to mini apps which pop up on the screen.

You’ve got a choice of mini apps including calculator and a note pad – both of which open up the full application in a smaller, moveable window on the homescreen (or over any open application) – allowing you jot down a number or calculate a quick multiplication.

If you want the full functionality of the mini app, you can quickly and easily launch to the full-screen version, or simply close it using the cross in the corner if you’ve finished with it.

Sony Xperia T review

It’s a handy feature which we’ve also seen arrive on Sony’s Tablet S via the Ice Cream Sandwich update – and it’s good to see it making the jump to the smaller screen as well – although it’s slightly more fiddly on a 4.6-inch display, especially for those blessed with larger digits.

Dive into the phone and contacts apps and it’s very much a standard Android affair, with a touch of Sony gloss over the top – providing an intuitive system for organising all your best buds and giving them a bell – as well as joining them with various social networks.

Messaging has its bases covered with dedicated text and email applications, as well as the official Facebook and Twitter apps pre-installed on the Sony Xperia T.

The default keyboard is the stock Android offering, however Sony has included its personalisation option, which allows you to choose from three keyboard layouts, add and remove buttons such as commas and full stops and set up the spell check/auto correct to suit your style of writing.

Sony Xperia T review

The handy step-by-step guide meant we dramatically improved the keyboard for our typing requirements in less than a minute and the responsive touchscreen meant we could type at speed without issue.

Update: TechRadar managed to get its hands on a Sony Xperia T with internet connection at IFA 2012, and the handset comes with the default Android browser installed, which offers up all the key tools you need for your online activities.

Mobile sites managed to load in a couple of seconds, where as full websites such as TechRadar took a little longer, and we had to wait about 10 seconds for everything to fully load on the screen.

Scrolling, panning, zooming and text re-flow are all relatively smooth, but browsing isn’t as slick as the likes of the One X or Galaxy S3, possibly the first time we’ve seen any real hint of slow down with the Xperia T’s dual-core processor over its quad-core counterparts.

As we’ve come to expect from high-end Sony smartphones, and following on from the Sony Ericsson era, the Xperia T packs an excellent 13MP camera on its rear, accompanied by a single LED flash to help you out in low light.

And a rarity on smartphones these days, there’s also a dedicated shutter button on the right side of the handset, below a centralised power/lock key and volume rocker switch – both of which were a little low down for our liking, resulting in us having to shuffle the handset nervously in our hand to unlock or adjust the volume.

You can quickly access the camera application direct from the homescreen and the Xperia T can also immediately snap a photo as soon as you launch the app for instant capture – although as it fires up in under a second anyway we found this quick snap function more annoying than useful.

Sony Xperia T review

There’s auto- and tap-to-focus present, which settles on its target quickly, resulting in less than a second delay from pressing the shutter to the Xperia T taking a snap – making rapid fire photos a possibility.

You can use the dedicated shutter button on the side of the Xperia to snap a photo (and launch the app when the phone is unlocked), or prod the shutter key on screen if you’re less of a fan of the physical option.

Sony Xperia T review

Sony’s pedigree in digital cameras shines through on the Xperia T, with a wealth of options and features to help you get that perfect snap, including Sony’s Exmor R sensor, face and smile detection, red eye reduction and an image stabiliser.

Sony Xperia T review

The rear camera on the Xperia T can also shoot full HD, 1080p video, while the front facing camera is capable of capturing 720p video – something we don’t see very often from snappers plonked on the front of smartphones.

Sony Xperia T review

As Sony’s new series of handsets – lead by the Xperia T – focus more on entertainment, there are a whole bunch of associated apps bundled with the handset to help you in your quest for media glory.

For music fans there’s the Sony Walkman player as well as the Play Now, Music Unlimited and Track ID services, and Sony’s xLoud technology boosts the volume when audio is played through the Xperia T’s speaker, without distorting your banging beats.

Sony Xperia T review

For those of you who like to consume video on the go the Sony Xperia T comes with an easy to use Movies app, which acts as a video player, plus the ability to stream your video, photos and audio to other connected devices – and the excellent YouTube app is also present.

You get 16GB of internal storage to cram all your media on, but if that’s not enough the Xperia T also supports microSD cards up to 32GB in size, allowing you to carry even more content with you.

Sony Xperia T review

We will get to grips with the Xperia T’s internet and video capabilities and IFA 2012 in Berlin and then update this hands on review with more detail.

Early Verdict

Sony looks to be on to a winner with the Xperia T, its large screen and slick user interface, coupled with the pleasantly curved, rubberised chassis means the phone is not only a joy to use, but also comfortable to hold during long viewing sessions.

It will be interesting to see what effect the powerful screen and wealth of media options has on the battery life of the Xperia T, something we’ll investigate during our in-depth review later, but for now the signs are positive – let’s just hope Sony gets the price right.

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