As smartphones seem to grow and grow, Sony Ericsson has gone in the opposite direction and produced an extremely slim, svelte Android that manages to pack in some impressive specs, like a high-powered processor, top notch screen technology and quality camera.
Design and build
The Xperia Ray is a slick, slimline package at 111x53x9mm, weighing in at just 100g. The classy look is enhanced by the fact that virtually all of the front is covered by a single sheet of glass, all except a semicircle insert at top and bottom.
The one at the top is just for show but the one at the bottom is the home button. It's surrounded by two touch sensitive buttons for back and menu - like other Sony Ericsson Android handsets, there's no search button on the Ray.
On the sides, which are graced by a couple of smooth slices of brushed aluminium, there's a volume rocker and a microUSB power/sync port, with a power/sleep button and 3.5mm headphone jack on top. The thin back cover is made of tactile rubberised plastic and feels pleasantly warm to the touch.
The screen's dimensions are unusual. Although it measures 3.3in, it's longer and thinner than you might usually expect, so the resolution is actually a widescreen 854x480 pixels. It offers over 16m colours and looks beautifully sharp and clear, but it's not a particularly good design for looking at web pages and not all videos will suit the widescreen format.
Interface and OS
It's not running the very latest version of Android - it's the 2.3.3 Gingerbread version, so it's not far behind, and you probably won't miss the very latest updates. As usual, Sony Ericsson has its own version of the Android interface, with a different look to the graphics and some of its own unique widgets, including Timescape, which pulls together all of your social networking updates and messages into a single scrolling list complete with pics.
Facebook now gets more of a look-in, with Facebook albums appearing in your photo gallery, events added automatically to your calendar and there's the ability to 'like' tunes directly from the music player.
You can sort your shortcut icons into different categories and you can also display all five of your home pages in a single view by pinching the home screen. As a neat party trick you can then shake the handset and they'll bounce around the screen, though that doesn't make it easy to choose the one you want.
The 8.1 megapixel camera has a good range of features including autofocus, touch focus (so you can set which part of the frame you want to be the centre of attention), image stabilisation, face detection, and red eye reduction. It also has Sony's Exmor R for Mobile sensor, technology derived from the company's standalone cameras that helps provide better pics in less than ideal light conditions. Picture quality is generally good, with sharp edges and good colour balance.
Video recording can go up to 720p HD and there's a basic video editor on board to help you prepare your clips for viewing. Unlike higher end Sony Ericssons such as the Xperia Arc S however, there's no HDMI connection for sending hi-res video straight to your TV.
Apps and browser
The Android browser offers the usual goodly range of features but it's let down a little by the odd shape of the screen - whichever way you turn it, you're going to find yourself doing a lot of scrolling to read pages. It's also a bit awkward when you input info such as web addresses, since holding the phone in portrait mode means you have to use an alphanumeric keyboard. Turning the phone on its side offers a full QWERTY keyboard but the keys are rather cramped.
Media and connectivity
Movies lend themselves to the screen's widescreen format though non-widescreen videos can look a bit awkward.
Performance is enhanced by Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine, using technology derived from the company's TV screens, though if you don't feel you need it, you can switch it off to preserve battery life.
There's a link to Sony's online Qriocity service, which allows you to buy or rent movie titles, though at £12 each for recent titles, it ain't cheap.
Like SE's recent Walkman phone, the music player includes Sony's xLOUD Experience, which offers a carefully calibrated boos to the loudspeaker, increasing the sound without distortion. While you're listening to music, you can search for related lyrics and videos for each tune that you're playing. You can also search for mystery tunes playing on the FM radio using SE's TrackID service.
It has 300MB of memory on board and comes with a 4GB microSD card as standard. If you need it, you can also add up to 32GB with your own microSD card.
Performance and battery life
The Ray is powered by a 1GHz processor backed up by 512MB of RAM and an Adreno 205 graphics chip, which helps with the sharp look and speedy resolution of the screen. It's not the fastest processor on paper, but there were no signs of lag or stuttering, even with several apps running at once. Benchmark tests marked it high in comparison with other single-core handsets, though it suffers a little in comparison with the high-end dual-core models.
Despite its narrow proportions, there's room for a sizeable 1500mAh battery, which delivered a good day and a half of heavy use.
- Slimline good looks
- Very sharp screen
- 8.1 megapixel camera and Exmor sensor
- Top notch music player
- Slim screen won't be for everyone
- Keyboard can be a bit awkward
Verdict: The slimline screen won't be to everyone's taste, even if it's hard to argue with the exceptional resolution. The camera's good too and it's impressively fast.
More info: Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray spec