Android, Featured, Reviews, Sony

Sony Xperia Sola Review

Along with the Xperia S, the Xperia U and the Xperia P, Sony also introduced the new Sony Xperia Sola.

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Last year, Sony had a whole bunch of neat mid-range smartphones, like the Xperia Ray, Xperia Neo, yada yada, and did a pretty good job at delivering decent hardware at a reasonable price. Will they be able to carry that out this year as well? The Xperia U had us thinking they’re on the right track, but let’s take a look at this new attempt, to confirm it.

The Sony Xperia Sola boasts a Dual Core 1Ghz processor, 3.7 inch LCD Display with a 5 megapixel camera, NFC and a new “floating touch” technology which we’ll take about later.

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The Retail Package:

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We already unboxed this phone so I wont go into much detail here. You get the usual charger, usb cable, wired stereo headset, quick start guide, and of course the actual phone itself.

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You also get 2 NFC smart-tags and a microSIM adapter which I thought was a nice touch. Read our Sony Xperia Sola Unboxing post for a better idea.

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The Design:

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Instead of the monolithic, curved, shiny design of the Xperia S, Xperia P and Xperia U, you have a plastic simple looking candy-bar formfactor phone, with a soft finish on the back.

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It feels very nice to the touch, and is pretty well built. I actually kinda liked it, but I’m not too crazy about the thick bezel around the screen. It measures 116 x 59 x 9.9 mm, is 9.9mm thick, and only weighs about 107 grams.

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Thanks to it’s petite-ish dimensions, it feels great in the hand compared to the current crop of giant sized smartphones out there. It’s ideal for one-handed usage, and slips into any pocket or purse.

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Coming to the phone design itself, there’s the usual trio of capacitive touch Android keys under the display.

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Above the Display you have the ambient light sensor, but sadly no front facing camera.

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At the top, you have a standard 3.5 mm audio jack.

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On the left side you have the lone lock key.

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At the bottom you have a tiny pinhole inlet for a lanyard cable.

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There’s also a tiny LED light strip at the bottom of the display, above the 3 android keys. It’s quite dim and blinks to notify you of an event.

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Does come in handy if your phone is flat on a table and you get an SMS or missed call but otherwise you wont really notice it at all.

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And on the right side you have the volume rocker key, microUSB port and 2-stage camera button.

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Just like the Xperia U the camera key has room for improvement. It’s a 2 stage key and pressing it half-way down to focus is no problem, but pressing it all the way down requires way too much force than should be necessary. We’ll re-visit this fact again in the camera section later in this review.

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The Display:

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You have a 3.7 inch LCD display here, at a resolution of 480 by 854 pixels which results in a relatively high pixel density of 265ppi.

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Graphics look pretty detailed as a result, with fine text. Colors are accurately reproduced and the display is bright and has good viewing angles as well. The Blacks arnt as deep as an AMOLED or S-LCD display though. The advantage to an LCD panel though, is that the Xperia Sola can be very comfortably used, even in bright sunlight.

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The Hardware:-

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The Sony Xperia Sola performs quite well thanks to the NovaThor U8500 1Ghz dual-core chip which handles most tasks without even breaking a sweat. 512 MB of RAM ensures everything is operating smoothly. There is the occasional bit of lag with the wallpaper and in some menus, but it’s nothing too bad at all. Games like Temple Run and Angry Birds Space run perfectly, so those specs are more than capable.

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Also worth mentioning, is that there’s 8GB of onboard storage, but also a microSD card so space is never really an issue.

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The Software:-

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Like the Xperia S, and the Xperia U, the Sony Xperia Sola runs Android 2.3, with an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich supposed to come along any day now.

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Sony makes some pretty good looking interfaces, so chances are you’ll like what you see on the Xperia Sola. There’s smooth animations and pretty-looking widgets with a nice gently flowing live wallpaper in the background.

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As I mentioned in our Sony Xperia S review, the fact that it’s not on the latest version of Android can be annoying, but Sony’s tweaked just about every nook and cranny of the UI, so chances are you wont really feel like you’re missing out on anything.

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The Sony Xperia sola is also the first smartphone to come with the company’s new “floating touch” technology, which is basically a way that the screen can detect your finger over it, even from a distance of a centimeter or two.

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The only thing that actually uses this right now, is the web browser, where you can highlight web links or view menus as if you were hovering a mouse cursor over it. The default live wallpaper also reacts whenever your finger is in close proximity of the screen. But apart from these two implementations, I’d imagine the whole floating touch deal is more of a novelty. Maybe Sony can extend the usage of the technology soon, as the API is being made available to developers.

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Lastly, considering the size of the screen, one would imagine that typing on the onscreen keyboard would be hard.

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Thankfully though, the stock keyboard is pretty accurate and responsive, regardless of which orientation you use it in.

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There’s also an auto-complete bar and on-the-fly typo corrections carried out, so that you can type your sentences quickly.

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There’s also certain Sony apps designed to kinda make things easier for you, like Timescape which is a central hub of your social network feeds, or the Data monitoring apps, or recommender, yada yada.

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The Web Browser:

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The Web Browser is basically your usual Android affair, with text reflow, multiple windows and Adobe Flash support all thrown in there.

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It struggles a little bit on heavy web pages though. Turning off flash or switching it to “on demand” fixes this.

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The Connectivity:

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Coming to connectivity, the Xperia Sola boasts Wifi, 3G, Bluetooth v2.1, A-GPS, an FM Radio and NFC.

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The only thing missing is the HDMI port which some of it’s family members have.

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The Media:

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Sony’s smartphones all have a fancy music player, and the Xperia Sola doesn’t disappoint.

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You have a nice, minimalistic UI, and a homescreen widget as well as lockscreen music controls.

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You can search for artist info, lyrics, or a video, and an XLOUD feature that is capable of outputting some pretty loud levels of undistorted audio on that single loudspeaker.

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There’s also a video player that doesnt look too fancy but can play back almost any file format out there, at a resolution of up to 720p.

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Things admittedly look pretty great with Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA engine tech working behind the scenes.

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The Camera:

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The 5 Megapixel camera on the Sony Xperia Sola is really quick. You can capture a picture in under 2 seconds, without even unlocking the phone, just by holding down the camera shutter key.

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Focus isnt very spot-on in this method but I guess it comes in handy in some instances. I’ve set the camera button to only open the camera app though, not to open-and-take-picture.

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In good lighting conditions, photos looked pretty good. Average quality I guess, with accurate color reproduction and exposure. Finer details can be a little fuzzy at times, but it’s pretty good. In low light situations though, you get a lot of digital noise invading your photos, which doesnt look very nice at all.

Here’s a couple camera samples from the Sony Xperia Sola. Just to give you a better idea.

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Image 1:

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Image 2:

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Image 3:

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Coming to video, you can record at a max resolution of 720p HD. The results are sharp enough, but there’s a little pixelation that occurs, probably because of the compression used. Here’s a couple camera video samples from the Xperia Sola:

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Video 1:

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Video 2:

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The Call Quality:

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The volume level of the earpiece was a little soft, I thought. Average maybe, but voices do sound natural on both ends of the call, and there’s no flaws to speak of. There’s even a secondary mic on the back, that’s used for noise reduction, so that background sounds dont make it into your call conversation.

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The Battery Life:

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You have a non-removable 1320 mAh battery here, that provides about 5 hours of talk-time and 20 days of stand-by time. Average I guess, by today’s mid-range smartphone standards.

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We managed about a day and a half of moderate usage, on the Xperia Sola. Not too bad, but I’d still advice charging it every night.

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The Video Overview:

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Here’s a detailed video overview of the Sony Xperia Sola. Just to give you a better idea of it.

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The Conclusion:

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The Sony Xperia Sola is a pretty darn well made mid-range Android smartphone. And that is saying a lot.

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While I still think the Sony Xperia U is the best value-for-money mid-range Android phone so far, it’s marred by it’s 4GB limit of internal memory, with no expandable microSD card slot. While the Xperia Sola might not look as good as the Xperia U, you get a good amount of bang for the buck.

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The only other phones in a similar price point, are last year’s Samsung Galaxy Ace Plus (terribly boring design and UI) and this year’s HTC One V (single core processor, but admittedly better camera).

Definitely very recommendable. I’d highly advice trying out the Xperia Sola and the Xperia U before making the purchase though.

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[col_1_4 style="box border box_green"]
[title]The Good:[/title]
- Neat UI
- Smooth overall performance
- Affordable Dual Core

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[col_1_4 style="box border box_yellow"]
[title]The Bad:[/title]
- No front facing camera
- Runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread at launch
- Average camera quality
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[col_1_4 style="box border box_blue"]
[title]The Verdict:[/title]

Great mid-range Android smartphone. But that ICS update cant get here quick enough.
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  • BobBobsen

    Thanks for the detailed review!

  • krt

    prices aside! which one you’r gonna recommend, sola or U? Plz do tell!! Seriously confused, Regards!

  • paul

    not a wifi enabled phone???

    • http://UnleashThePhones.com/ Clinton Jeff

      Wifi works fine on the Xperia Sola, Paul :o)