Customer Review

60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now Perfect After JellyBean Update, 28 Jan 2013
By 
This review is from: Sony Xperia T James Bond UK Sim Free Smartphone - Black (discontinued by manufacturer) (Electronics)
Update 7/2/13: I have edited this review to allow for the upgrading to the official Sony JellyBean firmware. The short version: This phone is now perfect! Skip to the end for the update.

I previously owned the HTC One X. As an exercise in how much power can you have in a phone, versus how much power do you NEED in a phone, I now have my answer. For my purposes, you simply don't need a quad core processor. If I pushed the One X to its limits, it simply meant it over-heated or went flat in an hour. Then it broke (read: drowned in my cat's water bowl by my 14 month old son), so I decided to leave HTC behind for the first time on Android, and look to new pastures. I wanted real-world practicality, not raw (unnecessary) horse power this time.

I didn't want to pay the premium of the current HTC or Samsung offerings, plus I'd already decided quad core is mainly for gamers and benchmark nuts. Also since LG only seem to have actually manufactured about twelve Nexus 4 handsets, I didn't fancy paying the ridiculous mark-up that greedy re-sellers are selling them at. I'm not paying £390 for a phone Google pitched at £250, no matter how good it is. After buying a couple of Sony Xperia devices for the wife, and being suitably impressed with their recent efforts, I decided upon the Xperia T. One thing I was not prepared to go back on after the HOX was screen size or resolution. This review is written based on the stock firmware 7.0.A.3.195 on Android 4.0.4 ICS. I will update this after the Jellybean update due end of February 2013. Here are my findings after a couple of weeks with the phone;

Hardware:
First impressions were very positive. I liked that the phone comes with a couple of NFC tags instead of making you buy them. (HTC take note. I NEVER utilised NFC on the HOX because of this. I even forgot it had NFC.) I have one tag on my bedside table to shut all radios down, silence the ringer, and make sure the alarm clock app is running. The other I have in my car to activate Loud Mode, Bluetooth and turn off WiFi. It's a shame you can't toggle GPS without root, but that's Google's fault not Sony's and is probably for security reasons. (Furthermore, leaving GPS enabled permanently doesn't mean the same battery drain it used to 3 years ago. So I just leave mine on with no serious or even noticeable impact to battery life.)

It is worth mentioning that you do not need to keep the tag in constant proximity to the phone to keep the profile settings enabled. You merely need to swipe it past the back of the phone once to carry out the `on' tasks. You simply wave it past the same tag again to carry out the `off' tasks. This will help in the placement of your tags. For example don't struggle trying to stick the car tag to your phone holder. Simply stick it anywhere suitable and pass the phone over it before placing it in your holder. Leaving NFC on permanently also has no noticeable impact on battery life.

I was pleased with the inclusion of a screen protector, albeit one that smudges up easily. At least it will offer some protection until I can source a better one, and it's still a nice touch from Sony to even bother supplying one. It could be down to Sony trying to compete with the other manufacturers who fit Gorilla Glass, whilst keeping the price of the Xperia T down. So be warned this may signify an unprotected Xperia T screen will pick up marks easier than an Samsung or HTC one. Personally I'm not taking the chance. Even Gorilla glass can be scratched so I always fit a screen protector.

For the first time in a long time, the included headphones produce a very good sound. I'm used to just leaving them in the box and using my own. I still prefer to use my own choice of media player, PowerAmp, and with its excellent EQ and the included headphones I got a very satisfying sound out of it. No Beats Audio gimmicks required here! The stock Sony Walkman app also has a comprehensive EQ so no doubt you can get similar results if you don't want to fork out for PowerAmp.

I was mildly concerned about the button placing on this phone, but the second I actually held it for the first time it made sense. As long as you hold the phone in your left hand that is. I tend to hold the phone in my left hand (navigating with my right hand) which means all the buttons line up nicely with my natural finger positioning. A big plus is the power button's location. On phones this size, having it on the top (like the HOX) meant adjusting your grip or using two hands to activate it. Not the case with the Xperia T. It's right there where you can easily reach it. For holding it in your right hand for one handed operation, some juggling of the handset and some thumb-fu are still required to activate the power button.

I am not so impressed though with the SIM card & SD Card slot cover. It seems very flimsy and does not sit flush the phone body after you've opened it for the first time to put your cards in. There is a noticeable lift at the bottom edge which could easily get worse in time and catch on something if you are not putting a case on this phone. I do keep mine in a case so I am not personally concerned about it, I just feel like compared to the rest of the build quality of this handset, Sony should have done better here.

I suppose we should be thankful they have at least listened to the market and put the SD card slot back in! I'm so glad it has one of these and it was a major draw for me to this handset. I was always having to be careful with the limited 16GB internal only memory of the HOX, as I like to keep a lot of music & video on my phone. No more worrying if your HD video recording is going to end because you ran out of space! Decent 32GB Class 10 cards are also now very cheap. I picked up a Samsung one for £15. With 2GB of space allowed for apps, I can now forget about storage limitations for good.

The screen is very good on this phone, and mostly comparable to the HOX. I couldn't notice any real difference between the two in detail, sharpness, and colour reproduction. The only difference is a slightly worse viewing angle on the Sony Xperia T. Only really a problem for other people trying to read your screen over your shoulder so I'm able to forgive this.

Software:
The phone boots up nice and quickly, and is very responsive. It may be "only" dual core, but it still flies around the menus without a hint of lag or delay. The Sony Timescape UI will be a matter of preference to you, and other launchers are of course available. But for what it is worth, I personally quite like the Timescape UI. It is not as over-bearing as Sense, and while I find I'm missing certain HTC widgets (calendar and weather) I do like the lighter look and feel of Timescape. It reminds me a bit of Cyanogen ROMs in certain areas. More like the Android experience Google had in mind for you, with a light dusting of polish from Sony. Also thankfully gone from my life are the constant launcher restarts of HTC Sense. Whatever Sony have done with their ROM's minfree values, it works. I have not had the launcher restart on me once after exiting a memory intensive app. I also have not encountered any UI bugs. Absolutely none. Very impressed with that.

Calls come across loud and clear with the earpiece, and the hands-free loudspeaker is leagues ahead of the HTC attempts in both volume and clarity. In fact I've not heard a speaker go this loud (whilst remaining clear) since my trusty Nokia 5800. The phone pairs very quickly with my car Bluetooth system, but it's a shame Sony didn't see fit to give it the latest power-efficient Bluetooth 4.0. The 3.1 version does use more power being left on all the time. It made no difference on the HOX, but I find with the Sony, Bluetooth is much higher up the battery usage charts at the end of a day. The GPS however is a big improvement over HTC's implementation. I got a GPS lock, for the first time, indoors, in about 5 seconds. Subsequent GPS locks are achieved in around 2 seconds. A Google Maps Navigation trip on the HOX would use half a full charge in one hour, and the phone would be very warm. The Xperia T stays cucumber cool and over the same hour sips only 30% of a full charge.

What is worth mentioning is this Sony Bravia Engine feature. Even with auto brightness turned off, with the Bravia Engine enabled, it still adjusts things like saturation and contrast on the fly. This can seem like the same distracting effect of dynamic brightness levels for me. Certain menu screens with a 50/50 mixture of blacks and colour (like the Google Play Store home page for example) take a few seconds to settle. I find myself waiting for it to so, which really detracts from the benefit of the phone's otherwise speedy UI experience so I have turned it off.

Another worthy mention and a nice surprise was Sony's own version of the increasingly popular "Swype" style trace keyboards. I've been a long-time fan of Swype, and have tried both HTC's and Swiftkey's attempts, and always ended up going back to Swype. Sony's version is fast, accurate and easy to use without having to fettle around with endless settings. It just works straight out of the gate and has better word substitution than Swype. They even give you three skins to choose from.

I couldn't help but succumb to curiosity and run Quadrant benchmark just to see what it got, and was pleasantly surprised by the 5337 result. This was around 400 higher than I got the first time with the HOX on a stock ROM. With AnTuTu it sored 11116 which is also similar to the HOX stock results. But certain benchmarks are written to suit different CPU strengths, so in real world performance terms it doesn't mean much. I tried an intensive game (GTA3) and didn't notice any difference in performance from my HOX or any lag. Simply put this phone has plenty of CPU power, and can hold its own against the quad-core show-offs! What it doesn't do is drain the battery in under a day. After the first week I found I was getting to the 24 hour mark with 30% left and 4 hours screen on time. This is with screen brightness fixed at 40% and all syncing on, apart from overnight when on my bedside table. When you bear in mind it takes a couple of weeks for a new battery to reach top performance, this is impressive. The HOX never managed more than 3.5 hours screen on time.

All in all it is a very nice ROM Sony have put together here. If Iwere installing a custom ROM on this phone, I'm struggling to think of any areas where I would look to improve on it. Bravo Sony.

The Camera:
The camera was something I was very pleased with (usually) on the HOX, so it was subject to some scrutiny from me on the Xperia T and so it has its own section in my review. Simply put it is adequate but not outstanding, let down badly by its software. First mention has to go to having a proper hardware shutter button back though. Not since the Nokia 5800 have I had one and it's so good to have again. In areas like `auto' white balance it is better than the HOX, reducing the amount of times I have to correct levels afterwards using PicSay Pro. In fact Sony's own stock "Album" app has a comprehensive set of photo editing options that competes with many of the premium apps on the Google Play Store. Cropping, red eye reduction, contrast, saturation, brightness, temperature are all available, plus the usual filters and effects. This album app is also well laid out and easy to navigate.

Focusing speed however is not as good, taking a little bit longer to get a sharp focus and not always succeeding before taking the shot. I also miss the HDR mode the HOX had, allowing for decent landscape shots into strong sunlight or very low light at night time. The Xperia T has a night mode, but it does not produce the same results. While the Sony definitely wins hands-down in the speed to go from sleep to taking a picture, the only thing I have found is that it is then prone to rushing the focusing, occasionally resulting in an out of focus shot. Not ideal if you are going for that capture-the-moment quick shot. Thankfully Camera 360 performs much better here in terms of speed of autofocus and sharper pictures. The only caveat with this is that you can't launch Camera 360 from the shutter button.

The shots with flash produce slightly better shots than the HOX achieved, but that is only in terms of looking slightly less like interrogation by torch light. These LED flashes are still not lighting up the whole scene properly. You still get darkening at the edge of the shot if you stay your distance, or make everyone look like Casper The Friendly Ghost if you get too close. The sweet spot seems to be at about 8 feet. But if you want top performance in challenging light conditions, you should still use a dedicated camera in my opinion.

I am quite concerned about the very aggressive jpeg compression of the Xperia T camera. You don't seem able to adjust it, and a 18MP photo is typically no more than roughly 2.1MB in file size! (For comparison the average HOX 8MP photo was 4.2MB) That's great for uploading via 3G to Facebook/Instagram quickly, but what if you (like me) have nothing to do with those sites and want instead to print off photos and canvasses of my aforementioned toddler? What if I want to make the most of the camera's sensor? Come on Sony, you should have an edge in camera software here. You have an SD card slot in the phone so why try so hard to keep the file size down at max res? I have found Camera 360 to also be better here. There are more options for picture settings, the files are not so severely compressed, and the autofocus is faster and more reliable.

Video recording seems to have issues with autofocus too, and it is the reason this phone is not outstanding. If your subject wanders out of focus, the phone really seems to struggle to regain it. Unfortunately here Camera 360 can't save the day as it can only handle stills. The Andoid market it entirely devoid of third party camcorder apps, so I am stuck with this until Sony fix it. I found that 1080p recording on the HOX was very jerky with lots of dropped frames despite its claims of raw power for this very sort of thing. I kept it at 720p for that reason. The Xperia T seems slightly better at 1080p, but I still stick with 720p simply to keep motion blur in fast-panning shots to a minimum and file size down for YouTube uploads. Obviously it handles 720p without breaking a sweat as long as it keeps its focus.

I would say then that I hope the future update to Jellybean addresses the stock Sony camera software focusing issues. Although the situation is not a total loss thanks to Camera 360 making good use of Sony's hardware, Sony really should have done better with their camera app as videos really suffer for it. I've had Sony Cybershot cameras for years without complaint so I know they can do it when they want to.

Conclusion:
Had this phone not cost me half what the HTC One X cost me, I think I would be rating it lower. I'm always taking videos of my young son on his journey through the early stages of his life, and uploading it to YouTube for his grandparents to enjoy. Since having this phone, a large percentage of videos I've taken have just been deleted as too much of it was out of focus and that is a shame. The One X never let me down here. The camera photo autofocus problem can at least be side-stepped by using Camera 360 or Camera FV-5 if you want a premium app.

Having said that, the Xperia T does just about everything else the same as, or better than the One X, and does so without draining so much battery. The handset I got, for some reason, is not able to have the bootloader unlocked and currently you can't root 7.0.A.3.195. But do you know what? I don't care! I've not found anything other than the camcorder issue to give me cause to go down the custom ROM route, something I've done with every other Android phone I've owned. And that says a lot about this phone. I am 99% happy with it at stock. Never thought I'd say that about a smartphone. If Sony address the autofocus issue in the upcoming JB update, then I'll adjust my rating accordingly, but this is still a very, very good phone for the asking price. Buy with confidence.

Update 7/2/13: Following the update to official JellyBean 9.1.A.0.489 Firmware I am upgrading this review to a 5 star one. The improvements made to the camera alone would justify this. The camera is by far the biggest and most welcome change. It now autofocuses fast! It also gets a sharp focus most of the time too, so much fewer blurry shots are achieved. There is still a tendency for the Camcorder to lose focus during filming, but it at least recovers much faster this time. As an added plus they have introduced a HDR mode for taking photos in high contrast situations. It is also the fastest HDR mode I have seen, taking the three photos quickly and processing them quickly too. These improvements have allowed me to uninstall all the other camera apps I had installed to get by Sony's flaws in the previous firmware. What it has done is brought confidence back to using the camera. I no longer waste time trying to assess the situation, and pick the right camera app for the job hoping I don't get a bad photo. It is a big relief that Sony addressed this.

The whole feel of this phone is now much faster and smoother. It as quick before, but even before this new ROM has had time to settle, I am getting better benchmark results and it just feels slicker. Whatever Google did with that "Project Butter" for JellyBean it seems to work well. The icing on the cake is that as I am writing this, my phone has been on battery for 10 hours, and is on 89% battery. Average battery life has improved dramatically. Before it took some care to get past the 24 hour mark. Now it'll easily do 36 hours, and I think I could coax 48 out of it without too much sacrifice should I need to.

I can no longer think of any concernin flaws in this phone. None. Outstanding job Sony.
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Comments

Tracked by 5 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 24 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Feb 2013 23:04:11 GMT
safcforever says:
I take it back , some review i must say , i will be checking this phone out !

Posted on 20 Mar 2013 20:33:03 GMT
Old Timer says:
A most interesting, comprehensive, and helpful review.

Posted on 24 Jun 2013 09:52:27 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Oct 2013 10:10:24 GMT
Maltozo says:
Great review. Lucid, common sense approach. In places a little too technical for my limited knowledge, but that's 'me', not 'you'! Conversely it was as a whole extremely helpful indeed and a meaningful influence on guiding me to buying a 'phone that was 'right' for my needs. I have found myself agreeing with the vast majority of your observations and comments. Initially I was somewhat put-off by the length of your review however upon reading it along with another complimentary posting there remained very little need to seriously study any further reviews as all aspects/questions had been suitably covered. The 'Update' was particularly appropriate and helpful too. Have posted my own review now, about 4th or 5th down from the top under 'Most Helpful'. Price as at October 2013 makes it a total 'no brainer' now in the 'Value For Money' stakes. Thanks again.

Posted on 18 Aug 2013 13:06:40 BDT
hiya will, i have also bought this phone, i was just wondering, how do u get the jellybean update. many thanks paul.b

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Aug 2013 13:13:56 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Oct 2013 20:51:08 BDT
Will says:
Download Sony PC Companion to your computer. Hook your phone up to the computer, and select the Support Zone section. Then just follow the steps. You may also be able to do an OTA update in your phones settings. In settings, go to 'about phone' then there is an option there to check for updates.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Aug 2013 13:21:38 BDT
ok thank you mate

Posted on 1 Oct 2013 16:35:27 BDT
Gary Holden says:
best review i have ever read on amazon, very helpful.

Posted on 13 Oct 2013 20:39:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Oct 2013 20:43:36 BDT
dave says:
Come on Sony must do better this is obviously a paid emloyee and not a customer, a real customer would not know these details the phone doesnt actually stay switched on for long enough.
ignore this and leave well alone buy a better alternative

Any-one who is convinced that Sony xperian is decent phone worth buying can give me a call, when my month old phone (replacement for another month old phone is returned by sony I will sell t to you, so I can buy a phone that works.
07738075172

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Oct 2013 20:45:04 BDT
Will says:
Sorry, not a Sony employee. Not sure how you've arrived at that idea. My other phone reviews are for HTC phones! Everything in my review reflects the experience I had with the phone. What do you mean the phone doesn't stay on long enough? New to smartphones?

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Oct 2013 21:08:23 BDT
dave says:
The expirian T (*and I have had two in two months) shuts down after been switched on Do you want to buy a phone, you can buy a virtually new Sony xperian T, just been sent from Sony, as replacement for Sony xperian T that also closed down on its own, not good when you find yourself stuck in a strange town looking for friends.
Not paid to make reviews you must be some-one with far too much time on thier hands then
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