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Sony Xperia U review

£189 SIM-free; from £15.50 per month contract

Manufacturer: Sony

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

The Sony Xperia U is the smallest and cheapest of three Xperia NXT Series models – but it's far from being the lesser choice...

The Sony Xperia U is the smallest and most affordable offering from this year's Xperia smartphone range. This sub-£200 smartphone punches well above its weight in a number of areas. Read our Sony Xperia U review to find out more. Read more mobile phone reviews.

Sony Xperia U: Design

Sony's Xperia S, Xperia P and Xperia U models all come with a uniform square ’n’ straight-cut design. Even if it's not to your taste, it’s a refreshing break from the norm. Read more Google Android reviews.

The Sony Xperia U is the smallest of the three smartphones at 54 x 112mm. Unsurprisingly, it's also the lightest at a featherweight 110g.

Like its larger counterparts, the Sony Xperia U has a transparent strip of plastic beneath the screen below the Back, Home and Menu buttons. This also has a backlight, but unlike the Xperia S and Xperia P is able to change between multiple colours. These colours can change to either match the interface theme, photos on the screen, even album covers from the music player.

However, it does exhibit the same problem as the Sony Xperia S – the icons on the strip aren't actually buttons. Instead you need to tap touch-sensitive areas indicated by small dots above it.

A unique element to the design is an interchangeable cap which sits at the bottom of the phone. The black and white models come with a cap to match, as well as a pink or yellow alternatives, respectively.

A removable rear cover hides a similarly removable battery and full-sized SIM card slot. This cover is quite basic but has a reasonably nice feel to it.

The Sony Xperia U has all its physical buttons running down the right hand side, namely Power, Volume and Camera. A headphone socket can be found on top while a Micro-USB port sits on the left-hand side. 

Sony Xperia U: Build quality

We like a well-made smartphone and the Sony Xperia U passes muster in this area. The device feels very sturdy, offering minimal flexing. 

Our minor quibbles in build quality would be the removable rear cover, on the flimsy side but improved when attached to the phone; and in terms of design the main control keys lack tactility and we found the power button to small to hit reliably.

Sony Xperia U: Hardware 

We were impressed at the array of hardware the Xperia U includes at this budget price. The smartphone is driven by a 1GHz STE dual-core processor that matches the more expensive Sony Xperia P. It does have less RAM at 512MB rather than 1GB, but this is still a reasonable amount.

The Sony Xperia U did astonishingly well in our Geekbench 2 test. It scored an average of 875 across three rounds, indeed three points higher than the Sony Xperia P and higher than the HTC One range of smartphones.

We found the performance of the handset to be very impressive, especially considering its reasonable price. 

The interface responds well and moves quickly throughout while navigating the interface. Even more demanding tasks like playing a game or browsing a full-version of a website were no problem for the phone. We didn't see the kind of lag we’ve come to expect of Android.

Its main spec downfall can be found in the storage. It's also confusing, because there is 2GB of available space for apps and app data, and a separate 4GB of internal storage for your own content such as music, photos and video.

For most users 2GB of space will be enough to store a decent number of apps, unless you want to install larger bundles suchs as games like GTA 3 or full satnav apps. 

The bigger issue is the 4GB of internal capacity for media content. It’s fairly standard for a budget phone but it will quickly fill – and since there’s no expansion card slot the Xperia U may be found to be very limited. 

The Xperia U sports a 3.5in capacitive touchscreen, the same size as the Apple iPhone 4S. 

It uses Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine, which promises to improve image quality for photos and video, and has a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels.

The pixel density of 279ppi actually outclasses the Xperia P, HTC One V and HTC One S – all of which are more expensive than the Xperia U.  

The screen is one of the best we've seen on a budget smartphone. It has good clarity, brightness and contrast, and decent viewing angles.

Connectivity is basic, running to just Micro-USB, dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1. You won’t find the Micro HDMI or near-field communications (NFC) of the Xperia S and P, but it does carry digital living network alliance (DLNA) certification.  

NEXT PAGE: Sony Xperia U cameras, software and battery life >>

Sony Xperia U Expert Verdict »
Sony Xperia U Scores 8.3 out of 10 based on 752 reviews
1GHz STE U8500 dual-core processor
Google Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread
512MB RAM
4GB internal storage
3.5in TFT (480 x 854) display
5Mp rear camera with LED flash
VGA front camera
802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 2.1
DLNA
microUSB
full-sized SIM
GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz
UMTS/HSPA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
4.9Wh removable battery
54 x 112 x 10.5mm
121g
  • Build Quality: We give this item 8 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 7 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 8 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 9 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

The Xperia U is one of the best smartphones we've seen for under £200. For this price you get a capable handset providing higher performance than some more expensive rivals – all with a fantastic screen and a two-day battery life. The phone's maind downfalls are limited storage and old software, although this should be updated one day.

Price comparison powered by Reevoo

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