Sony Xperia J full review [video]

November 14, 2012
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When people think of entry-level phones, a sleek design isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. The Xperia J, however, is here to change the way we perceive entry-level phones.

Sony’s latest entry-level phone offering gives you a sleek design, a 5 MP rear camera, smart illuminations for your notifications, and — the best part of all — long battery life.

There’s a lot more than what meets the eye for this attractive phone, however. Keep on reading as we examine the Sony Xperia J in more detail, or jump right away to our video review.

Plus Points

  • Inexpensive phone
  • Sleek design
  • Impressive battery life on an entry-level phone
  • CRT lockscreen animation
  • Attractive smart illuminations
  • Wonderful sound quality
  • Sharp and crisp display

Minus Points

  • Scrolling through the UI and the browser is laggy
  • Redundant on-screen Home button in the App Drawer

Dimensions and Build

The first thing you’ll notice about the Sony Xperia J is that it is sexy, slim, and portable. It feels nice in the hand, not too thin but not too light, but able to squeeze into the tightest of skinny jeans.

Its dimensions are 124.3 mm (4.89 in) x 61.2 mm (2.4 in) x 9.2 mm (0.36 in) and is rather light at 124 grams (4.37 oz).

Front

The front of the Xperia J is rather plain, with black bezels all around the 4-inch screen. The thick bezel on the top has the LED notification which lights up when you’re charging the device and when you receive a message, a front-facing 0.3 MP camera, and the phone speaker grille with the SONY logo below it. The bezels on the sides are thin, so you don’t have to stretch your thumb too far to reach the screen.

The bottom bezel is also thick and is interrupted by the three white capacitive buttons for Back, Home, and Menu. A little below and to the right of the Menu button is a small hole for the microphone.

The top and bottom edges of the front panel bevel slightly towards the phone’s frame. I find the beveled edge quite a refreshing breakaway from the plain flat front panel designs of many Android phones on the market.

Sides

The 3.5 mm headphone jack is located conveniently on the top side of the Xperia J. This makes listening to music easy with your phone inside your bag or inside your pocket. On the left side is the standard Micro USB port.

The small Power button and the integrated Volume keys are located on the right side of the phone. Owing to the small size of the phone itself, these oft-pressed control buttons are within easy reach, regardless of whether you’re left-handed or right-handed.

The Power button, however, seems to be flush with the side and I found myself having to press it one or two more times to lock or unlock the screen. The Volume buttons, though, are elevated slightly from the side, so they don’t need extra pressing.

The bottom of the phone is bare, except for a small hole in the bottom-left corner, presumably for hanging accessories.

Running around the Xperia J is a thin strip of silver-plated plastic frame, giving the phone a sleek and chic look. When you wake your phone, the bottom side of this silver-plated frame lights up in color. Sony calls this “smart illumination”. The color changes depending on the type of notification received and the theme you’ve applied on your phone. It looks cool, actually.

Back

Though the Xperia J review unit that we have is white, the device is also available in black, pink and yellow. I quite like the back cover. It’s plastic but it’s matte, slightly textured, and has a pearl-like look to it.

You can find the 5 MP camera and its LED flash in the upper-left corner of the device’s back. The silver XPERIA logo is done in silver paint in the upper half of the backplate. You can find a rather large and deep speaker grille at the bottom. I’m not all too fond of that, as it may encourage dust and grime to gather.

Taking a cue from the Xperia Arc, the top and bottom of the Xperia J’s back are the thickest parts, smoothly curving downward to the middle at its thinnest point of 9.5 mm. When held in the hand, the concave back gave my hand the illusion of a phone leaning backwards. I find this curved design helpful for phone grip.

Screen and Display

Corning Gorilla Glass protects the Xperia J’s 4-inch scratch-resistant TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen. With an 854×480 pixel resolution and display density at 245 ppi, the screen provides a very sharp and bright display. Colors look rich and vibrant on this device.

To our disappointment, the Xperia J does not have an ambient light sensor, so users do not have an option for auto-brightness. This means that you’ll need to manually adjust brightness yourself when you step out into sunlight and when you go indoors. There is a toggle, however, for you to turn off the Backlight.

Processing Hardware

The Xperia J is equipped with respectable specs:

  • 1.0 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM7227A chipset
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 4 GB of internal memory (with only 2 GB available to user)
  • up to 32 GB more memory via microSD slot

In an age of buttery smooth performance on dual-core or quad-core phones, I find it rather odd for Sony to skimp on processing power on this otherwise nice Android phone. There’s lag, jitter, and sluggishness in many places. They are most noticeable when navigating the homescreens and the App Drawer. Swiping photos in your Album app also slows down a bit, especially when you have high-definition, large-size photos. Launching most apps, though, is snappy.

Sometimes when typing on the keyboard, my keypresses did not register right away. The phone’s processing power, or lack of it, is most evident when I browsed the Web, whether using the stock browser or Chrome.

Benchmarks

Benchmark

Score

Quadrant Standard Edition

1863

AnTuTu Benchmark

3127

CF-Bench

2800

Vellamo Mobile Benchmark HTML 5

963

Vellamo Mobile Benchmark Metal

321

NenaMark1

44.1 fps

NenaMark2

19.3 fps

An3DBenchXL

23878

Geekbench 2

456

Linpack Single Thread

37.968 MFLOPS

Linpack Multi-thread

34.352 MFLOPS

V8 Benchmark Suite

572

SunSpider 0.9.1 JavaScript

2846.9 (lower is better)

BrowserMark

54209

Battery Life

  • Li-ion 1,750 mAh battery
  • Promises 8 hours and 30 minutes of video playback
  • Standby 607 hours 2G, 618 hours 3G
  • Talk time 5 hours 36 mins 2G, 7 hours 18 mins 3G

What really makes the Xperia J stand out is its 1,750-mAh battery. Sony promises 8 hours and 30 minutes of nonstop video playback on it.

I tested the battery informally myself. After an hour of non-stop HD video playback, followed by another hour of browsing graphics-intensive websites, the Xperia J’s battery registered that it still had 67% of power left. This, despite the two-hour hardcore use with Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth turned on; brightness level maxed out; and screen always on.

Connectivity

The Xperia J is equipped with some standard connectivity options. You can use your Xperia J to browse the Web via Wi-Fi and to wirelessly send files and receive files via Bluetooth 2.1. Wi-Fi Direct is not supported. It also has 3G, DLNA, tethering, computer sync, and OTA sync.

If you need to add files to your phone from your computer, simply plug it into your PC via Micro USB cable.

Camera

Two cameras are part of the Xperia J package: a 5 MP rear camera with LED flash and autofocus, and a 0.3 MP front facing camera.

The performance of both cameras are what you could expect from an entry-level device: not bad, as long as you’re not in low-light areas, although not spectacular either.

The 5MP rear camera was rather fast in snapping pictures, but I couldn’t direct where I wanted the focus to be. In brightly lit areas, images were acceptable though the colors were a bit washed out.

In low-light areas, I got noisy images. Videos taken with the rear camera are pretty good, but again, do not give stellar results indoors.

The front camera produced fuzzy images and washed out colors. Indoors, the quality of the images and the videos were extremely dark and extremely noisy. I could barely see myself.

Because of the Xperia J’s lack of processing power, there’s a bit of lag when accessing the camera app from the lockscreen. It took the app about four seconds before the Camera app loaded completely.

Though the Xperia J is okay for snapping a few casual shots, it really isn’t the phone to use when you want to capture a vital split second.

Media Playback

Sony is known for delivering good sound, and though the Xperia J is a budget phone, it certainly didn’t disappoint. The Xperia J comes with the WALKMAN app for your music and lets you customize your music experience with a 5-band equalizer, Clear Bass which lets you tweak the lower audio spectrum, and xLOUD which enhances the loudness of the phone’s loudspeaker. You can access the music player controls while you’re browsing your phone by pulling down the notification bar.

The Xperia J’s sound quality is nice and crisp. It’s not particularly loud, though. You’ll need to put the Xperia J screen down if you want the best sound as putting it flat on its back will cover the speaker grille. If you play music in an empty and closed room, the sound quality is pretty good. Although, I noticed some distortion when I cranked up the volume to its maximum level.

The phone’s tall screen gives you a lot of space for viewing videos. I found the Xperia J’s screen producing great colors, but sometimes they appeared rather saturated and dark. It doesn’t exactly disrupt the video viewing experience, however.

The Gallery app looks pretty unique with its magazine-like format and resizable picture thumbnails. The resizable thumbnails in the Gallery app are pretty cool, letting you give a certain image the limelight by making it bigger or giving all the thumbnails equal attention by shrinking or blowing them up.

Software

The Xperia J ships with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with Sony’s Timescape UI on top. It may not be the latest version of Android available, but Sony may push Android 4.1 Jelly Bean onto the Xperia J some time in 2013.

Lockscreen

The Xperia J’s lockscreen shows you a preview of your wallpaper, with the time and date on top and a slider with a lock and a camera icon below. Unlock your phone by sliding the lock icon to the right and jump into the camera app by sliding the camera icon to the left.

Homescreen

You can enjoy 5 pages for your homescreen, but that’s all you’re getting as you cannot add more or remove them. The app dock on the homescreen already contains the Media folder, Play Store, Messaging, and Phone app shortcuts, but you can swap them with other app shortcuts. In the middle of the app dock, you’ll find the App Drawer button.

Notifications

The notification bar can be pulled down from the top of the screen, as usual, but you won’t be seeing any quick toggles here. If you’re playing music, you’ll see the music player controls but not if your music has been paused or stopped.

App Drawer

Though this may not bother some people, I found it strange that when I popped open the app drawer, there was an onscreen Home button. Sony’s already provided a capacitive Home button, so I found this rather redundant, but I guess that’s how much Sony doesn’t want me to lose my way home.

The Xperia J’s App Drawer definitely gets a thumbs up from me. It gives me an option to keep things neat and tidy by letting me sort my apps either in my own order, alphabetically, by most used, or by recently used. I can also delete apps directly in the App Drawer, which is far more convenient than having to go through Settings.

Widgets

The widgets that the Xperia J ships with are all pretty handy, with an emphasis on keeping connected with your friends. Of course, you get typical ones such as the Google Search bar, weather information, access to top contacts, access to the most recent images in your Album, and the Facebook widget. You can also get quick access to your music player through its widget.

To make up for the lack of quick toggles in the notifications bar, the Xperia J has packed all of them into a widget that gives you access to your settings such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Data, Sound, GPS, and a lot more.

Personalization

You can give the Xperia J a burst of color by tweaking its themes. This gives menus, such as Settings, a colored tint and changes the color of your smart illuminations. You can also change your wallpapers easily, with the ability to choose from your Album, live wallpapers, and the stock Xperia wallpapers.

The personal dictionary lets you add your own unique expressions and jargon. If you’re concerned about your phone getting lost, you can add owner information to your lockscreen, such as your name and where people can return your phone. Personally, I like to get creative with that.

Keyboard

The Xperia J’s keyboard is comfortable to type in, but big thumbs may find it a bit cramped. My own thumb bumbled quite a bit, but thankfully, the Xperia J provides word suggestions to speed up the typing process. There is no hands-free dictation option, unfortunately.

Browser

The Xperia J comes with both the stock Android Web browser and Google Chrome installed. Whichever browser you use, however, shows lag when you scroll up and down graphics-intensive websites, such as Android Authority. It’ll give the phone a moment to load the rest of the content.

Zooming in and out also causes the stock browser display to stutter, as it takes a moment to render the content.

Search

The device comes with Google’s Search app and it lets you choose which browser you’d like to complete the action on. Unfortunately, the Search app does not search the device for content and jumps straight to the Web.

Security

The Xperia J has the standard Android security features, starting with the slide lock. If you want more security, you can also employ Face Unlock, Pattern Lock, a 17-digit PIN, and a 4-letter password.

While testing Face Unlock, I noticed that the front camera still didn’t do very well in low-light conditions. During my testing in a moderately lit room, it usually failed to recognize my face. For best results, I recommend using Face Unlock in a brightly lit room. Thankfully, you can fall back on a PIN or a pattern to unlock your device.

Price and Availability

The Xperia J is expected to be released globally within this last quarter of the year. India, Hong Kong, Russia, and the U.K. were the first few regions to see the Xperia J. A non-network-locked handset reportedly costs about US$350.

Video Review

See and know more about the Xperia J by watching our video review on YouTube:

Conclusion

Though the Xperia J may have a nice screen, good battery life and good sound, its processing performance and camera quality leave a lot to be desired.

If you’re looking for a phone that can last a long time, then the Xperia J might be worth considering, but if you browse the Internet a lot, use heavy apps, or want to take pictures on the go, I recommend that you look the other way.

What do you think about the Sony Xperia J? Is it attractive enough for you to pick up or is its processing power a definite no-no? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

(with contributions from Elmer Montejo)

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