Last night, Sony showed us the newest members of its Xperia NXT series, the Xperia U and Xperia P. The new NXT brand, launched at CES with the Xperia S, embodies Sony’s commitment to change the image of its ill-fated mobile products. Just ten days ago, the Japanese have finally signed the divorce papers with Ericsson, and now Sony is ready to shine again on its own. The new U and P devices are the first phones to bear the Sony logo (Xperia S still used the Sony Ericsson branding.)
The Xperia U and Xperia P share a sleek and minimalistic design philosophy, and are very similar in appearance to the previously-introduced Xperia S. All three phones have almost square corners, a very thin bezel on the laterals, and an interesting translucent band on the bottom side of the set (which changes color based on context) that separates the screen from the interchangeable bottom caps.
These bottom caps, which come in several colors, really give the Xperias a distinctive image, one that could become iconic if Sony’s new smartphones prove successful. The first hands-on reviews suggest that the bottom caps don’t feel cheap or flimsy, and that the general build of the devices is in line with Sony’s prestigious accomplishments in industrial design.
Let’s talk hardware. It’s obvious that the new Xperia NXT series is designed to appeal to all types of users, while keeping a consistent, well-thought image across the board. We have the high-end model, Sony’s attempt at a superphone if you wish, which is the Xperia S. The S boasts a 4.3-inch 720p display, a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, and runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread (Sony promised a future update to ICS.) At last night’s event, we learned that the Xperia S would start selling immediately, with the first units being available in Sony’s store in Barcelona.
The mid-range device is the Xperia P, a dual-core 4-inch model running at 1GHz. At a quick glance, the Xperia P is a slightly smaller Xperia S, both sharing an aluminum unibody design. However, Xperia P has a better screen – a 960 x 540 qHD LED with WhiteMagic technology. A proprietary Sony technology, WhiteMagic adds another layer of white pixels to the regular RGB layout of an LCD. This enables screens to deliver better brightness, contrast, and improve daylight visibility. Release date? The Xperia P and its kid sister the Xperia U will become available sometimes in the second quarter of 2012. No word yet on the prices, but once the S starts selling later this week, we'll be able to offer you a fairly accurate estimation.
The smallest child of the family is the Xperia U, which, at 3.5 inches (the size of an iPhone 4S), caters to the people who don’t like the increasingly large designs that are popular these days. The Xperia U is also built around a 1GHz dual-core processor, but comes with a 5MP camera, while the P and S boast an 8MP camera; also, the U has only 512MB of RAM. As its larger siblings, the Xperia U runs Gingerbread, but is likely to get an ICS upgrade, sometimes in Q2. Judging from the relatively small size and the colors of the interchangeable caps – pink and yellow, the Xperia U is probably aimed at the female public.
As you might expect, the Xperia NXT series excels in multimedia capabilities. From the Walkman line to the Bravia TVs, Sony is known to incorporate technology from its electronics products into their mobile devices. The Xperia P and U are both powered by the Bravia engine, which Sony claims to provide the best viewing experience of any Sony smartphone. The smaller U device emphasizes sound quality, so it uses XLoud, which boosts sound when music is played through the phone’s speakers, and Surround Sound.
Previous Xperia phones have always received praises for the quality of their cameras, and the new additions seem to carry on this tradition. The Xperia S rocks a 12MP camera (only outdone by Fujitsu’s rumored 13.1 MP beast), while the Xperia P comes with an 8MP sensor. With 1.5 seconds to take a picture from standby mode, both devices have impressive capturing speeds. Other goodies: HD recording and panoramic snapshots.
Yesterday, Sony also announced a dock for the Xperia P, which you will be able to use to connect your smartphone to your TV. You will even be capable to connect a keyboard and mouse to the dock, turning your phone into a PC, albeit a very limited one. Basically, you’ll get to browse the Web on the TV or to use apps. Nothing ground-breaking here, but still potentially useful.
Needless to say, connecting Xperias to your home system will be a snap, thanks to the easy HDMI connectivity and DLNA support.
No superphone here, folks
After the quad-core extravaganza we've witnessed over the last few days, Sony’s new smartphones seem… uninspiring. Yes, they are definitely beautiful, although those bottom caps may not suite everyone’s tastes. But the lack of quad-core processing and, most importantly, the conspicuous absence of Ice Cream Sandwich are disappointing.
Don’t understand us wrong. The new Xperias may well deliver a truly beautiful user experience, without quad-core and without ICS. But with the HTC One X, LG Optimus 4X HD, and Huawei Ascend D Quad coming along, Sony seems to be a little late to show. Frankly, we expected something better from you, Sony.