Sony Xperia T review

December 7, 2012
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Whether you love or hate the James Bond franchise, you can’t deny that the movies show off lots of pretty gadgets. One of them is the Sony Xperia T LT30p, marketed in the U.S. as the LTE-capable variant known as the Xperia TL LT30at, taking the spotlight in that one very short scene where James Bond checks his phone for a message.

After that scene, we hardly see the phone again, but the Xperia T will forever be hailed as “the Bond phone.” Naturally  Sony is marketing the Xperia T side by side with Skyfall. James Bond is a one-man walking weapon of mass destruction, deadly with a gun, and even deadlier with his charms, but is the Xperia T a phone worthy to belong to 007?

In this post, take a closer look at the Xperia T LT30p / Xperia TL LT30at, or jump right away to our short video review.

Plus Points

  • Gorgeous design
  • Nice soft-touch rubber back
  • Solid build
  • Dedicated Shutter button

Minus Points

  • Image stabilization during videos is terrible
  • You can hear the clicking of the phone’s autofocus motor on video
  • Micro USB port creates bump on the edge in the back panel
  • Hardware buttons located inconveniently in lower half of right side

Dimensions and Build

Sony has always set itself apart from its competitors by giving its phones a unique design. The Xperia T is an elegant device, solid and without a single sharp corner. It’s rather pocketable at 129.4 x 67.3 x 9.35 mm (5.1 x 2.6 x 0.4 in) and feels comfortable in your hand.

At 139 grams, it isn’t feather-light, but it also doesn’t feel like you’re holding a rock. The Xperia T, however, seems to be built like a rock. It feels very solid, and when you grip it tightly with one hand, it doesn’t creak.

Front

The Xperia T’s front is a jet-black mirror, interrupted by only the Sony and Xperia logos. There are no physical buttons on the Xperia T’s front; all navigation buttons are onscreen. Surrounding the Sony logo are the notification light, the sensor, the speaker grille and the front camera.

Sides

The Xperia T’s sides are angled slightly as they join the plastic of the front to the backplate. There’s not a single sharp corner on this device, but neither is there the rounded corners that have clicked with other major phone manufacturers, such as Samsung.

You can find the 3.5 mm headphone jack located at the top of the Xperia T. I’m not exactly fond of the headphone’s placement; it breaks up the sleek design of the device but at the same time allows you to easily plug in your headphones for music consumption. Functionality trumps form, in this case. You can also find a secondary microphone here.

The Micro USB port is the only thing you’ll find on the Xperia T’s left side.

The right side is a bit more crowded, as Sony has put all the device’s hardware buttons here. At the very top of the right side, you’ll see a cut out.

Pull it aside and you’ll reveal the slots for the microSD card and the micro-SIM. The flap doesn’t feel particularly strong when I tug on it, but it does snap cleanly back in place.

Lower on the right side, you’ll find the Power button, the Volume rocker, and the dedicated Shutter button, all colored gray with silver edging. The hardware buttons are all placed lower than usual; you’ll need to hold the lower part of the phone so you can easily access them with your thumb.

The bottom side of the Xperia T has only the hole for the microphone.

Back

Similar to the Xperia J and the Xperia TX, the Xperia T has a curved back, but compared to the Xperia J and the Xperia TX, the curve is very slight. It does, however, prevent the loudspeaker grille from being covered when you put the phone on its back.

Unlike the Xperia TX, the Xperia T’s back is more angular and is less prone to see-sawing, allowing you to easily use the phone while on its back.

The Xperia T’s soft-touch back panel is a very nice contrast to the industrial sleekness of the front. The material also avoids leaving fingerprints behind. Jutting slightly from the backplate is the 13 MP camera and below it is the LED flash. The NFC-certified logo is located right under it. Below the Xperia logo on the lower part of the phone is the loudspeaker grille.

Unfortunately, not even the phone’s soft backplate is going to sway me into approving of the loudspeaker grille. Just like on the Xperia J and the Xperia TX, the grille is deep and encourages dust and other particles to gather.

Screen and Display

  • 4.55″ TFT capacitive touchscreen
  • Shatter-proof sheet on scratch-resistant glass
  • 1280 x 720 pixels resolution (323 ppi)

The Xperia T’s screen shows users vivid colors, thanks to the Bravia Engine technology. Images on the screen look crisp and zooming in on the details is a great experience. I did notice, however, that dark tones in videos look rather grainy. Brighter colors looked fine and you could easily make out little details such as snow falling in trailers.

The Xperia T’s screen does well indoors, as well as outdoors. If you turn up the brightness, you won’t have any problem using the Xperia T outside of the house.

Processing Hardware

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8260A
  • dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Krait CPU
  • Adreno 225 GPU
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16 GB internal storage
  • expandable via microSD card, up to 32 GB
  • PlayStation certified smartphone

With a dual-core processor, the Xperia T doesn’t really stand out from quad-core competitors, but I wouldn’t call the Xperia T’s performance sluggish. There’s a bit of lag when browsing through the homescreens, navigating the app drawer, and loading high resolution pictures. Though the browser loads the whole page so you can scroll up and down with no problem, the phone will need some time to re-render content when you zoom in and out.

When watching videos on the stock video player and the YouTube app, there were no stutters or freezing. Playing Dead Trigger was rather smooth as well.

The dual-core processor, however, is apparent when you launch apps. They take a few seconds to load but if this is your first dual-core phone, you’ll probably not notice it.

Benchmarks

Benchmark Result
GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C16Z16 Onscreen 22 fps
GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C16Z16 Offscreen 13 fps
Quadrant Standard Edition 4631
AnTuTu Benchmark 9807
CF-Bench 9491
Vellamo Mobile Benchmark HTML 5 1821
Vellamo Mobile Benchmark Metal 582
NenaMark1 60.1 FPS
NenaMark2 60.0 FPS
An3DBenchXL 36846
Geekbench 2 1588
Linpack Single Thread 102.737 MFLOPS
Linpack Multi-thread 95.131 MFLOPS
V8 Benchmark Suite 1488
SunSpider 0.9.1 JavaScript 1747.8 ms (lower is better)
BrowserMark 2921

Battery Life

  • Standard battery, Li-ion 1,850 mAh
  • Standby – 450 h (2G) / 410 h (3G)
  • Talktime – 7 h (2G) / 7 h (3G)
  • Music listening time – 16 hours
  • Video playback – 5 hours

Because of the Xperia T’s unibody design, its battery is non-removable. While using the Xperia T, the back became a bit warm but not too uncomfortable to use.

I subjected the Xperia T to an informal battery test which presumably simulates moderate to heavy use. This consists of turning on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and syncing options. I also turned Volume and Brightness up to their highest settings. The screen was not allowed even a moment’s rest. The first part of the test involves playing a video on loop for one hour. The second part of the test involves browsing a graphics-heavy website for another hour.

Two hours later, the Xperia T’s full charged battery was whittled down to 51%. Heavy users may want to take their charger with them wherever they go, but with moderate use, the Xperia T could possibly last 6 to 7 hours.

Connectivity

The Xperia T is a 3G/HSPA smartphone. You’ll need a micro-SIM to make calls and send text messages. It’s also NFC-capable though no NFC tags came in the box.

The Xperia T can send content to other devices via Bluetooth, or connect to wireless speakers. It’s also DLNA-certified, so you can share pictures and other content with your friends or with DLNA compatible devices.

To transfer content from your computer to the Xperia T, plug in a Micro USB cable.

Camera

The Xperia T has both a rear facing 13 MP camera with a back-illuminated Sony Exmor R sensor, and a 1.3 MP front camera.

What I like the most about the Xperia T is its dedicated Shutter button. It doesn’t have tap-to-focus, but you can choose the area you want to focus on. You’ll need to half-press the shutter to focus and full press to snap your shot.

The Xperia T’s 13 MP rear camera captures subjects well outdoors, giving you vibrant but not overly saturated colors.

Indoors, however, the images that the rear camera captures are rather noisy, especially in dark tones.

The flash should serve you well at evening parties or picture-taking in areas with little light. Without the flash, the camera seems to have a hard time locking on to the subject and in turn, produces very blurred pictures.

Activating Night Mode might help a bit, but in my experience, it was of little help.

Outdoors, the Xperia T’s 1.3 MP front facing camera did its job well, but when you zoom in, you’ll see noise.

The front facing camera should not be used indoors, however, as the results are truly noisy.

The rear camera is capable of 1080p Full HD recording, so I just had to put it to the test. The result was quite disappointing. The video’s colors are rather true to life but the image stabilization was terrible. I thought I hadn’t turned it on. Everything was jittery and I couldn’t tap on an area I wanted to zoom in on. Autofocus works alright, but sometimes it was just bad. To make it worse, the Xperia T’s autofocus motor was so noisy that the sound was caught on video.

Media Playback

For your music needs, the Xperia T comes with Sony’s WALKMAN app. Its controls are intuitive and straightforward, but if you want to make your listening experience personalized, you can enjoy sound enhancements like Clear BASS and a 5-band equalizer. If you’re not sure how to fiddle with the equalizer, you can choose from any of the 8 presets.

The sound that comes from the Xperia T is loud, thanks to xLoud enhancement. You’ll want to be careful with your fingers, though; covering up the loudspeaker grille significantly muffles the sound.

The Xperia T is capable of 1080p Full HD playback and the result is quite good. There was no stutter, lagging, or freezing when I played HD videos.

Software

The Xperia T runs Android 4.0.4 out of the box, which is a bit disappointing since newer devices are already packing Android 4.1 and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Sony, however, has planned an upgrade to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean sometime in 2013. Sony’s Timescape UI runs on top; it’s rather attractive and functional.

Lockscreen

The lockscreen you’ll find on the Xperia T is the same you’ll find on the Xperia J and Xperia TX. The time and date are on the upper half of the screen while at the bottom, you’ll see a slider with two icons. Slide the camera icon to the left to jump into the camera app and slide the lock icon to the right to unlock your phone.

You’ll need to slide the lock icon all the way to the end of the slider to unlock your phone. I like this function as it prevents me from accidentally unlocking the device with a wayward touch.

Homescreen

At the bottom of the homescreen, you’ll find the app dock with a folder for your media apps (WALKMAN, Movies, Album, Camera, Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, and FM radio), a shortcut to the Google Play Store, Messaging, and Phone. In the middle of these icons is the button for the app drawer.

Notifications

Just like on most Android devices, you can pull down the notification menu from the top of the screen. The notification menu has quick toggles for Sound, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Data, and shortcut to Settings. Flick your notifications to the right to dismiss them or you can clear out your notifications with one tap.

If you’re playing music, you’ll see music controls on the notification menu.

App Drawer

The app drawer shows you 20 app icons per page. You can uninstall apps directly from the app drawer without having to go through the Settings menu. If you’re conscious about organization, you can arrange apps in your own order — alphabetically, recently used, and recently installed.

Widgets

You can find the standard widgets, such as the Google Search bar, music player, recent apps, and weather information, on the Xperia T’s homescreens, but Sony has also included a few of its own. There’s a focus on staying connected with your friends through what they’re listening to (Friends’ Music) and what they’re updating on Facebook and Twitter (Timescape Friends and Timescape Feed).

Making up for the few quick toggles on the notification menu, Sony also included a widget with all your necessary quick toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Backlight, Data, Sound, GPS, Auto-sync, Airplane, Hotspot, Roaming, and NFC. TrackID, for music recognition, is also included. You can also enjoy your Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited subscriptions through their own widgets.

Small Apps

Multitasking is possible on the Xperia T thanks to Small Apps. Click on the Multitasking button and you’ll find a small bar with icons at the bottom of the screen.

You’ll be able to use a calculator, time, note pad, and a sound recorder. You can move them around on your screen and keep them on top while you do other things on your phone.

Personalization

If you want to stick to the stock look but inject a different color into your experience, you can choose from the Themes available on the Xperia T. These themes change the color of the stock wallpaper and tint the Settings menu with the color that you picked. If you’re not pleased with the themes, you can choose an image from your Gallery to use as your wallpaper. Give your contacts distinct ringtones by using the rather large selection of tones available or by using a song from your Music library.

Having a hard time reading things? Change the font size to something that’s easier on your eyes. You can choose your keyboard layout and appearance, as well, and add additional keys such as the period and comma keys, the smiley key, and the Google Voice Typing key.

Afraid of people looking at your notifications over your shoulder? You can fiddle with the lockscreen settings to hide detailed information in your notifications or choose if you want to display your missed calls, new messages, new emails, and calendar events. In the event you lose your phone, or you just want to get creative, you can type in a return address in the Owner Info section.

Keyboard

I personally found the Xperia T’s keyboard to be a bit small, with narrow keys that I sometimes missed while typing. You can also use the Xperia T’s gesture typing, which was pretty accurate despite my unsure thumb.

For an even easier experience, you can go hands-free by tapping the Voice Typing key. It’s fairly accurate, but you can only use it when you’re connected to the internet.

Browser

Both Chrome and the stock Android browser are pre-installed on the Xperia T. For this review, I used the stock Android browser to view a heavy-graphics website. Scrolling up and down was smooth as the page was loaded completely. When I zoomed in and out, the phone took a moment to re-render the content.

Search

The Google Search widget on the homescreen lets you search for information on the web but it also lets you search the content on your device. By default, it is set to only apps, contacts, Google Play Movies, and Play Books, but you can also include emails, texts, documents in OfficeSuite, songs, and Wisepilot.

Security

The Xperia T comes with standard Android security features. By default, phone security is set to Slide, but you can switch it to Pattern or Face Unlock. Face Unlock was quick to use, as the Xperia T’s front facing camera could pick up my face easily. For more security, you can secure your phone with a PIN or an alphanumeric password, both at least 4 digits long and no longer than 17.

The Xperia T also allows you to encrypt your phone. Each time you power it on, you’ll need a PIN or a password to decrypt your device.

Price and Availability

The Xperia T was released in September 2012 and is available in black, silver, and white. It is available for 399 pounds (about US$642) in the U.K. If you’re based in Canada, you can get the Xperia T for anywhere between CA$525 to CA$550. The Xperia T’s LTE variant will be landing in the U.S. with a different model name, the Xperia TL LT30at, which you can get from AT&T with a 2-year US$99.99 contract.

Video

For more insight about the Xperia T/TL, watch our short video review on our YouTube channel:

Conclusion

The Xperia T is a gorgeously designed phone that performs well even with “just” a dual-core processor. It has a gorgeous display, loud loudspeakers, a solid build, and a nice soft touch backpanel. Unfortunately and based on my experience, images in inadequately lit rooms are noisy, the phone’s autofocus motor is noisier when you’re taking videos, and its image stabilization is pretty sad.

The Xperia T/TL can definitely stand up to everyday use, but shutterbugs and smartphone movie makers may want to steer clear of it.

What do you think of the Sony Xperia T? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

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