Sony Xperia TX review

November 23, 2012
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There’s no denying it: Sony really knows how to design its phones. It has avoided a lot of the design trends that are really popular and continued doing its own thing. Even an entry-level phone such as its Sony Xperia J ST26i looks gorgeous.

The Sony Xperia TX LT29i is equally gorgeous, with its curved back, thin strip of silver, and mirror-like front. AĀ sense of class, sophistication, and eleganceĀ emanates from this phone.Ā Its insides, however, aren’t quite as impressive.

Unfortunately, Sony hasn’t quite caught up with companies like Samsung, LG, or HTC when it comes to specs. While those competitors have already released quad-core handsets, Sony’s Xperia TX is equipped with only a dual-core processor.

The interface of the Xperia TX looks a lot like the Xperia J’s, minus the lag, thankfully. Because of the similarity between the Xperia J and the Xperia TX, especially in terms of UI, this review may feel a lot like deja vu.

Read the rest of this review to get a closer look at the Sony Xperia TX LT29i, or you can jump straight away to our video review.

Plus Points

  • Gorgeous design
  • Small Apps
  • Loudspeaker provides good sound quality
  • Bright and crisp display

Minus Points

  • Camera takes noisy images
  • Keyboard with small keys
  • Curved backplate makes the phone hard to use on its back

Dimensions and Build

The Xperia TX feels almost feather-light at 127 grams (4.48 oz) and is pocketable with its dimensions of 131 x 68.6 x 8.6 mm (5.16 x 2.70 x 0.34 in). It’s mostly made of plastic and glass.

For this review, we examined the white variant, although this phone is also available in pink and black.

Front

The Xperia TX’s front looks like a black rectangle surrounded by a thin white frame, a great visual move. It evokes a minimalist and industrial feel. Only the speaker grille, the Sony and Xperia logos, and the 1.3 MP front camera are visible, plus the sensors and the notification LED, if you look close enough.

I’m not too fond of how the plastic frame is slightly raised from the glass panel. Nevertheless, it helps a bit with getting a firm grip, although the phone doesn’t need it because it is already light enough and wide enough for easy handling. On the flip side, that raised edge/frame is a perfect spot for accumulating dust and dirt.

The Sony and Xperia logos are done in silver, but when you unlock the Xperia TX, the XPERIA logo lights up. It’s a very cool touch.

Sides

One of the best parts of the Xperia TX’s design is the thin strip of shiny chrome running along the phone’s sides. It gives the phone a very sleek and classy touch, made even classier by the silver-plated Power button, Volume rockers, and dedicated Shutter button.

The Xperia TX’s Power button is easily accessible to my right index finger or my left thumb, which I definitely appreciate.

Consistent with the Xperia J, the 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top side of the phone, encouraging users to use this phone as their music player.

One thing that bothers me is the Micro USB port’s location on the upper part of the Xperia TX’s right side. Though it allows me to use the phone while it’s plugged into the computer or charging, the Micro USB port is frequently covered up by the right thumb or the left index finger when not in use, causing dirt and other particles to accumulate.

Back

The first thing you’ll notice when you pick the Xperia TX up is that its back feels amazing. It’s matte and has a pearl-like shade to it. It not only looks attractive but also resists fingerprints and smudges.

The Xperia TX’s back has inherited the elegantly curvedĀ silhouetteĀ of the Xperia Arc, the Xperia Arc S, and the Xperia J, but it’s important to note that the left and right edges of the backplate curve slightly to the sides. This allows the Xperia TX to fit better in the hand, its edges being cradled by your fingers rather than cutting into them.

Unfortunately, because of the phone’s curved backplate and its protruding camera, you really can’t use the Xperia TX while it’s on its back. Touching the screen, especially the left and right portions, rocks the phone. This, however, also works in favor of the Xperia TX.Ā My complaint about the Xperia J’s loudspeaker was that, when I put the Xperia J on its back, the speaker was significantly muffled. The Xperia TX fixes that problem with its curved backplate, so its loudspeaker isn’t completely covered, allowing you to enjoy your music while keeping the phone on its back.

However, I still have the same complaints about the depth of the loudspeaker grille. It still invites dirt and grime to gather.

The backplate is removable, allowing you to replace the battery and to access the micro-SIM and microSD slots. You’ll see that there is an NFC antenna located on the inner side of the backplate.

Screen and Display

  • 4.55 inches TFT capacitive touch screen
  • 1280 x 720 pixel resolution
  • 323 PPI

The Xperia TX’s screen is protected by a shatter-proof sheet on scratch-resistant glass, according to Sony’s white paper for the device. The high pixel density gives you crisp images on the Xperia TX’s screen. Videos and images appear vivid on the screen but may be a little oversaturated.

The Xperia TX, however, is great for use outdoors. The screen remains nice and bright, especially with the brightness level cranked up to maximum. Even in direct sunlight, I had no trouble using my device and reading.

Instead of Xperia J’sĀ capacitive buttons accented in white, the Xperia TX’s navigational buttons for Back, Home, and Multitasking are all onscreen.

Processing Hardware

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8260A
  • dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Krait CPU
  • Adreno 225 GPU
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16 GB internal storage
  • microSD card expansion up to 32 GB

A dual-core processor nowadays is a bit disappointing, considering that many of Sony’s competitors are releasing quad-core devices. There’s a tiny bit of lag when swiping between the homescreens and through the App Drawer, but this didn’t really bother me. Playing games such as Bad Piggies and Eternity Warriors 2 on the device didn’t show any inconvenient lag. When going through the gallery’s images, swiping from one image to another was smooth and high resolution images only needed a moment before they fully loaded.

The Xperia TX comes with 16 GB of storage onboard, about 10 to 12 GB of which is user usable. If you need even more space, you can expand its memory to up to 32 GB via microSD card.

Benchmarks

Benchmark Result
GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C16Z16 Onscreen 22 fps
GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C16Z16 Offscreen 14 fps
Quadrant Standard Edition 4882
AnTuTu Benchmark 7101
CF-Bench 9534
Vellamo Mobile Benchmark HTML 5 1749
Vellamo Mobile Benchmark Metal 626
NenaMark1 60.0 fps
NenaMark2 59.5 fps
An3DBenchXL 36748
Geekbench 2 1572
Linpack Single Thread 75.052 MFLOPS
Linpack Multi-thread 1153922 MFLOPS
V8 Benchmark Suite 1601
SunSpider 0.9.1 JavaScript 1623.4 ms (lower is better)
BrowserMark 2450

Battery Life

The Xperia TX has a standard Li-polymer 1,700-mAh battery that Sony claims to last more than half a day playing music, a little over 6 hours talk time on either 2G or 3G, and several days of standby time. On paper, the Xperia TX’s battery life looked promising but I wanted to actually see how it stood up to my heavy use.

I put the Xperia TX’s battery to an informal battery test. It involved switching on NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and autosyncing. I also maxed out the screen brightness and the volume and didn’t let the Xperia TX’s screen get even a moment’s rest.

After an hour of looped video play and an hour of browsing graphics-heavy websites, the Xperia TX’s fully charged battery was down to 49%. The battery is adequate, and if you’re not a heavy user and you don’t have unnecessary connectivity options turned on, you could easily get 8 hours on this device.

Connectivity

The Xperia TX is equipped with the usual Micro USB and Bluetooth connectivity, but if you want more ways to transfer data between devices, it’s also NFC-capable. The NFC antenna is located on the inner side of the backplate, which means that you won’t be able to easily switch your backplate with third party ones unless they have NFC antennas.

You can view your videos and movies on a larger DLNA screen thanks to the Xperia TX’s “Throw” feature.

Camera

I was quite excited to try out the Xperia TX’s camera, seeing that the phone has a dedicated Camera Shutter button, plus Sony’s sweet reputation of excellent imaging. But, the Xperia TX’s performance left me feeling rather underwhelmed.

The device’s 13-megapixel main camera captures bright and vibrant colors outdoors. But, indoors, it performs rather poorly.

Though the phone’s camera has good low-light performance, images captured indoors were quite noisy, especially for dark tones.

What I do like about the Xperia TX’s camera is that its dedicated Shutter button lets you half-press to focus and full press to snap your shot. You’ll need to tap on the screen to determine where the focus should be aimed, however, and the focus is far from perfect. Of course, there’s an onscreen Shutter button but it takes a while for the camera to focus before it finally snaps a picture. Between the physical Shutter button and the onscreen one, I prefer the physical Shutter button as it gives me slightly more control in focusing on my subject.

When taking videos with the rear camera, you can’t dictate what subject to zoom in on. Autofocus does its job, slowly focusing on an object, but it may strike a few people as too slow.

The front-facing 1.3 MP camera does fairly well in medium-lit rooms. You can use Face Unlock with it without having to move to an area with more light.

Accessing the camera app from the lockscreen is rather snappy and loads on your screen in less than 2 seconds.

Media Playback

Sony’s WALKMAN app is the Xperia TX’s stock music player. The app is simple and attractive, changing its background color depending on the album art you’re viewing. An image with lots of red, for example, will give the background a red tint.

For music buffs, Sony has thrown in music-tweaking tools such as a five-band equalizer, Clear BASS which lets you tweak the lower audio spectrum, and xLOUD which lets you enhance the loudness of the device’s internal speakers. xLOUD is certainly doing its job, as switching it off greatly reduces the Xperia TX’s loudspeaker’s volume.

You can enjoy these same audio tools for the stock video player. You can enjoy the video player’s Throw feature, which lets you play movies on DLNA-compatible devices.

Watching HD videos on YouTube was a pleasure. I had no buffering issues and the videos were crisp.

Just make sure that you don’t accidentally cover the loudspeaker grille with your finger, as doing so significantly muffles the sound.

Software

The Xperia TX comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box. It’s a bit disappointing to receive a device that doesn’t have the latest Android version, but Sony has promised an upgrade to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean in 2013.

Running on top of Ice Cream Sandwich is Sony’s own Timescape UI, itself a very beautiful and navigable user interface.

Lockscreen

When you wake your phone, you’ll see the time and the date in the upper half of the screen. If you’ve typed something into the Owner Info field, you’ll see it under the Date. In the lower half of the screen, you’ll see a slider with a lock icon on the left side and a camera icon on the right. Slide the lock icon to the right if you want to unlock your device and slide the camera icon to the left if you want to use the Camera app.

You’ll really need to slide your finger across the screen, rather than simply half-way. Some users may find this tedious, but I personally like it because it prevents your accidentally unlocking the device.

If you’re playing music, you’ll see the music player controls on the lockscreen instead of the time and date.

Homescreen

The Xperia TX gives you 5 homescreens to use; unfortunately, you can’t add any more nor remove any.

At the bottom of the screen is an app dock for 4 shortcuts. By default, it has a folder for your Media apps such as the WALKMAN music player app, Movies, Album, Camera, and FM radio, a shortcut to the Google Play Store, a shortcut to Messaging, and a shortcut to your Phone. In the middle of the apps, there’s the App Drawer icon.

Moving app shortcuts around on the homescreen may take a while, as they jiggle around as you move them. It’s a cute effect but the time it takes to throw an icon into the trash is a bit much.

Notifications

Just like most Android devices, you can pull down the Xperia TX’s notification bar from the status bar. When your device is locked, however, you cannot access your notification bar. This quite a deviation from the usual behavior of the notifications menu on Ice Cream Sandwich. Yet, I see it as a good security feature as it prevents nosy people from seeing your notifications.

The notification bar has quick toggles for Sound Profiles, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Mobile Data, and a shortcut to Settings. You have the option to clear all your notifications in one go. When you’re playing music, you can quickly access your music controls on the notification bar.

App Drawer

The App Drawer will show you 20 app icons per page.

Just like on the Xperia J, you can directly uninstall apps from the App Drawer without having to go through Settings. You can also arrange icons in your App Drawer in a number of ways, such as in your own order, alphabetically, by most used and by recently installed.

Widgets

A majority of the Xperia TX’s widgets emphasize staying connected with your friends via online social networks and social media. You can use Timescape Friends to keep in touch with your favorite friends on Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Timescape Feed, on the other hand, lets you stay in touch with your online friends and the world. You can also check out what your friends are listening to with Friends’ Music.

The Xperia TX also gives you access to your most recently taken pictures and the WALKMAN app’s music widget for quick access to your music controls. The Google Search widget is easy to access on the main home screen.

To make up for the limited quick toggle options you have in the notification bar, the Xperia TX has a widget that contains quick toggles for other features like Backlight, Auto-Sync, GPS, Airplane Mode, Hotspot, Roaming, and NFC.

Small Apps

There’s something really interesting when you click on the Xperia TX’s Multitasking button. Usually, the Multitasking button lets you jump between apps quickly and to kill any that you aren’t using. When you use the Multitasking button on the Xperia TX, however, you can see a menu on the bottom of the screen.

Here you can access four of your Xperia TX’s Small Apps. Clicking one of them lets you pull them on to your screen and to move them around so you can continue doing whatever you were up to. The Small App will stay where you left it, even when you scroll through your homescreen, app drawer and other apps.

By default, the Small Apps available on the Xperia TX are the calculator, a timer, a sticky note app, and a voice recorder. You can install more Small Apps from the Google Play Store, but there aren’t a lot available yet as of this writing.

Personalization

If you want to give your device some color without changing too much, you can pick a new theme. Doing this changes the homescreen wallpaper, as well as gives your Settings menu a slight colored tint. Of course, you can change wallpapers easily, being able to choose from your Gallery, from stock images, and from live wallpapers.

The Gallery app lets you give certain images the spotlight by resizing them. If you’re particular about your keyboard, you’ll be able to control which buttons are easy to access, as well as the layout your keyboard uses.

Keyboard

The Xperia TX’s default keyboard has small keys, and while this may be fine for most users, bigger thumbs may make a lot of mistakes. By default, the comma and the period buttons can only be accessed through the punctuation button. It’s a bit inconvenient to have to bring up the punctuation buttons every time, but you can turn on the comma and period buttons via Settings.

You can also turn on the Google Voice Input button and the smiley key. A word of warning — turning on these buttons will shrink the Space bar significantly.

You can choose the keyboard layout that suits you best. By default, it’s set to the full keyboard, but you can also switch to the phone pad layout or the full keyboard extra layout which lets you access punctuations by long pressing on keys.

Auto-correction can be toggled to your liking, as well. You can have the phone auto-correct all words or only uppercase and accented letters. For bilingual users, the Xperia TX lets you add bilingual word suggestions, but this option is limited to languages that use the Latin alphabet.

The Xperia TX’s keyboard supports gesture input and it’s quite accurate. I prefer this to the small and hard-to-type-on keyboard.

Browser

Both the stock Android browser and Chrome have been installed on the Xperia TX. Browsing with the stock browser was an okay experience.

Graphics-heavy websites took a moment to load, but once the content did load, I could scroll up and down the page with no problem. The browser doesn’t need to load the next segment of the page. Zooming in and out of pages will take the browser a moment to re-render content.

Search

The Google Search feature lets you not only search for content on the web but also lets you search for content on your phone. You can modify what content is searchable, including the names of contacts, emails, messages, document file names, and music tracks.

Security

The Xperia TX comes with a few of the typical Android security features, with the Slide feature as its default. For a bit more security, you can use Face Unlock. Unlike my experience with the Xperia J, the Xperia TX’s front facing camera can detect my face easily indoors and with moderate light. Each time I unlocked the Xperia TX, it recognized my face.

Pattern lock is also available but if you want more security, you can set a PIN or an alphanumeric password. Both the PIN and the password require a minimum of 4 characters and a maximum of 17.

Price and Availability

The Sony Xperia TX is estimated to cost between US$550 to US$650. There’s no official word yet of when it will be arriving in the U.S., unfortunately.

Video Review

Watch our brief video review of the Sony Xperia TX LT29i on YouTube:

Conclusion

Though the Xperia TX feels a lot like the Xperia J, I certainly like the Xperia TX a lot better and could see myself using this as a regular device. It feels very nice in the hand, allowing me to hold it without too much effort. Its size and thickness are perfect for slipping into my pockets.

I wouldn’t use this device to write lengthy emails or snap pictures, however. Its keyboard is a challenge for my thumbs, and its camera just won’t cooperate with me. It also feels a bit left behind, equipped with a dual-core processor when other companies are already producing quad-core beasts.

The Xperia TX has a great display, giving you great and vivid images, and loud loudspeakers, making listening to music a pleasure. Combine the display and the loudspeakers and you’re all set for watching movies on YouTube.

What do you think of the Sony Xperia TX LT29i? Let us know what you think about it in a comment below.

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