Review

Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray

There are some times when you simply do not want to carry around a huge device like the HTC Sensation or Samsung Galaxy S II and you instead would like a more compact device to suit your needs. This is where the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray comes in to play: it's a compact, thin, mid-range device with a focus on media capabilities and still enough power behind it to make everything run smoothly.

Thanks to the guys over at MobiCity, today I have with me the European Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray ST18i model in black with 900/2100 3G HSPA bands, but rest assured that there is also a US model designed for those that need 850/1900/2100 bands. As always MobiCity managed to ship this device to me (in Australia) the day after I requested it, so props to them for quick shipping to Pacific countries.

Specifications

As I mentioned above there are two models of the Xperia Ray that differ in the 3G bands for different regions. Everything else about the two models is the same, including the Qualcomm MSM8255 chipset (1 GHz single-core Snapdragon with Adreno 205), impressive 8 MP camera for a mid-range device and pixel-packed 3.3-inch 480 x 854 display.

  Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray
Product Codes ST18i (Europe)
ST18a (North America)
GSM Bands 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Bands HSPA 900 / 2100 (ST18i)
HSPA 850 / 1900 / 2100
Display 3.3-inch 480x854 LED-backlit LCD
10-point capacitive multi-touch
Sony Bravia mobile engine
Processor 1.0 GHz single-core Scorpion CPU
Qualcomm MSM8255 chipset
Graphics Adreno 205
RAM 512 MB
Storage 300 MB intenal app space
microSD expansion slot
4 GB included microSD
Connectivity WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
A-GPS
DLNA
FM Radio
Camera 8 MP rear camera with autofocus and LED flash
VGA front
720p video recording (rear)
Ports MicroUSB (charging, data)
3.5mm audio jack
Sensors Accelerometer
Magnetometer
Proximity sensor
Battery Li-ion 1,500 mAh removable
Launch OS Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread
Sony Ericsson Timescape UI
Launch Date September 2011
Size & Weight 111 x 53 x 9.4 mm
100 g

The battery in this device is also quite large at 1,500 mAh; this should be plenty considering it only needs to power a 3.3-inch display and moderate specs in this Android climate. The Ray also has a fantastically small footprint, which we will highlight in the next section on the design.

Contents

Don't want to read the whole review? Skip to the page you're interested in:

  1. Introduction
  2. Design and Display
  3. Software
  4. Performance
  5. Camera
  6. Media Playback & Call Quality
  7. Video Overview
  8. Battery Life & Conclusion

For those of you who don't want to read the entirety of the review, please also check out the video overview (on page 7) for a short rundown of all the features and some of the best parts of the device

Design

The biggest surprise for me when getting this device out of the packaging was the relatively tiny size compared to the Galaxy S that I use as my daily driver. The Xperia Ray fits width-wise into the 4-inch display on my Galaxy S, is considerably shorter in height and is half a millimetre thinner as well. Putting the two devices side by-side really shows off this difference in size.

The front of the Ray is occupied by the 3.3-inch display, front-facing camera and three buttons – two of which are capacitive and the third (the home button) is physical. Around the home button is a semicircle ring of light that turns on when you turn on the display, and also flashes colors for incoming notifications and charging; it’s a really handy and stylish way of performing the actions of a notification light.

The back of the device sees soft-touch plastic with branding, HD camera with LED flash, speaker (under the Sony Ericsson orb logo) and noise cancellation microphone. There are no unusual patterns or unnecessary colors on the back of the Xperia Ray, which leaves the device with a fitting minimalist feel. The inclusion of a matte cover also prevents nasty fingerprints.

Around the edges you see an exposed microUSB port on the left side, volume rocker on the right, power button and 3.5mm audio jack on the top and microphone on the bottom. The sides have attractive wedge-shaped metallic highlights that give the device the illusion that it’s thinner than it is.

I honestly cannot find anything to fault about the design of the Xperia Ray – it’s rock solid for a device of this size. It fits perfectly and comfortably in the hand, all buttons are in sensible and ergonomic positions and the minimalist, squared Xperia design feels right in with other designs of this era and doesn’t feel dated whatsoever. 

Display

The display on the Xperia Ray is certainly worth a mention, mostly due to the high-density of pixels present. The device packs a 3.3-inch 480 x 854 LED-backlit LCD “Reality Display” with an approximate pixel density of 297 ppi (pixels per inch); very close to the iPhone 4 “Retina” display’s 330 ppi.

The Ray’s display is absolutely gorgeous. For a non-AMOLED display, colors really seem to be vibrant and very true to reality. Pictures and videos look fantastic on the display thanks to the Sony Bravia Mobile engine that enhances the quality of imagery, and you don’t get any blue tinting on white areas like you would on a Super AMOLED.

Below is a comparison of the two types of displays. The Ray’s display (the smaller one) has the best true-to-reality color toning of the two and the better clarity (although this photo doesn’t really illustrate the difference). I still prefer the Super AMOLED for its overall vibrancy, but the Ray has one of the best mobile LCD displays available.

Of course, as with all LCD displays, black levels and viewing angles are not nearly as good as on the AMOLED type, but they’re not bad by any means on the Ray’s LED-backlit display. Viewing angles are better than what I have seen on HTC devices, but black levels don’t look as good as they did on the HTC Sensation, for example. Also, the lack of auto-brightness means that black levels can look worse when the display is too bright.

There is no doubting the benefits to the high pixel count. Most of the time individual pixels are indistinguishable on the Ray’s display and take close inspection to find. This allows text to be readable while very small; the Neowin desktop homepage is perfectly readable at a size where it is slightly blurred on the Galaxy S’ lower density display.

At times the text can be annoyingly small in applications as they are designed to be used on larger displays, but for the most part the display is the best I have seen on a device of this size. Going back to using a 3.2” 320 x 480 display on my aging HTC Hero just seems terrible in comparison to what Sony Ericsson have conjured up to put in the Ray.

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