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Sony Xperia U review

Sony's small Android smartphone offers a dual-core processor and plenty of charm

Our Verdict

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 8 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 5 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 6.60 Hour
  • Screen Resolution : 480 x 854

View full specification

For

  • Solid construction
  • Clear display
  • Fast, smooth Android
  • Clever Facebook integration
  • Nice music player

Against

  • Awful 720p video
  • No SD card slot
  • Only 4GB storage
  • Browser looks dated
  • Stiff camera button

The Sony Xperia U sits at the cheaper end of Sony's range of Android smartphones, using similar styling to the much larger Xperia S and the slightly larger Xperia P and Xperia Miro, setting it apart from Sony's rounder phones, including the rugged Sony Xperia Go and budget Xperia Tipo.

The Sony Xperia U is the smallest of the three handsets, offering a 3.5-inch TFT display inside the same angular, black case as the Xperia S and Xperia P, and an odd transparent plastic strip acting as part design feature, part information panel and part silly light-up novelty.

Prices are relatively modest for a modern smartphone that says "Sony" on it, with the Xperia U popping up for £189 in the UK, or $340 in the US, SIM-free. But can you really get the style of the Xperia S on a budget?

Sony Xperia U review

It's pretty close. The Sony Xperia U is small and solid, offering much the same in balance and build quality as last year's excellent Sony Xperia Ray, with Sony putting three capacitive touch buttons beneath the display, indicated by tiny silvery dots.

There's an explanatory icon embedded in the transparent strip, telling Android newcomers these buttons are, from left to right, Back, Home and Menu.

The touch areas are big and very sensitive to presses, meaning it's easy to use the phone without thinking too much about your actions or having to aim your button stabs.

The smaller 3.5-inch display makes the Sony Xperia U fit the hand well, so one-handed use is possible with ease, too.

Sony Xperia U review

Above the screen sits the front-facing VGA camera, which can be toggled and selected within the camera app, producing low-res images that emerge from the camera at 640 x 480 resolution.

Sony Xperia U review

There's also a proximity sensor up here so the phone knows if you're holding it to your head and can dim the screen accordingly.

The sides are black with rather flimsy and plasticky buttons, with the 3.5mm headphone jack up top and the USB connector top left.

Sony Xperia U review

The right-hand side of the Sony Xperia U is where the party starts, because this edge houses the power button, which is nice and easy to find at the top right, along with the volume up/down rocker in the middle, then the camera button bottom-right.

Sony Xperia U review

The chunky power button's easy to find and the physical camera shutter button is always a useful thing to have, especially since the latter brings up the camera app when held down for a second or two, even when the phone's in standby.

The camera button is quite flat and well recessed into the Sony Xperia U's case, meaning you have to press it pretty hard to make it focus and register. We tended to end up using the on-screen button to take shots instead, because it's just easier.

Sony Xperia U review

And there's your big, exciting design feature - the strip lights up. In more than one colour. It's quite cool, especially when viewing photos in the gallery, because the Sony Xperia U detects the most prominent colour in the shot, then alters the colour of this strip accordingly.

It's hard to take a photo of. The strip's much brighter and more colourful to the human eye, more so in the dark.

Sony Xperia U review

And if you're even more colour obsessed, the black plastic beneath the see-through strip can be unclipped and replaced with something brighter. White. Or Pink. Or yellow. Which is great, if you're a child.

Sony Xperia U review

Removing the back is a rather hard and worrying experience. You have to press it down and push it up, which means squeezing the phone quite tight and putting a lot of pressure on the display.

We were quite worried we'd end up breaking the display from the pressure. But we didn't. We should probably stop worrying so much.

Sony Xperia U review

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Inside the Sony Xperia U sits a full-size SIM card slot, although there's no SD support in here, so you're stuck with the relatively tight 4GB of accessible storage space Sony has put in here.

That's a bit of a shame, but at least the battery is replaceable, which will earn the Sony Xperia U some brownie points in this age of sealed, non-accessible phones, such as the iPhone.

Sony Xperia U review

All of this comes together to give the Sony Xperia U a quality, well-made feel, that apes the design of the high-end Sony Xperia S well.

It feels tough and durable, the display and buttons are sensitive, while the smaller 3.5-inch screen is bright and clear, so much so that it could be considered a worthy replacement for many bigger, more costly Android models.

Thanks to Three for sending us the phone

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Built-in Memory8 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotNo
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationNo
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyXperia U
Cellular Generation3G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 2100
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution5 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Phone StyleBar
ColourBlack, White
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSony Mobile
Battery Talk Time6.60 Hour
Product ModelST25a
Screen Size8.9 cm (3.5")
Screen Resolution480 x 854
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)110 g
Maximum Video Resolution1280 x 720
Processor ManufacturerST Ericsson
Operating System VersionAndroid 2.3 Gingerbread
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
RealtoneYes
Radio Tuner TypeFM
Call FeaturesCall Log
Pixel Density280 ppi
Height112 mm
Width54 mm
Depth12 mm
Radio TunerYes
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product NameXperia U ST25a Smartphone
Processor Speed1 GHz
Product LineXperia U
Screen TypeLCD
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Digital Compass, Proximity Sensor
Manufacturer Part Number1261-4174
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sony.co.uk
Marketing Information

Experience fantasy. In great quality on-screen.

Watch every moment from every movie or video in razor sharp clarity.

See every smile from last year's party in a true detail. Sheer video magic on your Android mobile's 3.5" Reality Display powered by the Mobile BRAVIA® Engine. And you can easily find the latest Hollywood blockbusters on the pre-loaded Video Unlimited application from Sony Entertainment Network.

Experience beat. In 3D surround sound.

Blast out the music through the speaker with xLoud loudness enhancement.

Fancy some movie "me time"? Get it with 3D surround sound. Plug in your earphones and sit back and listen as the deep bass and high treble shoot around your head.

Want more sounds? Enjoy a global catalogue of millions and millions of songs easily accessible through the preloaded Music Unlimited application from Sony Entertainment Network.