Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray Review: Is Bigger Better?

Sony Ericsson sent me an Xperia Ray to review. Can I get on with a phone that's a bit smaller than I'm really used to?

The Small Details

The Xperia Ray is the latest in a long line of Xperia phones from Sony Ericsson. It's a Vodafone exclusive for now, available on plans from $29 and up; minimum cost you'd get one for over twelve months is $528. It's a Gingerbread Android phone with Sony's Timescape, access to Qriocity and Video Unlimited services and tiny dimensions; the phone is 100g and only 111x53x9.4mm. Small, titchy, minute, minuscule; pick whichever diminutive term suits you best.

Does size count?

Based on the number of readers salivating over what's being proposed for the Nexus Prime/Galaxy Nexus, it seems like many of you aren't fazed by the concept of a larger phone, and if that's the case, you're going to hate the Xperia Ray; it's tiny in just about every aspect. Tiny isn't bad in every way, though. I've been carrying the Ray around with me at the same time as my current handset of choice, the Samsung Galaxy S II, in alternating pockets. The Samsung I can pick is there every time I sit down, whereas the Ray sits comfortably and unobtrusively in the pocket. Sometimes too unobtrusively; when I made my first appearance this week on the 7PM Project, I sat down, remembered I had my Galaxy S2 in my pocket and removed it. The Ray stayed in my pocket, because I forgot it was there (although it was on silent — I'm not that daft. Mostly.)

Yeah, but does size really count?

The other area to keep in mind when producing a small smartphone is that unless somebody invents a fold-out screen, you're not going to have much display space. The Ray's 3.3" display is tiny, although in one way impressively engineered, with a 296ppi 'Reality' display. That means onscreen text is pretty crisp, but as will a lot of high resolution stuff, it's also very small. One neat small trick the Xperia ray manages is the off screen, which resembles the old CRT screen fade to dot pattern. It's a small thing, but a cute thing I like more every time I switch the display off. Not enough to make me buy one, mind you.

There's one other catch with the small screen, and that's the keyboard. By default, the portrait keyboard is an SMS/T9 type that only switches over to QWERTY in landscape mode. You can set QWERTY as the portrait default, but not during initial setup; this led to a certain amount of bad language on my part when first setting up my phone and entering a lengthy WiFi password. The full QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode is still quite tiny even when the default.

So, to size up, then?

The Xperia Ray isn't a phone for me, certainly. I'd rather a larger screen (although I'm not yet sold on the genuine utility of a screen larger than 4"). That doesn't make it a bad phone per se; it's certainly solidly built, it looks good if fashion considerations are important to you, and it's priced accordingly.

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