Walk This Ray

A
recent turn of good luck yielded me a 2011 Mini Pro from the good
folks at SE, and the wife managed to upgrade her handset to the
Xperia Ray. As she’s a fan of the Mini, having owned the 2010 model,
and I’m a fan of the Ray, we both readily opted to swap handsets.
This should in no way detract from the little pocket-rocket that is
the Mini; sporting a 5MP camera, 720p video and a 1GHz processor,
it’s no slouch. However the Ray suits someone like me down to the
ground as it packs a better camera, more memory, a slimmer build and
numerous other gadgety things more inclined for boys and their toys.
Although saying all that the Ray is being marketed more towards
females…hmmm.

Anyhoo,
as I’ve previously stated, I’ve been impressed this year by the way
SE have managed to cram everything from the Arc into the Neo (plus a
little extra) and then shoehorned the contents of the Neo into the
even smaller Ray, stripping out the almost non-essential things like
the HDMI-out (be honest – how often have you used it?!) but still
managing to deliver the same performance as the Arc
and
retaining the front-facing camera introduced with the Neo. The
progression is staggering, even if there are some slight problems
along the way with the design and UI in this particular model.
The
minimalist design of the Ray is, well, fairly minimal, right down to
it lacking a camera button. All the other handsets I’ve seen this
year have one, so it’s a little strange for it to be missing here;
the touch screen is now the sole reliance for using the camera. It’s
a minor gripe really as I use the touch capture far more than I ever
used the camera button on my other phone(s), simply because the
button can be irritating at times!
The
build quality is pretty good. Once again the matt finish utilised in
the 2010 X10 series and on this years’ Mini series tops everything
off, giving a decent grip in the hand, which is useful as this is a
super slim phone. Even if you have a penchant for uber-skinny jeans,
you’ll find the Ray is so sleek and slim it’s barely noticeable in
the pocket, which comes in very useful when smuggling the phone about
to use it discretely i.e. in the office. Of course this does make it
a little easier to misplace so top tip; don’t put it on silent unless
absolutely necessary!
I
had some reservations with the size of the screen, which as it turns
out weren’t completely unfounded; having had the Arc and Neo this
year already and been used to the acreage of their screens (in
particular the 4.3in Arc screen), dropping to the Ray screen was a
bit of a pickle initially. I use things like Swype for text input,
which here has been replaced by a keypad similar to ‘old fashioned’
phones.
Having
used touch screen input for a couple years, it wasn’t that big an
adjustment to make to switch back to standard T9 input, but I’ll be
honest and admit it did initially cause some minor frustration and
the occasional profanity to erupt from behind clenched teeth. Swype
is probably still available to use on this phone – I haven’t
checked yet – but I would imagine the keyboard for this would be
tiny!
Something
else that’s irked me, particularly with the Mini Pro and the Ray, is
the bare minimum of MicroSD memory being provided with the handset;
2GB with the Mini Pro and 4GB with the Ray. To me that just doesn’t
seem enough, particularly for what I use the phone for, and for a
phone offering high quality music playback (coming as it does with
the excellent LiveSound earphones, at least on unbranded handsets),
HD video capabilities and 8MP pictures, the minimum memory provided
should be 8GB. I’ve beefed up the memory on the Ray to 16GB, so it
now offers the same sort of space as my trusty (though ailing) iPod
Touch. With this improvement the Ray is now something of a powerhouse
handset that delivers pretty much everything I need from a media
perspective.
I
loaded Tron: Legacy onto the Ray and it looked pretty handsome; vivid
colours, great sound reproduction. Tron: Legacy really gave the
BRAVIA engine something to work on and it’s a pretty impressive
experience even on a smaller screen!
If
I had any other real gripes it would be with the touch response on
the screen; it’s a little flaky at times. Not all the time, but it
can miss a touch or two here and there, mainly when using pattern
protection to unlock the phone. The home button has a nice semi
circle of light around it, which also acts as a notification light,
but the back and menu keys are just keys, they don’t light up or
anything. Call me fussy but I think it would have given the handset
some extra oomph if they had. Again, it’s a minor gripe over a design
decision I had nothing to do with, one that really was probably
driven by cramming so much into such a small handset, so something
had to go!
In
summary then, the Ray offers the same performance and virtually all
the features of the Arc and Neo from earlier this year, while coming
in at a lower price. Get the phone off network and chances are you’ll
get the excellent LiveSound earphones included, saving yourself RRP
£60! It’s an excellent handset and represents SE’s 2011 progression
and dedication to their craft in a stylish handset at a very decent
price.  

Update: after tinkering with the keyboard input settings, T9 isn’t the only input option, the standard Android keyboard is also available! And comes with Ericsson’s version of Swype/gesture input, which ain’t too shabby!

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