Archive | September 2012

Great Xpectations

The Xperia T, sporting a glorious stretch of 720p screen, at 4.6 inches and 325ppi, Sony prove it’s not just what you’ve got, it’s also what you do with it that counts. Images are rich, bold, vibrant and in dazzling HD. In your face, iPhone 5 and your paltry 4 inch, non-HD screen. In. Your. Face!

Wonderments abound with the new phones from Sony, but consider the following; top-of-the-range phones from Sony cost between £350 and £500 on launch. It might not seem a lot, especially to the off-network iPhone brigade, but to most sane people that’s a fair bit of money. It’s a holiday, it’s 25% of someone’s wages, it’s the annual house insurance, that sort of thing.

Is it too much to ask then that companies like Sony provide all the required cables with their brand new products? I *know* the Xperia T comes with HDMI-out, but watching the unboxing video for the Xperia T, there’s no mini-HDMI cable included in the box! What’s up with that?

Fair enough it could be they’ve forgotten to include the cable with review device but just to clarify, I didn’t get one with my Xperia S, Xperia Neo or Xperia Arc. These handsets were provided to me very close to launch, within mere hours in some cases, yet were missing a vital accessory to make a publicised (well-publicised in the case of the Arc) feature work!

I just…I just don’t get it!

Much Ado About Nothing

There’s been a lot of talk in the Test Lab camp recently, regarding Sony’s development of their handsets; specifically that they need to innovate faster and dazzle with more immediacy. That said, with the launch of the iPhone 5 today, it’s certainly made me realise how far behind the times the iPhone is in terms of development and the sheer aesthetics of the device; it’s still boring.

For starters, it’s the same unit. Regardless if the screen is 0.5 inches bigger than on the previous models, it still looks the same bland, ordinary unit it has been for years. In terms of resolution, at 1136 x 640 it’s not quite 720p HD, so that’s another mark against it! Sony are at least releasing models that look different; the ‘monolith’ design for the NXT series and the subtle curved back of the T and Arc spring to mind. With regards to screens, they are slapping some impressive plateaus of 720p HD goodness into the 2012 models. Oh yes.

The camera still loiters in single figures, whereas Sony are (finally) pushing boundaries with phone cameras and this year have already incorporated a 12.1MP lens into the XS and introduced a 13MP lens with the T, TX and V. This years other tech for phones, NFC, is also absent. Something of a mistake when flagship phones from many other manufacturers carry it.

Quad-core has already been implemented in other phones, so yet again Apple, with mere dual-core on board (and I don’t care that it’s a jazzier version of the A5 chip!) are playing catch up with what’s already gone before. Fair enough, Sony are yet to implement quad-core into phones, but the Xperia Tablet has it and you can bet next years’ handsets will have it too. Sony might not be totally ahead of the curve but they’re catching up significantly.

The new iPhone offers nothing that Android can’t match – and has already been matching for some time. FaceTime in iOS 4 is video messaging, plain and simple, just like Skype. WiFi sync for music etc was introduced in iOS 5 last year, while wireless sync for Android had already been around for some time with MyPhoneExplorer/WinAmp/DoubleTwist. ‘New’ features for Apple, trusty old hat for Android.

Oh, and for those of you who’ve got a slew of accessories based around Apple’s proprietary 30-pin charging connector…bwaa hahaha…they’ve changed it!

So it’s finally here. For me it’s nothing new, it’s nothing special. For the legions of iSheep out there it’ll be the best thing since roughly this time last year and the launch of the iPhone 4S. Can’t please ’em all I suppose!

More T, vicar?

The 2012 Berlin IFA saw not only the introduction of the new improved Sony Tablet S (though there’s nothing wrong with last years model if you ask me) but also the introduction of a couple new phones; the Xperia T and the Xperia J. This post will obviously be talking about the T as I see no point in wasting any publishing space on a single-core 1GHz phone in the last quarter of 2012. Single-core is sooooooooooooooo last decade.

The Xperia T arrives sporting the latest improvements to Ice Cream Sandwich and to the hardware itself. Moving away from the ‘monolith’ design of the NXT series the T hearkens back to the arched back of the Arc and Arc S from 2011, though it ditches the recycled plasticky slippery backs of those devices and replaces them with a grippable, rubberised finish and a sealed back. The T also has an international variant, the TX, which has a removeable battery.

The dual-core processor is very similar to what was in the Xperia S, though the rear camera has been bumped up a notch to 13MP and the front camera pushed up a bit as well to be able to record 720p – excellent for Skype, though I suspect you’d only see the benefit over WiFi!

The finish of the phone is very, very premium and although it might not be *quite* as jazzy as an iPhone 4s, the T is good enough for James Bond to tote as his weapon of choice in the new Bond movie Skyfall, so that’s good enough for me! I want! I want!

Overdose

The last couple weeks since the end of August 2012 have seen a flurry of annoucements for new tablets, hence the title of this post. The tail-end of August, Sony annouced the Xperia Tablet S, a quad-core upgrade to the Tablet S1 from 2011. I own that particular tablet in a 16GB Wifi only configuration and can confirm it’s a great device.

The new version offers the afore-mentioned core upgrade (from two to four) an HDMI-out port and reduced thickness. The proprietary power connector remains, which irks me somewhat as a spare power supply for the S1 costs around £30. Anyway, the Xperia Tab looks great though the extra bells and whistles might not be worth the upgrade if you already own the original S1. How many of us use our tablets for HDMI viewing when the device already has the ability to ‘throw’ HD media to other DLNA-compliant devices? It’s a nice touch but might not get used much, particularly if you don’t get the magic cable required in the box – and there is strong possibility this might happen *coughs* cheapskates *coughs*.

Creeping up quietly behind the Japanese juggernaught is the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. Being perfectly honest I’d paid very little attention to Amazon devices, other than a Kindle purchased for a relative, as I didn’t see what the shopping giant could bring to the tablet market. How wrong I was.

Priced between £159 and £299 for the 16GB and 32GB models respectively, the Kindle Fire HD offers a 720p screen, dual antenna wifi (faster than any other machine, apparently), dual core processing and other bits and bobs that make this budget model far more premium than it should be, especially for sub-£200 models. The only thing that bothers me is the device runs on a ‘heavily modified’ version of Ice Cream Sandwich. Coming from Sony devices, where the modified UI can cause delays in updating software I am wary of this, but not to a point where I wouldn’t buy one.

Besides, if you pick up this summer’s other other popular tab, the Google Nexus 7, you don’t need to wait for ICS to be updated as its already running Jelly Bean 4.1.1 out the box! The Nexus 7 sports a very, very similar screen to the Fire HD but chucks in quad-core processing and NFC to sweeten the deal. Nice. Souring things ever so slightly, the Nexus only has options of 8GB and 16GB available and without an SD port to expand memory things can get a little tight, though the option of USB On-The-Go is available instead. I’ll talk more about the Nexus 7 in a future post, no doubt!

I’m considering changing my Sony S1 for one of these two machines, but choosing between the two is proving very difficult; the Kindle Fire HD has excellent sound and superfast wifi, but is potentially weighed down by a customised OS. The Nexus 7 has quad-core processing and a slightly better screen, but doesn’t have the built-in memory options like the Fire. In fact, neither device can accept an SD card, which is a real pity as these devices would piddle all over tablets twice the price if they had that feature. Ever forwards though and with a 3G version of the Nexus 7 rumoured, perhaps the hardware jiggle will make room for the SD slot. Who knows?!

Looks like I might be staying with the S1 then, though don’t rule out me acquiring a Nexus 7 at some point…that is unless the much-rumoured iPad Mini can offer something better…

Overdrive

Regarding the latest Xperia handsets, the rumour mill has been quietly rumbling away for a couple months; at the last Test Lab meet in June there was talk of the elusive codenamed-Mint handset. So elusive, in fact, as none of us had signed an NDA, we weren’t allowed to see it. Bah!

Morsels of information from various benchmark sites had fuelled expectations of new handsets and finally, at IFA last week, Sony unveiled their newest handsets – the media powerhouse Xperia T, the similarly specced and almost indestructible Xperia V (it’s water/dust/shockproof) and the budget Xperia J.

Anticipation in the Test Lab camp is unsurprisingly high at the moment, kicking into overdrive around the T – which is so good James Bond(!) is using one in Skyfall – though excitement has been tempered somewhat by Sony’s bizarre strategy to NOT release the water/dust/shock proof Xperia V in the U.K. Poo.

Sporting similar bells and whistles to the apparent flagship in the Xperia T, the Xperia V backs this up with an IP67 rating in unbreakable, yet is heading to Far Eastern markets, leaving the UK with only the Active and Go to cater for the daredevils among us. Poo and double poo. Opportunity missed there.

Still, the Xperia T is not to be sniffed at. Sporting the very latest in the Ice Cream Sandwich OS and with all-new features not yet implemented on the older 2012 phones, it looks set to be a winner on paper alone. Throw in a throwback to the arc-shape from the, er, Xperia Arc from 2011, but replacing the slippery shiny finish for the more durable rubberised finish from the X10 and the Go and you’ve got plenty to hang on to as you’re blown away by the HD 4.6 inch 720p screen. Oh yes. It’s HD. And if it’s as good as or better than the screen on the Xperia S, it’s going to be even more amazing. Oh yes!