Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo review: More than a sequel

GSMArena team, 10 May 2011.
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Well bundled

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo comes in a compact box accommodating the handset itself and the usual set of accessories. Those include a USB charger, a microUSB-to-USB cable (used for charging and computer connections) and a headset.

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The XPERIA Neo box

Finally, there are a couple of user guides and an 8GB microSD card in the box. The only thing missing is an HDMI cable – microHDMI to HDMI ones aren’t so widespread and you might not have one at home. But the Neo’s price is cheaper enough, so we didn’t really expect to find one here.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo 360-degree spin

The all-plastic Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo stands at 116 x 57 x 13 mm and weighs 126 grams. It looks slimmer than the numbers will tell you, because of its shape – what Sony Ericsson call the human curvature.

Design and construction

The Sony Ericsson Neo shares a lot of DNA with the Vivaz and this is by no means an accident. The Neo is a true successor of the popular HD capable cameraphone. It was even previously rumored as Vivaz 2.

But the Neo is not the only one to resemble the Vivaz. The XPERIA Pro is another design copycat (in a good way). The three devices can be mistaken by the less attentive observer.

The Neo will be available in thee color versions: Silver, Blue Gradient and Red. We have the Red version this time around, having already met the Blue Gradient unit.

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The XPERIA Neo next to XPERIA Pro

The body of the Neo is entirely made of plastic but that’s not to be held against it. Like the Vivaz, the Neo doesn’t need metal to boost its self-esteem. The shape and weight are just right and the phone is solidly built . Of course the glossy plastic rather easily gets covered with smudges that are hard to clean up.

Most of the phone’s front is taken by the 3.7" 16M-color LCD screen with resolution of 854 x 480 pixels. The Neo uses the same Reality display as the XPERIA Arc, based on the Sony Bravia Mobile Engine. The high-quality LED-backlit LCD has pleasing colors; contrast and sunlight legibility are decent too. The questionable feature is viewing angles: contrast quickly degrades and the colors get washed out when looking at the screen at an angle.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo
The Reality display has its ups and downs

Although the Reality display is no match for the Samsung’s SuperAMOLED, it’s on the better side of LCDs and the latest Sony Ericsson smartphones are sure to benefit from using it.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo 0.19 299 1577 0.31 513 1670
LG Optimus Black P970 0.27 332 1228 0.65 749 1161
LG Optimus 2X 0.23 228 982 0.35 347 1001
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S 0 263 0 395
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880
Motorola Atrix 4G 0.48 314 652 0.60 598 991

Mind you, the final retail unit of the XPERIA Neo had a display of different characteristics compared to the pre-released unit we had. Sony Ericsson has managed to improve the contrast even more since the last time we met the Neo.

Below the screen we find the usual set of controls: hardware Back and Menu buttons, each side of a Home key. The controls are thin but quite solid to press and, being placed on a subtle chin, they are quite comfortable to use.

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The typical controls below the display • the video-call camera and its companions above the display

It’s pretty crowded above the display: there’s the earpiece, an ambient light sensor, the secondary VGA camera and a proximity sensor.

The left hand side of the XPERIA Neo is completely bare, while the right all the action. That’s where you have the volume controls and two small knobs: the power/lock button and the shutter key. The camera button is tiny but with excellent tactility, placed within a slight recess whose raised rims are easy to locate by touch. Not a big deal but quite thoughtful of Sony Ericsson. There’s a tiny status LED next to the power/lock key.

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The left side is bare • the camera key, the volume rocker and the lock/power combo on the right

It’s busy at the top too – there we find the microUSB and microHDMI ports on each side of a 3.5mm audio jack. Both the USB and HDMI ports are covered by small plastic lids.

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The Neo’s top side is busy with connectivity ports • the bottom side

The back of the Sony Ericsson Neo reveals its key purpose – imaging. Just like on the Vivaz, the 8MP lens is unusually placed almost in the middle. It makes sense actually – the lens is nearly impossible to accidentally cover with a finger. The lens is recessed to ensure protection against scratches and smudges. Next to it, there is a LED flash, which is mostly useful as a video light.

The loudspeaker is all the way at the bottom.

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The camera lens, LED flash and loudspeaker grill at the beautiful back

The microSD card slot is under the battery cover, though not beneath the battery itself and is therefore hot-swappable. The Neo supports 32GB cards and comes with a complimentary 8GB card.

The SIM card compartment is under the impressive 1500mAh battery.

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The microSD card slot and the SIM bed

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo is quite reasonably sized and well within limits of pocketability despite its 3.7” display. It’s well built and there is nothing to complain about other than the fingerprint issues. The XPERIA Neo feels solid and is quite comfortable to hold and operate. It doesn’t look cheap, never mind the all plastic body. Even the smallest details are very consistent with the phone’s imaging-centric nature. The phone looks quite a bit like the Vivaz but duly updated.

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Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo held in hand

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