Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo review: More than a sequel

GSMArena team, 10 May 2011.
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Mid-range 8 megapixel snapper

The Xperia Neo boasts an 8 megapixel snapper with a single LED flash. The Neo uses an Exmor R backlit sensor which, in theory, provides better low-light images. In reality the advantage of the backlit technology is marginal at best.

The user interface of the Neo’s camera is quite intuitive. You have a bar with five shortcuts to popular features on the right, a bar with the latest captured images on the left and still camera/camcorder switch at the bottom.

The five most used shortcuts allow you to change the capturing mode, resolution, to pick a scene, turn on flash and switch to the front-facing camera.

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The Xperia Neo camera interface

Upon pressing the menu key you get some extra customizable options like focus mode, white balance, geo tagging and image stabilization. As is to be expected from a device in this class, the Xperia Neo also boasts face detection and smile shot.

The image quality is a mixed-bag. There’s enough of fine detail in the Xperia Neo shots, but it’s a lot lower of what we saw on the Arc’s images. The color rendering is good, but the noise levels are too high and in some places you can observe the so-called staircase effect. We really hoped for much better than that.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo camera samples

Photo quality comparison

We’ve also added the Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo to the database of our Photo Compare Tool. The Tool’s page has a quick how to guide and also what to look for.

You can clearly see from the comparison tool that the Arc’s doaing much better than the Neo in shooting stills although they should have identical sensors. The Arc exhibits less noise and produces more natural looking images in terms of sharpness.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo in our Photo Compare Tool

HD video recording

HD video recording is turning as a hot feature recently and the Xperia Neo is doing relatively well with the framerate. It’s 30fps and quite steady too. There were a few duplicated frames, but not that much to ruin the video.

The Neo’s camcorder joins the select few with continuous autofocus. Its approach is the same as on the Xperia X10 and the Arc: it may take a few seconds to refocus after you reframe instead of fast and constant re-focusing. It’s certainly the approach we prefer.

The videos run smooth, but have the same problems as the still images. This time they are virtually identical to those by the Xperia Arc. The resolved detail is good, the noise levels are kept low, but the staircase effect is visible on too much places as it was on the Arc.

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Switching to camcorder mode

Check out the 720p sample that we captured with the Xperia Neo.

Here is another one that we uploaded on YouTube for your convenience.

Video quality comparison

We added the Xperia Neo samples to our Video Compare Tool database too and put it head to head with the other 720p mobile camcorders we have tested.

Here you can see the staircase effects on both Arc and Neo and compare it to other (better) HD camcorders. Surprisingly the Neo managed to resolve more detail in our comparison video, than the Arc.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo in the Video Compare Tool

Connectivity

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo has the full set of connectivity options: quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and tri-band HSPA with download rates of up to 7.2 Mbps and upload at 5.76 Mbps.

It offers Wi-Fi (b/g/n), USB v2.0 and Bluetooth 2.1.

The inbuilt storage is 320MB only, but you can expand it up to 32GB via the microSD card slot. The phone will ship with an 8GB memory card.

Unlike the Nexus S though, there is no NFC support.

A standard 3.5mm audio jack and the mini-HDMI port complete the connectivity tally. Unfortunately you’ll have to buy your own HDMI cable, it’s not included in the retail box.

Web browser speaks Flash

With added Flash 10.1 support and the latest and fastest UI version, 2.3.2 Gingerbread, the Neo’s web browser does a great job.

The user interface chrome is pretty light at first sight. Once the page loads, all you see is the URL bar and the bookmark button on a line at the top of the screen. Once you zoom in and pan around though even that line disappears (scroll to the top or press menu to bring it back).

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Xperia Neo web browser

That way you have the entire 3.7” screen for web browsing. The Neo’s browser supports double tap and pinch zooming, along with the dedicated virtual zoom buttons.

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Browser in landscape mode • Settings

The browser supports text reflow, but it works only with double tap zooming – a moment after setting the zoom level, columns of text align to fit the screen width. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then it’s too small to read comfortably) or scroll sideways to read each line.

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Text reflow

The minimalist UI is quite powerful – hit the menu key and six keys pop up. You can open a new tab, switch tabs, refresh the page, go forward, and open bookmarks. The final button reveals even more options (text copying, find on page, etc.).

The bookmark list shows a thumbnail of the bookmarked page and you also get a “most visited” list in addition to the history.

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The bookmarks section • History • Most visited

One of the big updates of the Xperia Neo’s (or any other Gingerbread phone) web browser is the full Flash support with the Adobe Flash 10.2 player. YouTube videos played quite smoothly (360p-480p), and so did the games from Kongregate, for example.

The Sony Ericsson Neo supports the latest Adobe Flash 10.2 but you have to download it separately for free from the Android Market.

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Playing a You Tube video within the browser • Playing a flash game in the browser

The high-quality videos on YouTube and other Flash video services had some dropped frames, but the overall Flash performance turned out pretty decent. The YouTube app is still there though, just in case.

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