Sony Ericsson Xperia ray review: Ray of light
Solid connectivity with USB OTG
The Sony Ericsson Xperia ray has a good deal of connectivity options. The basics are covered by 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) and Bluetooth 2.1 for wireless local connectivity. The Connected devices app turns your Xperia ray into a DLNA server, letting you view media on DLNA-enabled devices (e.g. TV, PlayStation 3).
The microUSB v2.0 port handles both wired data transfer and charging. With the Android 2.3.4 update, it also gets USB On-The-Go.
The LiveWare manager app lets you assign specific apps to be launched when a given accessory is connected, which can be quite handy (e.g. launch music player when you plug in headphones or a file browser for flash memory).
The inbuilt storage has 300MB only available to the user, but you can expand it up to 32GB via the microSD card slot. The phone will ship with a 4GB memory card.
A standard 3.5mm audio jack completes the connectivity tally. Unfortunately, there's no HDMI port as on the Xperia arc and the Neo.
Web browser could use more screen real estate, but runs Flash
The user interface of the browser is simple, with almost no visible chrome by default. Once the page loads, all you see is the URL bar and the bookmark button at the top of the screen. Once you zoom in and pan around though even that disappears (scroll to the top or press menu to bring it back).
That way you have the entire 3.3” screen to fill with actual content, but the relatively small space still doesn’t fit all that much. There are three way to zoom in the Xperia ray’s browser: double tap, dedicated virtual controls and the pinch gesture. There's text reflow, which reformats text so that it best fits on the screen.
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 last button reveals even more options (text copying, find on page, etc.).
One of the important new features in the web browser is the full Flash support. YouTube videos played smoothly at 360p (unless you're scrolling the page, which leads to slight lag). Higher res videos (including 480p) are too choppy to watch. Flash games however played trouble free.
The organizer is full suite
The Sony Ericsson Xperia ray comes with a solid set of organizing options, including a document viewer.
The app in question is OfficeSuite and it has support for viewing document files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF, including the Office 2007 versions). For editing, you will need to get the paid app.
Reading documents is quite comfortable on the high-resolution screen and panning is blazing fast. The screen is smallish, but OfficeSuite will reformat the document to fit the screen better. Full-screen mode also helps.
The doc viewer integrates with both Gmail and the generic email app, which makes viewing attachments a cinch. The generic Email app even lets you download the attachments.
The calendar has three different types of view - daily, weekly and monthly. The lower section of the screen is reserved for Agenda: a list of upcoming events. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.
The Calendar also pulls info on upcoming events from your Facebook account. Events appear just like regular events but you can't edit them from the phone, they are read-only.
There is also a calculator aboard. It is nicely touch optimized - the buttons are really big and easy to hit. You can pull out advanced functions (trigonometry, logarithms) from the menu.
The alarm clock app allows a huge number of alarms to be set, each with its own start and repeat time. The Alarms app can also work as a desk clock - you have a big toggle for the brightness, weather info and shortcuts to gallery slideshow and the music player.
Unfortunately you don’t have the Stopwatch, Timer or World Clock options. You don’t get a Voice Recorder either. There's plenty of those in the Android Market though.
Google Maps, A-GPS and limited navigation
The Sony Ericsson Xperia ray comes with a GPS receiver, which took about 3-4 minutes to get satellite lock from a cold start. You can use the A-GPS functionality to get near instantaneous locks or the network positioning if you only need a rough idea of your location.
Our unit came with Maps 5.1 out of the box, which gives you access to some great features. Offline rerouting is one – if you stray off course, Maps will recalculate the route without the need for an Internet connection. You can’t change the destination without a connection though. There are also 3D buildings, two finger rotation, tilting and so on.
Of course, those features aren’t available everywhere. 3D buildings are available mostly in the biggest world cities. Turn-by-turn voice guidance using Google Maps Navigation is only available in select countries and unless you live in one of them the best you can do is plan a route in advance and keep an eye on your current location during travel.
Street view is, as usual, a part of the standard package - it gives you a panoramic view of every bit of road in the covered areas. With the compass mode enabled, it feels like a virtual tour of the place!
The Sony Ericsson Xperia ray should come with Wisepilot pre-installed (ours didn’t though). Still, if you're going to use it for navigation, you'll have to purchase a license - Wisepilot doesn’t do that out of the box.
Android Market stocks a ton of apps
The Xperia ray runs a very recent version of Android and has a FWVGA screen, giving you access to the whole Android Market. The MSM8255 chipset should be able to handle most apps in there too.
The structure of the Android Market is quite simple – featured apps on top and three buttons (Applications, Games and My apps). There is also a shortcut up there for initiating a search.
The Applications and Games sections are divided into subsections (e.g. Communication, Entertainment etc.) so you can filter the apps that are relevant to you. Of course, there is also an option of displaying them all in bulk, but you’ll probably need days to browse them all that way.
There are all kinds of apps in the Android market and the most important ones are covered (file managers, navigation apps, document readers etc.).