The Sony Xperia E1 ships in a medium-sized box, which carries the standard set of phone accessories. There's a microUSB cable that pairs with a charger, a set of earphones and the usual printouts.
At 118 x 62.4 x 12mm, the Xperia E1 isn't that much taller or wider than its predecessor, while packing a .5" larger display. Sony has significantly reduced the bezels and got rid of the capacitive trio of Android controls in favor of on-screen buttons.
Granted, the Xperia E1 is a millimeter thicker, but thanks to the phone's rounded edges, that's not too much of an issue. The subtle inward curve of the original Xperia E is gone, the E1's styling is a lot simpler - clearly taking clues from the Z lineup but somewhat reminiscent of the old Sony Ericsson T series bars too.
In every generation of Sony devices, a common design thread runs the entire lineup top to bottom. Although entirely made of plastic, the Xperia E1 shares some of the general aesthetics of the Xperia Z1 Compact - and that's easier said than done, considering the latter is a stunning piece of design blending glass and aluminum.
The Xperia E1 on the other hand makes do with a sort of hardened plastic that isn't even particularly nice to the touch - being unusually coarse. On the upside, the phone feels incredibly sturdy - almost like a rugged device. There's no such thing of course - the E1 isn't one of Sony's water-proof offerings.
Overall though, the phone looks better than on the pictures, or than its finish would suggest. Our test unit came in a two-color paint job - white battery cover and accents against black sides and front.
As we said earlier, the phone isn't particularly slim at nearly 3mm thicker than the Z1 Compact. However, it does feel quite pleasant in the hand thanks to the subtly rounded edges. At 120 grams, it's also slightly heavier than its predecessor, but not so much you'd notice.
Never mind the all-plastic build, the Xperia E1 is probably as solidly built as the Z1 Compact, no squeaks or twisting and the battery cover fit tightly in place.
The original Sony Xperia E felt good in hand with its curvy design, but to be fair its 3.5" screen was a bit on the small side. With its 4"display, the Xperia E1 feels just the right size. Yes, it's a tad thicker perhaps than we would've liked, but its smooth edges really help you not feel it.
Pocketability hasn't been hurt with the growth of the Xperia E1, either. You won't face any difficulties placing the phone in any pocket.
The Sony Xperia E1 controls are quite similar to those of the Z1 compact, sans its flaps on the side. Top left at the front, there's a really tiny status LED. This will serve some basic notification purposes whereas the trademark breathing light below the screen will only glow in certain apps like the music player or image gallery, matching the color theme of what you're looking at. More of a design accent than anything else.
Right of the earpiece are the proximity and ambient light sensors. The Xperia E1 hasn't got a front-facing camera.
In the bottom right corner below the 4" screen is the main microphone. On the right hand side of the phone there's the volume rocker and below it the signature Xperia power/lock key.
The left side of the phone features just the microUSB port.
The top of the Xperia E1 is where you'll spot the dedicated Walkman button. It's quite prominent, almost the size of the volume rocker, with an etched Walkman logo for added style. Next to it is the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The bottom is bare and there's only a small slit to put a nail and lift the battery cover open.
At the back, there's a 3.15MP fixed-focus camera lens with the secondary microphone sitting above it. The Sony and Xperia logos are above the massive speaker grille, which looks really stylish.
Below the removable back cover, there's a 1750mAh battery (up from 1530mAh in the original Xperia E) and the microSD card slot above it. It's not hot swappable, as the battery gets in the way. The mini-SIM card slot is within the very battery compartment.