Sony Xperia sola review: Light 'em up
The Xperia sola uses the traditional droid Gallery, which hasn't really seen much change in Gingerbread. It has good functionality, cool 3D looks and nice transition effects, and this time shows full resolution images.
The different albums and folders appear as piles of photos, which fall in neat grids once selected. If you have online albums over at Picasa those show up as separate stacks as well.
You should have noticed the two switches at the top by now. The first opens a different gallery section that stores your 3D panorama shots, while the second opens the Sweep Multi Angle shots section.
To view the 3D panoramas in 3D, you need to connect your phone to a compatible 3DTV. Multi Angle shots are harder to view outside the device as you need something with an accelerometer and the proper app - you best bet is another Xperia.
Facebook and Picasa albums are distinguished by the small logo of the corresponding service. Facebook pictures can be "liked" with the thumbs up button in the upper right corner.
Liking photos is enabled for Facebook albums
Photos can be sorted by date with the help of a button in the top right corner, which switches between grid and timeline view.
You can use pinch zoom or the old-fashioned +/- buttons. If you pan past the edge of a photo, the gallery will load up the next (or previous) image.
Images can be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also enabled.
The BRAVIA engine enhances contrast and colors by sharpening the image and reducing noise. These steps would normally lead to artifacts, but you'll have to look from really up close to notice. You can switch BRAVIA off, but we recommend keeping it on - it really improves the image quality.
There is no dedicated video player app on the Xperia sola as in most of the droids out there. DivX and XviD videos are supported but the Xperia sola has a rather selective filtering and not all videos got through.
Unlike the Xperia S, the sola didn't play any of our 1080p videos we threw at it, but 720p videos worked fine.
You can of course download a video player off the Android Market, but we didn't get much better luck with most of those, so the issues might be related to processing power. Some of the excellent free players out there will address other deficiencies of the Xperia sola video player though, like lack of subtitles.
Excellent music player
The Xperia sola has the music player of the Xperia S. You're welcomed to a Cover Flow-like interface and you can swipe left and right to skip tracks (complete with a smooth 3D effect).
This is the Playing tab, the second tab available is called My Music and it's where your music library is organized. Tracks are sorted by album, artist, playlist, all tracks, SensMe channel, favorites. There's also a link to Sony's Music Unlimited service.
In the Now playing interface, there's the familiar Infinite button - it gives you quick options to find the music or karaoke videos on YouTube for the current song, look for more tracks on PlayNow, search Wikipedia for info on the artist or look for lyrics on Google. New features can be added to this menu with extensions available in the Play Store.
SensMe should be familiar from those old Sony Ericsson Walkman phones. In case you've missed it, SensMe filters songs by mood. By default, there are nine "channels" - daytime, energetic, relax, upbeat, mellow, lounge, emotional, dance and extreme.
You need to download SensMe data before you can use this feature. Luckily, you no longer have to use a PC Suite to tag songs - you just need an Internet connection, the phone will handle the rest.
Audiophiles will appreciate the rich selection of equalizer presets. There's a custom preset too - it lets you adjust five frequency bands and there's a Clear Bass slider too.
The More tab offers a Headphone surround option, which can be set to Studio, Club or Concert hall. If you're not using the headphones, you can turn the xLOUD feature on, which optimizes the sound for the Xperia Sola loudspeaker.
A new feature is the track info and playback controls available on the lockscreen, which let you control the player without having to unlock the phone. The music controls replace the clock, which might be annoying if you just want to check the time. Still, the clock slides out of view, so you have about a second to see what time it is (or just look at the small clock in the upper right corner).
FM radio with RDS, there is TrackID too
The Sony Xperia sola is equipped with an FM radio, which has a really neat and simple interface. It automatically scans the area for the available stations and places "notches" on the frequency dial for easier scrolling to the next station. There's a Force mono option to use in case of poor reception.
The TrackID service is also available and works within the radio app. You can even like a song on Facebook.
Decent audio output
The Sony Xperia sola didn't disappoint in the first part of our traditional audio quality test. The smartphone did great (save for the only average distortion levels) and had above average loudness, which adds up to a very good performance.
There's some degradation when you plug in a pair of headphones, but things certainly aren't too bad. The stereo crosstalk rises noticeably and some more distortion creeps in. Volume levels also dropped a bit, so the overall performance is about what you'd expect in this class.
And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
Sony Xperia sola frequency response
You can learn more about the whole testing process here.