Sony Xperia U review: Fun united

GSMArena team, 8 June 2012.
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Standard gallery with a funky twist

The Xperia U 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.

The Xperia U puts the transparent glowing strip to good use in the Gallery app. The strip glows in the dominant color of the photo you're currently viewing. It will glow red for a sunset, green for grass and blue for sky.

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.

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The standard gallery • The 3D and Multi Angle views

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.

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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.

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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.

Video player

There is no dedicated video player app on the Xperia U as in most of the droids out there. DivX and XviD videos are supported but the Xperia not all videos got through.

Unlike the Xperia S, the U didn't play any of the 1080p videos we threw at it, but 720p videos worked fine.

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Watching a video on the Xperia U

You can download a video player off the Google Play Store, but that won't solve the 1080p video problem, there just doesn't seem to be enough processing power. Some of the free players out there however will address other deficiencies of the Xperia U video player though, like the lack of subtitles.

Fashionable music player

The Xperia U shares the same music player as 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 happens on the Playing tab; the second one available called My Music and is where your library gets organized. Tracks are sorted by album, artist, playlist, all tracks, SensMe channel, and favorites. There's also a link to Sony's Music Unlimited service.

The transparent strip does its trick here as well. It glows in color that matches the album art of the song. Unfortunately though, there isn't an option to make it pulse to the rhythm of the track.

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.

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The revamped music player • Music library • The Infinite button

SensMe isn't new and should be familiar to Sony Ericsson Walkman owners. In case you've missed it, SensMe filters songs by mood. You can filter music through 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 S loudspeaker.

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The equalizer

Sony has neatly added track info and playback controls on the lockscreen once music starts playing. 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).

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Music player controls on the lockscreen and notification area

FM radio with RDS, there is TrackID too

The Sony Xperia U 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.

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The FM radio app • TrackID • Licking a radio track on facebook

The TrackID service is also available and works within the radio app. You can even like a song on Facebook.

Pleasing audio output

The Sony Xperia U did quite well in the first part of our audio output quality test. When connected to an active external amplifier, the smartphone got excellent scores all over the field and had above average loudness, which adds up to a great performance.

There's some degradation when headphones come into play, most notably in terms of distortion. The stereo crosstalk rises a bit too, but it's nothing to worry about. The rest of the reading remain great though, which means that you are getting pretty good overall performance.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia U+0.03, -0.04-87.387.50.00910.020-87.7
Sony Xperia U (headphones attached)+0.45, -0.10-86.486.60.3930.352-66.5
Sony Xperia P+0.03, -0.04-87.387.60.0110.020-86.2
Sony Xperia P (headphones attached)+0.44, -0.10-86.086.20.1500.302-54.0
Sony Xperia S+0.10, -0.09-86.686.80.0110.018-86.9
Sony Xperia S (headphones attached)+0.44, -0.13-88.488.60.2640.338-47.3
Sony Xperia sola+0.03, -0.04-81.682.20.0850.185-83.5
Sony Xperia sola (headphones attached)+0.45, -0.10-81.881.80.1890.416-52.8
Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V+0.11, -0.10-89.689.20.0140.037-80.9
Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V (headphones attached)+0.36, -0.11-89.389.00.1000.291-49.7
Sony Ericsson Xperia pro+0.11, -0.10-89.789.30.0130.037-88.1
Sony Ericsson Xperia pro (headphones attached)+0.44, -0.13-88.789.00.3430.326-39.7
Sony Ericsson Xperia ray+0.11, -0.10-89.489.10.0140.037-91.3
Sony Ericsson Xperia ray (headphones attached)+0.47, -0.13-89.188.80.3570.351-39.0

Sony Xperia U frequency response
Sony Xperia U frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

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