The Sony Xperia V runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich out of box but Sony is reassuring users that an eventual Jelly Bean is in the works for this year. If you are not familiar with the features specific to the various Android versions, make sure you check out our dedicated Android version scoop.
If you're familiar with Sony's latest Android UI, the Xperia V should look familiar. Sony has smothered Android 4.0.4 with its custom launcher, which runs much deeper than skin-deep. This isn't the first time we've seen ICS on a Sony device either, things are undistinguishable from the Xperia T.
Here's our rundown of the Xperia V.
The Xperia V has the usual five-pane homescreen configuration, but there is no option to add or remove panes. Along the bottom, there are five docked shortcuts (the app drawer shortcut and two on each of its sides). These are visible across all five homescreen panes and are user configurable: they can be either single icons or folders with multiple items in them. For folders, you get smaller icons of the first four items in them.
As with older Sony smartphones, you can change the color theme of the launcher according to your preferences.
The Sony Xperia V UI • Choosing theme • Folders
The homescreen does a neat trick called Overview mode, which lets you quickly find a widget across any of your homescreen panes. Pinch to zoom out on any of the 5 homescreen panes and a new screen opens up showing all active widgets for easy viewing and selection. Tapping on a widget takes you directly to the homescreen that it is on.
Overview mode helps you find the widget you are looking for
The Xperia V has some custom-made Sony widgets in addition to the standard set. Those include the Timescape widget (there's a dedicated app too) and a Mediascape-like widget for photos and videos (the actual app isn't there anymore, but the Album gallery is).
Pressing on an empty area of a homescreen opens up a small contextual menu under the status bar. It gives you two options - choosing a widget and choosing a wallpaper/theme. It's oddly placed and easy to miss at first because the animation is so understated it looks as if nothing has happened.
The new personalize menu is a lot less obtrusive • Choosing a widget • The wallpaper menu
Moving and removing widgets hasn't changed and is as simple as on droids of old - hold a finger over a desired widget and move it around. The action has a cool wobble animation to it.
A cool new addition to the lockscreen, missing from the Xperia phones of old, is the Walkman widget which lets you control music playback without unlocking the phone. You can also enable Face, Pattern, PIN or Password unlock, in ascending order of security.
The standard notification area is also present, and features a few added toggles - sound, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, mobile data and the settings shortcut. There's also a quick shortcut to the settings menu. For some reason, the notification area isn't accessible from the lockscreen as it usually is on other ICS-running phones.
The lockscreen • Lockscreen options • The notification area now has a few connectivity shortcuts
There's also a brand new task manager, which still lets you go to open apps as well as remove them with a side-swipe, but also introduces something we haven't seen in Sony ICS before, and that's 'small apps'. They are similar to Mini Apps from Samsung, and pop up tiny widget-like applications on your homescreen, which you can use in an overlay mode without having to fully open a dedicated app. So far, there's a default set of four: Calculator, Timer, Notes, and Voice Recorder - and it looks like you should be able to stock up on some more from the Play Store as well.
The updated task manager now features 'small apps' • The Timer small app
As a part of the ICS platform you get the Data usage app. Sony provided one on Gingerbread as well, but this one is far more accurate in calculating your traffic. It also lets you set a limit for network data for a specific period and usage is broken down by apps.
Sony has added its own Backup & Reset feature for Android ICS. It works for apps you've uninstalled and then reinstalled again, restoring them with the previous saved settings. The reset option is in the same submenu.
Sony has made a lot of improvements to its ICS build - like the notification area toggles, but it's still missing a few extras that are some that other OEMs are opting for. For example, Samsung has a Remove all feature when you open the task switcher, and most Android UI's let you adjust the number of homescreen panes. There're also no widgets in the app drawer, which is slightly inconvenient.
The Sony Xperia V is powered by a Qualcomm MSM8960 chipset with two Krait cores, clocked at 1.5 GHz. Graphics are handled by an Adreno 225 GPU and there's 1 GB of RAM on board.
This setup is more than qualified to handle the screen's 720p resolution and more demanding tasks like decoding and encoding 1080p video, not to mention running Android OS smoothly. Things, in theory, should be running even smoother on Jelly Bean.
For testing the Xperia V performance we begin with Quadrant. Here the Xperia V did a stellar job against equal competition. It outperformed the Xperia T by a wide margin, too.
Higher is better
BenchmarkPi gives the individual processor cores a run for their money, testing their calculative performance. Here the Xperia V is just behind its Xperia T sibling and even managed to put the Galaxy S III to shame.
Lower is better
Geekbench 2 is a CPU and memory benchmark, which is optimized for multi-core environments. The Xperia V managed to best the Xperia T and even came close to the twice-as-many-cores-touting Optimus G.
Higher is better
BrowserMark 2 is an HTML 5-based benchmark, which shows the Xperia V as a top contender.
And finally comes Vellamo's HTML 5 benchmark. The Xperia V shows a good result here too, once again besting more powerful smartphones.
Lower is better
Higher is better
Higher is better
So even without the latest quad-core Krait processor the Xperia V posted some pretty good benchmark scores. But it is real-life performance that counts the most.
Luckily, the Xperia V handles that very well too and didn't slow down not even once during our time with it. We're sure Jelly Bean will speed things up when it comes to the OS animations but the Xperia V is in a great shape even on ICS.
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