If you're put off by the "bigger is better" trend of many current smartphones, Sony Ericsson's XPERIA Ray may just be the shining light you're looking for. Best described as a smaller version of the company's flagship XPERIA Arc, the XPERIA Ray successfully manages to combine most of the Arc's features in a compact and stylish package.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Ray: Design and display
The official line from Sony Ericsson is that the XPERIA Ray is a "sleek, beautiful smartphone with a stylish aluminium frame". Although it's easy to overlook this as general marketing fluff, the XPERIA Ray really does have an impressive design. It measures a mere 9.4mm thick and its dark black look and compact frame offers a striking alternative to most of its competitors. It also feels well constructed: the soft feel of the plastic on the rear battery cover along with the aluminium sides give it a sturdy, yet sharp feel.
We particularly like the XPERIA Ray's tactile power/lock key on top of the phone, along with the large home button below the screen. In a nice touch, the light around the top of the home button illuminates — it's white when the screen is on, pulses red when the battery falls below 20 per cent, and flashes green when you have a missed call or new text message. Its unfortunate that this light couldn't be extended to the back and home buttons that sit on either side of the home key: they aren't backlit, and are hard to see at night. They are also unresponsive at times and often take an extra press or two to activate.
The XPERIA Ray has a 3.3in screen that Sony Ericsson has dubbed a 'Reality display'. This sits alongside other fancy display names including the iPhone 4's 'Retina' display, the Samsung Galaxy S II's 'Super AMOLED Plus' display and the 'Nova' display of the LG Optimus Black. Unlike these displays though, the screen on the XPERIA Ray is much smaller in both height and width. Thankfully, it doesn't lose any quality with its downgrade in size: contrast and sharpness are excellent, colours are bright, sunlight legibility is impressive and it also possesses excellent viewing angles. Impressively, the XPERIA Ray's screen has a higher pixel density (296 pixels per inch) than the XPERIA Arc (233ppi), despite its much smaller screen. A direct result of the higher ppi is that text is both sharper and crisper. In a nice touch, Sony Ericsson also pre-installs a screen protector on the XPERIA Ray.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Ray: Software and Timescape UI
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Ray ships with the 2.3 "Gingerbread" version of Google's Android operating system out of the box, and it comes with Sony Ericsson's Timescape UI overlay. Though it doesn't offer the same deep customisation of HTC's Sense (seen on the likes of HTC's Desire S and Sensation Android phones), the addition of Timescape makes the XPERIA Ray a delight to use. Features include five home screens for live widgets, handy folders that enhance shortcuts and a main menu that can quickly arrange apps in various orders including most used, recently installed and alphabetical.
The XPERIA Ray includes Sony Ericsson's Timescape application, which groups social networking and phone communications into a single widget. Each communication event on the phone forms a 3D box that you simply flick your finger up and down the "spine" to scroll through. However, we don't feel Timescape offers anything compelling besides an attractive look: thankfully you can easily remove it from your home screen if you wish. We found the 'Facebook inside XPERIA' software much more useful. It integrates Facebook into commonly used areas of the phone including the picture gallery, music player, phonebook and calendar.