The Xperia Sola was launched along with the likes of the Sony Xperia S and Xperia P – two of the most high-end handsets a couple of months ago. While The S and the P were strikingly similar in terms of designs as well as features, the Sola, Sony’s mid-range offering comes with its own set of unique traits.

Design

We’ve pointed this out earlier and won’t be wrong in doing so, hopefully, for some more time to come - Sony handsets, across price ranges, are endowed with a certain level of aesthetics which competitors often fail to emulate. The Sony Xperia Sola is no exception. Although it doesn’t come with the transparent LED-lit bar that has becomes Sony’s trademark lately, it still manages to look convincingly premium.

The Xperia Sola features a 3.7-inch touchscreen with a slightly recessed bottom panel. Running on Android Gingerbread (Ver 2.3.7), the smartphone gives you five homescreens to play around with. Sony’s proprietary widgets also come handy – with one-touch buttons to enable Wi-Fi, Mobile Internet, NFC and so on. The keypad on the Sola felt slightly more cramped than it did in the Sony Xperia U or Xperia S. Most of the time, it was more comfortable for us to type on the virtual keypad in the landscape mode rather than the portrait mode.

Features

The Sola is the first of Sony’s handsets to feature a new technology called ‘floating touch’. The proximity sensor on the device tracks the location of your finger, hovering above the screen, when you are browsing the Web. The smartphone then automatically starts highlighting the portions that you might want to click on. While it’s something that is not absolutely essential to the browsing experience, I guess it helps a bit to have something like this especially on smaller touchscreens.

Xperia Sola, like most other smartphones entering the Indian market now, is NFC-enabled. While we await NFC services and apps to catch on in the country, an NFC-enabled smartphone such as the Sola can be used with SmartTags (included with the Xperia Sola in select countries) and can be personalised with up to 10 commands. By default, the smartphones are designed to be used to turn the Wi-Fi on or launch Google Maps. Xperia Sola supports NFC pairing hence you can pair this smartphone to another and interchange media, apps, and data with a quick tap.

Timescape remains the same ol’ interface with feeds from Twitter and status updates from Facebook sharing the same space on your touchscreen.

Camera

The Sony Xperia Sola comes with a 5-meg clicker and it gave us really good images for a device with that capacity. Most times, the colours were rich and well-saturated with barely a blur on any of the pictures we shot. The light from the flash too was evenly distributed in most of the pictures we shot in low light. Despite the fact that the Sola’s clicker did not feature Sony's proprietary Exmor R, the device still managed to impress with its clicks.

The Sola, like the Xperia S and P, also gives you the option of clicking pictures with a ‘3D Camera’ app. It’s not exactly 3D like the LG Optimus 3D Max, which renders pictures shot in 3D. You can only take Sweep panoramas and a Multi-Angle Panorama shots (which we were not sure could be put to good use in any situation).

However, images shot with both the modes were a lot grainier than would be desirable.

Performance

The Xperia Sola is powered by a 1GHz dual core processor. On our usual Quadrant Standard benchmark test, the Sola clocked in 2253 points ranking beneath the likes of LG Optimus 2X and Samsung Galaxy Nexus and scoring more than HTC Desire HD and Samsung Nexus S.

The 1320 mAh battery wasn’t powerful enough to keep the device running for a full work day. There were times when without any apparent activity (no voice calls even), the device would still have run out of power after a full charge in less than a day.

The quality of voice calls on the device gave us no room for complaints. Although it wasn’t very obviously loud and clear as with, say a BlackBerry device, it still made for clear enough conversation.

While we had no complaints with the performance or build of the Xperia Sola, we are a little disappointed with the fact that the battery isn’t powerful enough to handle a modern-age workday, which inevitably involves a lot of calls and constant connection to the internet. The battery dying out within the end of day is one of the most frustrating things to happen, especially when it is a fairly expensive smartphone that is at hand.

Rs 19,999

Love – Decent build, good camera

Hate – Short battery life, battery not removable

mahananda.bohidar@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 7, 2012)
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