The arrival of the Nexus 7 has given me cause to reconsider my next phone purchase. Do I need a 4.6in super phone now I have a 7in Tegra 3 tablet? Surely a small, rugged handset with good battery life, a decent dual-core CPU and plenty of storage for apps would make more sense. An outright purchase price of around £200 would be nice too. Sony seems to have read my mind with its new Xperia Go.
Hardy handset: Sony's Xperia Go
I certainly like the compact dimensions of the Go and its 110g weight. The matt-finished sides and rear make for a very secure grip, as does the recessed lip beneath the screen. The grommets that cover the 3.5mm audio and micro USB ports are a bit of a bugger to open but that’s the price you pay for an IP67 rating that among classes the phone as resistant to water and dust.
8GB on-board with Micro SD card expansion
The back of the handset can be removed to access the SIM and microSD card slots but the battery is built-in. The whole things feels extremely robust and survived an inadvertent drop of over 2m onto a concrete floor with no signs of damage.
The Reg Hardware beer test – patent pending
The 165dpi 3.5in 320 x 480 screen is no better in terms of basic spec than that fitted to HTC’s Desire C but thanks to Sony’s Bravia Mobile engine – with its contrast enhancement, sharpness filters and noise reduction – the end results are far more impressive. Even my 720p test videos looked good. There are no extra WhiteMagic pixels as found in some of the Go’s big Xperia brothers but I found the LCD panel bright enough for easy use out of doors.
AnTuTu and Sunspider results
Buried inside is a dual-core 1GHz NovaThor U8500 CPU and 512MB of RAM which gives the Xperia Go some serious pace. An AnTuTu score of 5,500 is pretty dramatic at this price level and in more practical terms games like Shadowgun and Dead Trigger run perfectly.
The 8GB of storage written on the box equates to 4GB for files and 1.8GB for apps but you also get a microSD card slot. Again at the price this seems eminently reasonable and certainly better than what’s offered by the HTC One V.
Like the equally waterproof Panasonic Eluga, the Go passed the Reg’s rigorous dump-it-in-a-pint-of-beer test with flying colours. It also survived in the shower. Again, as with the Eluga, the touchscreen doesn’t work submerged and behaves erratically when water flows across it.
5Mp camera and 720p video capture
Naturally, at this price, some compromises are unavoidable. Firstly, there’s no webcam – though in the post-Nexus 7 Taylor world, that is no biggie. I can also live with the lack of HDMI or USB-MHL and the 5Mp camera being only able record video at 720p, which it does rather well. The kick in the nuts is that out of the box the Go runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread rather than version 4, Ice Cream Sandwich. This is utterly inexcusable now that ICS has been out since the Go was nothing more than a scribble on the back of an envelope and a twinkle in its designer’s eye.
Browser and connected player
Sony’s Xperia Home launcher is starting to look at a little tired too and makes the 3.5in screen seem more congested than it is. Swapping to GO’s Launcher EX improved things massively. Sony has said an ICS update is coming to the Go but I won’t be buying one until it does.
Home screen and nannying notification
With such a small screen the 1305mAh battery isn’t taxed too heavily so you will be able to get a good two days use from a charge. Loop a 720p video and you will get three hours and 20 minutes of playback.
Android 4 promised, but nonetheless a decent performer without it
Generally available for less than £200 unlocked the Xperia Go is quite likely to be my next phone. It has power and storage aplenty, big enough cojones to handle 720p video and 3D games, impressive battery life, a screen that belies its on-paper specification and is built like a brick shithouse. I'd give it a higher rating if it weren't for the fact that it doesn’t ship with ICS yet. Still, my current contract has a few months yet to run so I can afford to wait for Sony to fulfil its ICS promise here.