Xperia U: quality well above price range
Sony's Xperia U looks and feels very much like an $800 smartphone. It sports a dual-core 1GHz processor, 3.5-inch 480 x 854-pixel display, with a reasonably high dot pitch of approximately 280ppi.
There's a good quality 5-megapixel camera, and while the phone runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), Sony has announced plans for an upgrade to 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) in the third-quarter of 2012.
Though the construction is clearly plastic, it feels solid enough and doesn't look too cheap. An attractive clear-plastic band runs right through the bottom of the phone below the screen, and different coloured caps (several are included in the box) can be added below that band as personalisation: brilliant if you have more than one of the same phone model in the household.
Call quality is average - not crystal-clear, but totally serviceable. Sound quality when playing back music and videos is a little above-average when using headphones.
Performance is impressive, given that dual-core CPU: the phone scored a total of 5,382 in AnTuTu benchmark, and navigates through menus, web pages and apps fluidly. There are no awkward stutters in animation when changing home screens, and everything ticks along like you'd expect.
So it looks, feels and performs very much like an $800 smartphone... but it's not. The Xperia U is the little-sibling to the $649 Sony Xperia P, and itself sells for just $399.
Downsides? Only one to speak of. The phone has 8GB of internal storage, only 4GB of which is user-accessible. There's no microSD card slot, so that 4GB is all you have, ever. For a phone that works great as a music and video playback device, that's rather disappointing.
If you want a high-performance Android device but don't have much to spend, the Xperia U should be your first port of call - just as long as you don't intend to carry around a multimedia library or a large set of space-hungry apps and games.
AT A GLANCE
Dual-core, 1GHZ CPU
8GB memory, only 4GB user-accessable
Attractive, novel design
RRP incl GST: $399