Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 7.5
Small time mobile phone manufacturers are bringing super cheap Chinese handsets into the market by the week and bigger brands are looking to beat them at their own game. Bigwigs like HTC, Sony and Samsung have been releasing inexpensive handsets to please the consumer and these handsets definitely sport better build quality, stable operating system and a promising after sales scheme. We have seen a few handsets from these brands, but they lack what the small-time budget handset manufacturers offer — an impressive feature-set. Chinese phones offer almost four times the features that bigger brands offer for the same price. We received an entry-level smartphone from Sony, the Xperia E Dual, for reviewing. Let's see what it has on offer and who its target audience is.
Android ICS upgradable to JB shortly
Design and build quality
The curved edges of the Sony Xperia E Dual reminds us of the LAVA S12 Android phone. The Xperia E is a light-weight handset and feels much like a toy, though it has a rugged build quality and the entire chassis is very firm. It has a three-tone chassis comprising a high-glossy front and a rubberised rear panel in matte-finish separated by a very thin chrome trim. The front panel has a scratch resistant glass with three capacitive buttons for Home, Back and Menu. Though these buttons are highly responsive and sensitive to touch, none of them are backlit, making it a bit difficult for first time users to tell them apart in the dark. Next to the ear piece is a small tri-colour notification LED that changes colour according to the alert or charging/battery status. There is also another notification LED below the Home button, behind the translucent chrome trim, which is also an RGB LED.
Dual GSM SIM compliant, microSD card slot for memory expansion
The rear panel is made of a rubberised mesh texture to give it a good grip and prevent it from slipping. The rear sports a camera without a flash. Towards the bottom is a large opening of around 2 mm in thickness and an inch wide, which is the speaker grille. The rear panel opens a bit too easily, which could be a cause of concern in future as the plastic notches wear out slowly. Below the rear panel are the dual GSM SIM slots and the microSD card slot along with a removable battery. The right side of the chassis has the power and volume rocker while the left sports the microUSB PC interface and charging slot. The 3.5 mm headset jack is placed on the top.
3.15MP camera without flash; rear panel has a rubberised finish
Sony seems to have designed this entry-level smartphone for those who don’t want a powerful handset but would want to experience the Android ecosystem. The Xperia E Dual is not as feature-rich as one would expect. Though it sports a 1GHz Cortex A5 Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the phone is good enough for casual computing on-the-go. This includes social networking, calls and text messages, standard or casual videos and gaming, music and Internet browsing. The graphics section is handled by the Adreno 200, which is a basic but strong GPU. The total RAM installed is 512MB, which is good enough for the purpose of the handset.
Audio jack on the top; power, volume and camera buttons on the right
The display is a basic 3.5-inch capacitive TFT with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels and can recognise only two fingers simultaneously. It is protected by a scratch-resistant glass. The internal storage is 4GB, of which 2GB is vacant for the user. You have the option of expansion up to 32GB using a microSD card. The camera available is just the rear shooter, which has a 3.15 MP sensor and no flash for night shots. Connectivity options are Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth v2.1, GPRs, EDGE, 3G and GPS. Sensors available are only proximity and accelerometer. The Xperia E is installed with Google’s Android ICS v4.0.4, which will be soon updated by Sony to Jelly Bean v 4.1. The handset is powered by a 1530 mAh battery, which the manufacturer promises will give you a talktime of around 6 hours and 12 minutes and a standby time of up to 530 hours.
3.5-inch display with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels
We did use the phone for a few days as our primary handset and found no flaws with the operating system or the user interface. The only complaint we have is that the user interface seems a tad sluggish or slow, but since we are used to faster phones, we chose to ignore this aspect. Benchmarking apps were installed on the phone and here are the scores. AnTuTu scored 5010, Quadrant scored 2442 and NenaMark2 scored 27.2 fps. Linpack gave results of 39.101 MFLOPS and 36.3 MFLOPS in the single-thread and multi-thread tests respectively. Benchmarking an entry-level phone for its scores is not as crucial as its overall real-world performance. What we need to know basically is if the phone manages to make it through the day without any hiccups or whether the user interface slows down or there are glitches in the operating system. We have no complaints and this phone is definitely recommended for those on a low budget seeking a basic Android phone from a well-known and time-tested brand.
Timescape UI, as is usual with all Xperia phones
The Xperia E, as is usual with all Sony handsets till date, sports the Timescape UI. Most of the components of the Timescape UI remain almost similar—the weather widget, the clock, music player and so on. The UI has seen a new addition of the system toggle switches (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Sound, Data and Settings), which are integrated into the notification area similar to most custom-designed ROMs. This feature seems to be a good add-on for all Xperia ROMs released in this year. The user interface is well optimised with the hardware, making it almost flawless. Sony has bundled a few extra apps apart from the usual ones. These include Opera and Chrome web browsers, a file manager, WhatsApp, Google+, Times Of India, CricBuz, Linkedin and more. Also included are a few apps that feature songs, videos and wallpapers of well-known Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor.
Few free apps installed; pull down notification bar has status toggle switches
Display and media
As mentioned earlier, the display is a 3.5-inch standard TFT screen with a scratch-resistant glass. The display sports a resolution of 320 x 480, which is just about good for everyday use. Videos and photos are not so great as the pixels are easily seen. The viewing angle tends to get inverted from the left side when using the phone in landscape mode. We also noticed that the display is not very visible in sunlight, which could be a cause of concern for those wanting to use it outdoors whilst travelling.
We did play back a few videos on the phone to know if it can handle different types of video formats. Sadly, 1080p and 720p videos were not playable at a comfortable speed. They would jitter with slow moving frames and the audio would either be out of sync or blanked out for a few seconds. Standard definition videos are good enough and play without any issues. The speaker built into the handset is pretty loud and clear. Also, the bundled earphones are good enough to enjoy your music and movies on the go. No complaints here.
Outdoor shots are washed out and lack a balance of brightness and contrast
The rear camera is a 3.15 MP shooter and performs completely below average. It seems slightly unbelievable considering Sony mobile phones and the sensors they sport. Photos in broad daylight are washed out or the images have burned out zones in brighter areas. They also lack proper colours and are a tad grainy. Indoor shots are almost identical. Lack of an LED flash also makes it impossible to shoot in low light and darker zones. In short, the camera is a major downside of the Xperia E.
Indoor shots are grainy and blurred
Sporting a 1530 mAh battery, the phone will give around 6 hours of talk time and 530 hours of standby time, claims the manufacturer. We did our tests on the phone and it gave us 2 hours of video watching, 2 hours of voice calls, 2 hours of music entertainment and 2 hours of video streaming via YouTube over the Wireless Network. The phone still had 20 percent battery left even after we ran these tests continuously for 8 hours. The battery life on this handset is good enough to give you a whole day of casual usage.
Verdict and price in India
The Xperia E Dual is a great phone for those looking for an entry-level Android smartphone on a budget. The build quality is excellent and the performance is decent. The dual-SIM feature offers the option to keep your professional and personal life separate. In short, if you want a market-tested brand with the features of a smartphone, the Xperia E Dual Android phone is a good choice. For the price its sells at, we feel it is a bit overpriced because of the below average camera performance, a single core processor and the inability to play back 720p videos comfortably. If you are looking for a smartphone with an alternative OS (Windows Phone 8), the Nokia Lumia 520, a dual-core handset for the same price, is a steal. Alternatively, you can opt for dual-core handsets from Micromax, WickedLeak, Karbonn or Spice in the Android zone.
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Jan 22, 2017