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printed November 23, 2014
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Review: Sony Xperia Ion for AT&T

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Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's  

Screen

The Ion's screen uses what Sony markets as a Reality Display, with the same Bravia technology that's found in its television sets. It offers 1280 x 720 pixels, making it an HD display. I found the colors to be amazing, the blacks like the darkest night, and the overall appearance to be pleasing. Icons, text, and such are razor sharp and visibility both indoors and out was very good.

Signal

The Ion works on AT&T's HSPA+ and LTE networks. Throughout my testing, it always remained connected to the network, even in poor signal areas. I had no trouble making or receiving phone calls with the Ion, and it never dropped a call. The signal indicator says "4G" when HSPA+ is available and "LTE" when LTE is available. The Ion transitioned between the two networks smoothly. Data speeds were consistent no matter what connection type was available, though they weren't the fastest I've experiened. The Ion that I reviewed had no network trouble at all.

Sound

The quality of voice calls was very good. I thought voices sounded warm and present, and those to whom I was speaking reported the same of my voice. I didn't experience any interference or other problems. The earpiece isn't loud enough, though. It's darned near impossible to hear calls in a semi-noisy coffee shop or restaurant. The same goes for the speakerphone. Though the quality is good, the speakerphone simply isn't loud enough. I even enabled the Ion's xLOUD feature, which helps boost earpiece performance. It had no real discernible effect. Ringers and alert tones were better than the speakerphone, but even set all the way up they were easy to miss in loud settings. The vibrate alert was strong.

Battery

Almost all 4G LTE smartphones to date have poor battery life, and the Ion is no exception. When tested under LTE coverage, the battery would drain in mere hours. We're talking fewer than 6 hours from a full charge. You absolutely cannot go a full day on a single charge if using AT&T's LTE network. There's no control in the Ion's settings to disable the 4G radio, so you'll need to keep it plugged in. The Ion's batter manages to do a little bit better under 3G-only coverage. I coaxed it through an entire day of battery life from it, but barely. The battery was begging for mercy by 10PM on most days. It is important to note that the Ion's battery is sealed inside and not accessible to the user. That means no spare batteries. Not only does the Ion need to be charged every night, you need to have a cord or charger handy.

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