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Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo Hands-On

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Feb 13, 2011, 7:30 PM   by Rich Brome

We had a chance to try this well-spec'd Android phone at MWC in Barcelona. See what we liked about it.

The new Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro and Neo are like brother and sister. Big brother Pro has a keyboard and some extra business features, while lil' sis Neo has a thinner (and curvier) profile. Otherwise, they're very similar, with a bevy of multimedia features. Sony Ericsson's focus is media and entertainment, and that's clear in these new smartphones.

Hardware

The Neo has a great size, shape, and feel to it. It's a pretty standard size for a phone with a 3.7-inch screen. Packing in an 8-megapixel camera, it's not the thinnest kid on the block, but it tapers quite a bit on the sides - and especially at the corners - and that goes a long way toward making it more pocket-friendly. (If you want really thin, then the Xperia Arc is the model for you; this one is more mainstream.) The Neo is light enough to not weigh you down, but heavy enough to not feel cheap. That's actually quite an accomplishment, since it's all glossy plastic, yet has a rock-solid feel of quality.

 

Xperia Neo Body

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The keys are all plastic and have a tiny bit of wiggle, but are still above-average. They work well. We appreciate physical keys instead of touch keys below the display, and the dedicated camera key is always a good idea.

The camera is set in the middle of the phone, which is unusual placement. No doubt that helps them curve the back of the phone for comfort, but I found my fingers in the way when I tried to take a photo. That's something you'd probably adjust to quickly if you owned it, though.

The camera sensor is an 8-megapixel number with "Exmor R" technology, which Sony says is a higher grade of camera sensor. Sony Ericsson has been known to crank out some industry-leading cameras in their phones in the past, so we expect great things from one that they brag about like this.

In other multimedia news, you'll find an HDMI TV-out jack on the top, next to the 3.5mm audio jack and micro-USB connector. Like on the Arc, the HDMI port integrates with a Sony Bravia TV, so that you can use your TV remote to control a photo slideshow playing from your phone, for example.

On oddity is that the screen is set in just a bit from the front surface of the phone. So many phones have completely flat fronts these days that it caught us a bit off-guard. We haven't seen one inset in a while. The nice thing about this is that it helps protect the screen from scratches, at least a little bit. Oddly, the Pro doesn't have the screen set back like this.

Software

The Neo has mostly the same software as the Arc, such as a TimeScape widget and app. It also has the nifty feature that lets you pinch your home screen to see all widgets grouped together on one screen. (Note that this is different from showing thumbnails of all your home screens at once; this actually shrinks all of your widgets and arranges them together on one screen.)

 

Xperia Neo Interface

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The camera software is also much like the Arc, which is to say it's excellent. Key options are displayed with easy-access touch controls right in the viewfinder, and everything works just as well in portrait as landscape orientation.

Sony Ericsson also has its own music player with features like an equalizer and search.

There are some other nifty software features, but they're shared with the Pro, and we need to leave something to talk about in that hands-on. Be sure to read that as well.

In all, the Neo holds promise as a solid, reasonably high-end Android smartphone. If you don't want a monster 4.5-inch display, or perhaps prefer an emphasis on the camera and media features, this it one to keep an eye on.

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