There are some times when you simply do not want to carry around a huge device like the HTC Sensation or Samsung Galaxy S II and you instead would like a more compact device to suit your needs. This is where the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray comes in to play: it's a compact, thin, mid-range device with a focus on media capabilities and still enough power behind it to make everything run smoothly.
The biggest surprise for me when getting this device out of the packaging was the relatively tiny size compared to the Galaxy S that I use as my daily driver. The Xperia Ray fits width-wise into the 4-inch display on my Galaxy S, is considerably shorter in height and is half a millimetre thinner as well. Putting the two devices side by-side really shows off this difference in size.
The front of the Ray is occupied by the 3.3-inch display, front-facing camera and three buttons – two of which are capacitive and the third (the home button) is physical. Around the home button is a semicircle ring of light that turns on when you turn on the display, and also flashes colors for incoming notifications and charging; it’s a really handy and stylish way of performing the actions of a notification light.
The back of the device sees soft-touch plastic with branding, HD camera with LED flash, speaker (under the Sony Ericsson orb logo) and noise cancellation microphone. There are no unusual patterns or unnecessary colors on the back of the Xperia Ray, which leaves the device with a fitting minimalist feel. The inclusion of a matte cover also prevents nasty fingerprints.
Around the edges you see an exposed microUSB port on the left side, volume rocker on the right, power button and 3.5mm audio jack on the top and microphone on the bottom. The sides have attractive wedge-shaped metallic highlights that give the device the illusion that it’s thinner than it is.
I honestly cannot find anything to fault about the design of the Xperia Ray – it’s rock solid for a device of this size. It fits perfectly and comfortably in the hand, all buttons are in sensible and ergonomic positions and the minimalist, squared Xperia design feels right in with other designs of this era and doesn’t feel dated whatsoever.
The display on the Xperia Ray is certainly worth a mention, mostly due to the high-density of pixels present. The device packs a 3.3-inch 480 x 854 LED-backlit LCD “Reality Display” with an approximate pixel density of 297 ppi (pixels per inch); very close to the iPhone 4 “Retina” display’s 330 ppi.
The Ray’s display is absolutely gorgeous. For a non-AMOLED display, colors really seem to be vibrant and very true to reality. Pictures and videos look fantastic on the display thanks to the Sony Bravia Mobile engine that enhances the quality of imagery, and you don’t get any blue tinting on white areas like you would on a Super AMOLED. Below is a comparison of the two types of displays. The Ray’s display (the smaller one) has the best true-to-reality color toning of the two and the better clarity (although this photo doesn’t really illustrate the difference). I still prefer the Super AMOLED for its overall vibrancy, but the Ray has one of the best mobile LCD displays available.
Of course, as with all LCD displays, black levels and viewing angles are not nearly as good as on the AMOLED type, but they’re not bad by any means on the Ray’s LED-backlit display. Viewing angles are better than what I have seen on HTC devices, but black levels don’t look as good as they did on the HTC Sensation, for example. Also, the lack of auto-brightness means that black levels can look worse when the display is too bright.
There is no doubting the benefits to the high pixel count. Most of the time individual pixels are indistinguishable on the Ray’s display and take close inspection to find. This allows text to be readable while very small; the Neowin desktop homepage is perfectly readable at a size where it is slightly blurred on the Galaxy S’ lower density display.
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