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Sony Ericsson Xperia neo review

Sony Ericsson has done itself proud with the neo, a compact and very likeable new Android handset

We don’t always see eye to eye with Sony Ericsson. The company can make some odd choices with its handsets, and some great ones too. Remember the Xperia mini? We really liked that. Well, the Xperia neo is another nice little handset, and the one annoyance about it, Sony Ericsson’s odd Timescape application, can easily be ignored.

Timescape, in case you need reminding, is a home screen widget and application that brings together Facebook, Twitter and SMS in one place. We find it a bit obtuse, a bit over-engineered. But as we said, if you agree with us on that, you can simply ignore it and use the Android market for alternative apps you prefer.

Whichever way you choose to go on that, the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo can pick up your Facebook and Twitter friends and integrate them into the main contacts area of the handset. Along with Google contacts, of course.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo runs Android 2.3, so it is bang up to date on the operating system front. Sony Ericsson takes a fairly light touch to skinning Android, offering five home screens and a shortcut bar along the bottom of each of them. This shortcuts bar offers fixed access to the main applications screen and four apps.

Our review handset came from Vodafone and one of these app shortcuts was hardwired to the Vodafone music store. The other three taken you to messaging, contacts and the phone dialler.

Pop into the apps menu and you cycle horizontally through screens of app shortcuts which you can arrange alphabetically, by frequency of use, by most recently installed or in an order you choose. It is quite a flexible system.

The handset benefits from a good 8 megapxiel camera that produces very nice photos, though we’d have liked more shooting modes. Similarly there’s photo editing within the gallery app but it is rudimentary. We’d have liked much more in this line. The video capture at 720p is welcome, though. There is a second camera on the front of the chassis, incidentally.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo is quite small and light – ideal for little hands and squeezed pockets. This inevitably relates directly to the small screen size. At 3.7 inches it is about the smallest size that is really usable for media rich activities like web browsing and video viewing. Its 480 x 854 pixels are sharp and bright. And the screen benefits from Sony Ericsson’s Mobile Bravia engine which helps enhance video and photo quality in particular.

There’s a HDMI port on the top edge so you can send your photos and other media to an external device.

The build of this handset won’t be to everybody’s taste. The shiny plastic chassis feels robust but not as solid as some. And the curved top and bottom ends look neat but are a little unusual. Our review sample had a fabulous (in our eyes) deep blood red chassis with silver highlights. There’s also a blue variant.

There are three physical buttons beneath the screen for Home, Back and Menu functions. Sony Ericsson provides an 8GB microSD card to boost the internal 320MB of storage, and that’s welcome. The 1GHz processor helps ensure the handset zips along very nicely, and screen responsiveness to the touch was smooth and quick. We felt we were using a slick handset here.

Overall, we did feel the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo is a little expensive considering its specifications, but it is one of the better offerings from the company.