Sony Ericsson Xperia Active

Feature set summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia review
Sporty types will like the rugged build of the Xperia Active, and enjoy the sports apps. The five-megapixel snapper surprised us with its prowess too
Sony Ericsson Xperia Active

Style and handling summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia

A neat but solid device that is nice to use and is built to withstand some rough use

Battery power summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia review
A full battery will take you through a day and more, thanks to the fact that the smaller screen doesn’t drain juice.

Performance summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia review
The single-core chip works well and allows Android 2.3 to run speedily and smoothly, but we’re not sure the processor will cope with the ICS update

User friendliness summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia review
We would have liked to see a larger display but it’s not a deal-breaker

Full Review and Specification for the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active
Are you the sort who likes to leap up mountains at weekend, or go climbing, or do other disgustingly healthy activities rather than lazing at home reading the Sunday papers with a mug of caffeine and a fat-laden croissant? Then the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active is just made for you.

The handset is made on the rugged side, to allow it to survive whatever its sporty active owner might do with it and yet it manages to be neat in size and lightweight. It’s still pretty chunky though, and has a neat three–inch screen. Weighing in at 11g, it feels solid enough without being heavy to carry.

A question of sport

If you’re a keen runner, Sony has seen fit to include a wrist strap in the box, so that you can pop the handset inside when you head off for your constitutional. Whether you’re recording all your efforts using the onboard WalkMate app, or listening to tunes, the phone can stay with you. We took it out for an admittedly brief jog, but found the strap a tad loose for our arms (maybe we need a few more sessions down the gym). It does look rather like you’re sporting a transponder Star Trek style, so the look may not be for everyone.

In the hand, however, the Xperia Active feels good – and it’s pretty rugged. The display fended off our attack with pointed objects, and it survived this and a few outings in our backpack with barely more than a light scratch or two. It can even stand up to the odd rain shower. Rubber shields protect the headphone and Micro USB ports and the display works even if you have damp fingers.

If you’re wearing the device in the wrist strap it is possible to operate it through the transparent window, but it is not terribly responsive.

Smooth operator

Running on Android 2.3, the OS runs quickly and smoothly. Even the small display couldn’t cramp our style – texting was no problem and you even get a full QWERTY keyboard for inputting if you turn the handset to landscape mode.

An upgrade to Android Ice Cream Sandwich is due in March or April. Until then you get five desktops on 2.3 Gingerbread – all of which can be populated with widgets and apps. Sony has added its own skin over the top, which includes the Timescape widget for social media. It also includes a quartet of shortcut panels – one in each corner. These give you speedy access to the phonebook, texts, dialpad and the active apps (which include a compass and fitness mapper).

Of course Android also gives you access to a heap of apps at Android market.If you want to browse the web, it offers a smooth experience, even on that small display, and you’ll enjoy colourful images and clear text. There’s support for Flash so you can enjoy video from sites such as 4OD and BBC iPlayer. Pages were quick to load via both via Wi-Fi and 3G.

Snap happy

The edge of the device houses a dedicated camera key – hit it and the snapper fires up (rather slowly it has to be said). The eight-megapixel camera has autofocus and images prove reasonably sharp, although in low light colours are not great. There’s a flash for low light and an HD video recording facility as well. The screenshot option is nifty – hold down the power key and you can snap a funny comment or photo online and share it with friends.

Our conclusion

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Active is aimed at the sporty user, with its fitness apps and rugged body, but even if you’re a bit of a couch potato it still has plenty on offer. The armband isn’t much of a draw and its size does not lend it to being a main handset, but nevertheless it performs well and has a good set of features.