Sony have progressed considerably since their separation and purchase of Ericsson’s stake in their joint venture. They have went from producing decent phones with tech a few steps behind the leaders to phones with tech surpassing the likes of Samsung and HTC. They have introduced waterproof and shatterproof phones and thrown in a 20mp camera in for good measure in their flagship models. Today however we review a middle of the range Android phone, the Xperia C.
The Xperia C comes in the standard Sony box which is definitely larger than the boxes HTC and Samsung use for their mobiles. On the front there’s a picture of the phone and the back has a few specifications. Inside you get a micro USB cable, charger, some manuals and earphones. The earphones are not in-ear like the ones you usually get with most phones these days and they come in the color of the phone but the charger and cable are black.
Design and Construction
You could be forgiven for thinking the Xperia C’s construction is unibody but the back in fact can be removed. Consider the back similar to a case, the back, sides and a bit of the front bezel of the phone comes off when you remove the back to access the sim and microSD slots. The battery however is not removable which makes the whole concept of removing the back rather obsolete. To get the back off you need to apply pressure on the back of the phone while using your remaining finger or fingers to pry open the bezel. After a few tries you get used to doing this but there is no mention of how to do this in the manuals which would make it quite confusing to some first time users. The phone itself is made of plastic but is quite sturdy and feels solid when holding it.
The front of the phone has two speaker grilles, one at the top, and one at the bottom for phone calls. There aren’t any physical buttons here, the standard Android back, home and menu buttons are integrated into the screen itself. On the left side there is only a micro USB port and on the right you have the power/unlock, volume and camera buttons. On the back there’s the camera, LED flash and a speaker grille for multimedia playback; and at the top there’s a 3.5mm audio jack. We got a chance to try out both the white and black models and while the white’s back felt somewhat slippery the black model’s felt more rubber like. I found the black version to be seemingly slimmer (due to black making everything look slim as it usually does) and better to handle.
Specs and Performance
It should be noted that while the Xperia C has Dual Sims, only Sim 1 can use 3G connectivity and Sim 2 is limited to 2G/EDGE only but you can also choose which Sim is used for mobile data so make sure the Sim you have a 3G data bundle on is in the Sim 1 slot. Also because the back, home and menu buttons are integrated into the screen itself, the 5 inch screen is actually reduced to about 4.5-4.7 inches.
The Xperia C uses the Mediatek MT6589 chipset with a quad core 1.2GHz A7 processor and a PowerVR SGX544 graphics chip which is on par with its mid-range list of specs. It’s also a good thing it comes with a microSD slot because the 4GB internal storage is reduced to about 2GB after apps and OS take up their expected space. In Sunspider the Xperia C managed a score of 1268 against the Vibe X’s 1089. In 3DMark Ice Storm unlimited the Xperia scored 2546 vs the Vibe X’s 2866 and in Vellamo it scored 1574 and 464 vs the Vibe X’s 1554 and 573 for HTML5 and Metal respectively. For Geekbench 3 the Xperia C managed a score of 1093 vs 1313 for the Vibe X. Clearly the Vibe X has a faster chipset but the two are not that far off each other overall. Games on the Xperia C were good even when playing Asphalt 8 the phone managed a decent frame rate but you do sometimes notice a minor skip here and there. A lot of the special effects however felt underwhelming either due to the graphics chip not being able to deliver them or the screen’s lower resolution not being able to make them pop out
Screen, Sound and UI
The 5 inch display on the Xperia C is large enough to read text and watch videos but the lack of a decent resolution really takes its toll on the quality of the screen. The screen looks dull and the icons and texts suffer because of this due to an overall lack of sharpness. You also notice a lot of light bleeding from the edges of the screen which affects the brightness of the screen in darker backgrounds sometimes. Due to the lower resolution and lower quality of the screen the viewing angles although appear decent are definitely affected by this and you do notice a bit of contrast shifting when viewing some videos at acute angles.
As is expected from a mid-range phone there is a lack of proper bass and depth in some songs. Music overall is clear and quite loud thanks to Sony’s additional features such as XLoud and ClearAudio+ which helps enhance the Xperia C’s audio capabilities in terms of clarity and volume even though the phone’s speaker is at the back. Playing videos and games is a treat on this phone were it not for the screen’s handicaps.
Sony have done away with the previous generation’s Timescape UI and have introduced Socialife. It is less imposing on the stock Android experience while providing nearly all of the benefits of Timescape. Facebook, Twitter and other social media apps can be integrated into a single app in Socialife News that feeds you an all-in-one experience similar to Timescape while Sony also offer extra apps such as the Xperia Lounge for access to additional content and Play Movies for purchasing and playing movies. Socialife also seems to tax the chipset less with a trickled down UI experience that integrates well with stock Android. Sony has also included their own version of the multi-window feature where you can superimpose and smaller app/widget if you need to view something over the internet quickly or need to write a quick note. You also get the standard choice of lockscreen widgets and access to the camera from the lockscreen itself by sliding your finger to the left. Music controls can also be seen on the lockscreen when music is playing. Sony’s keyboard is still as good as it has ever been with buttons spaced well and input is easy and problem free.
The 8mp shooter on the Xperia C is controlled by the button on the side and the touchscreen. You can take pics via the button or on-screen and I found the button to be a little too soft and not as intuitive as it often feels when you have a camera button. Pictures taken were adequate for 8 megapixels but I did notice that the sensor oversaturated the blues and a comparison shot between the Xperia C and Samsung S4 Active shows how much saturation the Sony phone produced. Also zooming in after the shot shows the S4 Active shoots clearer images. Indoor shots were decent but night time shots looked grainy and lacking detail. Video recording was adequate with a bit of graining when shot in a lower than usual light. You are also able to take photos while recording albeit at 2mp only.
The 2390mAH battery on the Xperia C was surprisingly good. With average use the phone could last up to 2 days before it needed charging while heavy use and especially with mobile data would mean overnight recharging was a must. Little usage and the Xperia C could last up to 4 or 5 days easy. The good battery life is most likely due to the lower spec processor and low resolution which could prove quite handy for someone who is travels a lot. Obviously usage and battery life will vary from user to user but expect the dual sim standby to affect battery life to an extent.
I quite like the Sony Xperia C thanks to its solid build and faux unibody design. It will not win any performance or design crowns but it is quite a decent phone for what you pay for. The screen is the biggest let down with this device, I really feel they should have at least given it a 720p to make images sharper and clearer but it does seem to the trend with these mid-range phones. Pricing may also be an issue if you factor in competition such as Motorola’s Moto G which retails for less and offers a nicer screen but lacks the microSD slot. The Xperia ZR is also another competitor despite being an older phone with prices around the 1399AED mark, the ZR comes with a 4.5 inch 720p screen, waterproof and 13mp camera. Initially selling for 1199AED at launch, the Xperia C would have been a hard sell for Sony but a recent price drop to 1049AED has brought it close to the Motorola’s 899AED price and a tempting alternative to it. If you don’t care about your phone being waterproof or having a sharper high resolution screen you can’t go wrong with the Sony Xperia C; it fits in the middle but only just.