V3 got some hands on time with the Sony Xperia Go, testing whether the device really is as robust as its maker claims.
Design and build
The Go is designed to be dust, scratch and waterproof. This means that visually the Go looks like an armoured, brightly coloured version of Sony's recent Xperia P smartphone, featuring protective plugs for all its external port,s similar to those seen on Motorola's Defy series of smartphones.
The device measures 111x60x9.8mm and weighs 110g meaning on paper it should feel comfortable in hand. However in our brief time with the device, we found its hard, angular design made it slightly awkward to hold, especially when wet.
Despite that, we were impressed by how sturdy the device felt. We took advantage of Sony's offer to "test" the Go, submerging it in water for over a minute and striking it with repeated blows against the corner of the demo table. In both cases the device remained unscathed and ran perfectly fine.
The Go's screen is one aspect we were a little disappointed with. The device packs a 3.5in 320 x 480 pixel screen with a density of 165 ppi. While feeling sturdy, this did look a little blurry and washed out, even when compared to other devices in the same £250 price range.
However, one unique point is the Go's screen's ability to continue working when wet. Testing the device we found the screen responded to touch inputs straight away, even after full submersion into a tank of water - meaning it should pull the same trick when attempting to use the device while caught in one of the UK's frequent downpours.
The Go packs a 5MP rear-facing camera that is reportedly capable of Geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection and 3D sweep panorama shots. Unfortunately though, during our hands on we didn't get the chance to take anything but basic photos.
While we were in a fairly well lit room optimised for photography, we were impressed by the Go's camera during the hands on, and found that shots looked fairly crisp and clear. The only problem we noticed with the camera was that colours could look a little off at times.
Operating system and software
The Go runs the now archaic Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Though Sony did promise an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, it remained cagey when pressed for an exact date, leaving us concerned that the update may be some time off.
Additionally, the Go doesn't run Gingerbread raw, instead featuring the same custom user interface and software seen on Sony's Experia P and S. While the UI does look quite nice, on past devices it has annoyed us, being overly cluttered with uninstallable bloatware.
The Go is powered by a NovaThor U8500 chipset, featuring a dual-core 1GHz Cortex-A9 processor that's backed up by 512MB RAM.
During our hands on, we didn't have any trouble doing basic tasks like watching a video, playing Angry Birds or simply navigating the device, but we got the feeling that the Go will struggle to match other devices in the same price bracket.
Unfortunately we didn't get to really test the device fully, as the demo unit didn't have a 3G signal and wasn't connected to a Wi-Fi network. This meant that we didn't get a chance see how quickly the device can load web pages and stream video content.
Battery and storage
Another concern we had regarding the Go is its battery. The device packs a fairly limited 1,305mAh lithium ion battery that the company claims will manage 520 hours life on standby, up to 460 hours talktime and up to five and half hours 3G use.
Being blunt, our experience with Sony's other smartphones has left us suspicious regarding the company's battery claims. Using the Xperia S and P we found both devices barely manage to last a full day even with light use, and the Go may suffer from the same problem.
The device packs 8GB of internal storage, though on our demo unit only 4GB was actually usable. Luckily, the Go's storage can be upgraded to 32GB using the microSD card slot - something that's missing from all too many smartphone's these days.
The Go will be released in July, costing £250 SIM-free. While we don't think the device will set the smartphone world on fire, it does have a pretty good chance of capturing the smaller niche rugged smartphone market.
This is mainly because Motorola, who debatably brought the trend to the mainstream with its Defy series, has a range of life-proof smartphones that have been fairly disappointing, packing low-performance processors and woefully poor screens.
When combined with a lack of interest in the rugged market from other smartphone makers, the Go may be able to carve its own niche customer base. Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Xperia Go.
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