A minor improvement from previous Xperia models.
UI and Apps
Sony have made a few tweaks to the Android Interface to try and keep the UI as sleek as the phone’s design. One rather unique feature is the introduction of “Small Apps’, which can be found at the bottom of the Android multitasking menu. By default you have a calculator, notes, voice recorder, and timer available – tapping one of these icons produces a small widget which then always stays in the foreground and can be dragged around or out of the way. It’s not a feature that most people may use immediately, but Sony have promised that more applications will be available at a later date.
The other tweak that Sony has made is with the on-screen keyboard. You can swipe across the keys quickly to form words, but the recognition needs some serious work. Even when I swiped some words slowly, the phone wasn’t able to correctly distinguish them and typed something else entirely. The other slightly annoying thing is that punctuation is always covered by the suggested words, so you have to tap a suggested word before the punctuation options appears again. Thankfully you can amend this by choosing a slightly alternative layout for the keyboard which makes numbers and punctuation available if you long-press a particular key.
As per the norm, you have some standard Sony applications such as Timescape for tracking updates on social media, Liveware Manager for managing connected devices, and Xperia Link to provide internet access to a tablet or PC. Apart from the Timescape application, I hardly bothered with the others, so you might want to uninstall some of these apps if you don’t end up using them. The phone also has NFC for quickly sharing content with other compatible devices.
Screen and Camera
Like with some previous Xperia phones, the screen really is gorgeous. The Mobile BRAVIA engine once again delivers beautiful colors, making both photos and videos pop on the screen. I also was surprised at how readable the screen was even in bright sunlight, something that other phones and tablets seem to always fail at. Though I have to admit that I had cranked up the brightness to maximum to see the screen clearly in the blinding sunlight – the ‘auto-brightness’ feature of the phone isn’t the smartest I’ve seen.
The Xperia TX comes with a thirteen megapixel camera, and while it does take fantastic photos outside, indoor photos are often suffer from muted colors or are washed out entirely if you use the flash. The phone is fairly good at low-light photography, but it takes some time for the phone to properly focus on a subject before you can take a photo. Still, as smartphone cameras go this one is quite good.
Also seen on the Xperia TX is the dedicated camera button, which when held down instantly launches the camera app and takes a photo, even if your phone is locked. And since the button requires a fair bit of pressure to activate, you won’t be taking and uploading accidental photos of your pocket when you’re on the move.
Sound & Call Quality
Listening to music on the Xperia TX via Sony’s Walkman app is a fulfilling experience. You also get to tweak various equalizer settings for the perfect sound, so audiophiles will certainly get a kick out of it. The speakerphone is also quite loud, and while it doesn’t always sound clear with vocal tracks you won’t really mind because not a lot of people will be walking around with music blaring from their speakerphone. It’s loud enough to hear when your phone rings, or when in a conference call. Another bonus is because the phone’s back is curved, when the phone is on a flat surface the loudspeaker isn’t covered, so you don’t have to flip the phone over when in a conference call. Call quality was also good, with both my voice and my caller’s going through clearly.
Heat levels & Battery Life
Battery life on the Xperia TX was decidedly average at best. While Sony says that the Xperia TX can provide about 6 hours of talk time and around a day’s worth of battery life (depending on usage), I was sadly only able to close to five hours of usage before I needed to plug the phone in to charge. This was with Wi-fi and 3G on, occasional Bluetooth usage, with volume and brightness at 75%,. I also had emails and social media update on a reasonable schedule, but even this seemed to run the battery down quickly. Heat-wise the Xperia TX remained cool to the touch, even after playing a 40-minute HD clip in full screen.
The Sony Xperia TX is at best a good enough upgrade if you’re still hanging on to older Xperia handsets and want to switch to something new. Though it’s running the now dated Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Sony will hopefully be able to push Jelly Bean onto this handset in 2013. And while the Xperia TX does have some admirable qualities, it isn’t as powerful as some of the other Android phones we’ve seen this year. It’s almost as if Sony are holding back from releasing a really remarkable Xperia phone until later, but by that time it may already be overshadowed by competitors.