Does anyone remember the Sony Xperia tipo? I reviewed it at the end of August. It is a budget handset from Sony, priced at £126 (inc. VAT) SIM-free when I wrote the review, and is available as I write today from the same retailer (Clove Technology) at the same price.
Today I'm assessing the Xperia miro - a very close sibling of the tipo that costs £165 (inc. VAT) SIM-free from the same retailer. That’s around £40 more for this budget handset than the tipo. My review sample came from Vodafone where it is free on plans from £13-a-month. So, has Sony given you more here, and is the more worth the extra outlay?
The miro and the tipo do look different from each other, which I suppose is a good start in differentiating the two phones. Where the tipo has rather nice rounded edges, the miro is more angular in form. It’s a more blocky looking phone, though that’s not meant to be a negative comment – it looks fine.
Well, fine except for the fact that the area beneath the screen is vast. I measured 23mm of space between the bottom of the screen and the bottom of the phone.This space is divided into two sections. Immediately beneath the screen there’s an area with three touch buttons – Home, Back and Menu. They aren’t backlit, but the screen brightness is strong enough to help you find them when it’s dark.
Beneath these buttons there’s a slightly inward sloping section with the Xperia branding on it. On my review sample this was black, like the rest of the handset. However, there are alternative colour combinations as shown above.
The miro, like the Xperia tipo, is small and light. We are talking 113 x 59.4 x 9.9mm and 110g for the miro as opposed to 103 x 57 x 13mm and 99.4g for the tipo. The miro is taller and thinner, then, but comparable.
A small phone means a small screen and the 3.5in offering here is unlikely to surprise. It is a shade larger than the tipo’s 3.2in screen, and I found it a little easier to type on as a result. But only a little. Serious generators of text for whatever reason from SMS to email and longer documents would do well to look for a larger screen.
The 480 x 320 screen resolution isn’t much to write home about, and it matches the tipo. With this resolution on offer, text can be difficult to read. I struggled to get much from a web page without zooming, for example. And when I did zoom, there was a definite fuzziness to words. It’s not something that is likely to irritate those who’ve not experienced better, but I think Sony could have earned brownie points by upping the resolution.
The Android version is a pleasant surprise. To see Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) here is a good thing – just as it was with the tipo. And the 5-megapixel main camera with a little LED flash performed reasonably well too. There’s a front-facing VGA camera which is always a nice touch to see in a budget handset.
Sony offers five home screens on the Xperia miro and a raft of personalising widgets are include. On my review handset some of these came from Vodafone, some from Sony and the rest were the standard Android fare.
There’s an 800MHz processor on board, just as in the tipo, and it does a good job. I didn’t notice any jarring that really annoyed me. Video played smoothly, the handset found and played music without juddering, and apps loaded fast enough to keep me happy. There was the odd pause here and there while the phone caught up with things I asked it to do, but nothing that would make me lay into Sony for producing a phone that’s below par for its price and specs in performance terms.
Sony has included its LiveWare system here. It is with such things that Android handset manufacturers have to try to differentiate themselves from the competition these days, and LiveWare certainly impresses. You can set the phone to automatically run an app when you plug in the charger, headphones or headset. So for instance, I loved how I could set the music player to run whenever I plugged a headset in.
In this case, the music app is Sony’s Walkman app, with shuffle and repeat modes and an equaliser whose presets have a real effect on what you hear. There was also none of that squealing I got through the headphones when pausing music with the tipo. Oh, and when you remove the headphones playback pauses, though you stay in the app.
What I wasn’t so happy about was the need to remove the battery to hot-swap microSD cards. Plenty of people still find it easier to swap music into their phones via computer drag-and-drop to microSD, and if you are one of them, note that this phone has to be powered down and its battery removed before you can get at the microSD card.
Switch music playback to the built-in speaker and Sony’s xLOUD kicks in (just like the tipo). For some reason audio quality didn’t sound quite as good through the speaker as with the tipo, but to be fair I was working from memory on this rather than having the two handsets side by side. There’s no doubting the loudness though, and xLOUD is another of those differentiators for which Sony should be praised.
Internal memory is limited to just 4GB with only 2GB user accessible, so you’ll probably need a microSD card quickly as Sony doesn’t bundle one. However, you do get a screen protector, which is a reasonably nice touch.
The 1,500mAh battery is rated for five hours of talk-time. My experience suggests the usual daily charge regime is likely to apply for many users.
So, where do the tipo and miro differ? The key areas are physical design and that the miro has a better camera and slightly larger screen.
The Sony Xperia miro is a neat little phone that benefits from a few features unique to Sony. It is very, very like the Xperia tipo, with just a few small spec improvements. If you have the cash, it is probably worth shelling out for the extras.
Manufacturer and model
Sony Xperia miro
GSM 850/900/1800/1900 HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100
800MHz Qualcomm MSM7225A
2GB user accessible
3.5in, 480 x 320 pixels
113 x 59.4 x 9.9mm