Sony Xperia Sola

The Sola is a solid smartphone with a good array of features, beyond the basics. Just be sure you can't buy the better Xperia S for the same price, before you commit.


7.6
CNET Rating
6.0
User Rating

About The Author

CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Design

In some respects, designing a mid-range handset must be harder than designing the flagship models. A mid-tier mobile needs to maintain the same "feel" as other phones in its range, but also needs its own defining elements. You'd need to keep costs down and cut a few corners, but without obviously doing so. The Xperia Sola is a pretty good example of how this is done. Compared with the Xperia S, the Sola has a smaller screen and lacks some of the features available on the flagship, but keeps enough of the Xperia offerings to hold its own.

Physically, the Sola shares many of the design cues we saw on the Xperia S; the same sharp-looking corners and the same three-button navigation panel below the screen. We like it's soft-touch plastic battery cover, which feels lovely to hold, and we like the alignment of its mechanical controls — including a dedicated camera button.

The Sola has a dedicated camera button, alongside the volume rocker and micro-USB port.
(Credit: )

The Sola sports Sony's Reality branded LCD, like on the Xperia S, but in a smaller 3.7-inch size. With a WVGA resolution, you get far fewer pixels, per inch, on this screen than on the S, but you'd be pressed to spot the difference, in our opinion. It is, however, easier to spot the same colour banding issue we saw on the Xperia S. With colour banding, gradients of colour are represented as strips of distinct shades, rather than a smooth blend. This problem won't affect your ability to use this phone, but it does look unpleasant.

Sony also introduces an interesting new technology with the Sola, which it calls Floating touch technology. Most smartphone touchscreens use capacitive touch technology to signal where the user is pressing on a screen. The Sola uses Floating touch in unison with capacitive touch, so that the phone can also detect input when a finger hovers up to 22mm above the screen. However, this input isn't recognised as normal touch input and is only currently implemented in the web browser — even then, it can only highlight hyperlinks on pages. You can't make a selection with a hovering finger, and you can't swipe it to move around the page. It's an interesting idea, but completely useless without further application support.

Unlike some recent releases from competitor brands, Sony makes the battery of the Xperia Sola accessible and includes a micro-SD card slot for expanding the handset's 8GB of internal storage (of which only 5GB are usable for new apps and media). There is also a 3.5mm headphone socket and a micro-USB port for charging, but media-lovers will spot the absence of an HDMI port.

User experience and performance

In its various modes of downsizing to create this mid-sized Xperia phone, it is a relief that Sony has left the user experience as we saw it in the more expensive models. On the Sola, you get the Sony NXT user experience; a heavily customised software layered on top of Google's Android. We really like NXT; it's far less flashy than HTC's Sense UI, but it also seems to be more resource efficient. Despite the Sola being powered by a comparably slower dual-core 1GHz processor and 512MB RAM, the experience is slick and smooth, with pauses for processing infrequent.

Sony's NXT UI has a lot of nice inclusions, like the option to create folders.
(Credit: CBSi)

The phone's specifications also mean that it has no difficulty running the majority of Android apps. We successfully ran some of the Google Play store's most graphics-intensive tasks and nothing phased the Xperia Sola.

It is disappointing that a phone released in the middle of 2012 is still running on the older Gingerbread version of Android. The newer Ice Cream Sandwich version does deliver some important enhancements to the platform, including performance enhancements, so hopefully Sony intends to release this update sooner, rather than later.

Communication

The Sola is both quad-band 2G and quad-band 3G, allowing you to connect to the 3G networks of Optus, Vodafone and Telstra. This includes the 850MHz frequency band used by Telstra and Vodafone for HSPA+ data speeds. It does not support the 1800MHz 4G frequency used by Telstra and Optus, though. The internet can also be accessed using Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), and the phone can share its 3G data using Android's personal hotspot feature.

Call quality had been solid during our tests, with the phone maintaining a good connection to the network and no call dropouts.. Email and text messaging is fine, but it could be improved with a better virtual keyboard design. The Xperia S features a Swype-like keyboard, but, for some reason, the Sola does not.

The Sola is also equipped with an NFC chip, making it possible for the handset to communicate with other NFC-compatible devices. To make the most of this feature, while we wait for NFC banking to take off, Sony has included two NFC SmartTags in the box with the Sola. With these tags, you can instantly change the phone's profile, activating a number of hardware features, like Wi-Fi or GPS, and launching apps simultaneously. Other current uses for NFC include pairing two devices, such as the mobile phone with a wireless speaker unit, but expect to see more NFC tags and badges over the next year and beyond.

Camera

Don't be fooled by the 5-megapixel resolution of the camera in the Xperia Sola. It might lack the overall number of pixels per picture, but it certainly feels like it takes photos of the same quality as the 12-megapixel camera in the Xperia S. Colourful photos pop when viewed on the screen (thanks to Sony's Bravia Engine display software), and the auto-focus is often sharp and accurate. This camera doesn't take photos as quickly as other models, but the results tend to be quite good, if a little overexposed on the default settings.

(Credit: CBSi)

(Credit: CBSi)

(Credit: CBSi)

Multimedia

Multimedia is one aspect of smartphone usage that Sony has started to own with its recent releases. This is true for the Sola, too, though there are a few key features absent, or watered down. Videos and photos displayed on the phone receive the benefit of Sony's Bravia Engine — software that attempts to clean an image, as it's displayed, by reducing noise and increase sharpness and saturation. The result is nearly always better than without the engine.

If you want to share your media with a larger display, like a TV, you do have the option to stream it over a Wi-Fi network using the DLNA protocol. This requires your TV to be DLNA compatible, or to have a compatible device plugged into it. Unlike the Xperia S, the Sola does not have an HDMI port, so a direct connection is not possible.

The limited storage supplied in the sale package is another hurdle media-lovers will need to overcome to make the most of the Sola. Out of the box, you'll have 5GB to play with, which is plenty for storing photos and a selection of music, but not enough for keeping a collection of movies to watch.

Overall

Sony's Xperia Sola is a respectable mid-tier phone, with a good smattering of features and decent performance. Some that will argue that its 3.7-inch screen is too small for various smartphone tasks and the colour banding issues we've encountered may be a deal-breaker for others. Both impact on multimedia use, as does the handset's limited internal storage and lack of supplied memory card. Though, if you look past these flaws, there is a lot the Sola does well.

We feel it's recommended price of AU$486 is reasonable for a phone with these specs and features, though we have noticed that a recent price drop makes the superior Xperia S about the same price through some major vendors. Allphones, for example, listed the Xperia S for AU$488 at the time of writing this review. This deal may come and go, but if you are going to spend this money anyway, you might as well buy the S with its superior screen and features, if you can.



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LeeA Facebook
8
Rating
 

"great phne, very user friendly"

LeeA posted a review   

The Good:i love the look, feel and screen size

The Bad:incompatible with yahoo mail

i have owned the xperia sola for a week and find it a fantastic phone, very fast to switch between pages. however, i was trying to load the yahoo!7mail app and find it not compatible for my phone. is this an issue between yahoo and sony? ihad yahoo mail on my samsung phone wihtout any probs at all.
does anyone know how i can set up email so i can switch between bothmy yahoo mail accounts without having to log out of each one>

maumong
5
Rating
 

"all over the phone is brilliant, but how can u use a phone without a good battery"

maumong posted a review   
Philippines

The Good:everything

The Bad:except the battery

battery sucks

AbhishekD Facebook
5
Rating
 

"i purchased xperia ray instead of sola. is this my right desicion or not. the ray lag too much after 4.0.4 what should i do i tried every thing. is there any chance of update in android ? 29/7/12"

AbhishekD posted a review   

i purchased xperia ray instead of sola. is this my right desicion or not. the ray lag too much after 4.0.4 what should i do i tried every thing. is there any chance of update in android ? 29/7/12

 

r1Gel posted a comment   
Philippines

Two things: 1) the battery is non-replaceable/not removable; 2) the Sola has "Gesture" input, similar to Swype (or is this region-dependent?)

 

KaweeshaW posted a comment   

i got this last saturday and so far I have only charged it 3 times. the problem is i dont know if the phone is fully charged or not. it says the battery is 100% still shows that AC icon. is this normal or do i have to leave it for a while till that icon disappears?

 

david007 posted a comment   
India

i have seen in many websites that sola's headphone sound is not too loud is it true?? And which one is better sola or xperia u???

 

BMaximus posted a comment   
Australia

If only Sony could come out with a phone with the sleek, good looks of the Xperia Arc S but with the specs of the new generation Xperias they'd be onto a winner, I reckon. The new shape of the phones look sooooo boring and I don't know if it is this way in reality but they have a really cheap and plasticky look on all of the pictures I have seen in various different reviews.

 

AlexV1 posted a reply   
Australia

I think it's the "monolithic" design they developed last year for their Bravia line . They are trying to unify their design style across the board.
I quite like it myself, it's got that clean smooth , simple style.
I was personally never to taken with the aesthetics of the Xperia Arc found them a little to "curvy" and feminine for my tastes.

But I would like to see more metal unibody handsets.

 

Haribolman posted a reply   
Australia

They have, it's called the Xperia GX!

 

AlexV1 posted a comment   
Australia

Also just regarding the Colour banding , have you noticed it on any other handsets from other manufacturers ?
I've read some people commenting this could be simply put down to Apps not being designed for the Higher res and colour gamut ? Though i don't know how correct that is .

 

Joseph Hanlon posted a reply   
Australia

I'm not sure it is down to particular apps. You see it across a number of areas and different apps. In the Gallery, for example, which is one app you'd expect Sony could iron out the issue if only a change of code was needed.

 

AlexV1 posted a reply   
Australia

That's true , was their any difference in the effect with the Mobile Bravia engine running ?
Perhaps boils down simple to an average batch of panels.

 

AlexV1 posted a comment   
Australia

So , do you think Sony's heading in the right direction now ?
It's had two good reviews off Cnet for the Xperia S and Xperia Sola.

 

Joseph Hanlon posted a reply   
Australia

Definitely. I really like the general "feel" of the Xperias this year. If Sony could find a way to use the same OLED screens from the PS Vita in the next batch, they would be a force to reckon with in mobile.

 

AlexV1 posted a reply   
Australia

Indeed the OLED's would help but then they'd be buying more product from Samsung . Would cut too much into their margins certainly not good for that 4 year streak of losses.

On a related note , do you expect Sony to atleast at some point perhaps unify the Video unlimited and music unlimited under a "Playstation Store" for android banner?
Seems to me it would created that "ecosystem" they've been talking about for so many years and also help in branding.

They really need to build some awareness for these handsets.




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User Reviews / Comments  Sony Xperia Sola

  • LeeA

    LeeA

    Rating8

    "i have owned the xperia sola for a week and find it a fantastic phone, very fast to switch between pages. however, i was trying to load the yahoo!7mail app and find it not compatible for my phone. ..."

  • maumong

    maumong

    Rating5

    "battery sucks"

  • AbhishekD

    AbhishekD

    Rating5

    "i purchased xperia ray instead of sola. is this my right desicion or not. the ray lag too much after 4.0.4 what should i do i tried every thing. is there any chance of update in android ? 29/7/12"

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