Xperia Ray

The Xperia Ray quickly piqued our interest when it was announced a few months ago. Up to now, Sony Ericsson smartphones had invariably been constructed of plastic, and while this has its benefits, an aluminum-framed device is always going to be sturdier and feel better in the hand.

We finally got the chance to fondle the Xperia Ray at Sony Ericsson's Xperia Party in London yesterday, and found it to be a worthy mid-to-high-end offering from the manufacturer. It packs all of the premium features of the Xperia Neo, while addressing one of our biggest concerns with that phone -- its looks.

Read on to find out what we thought as we got to grips with the Xperia Ray.

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The Xperia Ray is a mid-range device with high-end aesthetics and features. While many manufacturers scale back in terms of specifications and features in their less expensive smartphones, Sony Ericsson has taken the guts of the Xperia Arc (until recently its high-end offering) and packed them into a stylish 3.3-inch aluminum chassis.

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Internally, you've got a 1GHz second-generation Snapdragon, 512MB of RAM and 300MB or so of application storage -- just the same as the Arc and the Neo. If we have one complaint here it's that 300MB isn't a whole lot of space for your own applications, even with the ability to move larger apps to the SD card.

Sony's 854x480 "Reality Display" still looks absolutely gorgeous, especially with the added pixel density gained from the smaller panel size. We were impressed with the Ray's viewing angles (something which disappointed us somewhat on the Arc), and even outside on a bright, sunny day, the screen was clearly visible.

The Ray's software is a direct port of what's currently on the Arc S, and coming soon to other 2011 Xperia phones including the original Arc and Neo.

Sony's 8.1-megapixel Exmor R camera with LED flash has also made it across. Check out our reviews of the Arc and the Neo to see what kind of shots that's capable of producing. In addition, you also get a front-facing camera for video chat, something which is lacking on the Arc. Since the Ray runs Android 2.3.4 out of the box, Google Talk should be able to take care of all your video calling needs on the Ray.

The Ray's design is its biggest stand-out feature, though. Gone are the frumpy antics of the Xperia Neo -- the Ray has a flat, smooth front that's interrupted only by the physical home button at the bottom. Most of the rest of the device, including the back panel, is brushed aluminum. Compared to the Neo, the difference is clear -- the Ray feels much more like a premium smartphone, in keeping with its big brothers, the Arc and Arc S.

The Xperia Ray is now shipping in the UK, with SIM-free prices starting around £300. It's available in black, white, pink and gold.

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