The Sony Xperia T boasts a scratch-resistant 4.8" Bravia display with high resolution (1280 x 720 pixels), a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm S4 dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 13-Megapixel Exmor CMOS camera sensor that films in 1080p. The OS is Android (Ice Cream Sandwich, with a Jelly Bean update in the works), but it's a slightly revised version with Sony's own user interface overlay. The question is: does this high-end addition to the Xperia range (having nudged the Xperia S out of that position) really have what it takes to attract the likes of James Bond?
DESIGN & HANDLING
The Xperia T is similar in design to the Xperia Arc, though heavier (140 g). When seen from the front and back it has a classic look that may not stand out from the crowd (compared to the Xperia S, for example), with a mix of glossy and matte materials to form a highly rectangular body. But when looking from the side you notice the angular curves that give this phone its unique touch and make it sit nicely in the hand.
The back is lightly bevelled with rounded edges (sharp edges = bad handling). From the back you can see on the right side of the phone: a memory card and nano-SIM slot (not easy to close), the ON button, the volume and the camera button (fans of physical 'shutter releases' will enjoy this). The advantage with this design is that from the front you don't see the buttons, leaving the display to take centre stage.
The manufacturing and finish are good; the body doesn't appear fragile or sensitive to scratches. Like most high-end smartphones today, the battery is inaccessible, so you can't change it yourself. There's also an MHL HDMI-compatible USB port (cable not included) for transferring the screen's image and files to a TV screen. Another convenient feature is the LED, which lights up when you receive a text or e-mail.
With outstanding screen brightness (505 cd/m²), good colour temperature and average, yet perfectible, colour accuracy (Delta E = 4.6), not to mention wide viewing angles and good resolution, the Xperia T's Bravia display is top-notch. The overall quality and detail make this a great screen for looking at photos, watching movies and reading web pages.
And then there's the contrast, which had a little surprise in store for us: as on TV screens, the contrast here is always dynamic. That means that the intensity of the backlighting varies not only in function with the ambient lighting, but also the images that are displayed onscreen. This misleadingly gives the phone a raw ratio of 3500:1, contrasting blacks in dark images and whites in bright images, but never simultaneously. After comparing the Xperia T side-by-side with other well-known smartphones, we estimated the actual contrast to be around 1500:1. That's better than average for LCD, but still far from the contrast provided by OLED screens. Here blacks turn out very black, but the nuances between dark shades aren't that obvious.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
The Xperia T runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, on top of which Sony has added its own user interface. Less extensive than Samsung TouchWiz or HTC Sense, Sony's overlay does offer simplified navigation and a few welcome additions, such as the Timescape social network aggregator, Walkman for managing music, quick access to open applications (by holding your finger down on the right touch icon) and widgets.
The Xperia T is a responsive smartphone that runs with great fluidity. However, benchmarks show that the 1.5 GHz Qualcomm S4 is slower than when running Windows Phone 8. Given the results, the "OS + processor" combo here seems to have been less well integrated. This brings the phone down to three out of five stars, with a GPU (3D graphics) rating that's slightly behind the competition.
That said, the Xperia T runs video games surprisingly well (although you'll have to nix most big, new 3D games). Like Sony's other recent smartphones, the Xperia T is PlayStation-certified, which gives users access to PlayStation Mobile games.
With a 13-Megapixel camera sensor for 4:3 photos (and 9 Megapixels for photos in 16:9), Sony was hoping to position the Xperia T in the highest echelons of the camera phone market. The only problem is that Megapixels aren't everything. While the Xperia T is quick to focus and shoot, the pictures are rendered somewhat inconsistently.
Photographs taken on the Xperia T are comparable to those taken on the Xperia S. The images are highly smoothed, leaving little room for sharpness, and noise appears in dark areas of the shot. That's a shame. We were hoping for results closer to the Xperia Arc, which, even now, a year and a half after its launch, holds its own against the latest batch of releases (the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920), with good sharpness and accurate colours. If you're looking specifically for a phone that produces more detail and clearer contours than the Xperia T, then you might want to look into the Google Nexus 4.
In low lighting and in macro mode the sensor once again exposes the limits of the Xperia T's camera function. To make a long story short, when it comes to photo rendering the Xperia T is mediocre—very mediocre.
The headphone output is good, but it lacks a certain amount of volume and dynamics. The reproduction is faithful, but the sound tends to distort rather quickly. That said, we like the super-extensive audio player with its graphic equaliser. The built-in speaker works well, although the saturation kicks in a bit too quickly.
Sensitive, precise keyboard with effective predictive text
Like Shazam before it, TrackID (usually) recognises song titles and allows you to share tracks you've listened to on Facebook, but not on Twitter or Google+.
The Xperia T's battery lasts barely a day of not-so-extensive use. For raw battery readings we use Battery BenchMark, which tests Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Internet, multimedia and varied levels of screen brightness in a veritable stress test that's balanced and corresponds to what we find in practice. Based on these results and our own observations, the Xperia T lasted only seven hours, which merits a 3/5 rating from us. To give you an idea of how little this is, the Google Nexus 4 holds out 10 hours, the Motorola Razr i 13 hours and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 15 hours.