Sony Xperia ion Review

Posted:  November 18, 2012   By:    28 comments   


Sony Xperia ion Review Malaysia

Sony has started 2012 with a bang with its line up of Sony NXT series. The Sony Xperia S which was first announced in January broke new grounds with its 4.3” display that pushes a high 1280×720 resolution. That’s a massive 342 ppi (pixels per inch) which was the highest pixel density at that time. It also marks Sony’s foray into dual-core processors and its refreshed mobile brand that dropped the “Ericsson” name.

When the Xperia S was launched, its other cousin the Xperia ion which is Sony’s first LTE device was only available at selected markets. Fast forward 8 months later, the Xperia ion is finally available for Malaysia that now comes in international HSPA+ variant. Read on to find out more of this Xperia S’s bigger brother.

Hardware

To recap on the specs, the Xperia ion shares a lot of similarities with its Xperia S. It is powered with the same dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm MSM8260 S3 processor, 1GB of RAM and a 12MP camera. What sets it apart is its larger 4.6” display (4.55” to be exact) that also does a 1280×720 pixels resolution. Obviously the pixel density is lower than the Xperia S at 323 ppi but in reality, it is rather hard to tell the difference as text and images appear just as sharp.

Internally, it comes with 16GB of storage but thankfully it comes with an expandable slot which accepts up to 32GB of microSD. Battery is slightly generous too at 1,900mAh, which is 150mAh more than the Xperia S. When we got our review unit, the Xperia ion is already running on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Design

On first glance, the Xperia ion looks more like a serious business phone compared to the trendy looking Xperia S. There’s no fancy transparent belt and it features an all black front where the display panel is unnoticeable when the screen is off. Over at the top, there’s a prominent Sony logo with the front facing 1.3MP camera on the right and at the bottom you get the 4 capacitive buttons along with the Xperia branding. If we have to pick a similar model, the Xperia ion looks very much like a grown up version of the Xperia ray due to its clean square-ish looks.

We are happy to report that the Xperia ion side button placement is a big improvement over the Xperia S. With a larger device in the hand, the power button is now moved towards the right side while the volume rocker is now placed at a higher position which is more natural to reach. Towards the bottom, there’s also a dedicated camera button with Fast Capture that lets you take a picture from sleep to snap under 2 seconds. For better clarity, you can check out our comparison of Fast Capture and other various burst modes.

Looking at the left side, there’s a HDMI and micro USB port which is covered by a single flush cover flap. On the Xperia S, many would find the flush covers to be annoying and unfortunately on the Xperia ion, this is a bigger annoyance. While the cover keeps the design clean, it tends to get in the way while charging. The rubber that holds the cover doesn’t offer much room for flexibility which in the long run you might risk breaking and losing it. At least on the Xperia S, the micro USB cover is rotatable.

The back is where the Xperia ion sets itself apart from the Xperia S. While the Xperia S comes with a nice matte finish, the removable cover is quite a dust trap. On the Xperia ion it comes with a nice metal finish that gives it a touch of elegance. The 12MP camera, assisted LED flash and loud speaker is placed right smacked in the middle like the Xperia S. The top cover is removable and it houses the micro-SIM and micro SD slot, which is a better design. Both top and bottom are made with rubberised texture plastic which is a nice touch. The headphone jack is placed at the top, right in the middle with a slight protrusion.

Usability

Being an early 2012 model, the hardware specs looks dated compared to its latest quad core rivals. Having said that, it is still a decent device and the large 4.55” screen offers great visuals thanks to its high pixel density. Sony does a great job with the new Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich enhancements and the new photo gallery is a nice improvement over the previous Android 2.3.7.

Just like other Sony Xperia devices, the skinned UI is rather nice and aesthetically pleasing with a variety of sleek looking widgets. For average casual use, it is still smooth and does its job rather snappy. One thing we’ve noticed is that Sony has removed the live “Cosmic Flow” wallpaper from its default themes. When switching themes, it uses a static image instead which could be done in the name of performance and power conservation. If you do want that Cosmic Flow, you could still enable it under Live Wallpapers manually.

When being pushed to the limit juggling between several apps extensively, the Xperia ion starts to show its performance shortfalls. There are some occasions when returning to the home screen; it took some time for the icons and widgets to appear. When that happens, even the apps listing arrangement tends to get reset from alphabetical order to custom.

In terms of one handed usage, the Xperia ion is really pushing it. It is usable in one hand albeit some stretching needed. We find 4.3” is the comfortable size where one handed use is concern but despite its larger 4.55” dimensions, it is only slightly wider at 4mm than the Xperia S. It is also interesting to point out that the Xperia ion also weighs the same 144grams as the Xperia S despite having a bigger screen and battery capacity.

Now let’s talk more on the usability downsides of the Xperia ion. The biggest gripe that we had is the 4 capacitive buttons on the front which doesn’t light up when pressed. Yes, you read that right. In total darkness, the only guiding light is the ultra-thin lines that illuminate about 5mm below each icon. We simply can’t comprehend why Sony doesn’t stick to the tried and tested illuminated icon approach. The previous Xperia ray too doesn’t come with back-lit icons but it wasn’t an issue since there’s only 3 buttons and the home button is nicely designed with a notification light surrounding it.

To make matters worse, the Xperia ion too suffers the hit and miss capacitive button sensor like the Xperia S. Initially, we have a hard time getting our presses detected as the sweet spot is actually between the icon and the screen. Combine that with a dimly lit guiding light placed way below, you would be fumbling in the dark with frustration especially for first time users. Naturally one would expect the icons and even the lighted lines as the button sweet spot. In the long run, it should be fine after getting used to it. Since the ion is introduced at the same time as the Xperia S, it is no wonder it inherited the same capacitive sensor issue but we would have expected Sony to rework this for its HSPA+ version.

Sample Photos & Video

Just like the Xperia S, the Xperia ion works rather well with excellent pictures even in low light visibility. There’s no fancy fast burst mode feature but the Xperia ion is able to take a picture from sleep instantly by press and holding the dedicated camera button in 1.5 seconds. For those enjoying taking self shots, there’s the usual smile detection mode which automatically snaps a picture according to the intensity of your smile.

Sample photos (click for original photo)

Performance & Battery Life

In terms of benchmark numbers, the Xperia ion scores a moderate 3183 on Quadrant Standard benchmark and 6819 points on AnTuTu. As expected, it is a notch lower than the HTC One S which runs on a similar Qualcomm S3 processor that’s clocked at a higher 1.7GHz. In our daily average usage, the 1,900mAh managed to deliver about 13-14 hours of usage which is somewhat similar to the Xperia S.

Conclusion

The Xperia ion is a nice addition for those wanting a larger screen phone without a mammoth screen dimensions. At 4.55”, it is just a notch lower than the HTC One X and Galaxy S III in terms of screen size but in return delivers a much higher pixel density.

For power users, the Xperia ion is starting to show its age but for the average user on the street, it should be sufficient for those that crave a bigger screen with decent looks and performance. While it offers improvement over the Xperia S in terms of design, button placements and materials, the only show stopper is the iffy front capacitive buttons.

The Xperia ion still offers something that many other don’t. It’s 12MP camera is still one of best cameras out there and the dedicated camera button is a deal breaker for those want quicker access to take photo instead of taking multiple photos fast. Initially priced at RM1,788, the Xperia ion is available in both black and red colours. Currently, it can be found selling at RM1400-RM1600 range.

 

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28 Comments for Sony Xperia ion Review

Stevan

You must be joking Soya Cincau. I own one and the camera is one of the worst I have ever seen. It gets even worse in low light situations. This is conformed by gsmarena. I thought you guys were professionals, so how come you all write that it is very good in low light sitations? Come on, its important to be objective cause people rely on your write ups in making their decisions to buy or not. I used to own the Xperia S prior to this phone and I can tell you, the camera was as bad. I was hoping the Ion would be different, but I was wrong. The noise level in the pictures, especially low light shots are extremely high.

I honestly wonder how your assessment can be so far from the real truth.

    soyacincau

    We wrote this based on our own experience. In dark room conditions with a bit of lighting, the ion manages to make visible photos where flash is usually needed. We are not denying on the noise levels but if you are taking casual photos, it is still rather acceptable. For videos, we expected sluggish frame rates but it still manages to pull through pretty well but a sharper focus would have made this better. No complaints for outdoor and normal lighting conditions.

    One point we forgotten to mention about is the camera focusing. This is probably your point of frustration. Somehow it is much slower and less accurate on the Xperia ion with the newer Android 4.0.4 software. Can’t recall being that sluggish on the Xperia S with Android 2.3 that uses the same camera module.

      Marc Yeo

      Soya Cincau..I agree with you 100%…it is all based on user experience and expertise…each person has different technics..right? Steven, I urged you please be open minded

      Bruce

      Soyacincau! I Agree with you on Camera, as It's not the best, but it's not bad at all.
      but I disagree with you on Xperia ion battery life which you said it works for 13 hours!
      Not at all !
      What did you do during 13 hours? this part is not professionally tested! you have to mention how many hours of web browsing, any photos taken or not, with how many percentage of brightness, and if you play music or not and blah blah, but you just said usage! not pro ! sorry to say that.

      All Xperia users admit that Sony Xperia range Smartphones battery life is the main negative point of the series.

      No offence but please fix the review.

        soyacincau

        Basically we left all the notifications and auto sync running with 1/4 brightness (sadly there's no auto brightness). Most of the time spent is on Chrome browser, whatsapp, tweetdeck and occasional emails which is about 2 hours of on screen time. Usage breakdown here: http://cdn0.soyacincau.com/wp-content/uploads/201…

        Admittedly we don't have a scientific way of measuring this right now so our battery life evaluation is based on our usual day to day usage. This is probably more than average use and moderate users might last from morning till midnight.

        We definitely will try to come out with a more consistent battery life test in our upcoming reviews. Thanks for the feedback and keep those comments coming.

Tan Siew Hee

Sony uses words like Exmorr and Bravia Engine but I tell you, camera is lousy. Utter lousy. No wonder market is only iphone, Samsung and Nokia now. If you read on Exmorr and Bravia technologies, you would get excited but once you own the device, you will know, its so lousy. In low light, the camera cannot even auto focus well and takes a hell of a long time to focus a shot and you get a shot that is so grainy full of noise. Now I know why the phone price is dropping like mad. Brand new Ori is RM1300 and AP set, can even get RM999 brand new. Can you imagine, Sony’s flagship only sells for RM999 brand new? There must be a reason to this.

Like the review also says, the touch button often tak kena. Everytime got to press at least 2 or 3 times before it kena. Same with the whole screen. Battery drains so fast and heats up so much. The screen’s ppi is also nothing to should about as lower ppi AMOLED screens look far better.

The speaker on the earpiece is also a nightmare. Its so soft and hardly can hear the person on the other side. If you are walking on the road or a noisy place, you can forget hearing the other person on the line.

Sony should upgrade their quality, carrying the Sony name, you should ensure quality is maintained.

If you want a deal, buy 2nd hand in lowyat.net, can even get RM800 also, one month old set. You can galle to the max because demand is so low and sellers are so desperate to sell.

Sony the fallen

My experience told me stay away from sony n nokia…
1st phone nokia 5800 – touchscreen sucks to the max
2nd phone sony xperia play – speaker pecah even i never use loudspeaker or set it max b4(many sony user will hv this kind prob),the color worn out.can u believe that in just 5mth use.
The phone i now using is samsung galaxy nexus use for 7mth,never occur any physical torn till now.

p/s : its not bout OS,its about built quality.not promoting samsung(iphone or htc user please no flame,i din own both b4),it is just total built quality where it meets at least standard.least equal to the price for what price we paying for.Sony and Nokia simply overprice for what they offering.hope they built a better devices.

    chorwin

    Nokia always position themself as premium handset maker. Thus, they claimed they build quality mobile phone. Look at the Lumia series, with that hardware spec, the price they set is premium over other brand. Anyway, right now even they fall, they still feel the proud of be premium brand…. and this is only they thought they are… :)

    Yellow Screen

    If you look at all the phones in the market, only Nokia has gone premium features in their phone worth paying a premium for. For instance, the Carl Zeiss lens. That alone cost a lot. I have a Nokia N95 and I can tell you, quality of camera in this phone, a phone that was built 5 years ago, is far better than my horrible Xperia S and my good Samsung S3. Can you imagine, Nokia's technology 5 years ago was way ahead of its time. I have done so many samples comparing my Xperia S, Samsung S3 and Nokia N95. The N95 wipes everyone out flat. So Nokia critics, bear this in mind, nokia's technology is way ahead of its time. You pay a premium, but you pay for technology that is futuristic. I just sold my Xperia S cause the camera quality is a disgrace and bought a Nokia 808 Pureview. Here again, I see, technology that is way ahead of its time. the camera is so good, I am putting even my SLR back into the drawer!

      Sony the fallen

      i only know nokia is all time got squeaking sound around built gap.either the button,screen,back cover,or camera lense cover,press slightly got squeaking sound.if that called price for premium nokia product,i think many will disagree….
      btw,not so sure bout their camera taking quality as for me not very into photography.

      jking

      Thats why nokia is dying .
      The 920 proven to be overated also and they stil asking for 1999 primium price .
      cont like this they will out of mobile business soon .

SC FansClub

No more Sony mobile phones for me ! I had very bad experience with Sony Xperia Sola, I've wrote to Sony many times on several issues, but unfortunately Sony don't really care about my frustration, they just don't care !
Bye Bye Sony, I am very happy with my S3 and Note2, no complaint at all.

    chorwin

    Own SE phone, the power-on button that bring the device wake is the first to get problem… so… I will keep alway from 1 wake up button phone. :)

    S3 got 2, at least… LOL

    Yellow Screen

    No more Sony for me, my Xperia S has that yellowish tint, sent it to the service centre, they acknowledged Sony had the yellow problem issue, check my phone and confirmed it had the yellow problem too. They replaced my LCD. After I took my phone, again I saw the yellow problem despite they changing the LCD into a BRAND new LCD. I learnt my lesson. No more Sony phones. Infact, no more Sony at all.

pity

Sony phones appear to be slow to launch. I waited Xperia T until I give up already. Sony will never have a high end phone launched in time.

    apple

    If you really did search , xperia T and Tx is selling for month at lowyat garage sales .

S3 or i5?

Hey SoyaCincau. I know this is a lot to ask but is it possible to post more in a day? At least about 2 or 3 posts a day. Because its kinda frustrating to come back and see the same post from yesterday. :) I hope you take this into consideration:)

Ajax

until now, sony still cant impress me and make me want to buy one… not like Samsung …like those news saying sony will come out something to compete with ip5 and s3 soon or CES..but how long time has S3 in the market? until then, s3 already sell for more than 6 months, then sony only come out in the show..then another month only in the market..wont it be too late? by that time, s4 most probably also on the way.. so what is there to hu ha again?

Hugo Chong

I really confuse after reading the comment, just curious will sony phone that worst….
I was considering to buy a xepria ion coz it had a affordable price & spec.

    Oscar Ang

    Hi there, i have Sony Xperia Ion for sale. Ori set. About a year old. Excellent condition. No scratches. Own use. Sell at RM700 only.
    U can contact me at 0166859118. My name is Oscar from Petaling Jaya. tq

almand3000

HTC One S has a Qualcomm S4 MSM8290 dual core Krait chip
It's totally different from Xperia S or ion

    2020

    HTC One S in Malaysia is confirm S3. We are not getting the latest S4

    mie

    not malaysia version.. thank htc for that..

    dsds

    Ofcouse , but it doesnt .

Phone?

I own a sony ion,buy it on september 2012 and use it till now.to me this phone is great,juz as i wanted.juz the home,back button thats i hate the most.u cant see it in the dark..other than that,this phone is good.i juz update my i.c.s and its works juz smooth as b4.

Alia Natasha

lol…
i've been using xperia s for 8 months aldy and even have dropped it several times
but there's no issues on it
for camera, i still found it the best
i think in dim place u can just adjust the contrast
it wont affect the pic too much
i still didnt found thee reasons to hate it esp about camera.
the 32gb of int memory are more than enough since i always transfer the pics and vids that i took to pc…
hopefully will be coming one more better as im looking forward to it =)

camiondrawback

Soya Cincau, is your pics post-processed / edited in any way ? 'coz my xperia ion can't produced as near as 'acceptable quality your ion cam does. Can you please give us your camera settings of outdoor & indoor pictures taken.