The Best Entry Level Phones – November 2012 (Part 1) - Sony Xperia Miro

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The flagship Android phones get all the attention, but there’s plenty of quality at the more budget end of the market too.

The latest band of devices available on pay as you go deals offer arguably the greatest balance between value and functionality. The handsets may not be the most powerful you can find but they still give you much of the best that Android has to offer. With screen sizes of 3.5 inches the same that served the iPhone so well for many years - they are great for watching videos, catching up with your social networks or playing casual games.

They can also sometimes provide a useful test bed for anyone that wants to get into Android hacking as well. The budget prices attached to these pay as you go handsets mean the risk can be worth taking for those yet to be convinced by the merits of hacking and rooting.

We’ve collected together four leading pay as you go devices from four of the most popular Android smartphone manufacturers and stringently put them through their paces. Which delivers the best combination of build quality, performance and value for money? Read on to find out.

Sony Xperia Miro

It may not have the raw processing power of the Ace 2, but it’s got a lot of qualities at a very respectable price tag

5-MP camera

We found the camera lens did get fogged up in colder temperatures. However, the quality of the shots and nice autofocus of the video more than made up for this. When we viewed these back on the computer they outperformed the more expensive Samsung easily

Description: Sony Xperia Miro


Similarly to the HTC, this device comes with the latest incarnation of ICS, which is quite impressive on a low priced handset. While we are not sure if Jelly Bean will come to the platform it at least has one over the Motorola

Sloping edge

At the base of the Xperia Miro’s 3.5 inch screen is a slight sloping edge (can be in different colours as well). This, alongside the rubberised backing, makes the phone a bit easier to hold in a landscape orientation

LED illuminations

The Xperia Miro also has an illuminated LED that lights up beneath the Home button. This changes depending on the theme set. However, you can download a third-party app from Google Play to adjust the notification light

The Sony has a lot of great features for a relatively low price tag. Its build quality is possibly less appealing than the HTC or Samsung, not that the handset is built badly, as it feels comfortable to hold (due to the rubberised backing), but the light weight just doesn’t give the same satisfying feel as its rival devices.

We liked the subtle design touches that are on board, such as the sloping edge at the base of the 3.5-Inch screen, which allowed us to grip the phone better in landscape and an illuminated bar that lights up under the Home button which changes colour depending on the theme you set. Sadly we still had to remove the back cover and battery to get access to the micro SD card slot.

On the plus side, Sony has supplied the latest version of ICS with this handset, which when coupled with the slightly faster processor, we found typing and screen swiping was a lot smoother even compared to the similarly specced Motorola. Somehow the screen also seemed more vibrant than the HTC and disguised the lower resolution much better.

Additionally, the software bundle and user Interface is the same one found in Sony’s high-end handsets, which meant we had Facebook integration and some effective media apps in the form of its Walkman music app (filled with various equaliser profiles to boost the audio) and video player which provided a great entertainment experience.

We also had no problems streaming content or browsing. The five-megapixel camera (with a useful autofocus for video recording sessions) produced the best detailed shots in the group. Our only concern was that the camera lens started to fog up In cold outdoor conditions, which took the shine off what was otherwise a great feature.

Despite the 800MHz CPU zipping along rather nicely, Its architecture still caused a few problems when running a select batch of games. For example, the popular Dead Trigger title that ran on the HTC with ease would not work properly as the screen was filled with corrupted textures.

At least the battery life, a topic Sony don't tend to excel in, was very good. In fact it was better than both the HTC and Motorola from a video playback point of view with 72 per cent remaining from a full charge. The battery saving app also proved effective at prolonging its life for general use.

Head to head


The Sony’s light weight certainly produces a cheaper feel and less robust build quality than the HTC, but it does have some lovely design touches. The sloping edge at the base enhances grip and the illuminated LED beneath the Home button looks cool.

Description: Sony Xperia Miro


Not all the mobile networks provided the handset, and we had to look at Carphone Warehouse deals to get the low price. On Vodafone you got 100 minutes, 300 texts and 50MB of data for your $16 top up, which is pretty good value for money.


The Sony was equipped with ICS and the same great range of media apps that are found on the more expensive handsets. The performance was smooth and the 5-MP camera, despite the lens fogging, produced the best images in the group.

Battery life

Sony handsets don’t normally benefit from strong battery life but the Miro was good. It had 72 per cent remaining from a full charge in our video test. The battery saving app also helped during heavy use.


There are some good deals to be had for a phone that has a lot going for it, including ICS and respectable battery life


Price: $159.95

More information:

Technical specs

·         Operating system: Android 4.0.4

·         Processor: Qualcomm MSM7225A, 800 MHz Cortex-A5 CPU, Adreno 200 GPU

·         Memory: 512 MB RAM, 4GB storage (expandable via micro SD card)

·         Dimensions: 113 x 59.4 x 9.9 mm

·         Weight: 110g

·         Display: 3.5” LED-backlit, 320 x 480

·         Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps

·         Camera: 5-MP rear (LED flash), VGA front camera, VGA @30fps video


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