Sony has gone for a much less square look with the Sony Xperia tipo when compared to the recent NXT range and its models such as the Sony Xperia S. All corners are rounded off nicely, as is the rear cover, giving it a pebble-like shape similar to the HTC Desire C.
It's even smaller than its HTC rival at 57 x 103mm but a little on the chunky side at 13mm. The Sony Xperia tipo is nice and light, our sample weighing exactly 100g.
The Sony Xperia tipo phone is simple looking but stylish too. The only oddity we found was the placement of the on/off switch which is on the top of the handset, to the left. Android phones more commonly have it on the opposite side and we found it awkward to use.
Our review sample came in black but you can also get the Sony Xperia tipo in white, blue and red.
At just over £100 we didn't have high hopes for excellent build quality. However, the Sony Xperia tipo is a solid little smartphone. There are no premium materials but the handset is well made – for example, the screen, chassis and rear cover all sit neatly flush to each other. The latter is predictably thin and flimsy.
Hardware and performance
Things take a turn for the worse when you investigate the internal hardware and subsequent performance. It's not unsurprising to find an 800MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 512MB. However, this combination just isn’t enough to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and our benchmark results paint the picture.
The Sony Xperia tipo won the award for the worst result we've seen in GeekBench 2, with a score of just 262 points. The budget Xperia U for example scored over 800.
Storage is extremely limited at 2.9GB but fortunately there is a microSD card slot hiding underneath the rear cover. Investment in a memory card will be almost essential.
The screen is very small at only 3.2in so tasks like gaming and web browsing aren't the easiest on the Xperia tipo. The low resolution of 320 x 480 means a pixel density of 180ppi, which is actually better than the 165ppi and 125ppi found on the HTC Desire C and LG L3.
The Huawei Ascend G300 trumps the lot with 233ppi on its 4in screen and also costs under £100.
Little is offered in the way of connectivity on the Sony Xperia tipo. You get the basic set of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and aGPS. The only port is microUSB for charging and transferring data.
The Xperia Tipo is far from being a photographer's phone. There's only a rear-facing camera, with a low resolution of 3.2Mp. Results were predictably poor quality with plenty of grain. And you can forget taking pictures in low light, especially since there’s no LED flash on-board. Video is equally as bad, at 640 x 480 size, and results are even worse should you move the phone while filming.
Sony is now shipping its smartphones with a version of Android more recent than 2.3 Gingerbread. The Sony Xperia tipo comes with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). At first glance it's almost the same as before with the same customised Sony interface. However, you do get extra features like multi-tasking, the key feature missing from Sony's devices running on Gingerbread.
As usual, Sony provides plenty of additional widgets, wallpapers and themes which help with customisation. The pre-loaded apps are varied and will get you off to a good start but adding a memory card will be necessary if you want to install many more.
An advantage which we often find with budget phones can be decent battery life, when the lower specification hardware makes less demands on the battery. We found the Sony Xperia tipo lasted a couple of days of varied smartphone use. Sony meanwhile quotes 5 hours talk time, 30 hours music playback or 3 hours video playback. The removability of the battery could be advantageous.
Although the Sony Xperia looks and feels nice, it offers poor performance and little in the way of features. Battery life is good but it means less when the Huawei Ascend G300 outclasses it and costs even less.