Sony’s Xperia Go goes about as far from the Xperia P as it can, eschewing the business stylings of the thinner, slicker handset for something that looks as if it can take a bit of punishment. According to Sony the Xperia Go can take that abuse, being dustproof and waterproof up to 1 metre but that last feature requires that users play along with the device. It features much of the same internal hardware as the Xperia P but it doesn’t quite come up to the standard set by its businesslike brother.
For starters the Go features a small-ish touchscreen display, particularly for a handset that runs the Android OS. You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Xperia Go for a feature phone at a quick glance, the 3.5″ 320 x 480 screen (165 ppi) doesn’t do much to distinguish the handset on the display front. Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA Engine means that whatever is onscreen is still going to look decent but those used to a bit more display acreage will be hard-pressed to look on this minor bright side. Particularly since the smaller screen also reduces the size of the onscreen keyboard.
At least the guts are the same as the Xperia P, though those aren’t on par with most devices either. The 1GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 processor performs a little better on the Go but the available RAM for the device has been halved, negating most benefits the pairing of the CPU and smaller display would have conferred. Internal storage is advertised as 8GB, though users have free access to half of that, but there is an option for up to an extra 32GB of storage via microSD.
The OS for the review device was Android 2.3 Gingerbread, something that is a chore to use after experiencing Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. There is the option to update the handset to a sexier version of Android but the reduced system specs make the choice to do so a toss-up.
The Go isn’t anything special on the media front either. It’ll play any MP3 you throw at it, preferably through the included headphones that the device ships with, but the screen isn’t large enough for extended video playback. Getting the various video file types working will require a third-party media player from the Play store however, though this isn’t an issue.
The Go’s 5 megapixel rear camera takes decent enough images, though the lack of a camera button on the side of the phone is an irritation. The volume rocker at least takes care of the zoom function but even that it situated at the center of where your image will appear onscreen, making for awkward lining up of images.
The preceding features don’t really make a compelling case of the Xperia Go but the dustproof/waterproof nature of the phone changes that up a little. If you are looking for something that can head out on a fishing trip, survive a dunking and still access most of the smartphone features you can’t do without, the Go is the go-to device for that. Every port, crevice and hole has been sealed in such a manner that the phone has been given an IP67 certification. The downside to having a phone that can survive for 30 minutes in a metre of water is that the charging and headphone ports need to be unsealed to use and then resealed afterwards, lest you dunk it and kill the phone. The sealing at least isn’t obvious, aside from the tethered covers for the various ports. The Go is covered with a non-slip coating which, during review, seemed to move slightly under pressure. It does offer increased security when holding the phone, possibly preventing it from taking a swim in the first place, but it can feel uncomfortable after extended use.
If a smartphone able to stand up to the rigours of a possibly damp or dust-filled environment is what you’re after, the Xperia Go should be one of your first options. If you’re looking for something that looks good in a boardroom at the same time, it would be wiser to look elsewhere. The Go should be out in the field somewhere, sending emails from a building site or on a long road trip through the Karoo. It ticks most of the mid-range smartphone check-boxes but it doesn’t look good doing it. Unless it happens to be underwater at the time. Just make sure the ports are closed before showing off its aquatic abilities.