Music and Video
As well as offering standard media player apps for your videos and music, the Sony Xperia Go comes with inbuilt apps for the Sony Unlimited music and video portals. The movie side of the bargain lets you rent films for around the £3.49 mark, or buy them for around £12. It's not the most enticing package around when LoveFilm and Netflix streaming offer a month's worth of content for less than the price of a couple of movie rentals.
Music Unlimited is the new branding for Sony's previous Qrocity service. It works much like Spotify or Napster, in that you pay £9.99 a month and are given unlimited on-demand playback of millions of tracks. It's a lot more colourful than most of its rivals, but unless you've already signed up to the Sony way of life, with a PS3, Sony tablet and Sony Blu-ray player, there aren't many reasons to pick it over a better-known rival. Sony offers a 30-day trial to see how you like it, though.
To confuse matters further, Google's Play Movies also comes pre-loaded. It offers a similar movie rental scheme to Movies unlimited, but has a nicer-looking interface.
Multimedia - Going Solo
There's no obligation to use Sony's online music and video services, though. You can also just dump your own files onto the internal memory or an SD card.
The Sony Xperia Go doesn't just make do with the basic Android media player either, instead packing-in a slick-looking music player of its own. It feels the part , but if you want to used advanced audio codecs like APE and FLAC, you'll need to download a third-party player as there doesn't seem to be much additional support beyond the norms of MP3, WMA and a few others here.
Add memory card and the Xperia Go will make a good basic MP3 player, offering decent volume output. There is a very slight baseline hiss to the output though, suggesting the audio circuitry inside is nothing special.
Native video support is reasonable - the Xperia Go was able to handle around half of our test video files. However, this is clearly an area that Sony hasn't put too much focus on as, unlike music, there's no dedicated video player app for your own files. Hook the phone up with a third-party media player like MX Player (available for free from Google Play), and it'll be able to play almost all standard definition and many 720p videos thanks to its reasonably powerful dual-core CPU.
Video playback is hampered a little by the low-resolution screen, though. There's little point pumping HD quality videos into the phone for portable movie watching as there aren't enough pixels to go around.
Testing the Sony Xperia Go's gaming skills we came across similar problems. The dual-core 1GHz processor can handle some fairly intensive games, such as first-person shooter Dead Trigger, but visuals are never going to look that good on a 320 x 480 pixel screen. Compared to the much higher-resolution, cheaper, ZTE Grand X, this isn't much of a gaming phone.
Dead Trigger on the Sony Xperia Go
If you're not too bothered about graphics, plenty of great games are available for the phone from the Google Play app store. From casual favourites like Angry Birds to console-style games like Grand Theft Auto II and Asphalt 7, there's a lot to sample.
There is just the one camera on the Sony Xperia Go - a rear 5-megapixel one on the rear with a single-LED flash. This rules-out being able to video chat with friends over services like Skype. A bit of a bummer.
The main camera is nothing too special, either, and it's not primarily because of the shots it takes. Images are par for the mid-range Android course , with softening of fine detail throughout rendering them near-useless for anything but casual use.
What really got on out wick was not being able to see properly whether a subject was properly in focus before hitting the shutter button, in spite of autofocus being used. It seems part down to the low-res screen and part down to the software itself.
There are also a number of missing features you may see in a more up-to-date Android phone. There's no panorama mode, no HDR and no fun video effects. The 5MP sensor is also only capable of shooting up to 720p - full 1080p is not on the cards here. Aside from these omissions, there is a decent amount of control over camera settings, though.
Battery Life and Call Quality
One downside of the Sony Xperia Go's waterproofing is that you cannot remove and replace the battery - you can't carry around a spare. However, perhaps down to the small-ish screen and low-res display, battery life is fairly respectable, lasting around a day and a half off a charge with light-to-moderate use. Switch off 3G for more of the day and you could easily get a full two or three days off a charge.
Call quality is fine but not particularly noteworthy. There is, however, a secondary microphone on the rear used to actively cancel out any annoying ambient noise - making your voice clearer to whoever you're calling.
If the Sony Xperia Go didn't have IP67 waterproofing, it would be a flat-out bad value phone. In some respects, it's thoroughly outclassed by the Huawei Ascend G300, which costs less than half the price.
From Sony's own stable, the Sony Xperia U offers a much better screen - using a much higher-resolution display. The screen issue is one we're finding hard to get over, especially when this phone tends to cost around £40-50 more than its non-rugged (but otherwise better) brother. Although certainly one of the most accessible and desirable rugged phones around, it doesn't quite do enough to feel like you're not compromising a lot to get a little waterproofing.
The Sony Xperia Go is one of the most attractive "rugged" phones we've seen. It's slim, it's small and it runs the versatile Android OS. However, its rugged credentials don't extend beyond waterproofing and dust protection, and thanks to the low-res screen it feels like you're trading in a lot to have the option of dunking it in a pint of water if it misbehaves.