Sony Ericsson Neo hands-on

The Neo pretty much does everything the Arc does - it just lacks the pizazz. That didn't stop us getting some hands-on time with it, though

If you like the sleek lines of the gorgeously thin Xperia Arc, but it's too high-end for your wallet, the Neo is an affordable alternative. It even has the 'human curvature' design, which looks good, but just isn't as obvious as its counterpart due to the added heft.

This doesn't make it an unimpressive phone - just less impressive. For a start it's got more girth at 13mm thin, compared to the Arc's 8.7mm, and there's not as much screen estate at 3.7-inches. It still runs on a 1GHz processor and runs Android 2.3.

Unlike its recently announced brethren, the Neo lacks that stand-out feature, or obvious unique selling point. The Play has the game pad and portal to a new world of mobile gaming, the Arc is mobile phonery at its finest and the Pro offers up a QWERTY keyboard. The Neo on the other hand, doesn't really stand out on its own, but has been given the same UI tweaks and added usability as the rest of the SE gang.

It may lack the Arc's screen estate, but it still packs the same BRAVIA engine tech for optimum colour, contrast and sharpness, and Exmor R CMOS sensor - so 8.1MP stills and 720p video still look as impressive. Video calling is taking care of with a front-facing camera.

Sony Ericsson's love-it-or-hate-it Timescape UI has been tweaked too, making it more user friendly with smoother and thankfully, much faster operation. We didn't notice any lag, so it's definitely an improvement. Notifications and messages are no longer restricted, with messages appearing in full. Our only complaint, tapping a pane still directs you to the browser.

Mediascape, or rather, Media Pane has been give the once over, too. Ultimately, it's still great for media management - so organising your music, video and photos is a doddle - only now, it's been given a lick of slickness and usability is a lot smoother.

Another interesting UI development is the ability to create folders a la iPhone. Drag an item on to another item, voila, a folder has been created. A nifty pinch-to-zoom action on the home screen also pulls up a widget summary on one of the homescreens.

So far, so meh, but the Neo brings all the UI and multimedia goodness of the Arc - just in a less glorious shell. Bet it's price tag will be pretty attractive, though.