The Sony Xperia U is a solid, well made little phone, that manages to squeeze a high-res and very sharp display into a modestly sized chassis.

The dual-core processor handles everything from apps to web use without fuss, making it an impressive performer - and one of the best around at its £189/$340 SIM-free price point.

We liked

The 3.5-inch screen and Sony's combination of its Reality Display and Bravia Engine tech makes for a really readable, usable screen that's bright, sharp and easy to see and use, even outdoors.

The dual-core processor keeps Android running without a hitch. Home screens fly about even when loaded with widgets, the Play Store app's smooth and apps themselves download and install quickly.

The smaller (in today's size-obsessed world) 3.5-inch display is very easy on the battery. Combine this with the ST-Ericsson dual-core processor and you get a capable phone that easily gets through a day of serious use. A big plus point, that.

We disliked

4GB of internal storage space and no SD card places quite a limitation on the Sony Xperia U. Recording 720p video hoovers up the memory, then you've got your photos and music to fit on there, plus all sorts of app downloads to store. You'll be shuffling things around to save space within a week of buying it.

The camera's another odd compromise. Only being able to take 3 megapixel shots in 16:9 ratio dumps the Sony Xperia U down among the budget Android phone crowd, which is a particularly odd decision given the excellent 8 megapixel sensor Sony put in last year's lovely, similarly sized Xperia Ray.

As much as we like Sony's implementation of Android 2.3 and its many tweaks and additions, some areas, such as the web browser, really need jazzing up.

The Sony Xperia U's scheduled to receive an update to Ice Cream Sandwich some time this summer, which would help paper over some of the weaker points here.

Final verdict

If you're not caught up in today's obsession with enormous display sizes, the Sony Xperia U is a great choice of smartphone.

It has all the speed, power and features of the larger Android phones that cost two or three times as much - your only compromise here is seeing it all through a smaller display.

The only noticeable weaknesses here are the phone's video performance, which is terrible despite the 720p claim, and the lack of onboard storage space.

If you can live with those niggles, this does everything else just as well as the high-end Android flagship handsets. And the battery will last longer, too.

Big thanks to Three UK for sending us our review unit.