We were fairly impressed with the Sony Xperia Tipo. Barring the occasional slowdown or judder you wouldn't know it had such modest specs. It's generally fast and responsive, it's got solid battery life and it's one of the only low-end handsets to currently be running Android 4.0.
On the other hand, its screen is uncomfortably small for typing, it's also pretty poor for videos and the contacts and messaging side of things could use some work.
Android 4.0 is definitely the headline feature of this little handset, bringing with it a wealth of improvements and a general level of slickness and polish that has previously been absent on Android. A lot of higher end phones have Android 4.0 anyway, but most low end devices have so far been left out.
The battery life is good enough to easily get a day's use out of it, and if you don't go overboard on media it may even stretch a good way into a second day. There's a decent selection of applications pre-loaded on the phone, and if you don't want them most of them can be uninstalled.
Most importantly the Sony Xperia Tipo just works, there were minimal performance issues and for general use - be it navigating the home screens, using apps or browsing the web we didn't come across many frustrations.
We really wish the Sony Xperia Tipo's screen was just a little bit bigger. As it is home screens look cramped, bringing up the keyboard often obscures the whole screen and typing on it can be awkward. We know it's a low end handset, but so is the Huawei Ascend G300, and that packs a 4-inch display. We don't need 4 inches, 3.5 would be fine, but the Sony Xperia Tipo is just that little bit too small for comfort.
It's also low resolution, so there are no crisp images here. The contacts, calls and messaging screens are all slightly disappointing, they're not as unified as they could be and it takes an unnecessary amount of taps to call someone. It's not a big deal, but they could definitely use a bit of an overhaul.
The Sony Xperia Tipo does a lot right, from its solid battery life to its responsive and smooth performance. It's not perfect though - the screen is small and low resolution and the camera won't be winning any awards.
Given the price tag of around £100 (around $160), we can live with that, and the Sony Xperia Tipo stands up well to most of its competitors, easily matching the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Y and the LG Optimus L3.
But while it matches many of them, its only standout feature is Android 4.0, and with the Huawei Ascend G300 supposedly due an upgrade to it before the end of the year and some other handsets likely to follow, its software lead will probably be short lived.
At the same time, while it's a good all-round performer it's already being beaten in some areas. For example, both the Huawei Ascend G300 and the Orange San Francisco 2 have a better camera and a bigger screen, and both of these phones carry a similar price tag. It's a good phone that doesn't really do anything wrong, but unless you need Android 4.0 now there's better out there for the money.
Despite being cheap, the Sony Xperia Tipo works well, and - typing aside - it's rarely frustrating to use. Ice Cream Sandwich is a very welcome addition, but that's really its only standout feature.