The Xperia U is the final piece of Sony’s NXT series puzzle. In March came the flagship Xperia S, a good device that shipped with outdated software. It’s only just been updated to Android 4.0. Our verdict? It’s not thinner, faster, stronger, or in any other way better than the pack. Next up was the Xperia P, a mid-range device that really impressed, but was difficult to recommend running Android 2.3. Now the Xperia U is here, presenting itself as an entry-level option for those looking for flagship qualities on a tight budget. Think of the Xperia U as Sony’s equivalent to the HTC One V — just as the Xperia P and S were pitted against the One S and One X.

Entry-level it may be, but the Xperia U doesn’t make too many compromises. It features the same 1GHz dual-core SoC as the more expensive Xperia P, but shrinks the amount of RAM down from the P’s 1GB to a still-adequate 512MB. The display size has also diminished from 4 inches to 3.5, which has brought some design challenges in the process. Sony has, however, made the U much more personalizable than its siblings: its transparent bar — the hallmark of the NXT series — has been fitted with LEDs that you can command to light up in an array of colors.

The biggest issue we had with the other NXT series smartphones was software. Sony seems to be having trouble letting Gingerbread go, and the Xperia U doesn’t buck the trend: it launches as yet another Android 2.3 smartphone, over half a year after Android 4.0 was released. The Xperia U doesn’t seem to right the wrongs of Sony’s recent devices — is it really three and out for the NXT series? Or can Sony’s miniaturization of a miniaturization — with a price to match — do enough to win us over? Read on to find out.