Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S
After the relatively tepid critical reception afforded to the iPhone 4S, the biggest names in the smart phone have sensed blood. First up is the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S.
By Leo Stiles
With all the stink in the media about Apple disappointing the world with their iPhone 4S, you might imagine that other companies are steering well clear of releasing incremental upgrades. However, the Apple backlash hasn’t stopped, with Sony Ericsson releasing the Xperia Arc S mere months after the launch of the original.
The S in the new name is rather more unambiguous than the Apple phone, with speed being the only real upgrade here, as the Arc S now sports a very fast 1.4GHz CPU - a fairly big leap over the 1GHz CPU of its older sibling.
What this means in real terms is an even more responsive phone than before and while it must be said that the original Xperia Arc was no slouch, the S feels better and handles high level tasks without showing the slightest strain. This is a small triumph for Sony Ericsson, who got off to a wobbly start in the smart phone market with a couple phones that had a variety of performance issues.
In almost every other regard, the Arc S is identical to its predecessor and we can tell you now that this is no bad thing.
As far as aesthetics go, the Arc S is Sony Ericsson at the top of their game and the obvious talking point is the massive 4.2-inch screen that dominates the handset. Powered by Sony’s Bravia Engine, the screen is vibrant and capable of stunning contrast and color saturation. The touchscreen is responsive, fast and the sheer size of the screen makes working with multiple apps and widgets easy.
The Arc S also scores points for its thin chassis (just 8.7mm thick), its weight (shy of 178 grams) and a generous amount of smartly placed buttons and ports for your interaction and connection pleasure.
A special mention has to go to the camera button because not only is this a dedicated button, it also has two stages; one for focus and another for the shutter and this gives you far more control over your photography than you might have experienced on a phone before.
The camera itself (the standard 8 megapixel) performs well in most lighting conditions and snaps range from good to excellent. Video records in 720p but was less impressive and the odd instance of blurry movement marred what should have been an impressive package.
Memory is not overly generous, with just 8MB of space offered out of the box, but like many of the latest Android phones, the Arc S can be augmented with support for microSD cards up to 32GB.
The battery life is also decent and despite having to power that lovely big screen, the juice was still flowing late into the evening before we had to connect a charger.
Purely from a hardware perspective, the Arc S has much to recommend as it is fast, light and feels great in the hand, with the only real issue being its spotty video recording.
Sony have also given the barebones Android interface the boot in favour of their own take on the OS. It still behaves exactly like you would expect but small changes are apparent and most of them take advantage of the massive screen size available on the Arc S.
Widgets are nice and big and as a result they are more usable that has traditionally been the case with smaller Android phones. Sony has limited the number of home screens to just five, something that might frustrate Android power users but it is easier to manage if you employ folders to sort your favorite apps.
Social networking selections
Sony’s social network aggregator makes a return on the Arc S, bringing all your Facebook, Twitter SMS and email updates together in a single scrollable timeline. Its a nice touch and the tall screen makes the most of it but if you are a Twitter and Facebook junkie, then we don’t see this becoming your app of choice for either of those services, especially with the recent improvements to both of the official apps.
Facebook has also been baked into the contacts function of the phone and this is entirely more successful than Timescape. Once your accounts are connected, your friends recent updates, photos and other information is displayed in your phonebook.
During the review for this phone we often browsed the phonebook for a contact only to be drawn in by what our mates are doing and while we loved it, we’re not sure how much good it would do our overall productivity in the long term.
Finally and because this is an Android handset, we couldn’t finish this review without commenting on how the Arc S handles Flash.
The short answer is, very well and the extra power served up by the new CPU had Flash web pages and video load swiftly and with very few instances of lag and absolutely no instances of page freezes. It’s all very impressive.
The Arc S proves that Sony can play with the HTCs and the Samsungs of this world without feeling like they are playing catch up. The screen, the build quality and the superior implementation of Android means that if you are after a top range smartphone, the choice has become even harder.