Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S Review


Introducing the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S, one of Sony Ericsson’s latest flagship (and unlocked) devices to make its way into the US compatible with AT&T’s network.  If you’ll recall, SE already released the Xperia Arc overseas with a single core 1 GHz Snapdragon and was touted as one of the thinnest Android devices to hit the market.
The overall design of the Arc S is pretty satisfying as it comes in at a nicely thin 8.7 mm’s.  With a convex design, the device deservedly earns its Arc title.  And though the arced chrome arch is a bit of an optical illusion, making the device look even thinner than it is, it did the job and the hardware looks slim, sleek and offers an overall great contemporary design.  We reviewed the black model for the site, however, the device is also being offered in a nice white finish or sliver for those getting a bit tired of the everyday black slate.  Overall, the hardware of the device was satisfactorily sturdy.  The back plate of the device feels a bit “flimsy” at times but overall it was sturdy enough not to really pay attention to it much.  On top of the device you’ll find on the left hand side the power button.  For some odd reason SE went with a rather small round button (see pic), a little too small for our liking and not protruded enough. We found that our finger had to do a little song and dance to finally push the button all the way down effectively.  Still on the top, the right side hides an HDMI out port for video playback on the big screen or any other compatible device.  Also on the back plate you’ll find typical SE nomenclature such as the “Xperia” line name and SE’s green and silver logo.  While on the back still, we’ll note that there is an 8 mp camera accompanied by a single round LED flash.  The front side houses the 4.2-inch capacitive touch display (480 x 854 and (~233 ppi pixel density).  In addition, you’ll find “Sony Ericsson” across the top of the device and just under the receiver.  The device only sports three buttons at the bottom, shying away from the typical four button device we’re used to seeing.  And though it took some getting used to, the three button layout wasn’t all that bad and kept things simple.  Though at times I found myself begging for the search button.  Back, Home and Menu button’s are all that’s present, excluding the ever popular search button that you can use within specific apps and not just on the web.  Under those buttons you’ll see the “Xperia” name.  The left side of the device sports a 3.5 mm headphone jack and nothing else to show off its curves while the right side of the handset touts the charging port, volume rocker (kind of small) and dedicated camera key (two stage).  The bottom of the device offers a camera loop strap hole and microphone.

Battery life on this device was surprisingly and pleasantly well.  It virtually took forever to run the device down for a recharge.  I immediately hopped onto my WiFi network upon receiving the handset as service was not readily available by AT&T.  The Arc S ships with a 1500 mah Li-Po battery which touts up to 460 hours of stand-by time and just over 7 hours of talk time.  During this review I can definitely attest that battery life was not an issue for this device. We think overall on a daily basis the handset should meet your needs and give you a good full day’s charge before having to hop back on the charging port.

While we were unable to test the call quality due to a lack of an active SIM by AT&T, we can attest that the speaker quality on the device wasn’t too bad.  We found some gritty sounds here and there but otherwise the device played music cleanly and clearly for the most part.  I tested the audio using Amazon’s MP3 player app as well as the Google Music app of which I have several pieces of music stored in the cloud.  Overall, the device would serve well streaming at the office or at home attached to some hefty house speakers.

Performance on the Arc S was equally surprising.  The device was quick and snappy thanks to the typical Sony Mobile Bravia Engine on board.  Details on web pages, pics and even menu’s were sharp and rich in color.  It’s no Super AMOLED Plus but it got the job done.  Navigating through the device was a pleasant experience as Sony has added some pretty cool and nifty animations to keep things interesting.  Movement of icons are extremely fluid and offer a bit of a bounce when changing home screens.  There, at times, were a bit of a slight lag in responding to the touch at and Im not entirely sure if it was due to the screen technology or not.  I suspect that it is.  Another neat feature is when you pinch to zoom on the home screen to get an overview look at all your walls/home screens, the apps, icons and widgets get all mixed up and jumbled together until you pic your desired app or widget, in which it then thrusts you to that home screen.  While in what I like to call “scrambled mode” you can even shake the device and watch all of the icons bounce around the screen like dice being rolled.  Scrolling and panning on web pages was pretty smooth and multi-touch functions rendered nicely on the device with nearly zero hiccups.  In addition, streaming Netflix and YouTube videos were great on the device thanks to the generous screen size and CPU.
As far as software goes, Sony has not left us desolate.  The device is running Android Gingerbread 2.3.4 with SE’s Time Scape overlay which offers a soft blue skin and SE’s Facebook layered application, giving you the option to easily update your status, add photos etc.  One cool featured I enjoyed, especially in my line of work, was the integration of a screen capture function right into the power button.  We’re used to seeing this more and more on devices, only usually you’ll have to hold the home & power button down to snap a shot.  Another noticeable upgrade was in the qwerty keyboard dept.  The new qwerty lay-out was pretty accurate and now integrates a “Swype-ish” style input method.  I actually enjoyed using it better than Swype as it offers a neat highlighted trail when swiping across the keys.  The technology was quick and accurate when typing text messages and long emails.

The 8 megapixel, single LED flashed camera worked great and took excellent shots with the device, even in low lighting which can be a rare quality on a device.  SE usually produces decent cameras so there wasn’t much of a surprise in this dept.  I took some in-door shots of my personal Galaxy S II device and they rendered rather well despite the low lighting in my dining room.  As far as the software goes, it was a little lackluster but still offers everything you need to take great shots on the go.  An added feature by SE is the new 3D capturing capabilities.  Despite it only having a single lens, the device offers the functionality of creating your own 3D content provided you have a 3D enabled big screen at home for playback.  And though I think 3D is still a bit of a gimmick and on its way out the door before it even took off, it’s nice to see SE add a little something new to their lineup.  In addition, like most devices whether on board or via a third party app, the Arc S offers the ability to take panoramic shots while on the go.

While the device is more than capable of being your daily driver and performing well, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves, “Should one upgrade from the original Xperia Arc?”  To put as simple as possible, no.  The upgrade doesn’t provide enough justification for the bump up in specs.  While it’s nice having the 1.4 GHz over the 1 GHz clocked CPU, performance is still virtually similar to the original.  The added features like panorama, 3D etc could easily be brought about by third party software and hardware (3D TV’s).  And speaking of the hardware, it’s yesterday’s specs.  We were a little disappointed in the single-core CPU.  At best I would consider the device an entry-level to high entry-level handset.  The Arc S can be purchased from Sony Ericsson’s site unlocked and used on AT&T’s network for £340 ($573 US). A bit steep for a device with yesteryear’s specs, we know.
Quick Likes
 Design, it’s slim, great screen size (4.2-inch), rich media applications and functions.
Quick Dislikes
Yesterday’s specs with a single-core 1.4 GHz CPU, expensive for old hardware.

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