The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S is essentially identical to the original Xperia Arc, featuring the same slim dimensions as its older brother but with a few notable changes inside, such as a faster processor and a secondary front-facing camera. But are these additions enough to warrant the extra investment? We spill all in our review.
The Xperia Arc S manages to impress from the first glimpse. Granted it’s something we’ve already seen, but it’s hard to fault the handset's exquisite stylings.
Available in white this time around, the Arc S is instantly pleasing to the eye, with the creamy hue complimenting the slick, curvaceous design even better than its all-black predecessor.
However, held in the hand it still feels a bit too light for our liking, which is one of our minor gripes about an otherwise very solid bit of kit. It just takes some getting used to the fact a phone this big can weigh so little. Most users are likely to find this perfectly fine but if you’re used to heavier handsets, prepare to be caught slightly off balance.
Nothing’s changed since the last time we had this barbeque. Side by side you could be forgiven for mistaking the Arc S for an Arc. But in the end, that doesn’t get in the way of the fact this is the best-looking handset Sony Ericsson has ever produced.
Measuring a staggeringly svelte 8.7mm at its slimmest point - the Arc S bends slightly in the middle that adds to its unique, if not ergonomic, design. It’s a tad unusual to say the least, as it bends away from the palm rather than towards it. However, the front of the device remains as flat as a pancake. The result: we love it.
The Xperia Arc S is filled to the brim with cutting-edge hardware. For starters, the 1GHz processor of the original Arc has been superseded by a faster 1.4GHz number. That may not be much to write home about with dual core processors commonplace nowadays, but it packs enough punch to make everything feel that much smoother, snappier.
The 4.2-inch ‘Reality Display’ touchscreen returns with Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA Engine technology and looks nice and sharp. It’s not quite as vibrant as the Super AMOLED Plus panel on the Samsung Galaxy S2, but is more than good enough for enjoying videos in 720p HD.
Turn it over, and you’re greeted with an eight-megapixel camera with a back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor that takes great snaps even in low light conditions and comes with a wide array of modes such as face recognition, geo-tagging, image and video stabilisation and smile detection. And for the first time there's a 3D panorama mode, which allows you capture widescreen vistas in snazzy 3D and view them on a compatible TV.
Also on board in this update is a secondary front-facing camera that was conspicuously missing on the Arc. Other extras include A-GPS support for enhanced mapping and navigation capabilities, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP + EDR, and an HDMI connector.
In terms of storage, you have to rely entirely on the microSD slot. An 8GB card is included in the box, but if you need more space you can pick up a 32GB card for pretty cheap from most online vendors.
The Xperia Arc S operates on the Google Android Gingerbread operating system - specifically version 2.3.4 - out of the box. The upshot is that you’re able to enjoy most of Google’s best apps and services preinstalled, with hundreds of thousands more available to download from the Android Market.
You’re also treated to Sony Ericsson’s rather excellent TimeScape UI. This comes loaded with some neat features like Facebook Inside Xperia which seamlessly integrates Facebook functionality with apps you’re using, such as the ability to ‘Like’ a song you’re listening to or tag photos directly from the gallery app.
Better yet, at the time of writing, Sony Ericsson has already confirmed that the Arc S will receive an update to the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich iteration of Android early next year, bringing even more exciting features to the phone, including an enhanced multitasking interface and improved versions of several native apps.
Ease of use
The Arc S is as user-friendly as Android gets. SE’s proprietary TimeScape UI makes social networking a breeze and its multiple home screens can be customised with dozens of useful widgets and shortcuts to keep you only a tap away from your favourite features and apps. The screen feels extremely responsive and the sheer speed with which most apps and web pages load make for an all-round enjoyable user experience.
It’s not all great, though. The buttons, for example, are too small and placed in all the wrong locations. The power button, for example, is on the top left and requires me to almost dig my nail into it each time I want to turn on the screen. It’s not a deal breaker, but is an irritant that we’d hoped would have been corrected from the original Arc.
To all intents and purposes the Arc S is an iterative update of the original Arc rather than an evolutionary leap. If you already own an Arc, you’ll better off to skip an upgrade unless you really need a slightly faster processor or the ability to make video calls. However, if you’re a first-time buyer and are looking for a keenly priced smartphone that stands out from the competition, you could do worse.
- Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread
- 4.2-inch, 480 x 854 resolution touchscreen
- Eight-megapixel camera, front-facing webcam
- 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor
- 3D panorama photo capture mode
- 720p@30fps HD video recording with continuous autofocus