If you’re in the market for a brand new smartphone, you may well have been tempted by the recent ads for the Xperia Arc S from Sony Ericsson. The original Xperia Arc handset was only released in April of this year and a six-month gap until an update is impressively quick work by Sony Ericsson.
But is it too quick? The truth is, on the surface, there hasn’t been a great deal of work done to the device. The processor has been changed for a faster model and you get an update to Android 2.3.4 – and that’s about it. So is the Sony Ericsson Arc S worth investigating, or is it just old news wrapped up in a new form? Let’s take a closer look – but first, here’s the specs you can expect…
CPU 1.4GHz Qualcomm
Internal memory 320MB
Camera 8 MP With LED Flash
Connectivity Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB
Memory card 8192MB
Operating frequencies GSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 800/850/1900/2100
Wireless data EDGE, HSPA
Email client POP3/IMAP/Exchange
Supported Formats MP3, e-AAC+, WMA, WAV, MPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV
FM Radio Yes
Accessories Headphones, HDMI cable, data cable, charger
Talk time 7-7.5 hours
Standby time 19 days
If you’ve seen the original Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, then you’ve seen the Xperia Arc S. It’s exactly the same, but that’s not necessarily bad thing. The Arc S sports a 4.2″ screen and features a slimline body that is attractive to look at, but less so to feel.
Trusted Reviews say the the Arc S “is just a bit plasticky, with even the chromed strip running round the edge being chromed plastic rather than solid metal,” before mentioning that the “back plate also flexes and the plastic flap that covers the HDMI port on the top edge isn’t exactly classy.”
Wired find another design issue: “Another infuriation is Sony Ericsson’s decision to copy RIM’s bizarre habit of positioning the headphone jack on the left hand side. With headphones inserted it unnecessarily widens an already wide phone and makes it less pocket friendly.”
However, it’s important to remember that design is purely a personal opinion. The guys at Reg Hardware think the Arc S is rather excellent: “the Arc S is quite simply gorgeous. Along with the original Arc and the new Xperia Ray, the Arc S may well qualify as one of the prettiest handsets ever made.”
Whatever anyone’s misgivings about the basic design of the Sony Xperia Arc S, it’s unilaterally agreed that the handset’s 4.2″ display with 854 x 480 resolution and Bravia Engine both add up to brilliance.
Tech Radar remind us the Arc S’s display is also “found in the original Arc, which is one of the finest, brightest, sharpest and most responsive touchscreens around today.”
Endgadget are equally as effusive: “The 4.2-inch screen remains a formidable performer. Despite its LCD roots, Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine seems to perform minor miracles on the 854 x 480 display, with sharp detail and rich coloration.”
However, they also point out where things go awry: “Sadly, tilting the screen shows up its limitations — this isn’t an IPS panel, and whilst we understand it’s doing its best, nor can it stand up to the might of Super AMOLED plus.”
As we mentioned before, the only real difference between the original Arc and the Arc S is a boost to the power and the OS. But although it’s only a seemingly small change, the effect is dramatic.
Wired: “Use the Arc S for a few minutes and its “S factor” becomes clear. Sony Ericsson has equipped the handset with a rollicking 1.4GHz processor….Android flies along, web browsing is fast with pages rendering quickly and demanding games like NOVA 2 deliver near-console levels of fluidity.”
It’s good news for battery life, too. Expert Reviews bring up an interesting stat: “We were expecting the faster processor to reduce battery life, especially as the Arc S has the same battery as the Arc. However, in our light usage test where we play an MP3 file on a loop, the phone lasted for almost 40 hours – a seven hour improvement on the Arc.”
There are some warnings, though, as Which? explain: “The new processor seems to keep everything ticking over smoothly, although it may struggle with running lots of apps at the same time when compared with phones sporting dual-core processors such as the HTC Sensation or Samsung Galaxy S2.”
Sony Ericsson have a good reputation for delivering some of the very best camera phones on the market. The Arc S is packed-full of different features and you can customize your shots in so many ways, including different focus options, shooting options and a whole pile more – not back for a camera strapped to a handset.
The quality of the Arc S is, unsurprisingly, good. Trusted Reviews say: “With 8 megapixels on offer, it’s on par with all but the Nokia N8 in terms of raw detail level, and shots are generally well exposed with vivid colours.”
However, as Pocket-lint points out, there may be a little issue: “Shoot with the sun toward you, and this little snapper can struggle with light shades of banding across images. It’s something that looks worse on the final image, when moved off the camera on to your computer too, so could cause some problems if you’re trying to use the Arc for anything serious.”
The Xperia Arc S camera is also capable of shooting HD video at 720p, and the general consensus from other reviewers are ‘Good, But Can Do Better.’
Engadget: “The phone is capable of 720p video capture and maintains good detail over distance, though the sensor still has issues with big moving objects, adding a shuttering ’tilt’ to your video if the action gets a bit too intense.”
Wired: “Two slight disappointments are the absence of a front facing camera and the lack of 1080p video recording, but neither isn’t likely to alienate the masses — especially with the latter’s fluid and jitter-free results.”
It’s a general thumbs-up for the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S, but it hasn’t quite hit the heights we were hoping it might. However, in the main, there’s a lot to like, and its certainly up there with the best to ever come out of the Sony Ericsson stable.
Engadget: “Both the screen and camera remain the strongest weapons in the Xperia Arc S’ arsenal, and priced beneath more powerful headliner smartphones, both the Arc and Arc S are very capable, attractive offerings. ”
Tech Radar: “It’s a lovely phone, but if the launch of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S means the original Xperia Arc starts selling for a big discount, you’d be just as well of picking that one up instead.”
Trusted Reviews: “There’s no dual-core processor and the build is underwhelming. However, just as with the original Arc, the Arc S packs in the essential features, has a nice screen and a great camera. What’s more it’s available for a decent price, making it a sound investment if you’re not after the absolute biggest and best.”
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S is available free on contract, or SIM-free from around £300 upwards.