It’s extremely hard to find a place to start off with the Xperia Arc (or just Arc from here on in). Coming from the same company that brought you the Xperia X10, you would instantly think the Arc is a dud and should be avoided at all costs. Well it isn’t, it is far from that. I’m going to go out now and say this device will be one of the best single-core devices of 2011. It’s fast, it’s sexy, it’s feature packed and it’s not the X10. In this review I hope to point out the massive improvements over the X10 and also fill you in on any problems I faced using the Arc over the past 2 weeks. Hit the break to get into it, as always.

Pros..

  • It’s sleek and sexy – exceptionally well-built (though a little plastic-ish)
  • It’s fast and fluid – more so than the Atrix (which is dual-core)
  • Great multimedia functions (camera, audio)
  • Thin & light!
  • One of the best displays on a mobile device

Cons..

  • Reversed button layout compared to the X10
  • Notification LED is on the side of the device, so not easily seen
  • Awkwardly positioned power/lock button that is hard to press
  • No front-facing camera, though not a big deal

Hardware

At first glance the Arc looks a mirror image of the X10, but hey, I’m not arguing the X10 was and still is a sexy device, it just sucked horrifically. But the Arc is here to change that, just imagine everything that was bad in the X10 (ie. everything) being good and actually functional. The Arc is powered by a single-core 1GHz snapdragon CPU with Adreno 205 graphics. I make the point of saying it’s single-core as the Arc feels much snappier and the UI is much smoother than the Atrix which is a Tegra 2 dual-core device. With that, I shall tell you in a bit more detail about the hardware of the Arc.

Build..

Being that it’s built from mainly plastic, the Arc is exceptionally light yet still feels like a premium device. It measures just 8.7mm thick at its thinnest point which is the centre of the device where the back curves inwards. Sony Ericsson say this curve is beneficial as it sits nicely in your hand. I say it doesn’t make all that much of a difference, but it looks really cool. SE have opted to use physical buttons (yay!) under the display, the three of them being back, home and menu, which is the reversed order of the Xperia X10 (nay!).

The top of the device is where you’ll find the micro-HDMI output which has its own little cover to stop dirt and other debris from damaging the connector. Next to that is the power button, which is really quite small and awkward to press when holding the Arc with one hand; one of the few gripes I had with the phone.

On the right side of the Arc is where you’ll find the micro-USB connector, notification LED (I think it just blinks blue & green), volume rocker which is surprisingly small and dedicated camera button which when long pressed will take you to the camera app. When in the camera app, half pressing the button will force the camera to focus.

The left side of the device is the home of the 3.5mm headphone jack, which would face downwards when using the phone in landscape mode. I found this quite handy and audio quality was very good.

You’ll find the first microphone, lanyard holder and back cover removal point at the bottom of the device and on the back is the 8MP shooter, LED flash, loudspeaker (emphasis on loud) and the second noise canceling microphone. I think every phone nowadays should come with a second noise canceling as it just makes sense, the sound reduction is very good and I was heard clearly by Chris when he gave me a call.

Display..

Sony Ericsson brought in the expertise of Sony to implement the Bravia Engine for mobile into the Arc. But what does this really mean? It means the display of the Arc, although LED-backlit LCD, has the colour depth and definition of an AMOLED display. The colours are so nice and clear and on close inspection it’s really hard to make out the individual pixels, which you would think could be easily seen as this is a 4.2″ display with 854×480 pixels.

The Arc’s display is the second best I’ve seen, only second to the Samsung Galaxy S which of course utilises Samsung’s own Super AMOLED technology. It’s also really responsive, I didn’t have a point in time where I was left waiting for a press to register or having a press register somewhere where I didn’t press. The previous was a massive problem on the X10 but has been put to rest on the Arc. The display is also really dark behind the glass, the same way an iPod Touch or iPhone look. It’s a really nice design feature, and I like it a lot.

It was reported a few months back that the Arc is technically possible to take 32 simultaneous touches on the display, though I found Sony Ericsson have limited this to 4 simultaneous touches, which isn’t a big deal. There’s really no use for more than 2-3 fingers on your phone’s display at any one time. I also found that the Arc doesn’t have an ambient light senor, meaning that it can’t automagically adjust the display’s brightness, so you’ll have to do that yourself. I left it on full brightness all day and lowest brightness all night, it worked well.

Camera..

Sony Ericsson have become well-known for their multimedia capabilities and the Arc is no exception to this legacy. Fixed to the back of the Arc is an 8MP shooter which will not only shoot top-notch photos, it will also shoot 720p HD video with continuous autofocus which is a pretty big deal. If I can recall correctly I believe it’s just the X10 and the Arc (which have been released in Australia) currently capable of continually autofocusing whilst recording video. It’s just a nice feature to have and it works quite well. The camera app is a custom designed one by Sony Ericsson and allows easy access to all the different functions at your disposal, one of the functions missing though is the ability to add effects to photos, but that’s nothing a third-party app can’t fix.

Photos and video below for your viewing pleasure, you’re welcome :)

[nggallery id=72]

Oh yeah, Blunty put up a video comparing the Xperia Arc camera to the iPhone 4, check it out.

Battery..

I used the Arc quite heavily during the time I’ve had it. I listened to music, streamed video, browsed the web and had Wi-Fi pumping most of the time and I managed to get a good 12 to 14 hours of use out of it. If you were to turn off syncing and don’t listen to all that much music then you won’t have a problem getting a full day out of the battery. Like every other phone on the market, it’s not great, but it does the job, just.

Software..

Do you remember TimeScape and MediaScape on the X10 and how every part of the device seemed to lag and make you want to throw it through a window, or was that just me? Anyway, the Arc’s software is extremely well designed, none intrusion and generally good-looking. TimeScape has been transformed from the resource-hogging app that it was and is now really fluid and almost usable. Though we don’t see why we’d use an app that congregates all our social interactions into one pretty featureless app, when we could just use the individual Facebook & Twitter apps and have more features. MediaScape has also been killed back a bit to be easier on the CPU and memory usage. It no longer has 20,000 menus to go through before you get to your music, instead it’s now just a themed music player with a few cool features such as the infinite button which will search YouTube for music videos. It has a very basic layout, with basic controls and an equaliser, which is what I want from my music player.

All the other default applications on the Arc have had the Sony Ericsson make over and all look very nice. They’ve also done a great job at making everything load fast and having all the animations and scrolling work so fluidly, I mean it’s pretty much level with the fluidness of the iPhone. The only advice I have for Sony Ericsson in regards to the apps is at least make the icons look nice, I mean the Bravia Engine display makes colours look so good, yet they’ve gone and used bland white & grey on most of their app icons. Lame.

The other major change to the Arc is the implementation of a new homescreen launcher. The X10 used a skinned version of the 2.1 launcher, but Sony Ericsson have gone all out with the Arc and have made their own launcher, which is very similar to that on the X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro in the way that it has all the apps pop in a glass window and you swipe across to get to more apps, just like you do on the Samsung Galaxy S or iPhone.

I did have problems when launching an app then closing it quickly would lead to the app being stuck as the wallpaper whilst on the home screen. Swiping across the home screens would reset the wallpaper back to normal and everything was good as gold again. All in all this is the best skin I’ve seen on Android that isn’t intrusive and doesn’t interfere with the way Android works.

Benchmarking..

Seeing as though I have a plethora of Android devices on hand, I thought I’d benchmark them all and record the results below.

  Neocore (Frames/sec) Quadrant (Higher = better)
HTC Desire 28.1 1240
Huawei IDEOS X5 45 1375
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play 59.8 1351
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc 58.3 1579
Motorola Atrix 54.1 2801

Conclusion..

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc is the device I’ll be recommending to almost anyone who asks me which Android device to go for. It’s fast, it’s sexy and it does the job extremely well. Sony Ericsson know they stuffed up with the X10, and that has motivated them to produce an array of devices that take their user experience to a whole new level. The Arc is the by far the best looking of the second generation Xperia series and is packed full of features so Android pros (like you guys) and people new to Android.

If they Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Pyramid don’t live up to the hype they’re creating, I’ll have no hesitation in purchasing myself an Xperia Arc. Well done, Sony Ericsson, it’s not often I’ve been able to praise you, but you deserve it with the Arc.

  • Melbourne

    My sony ericsson xperia arcs will not accept a charge by the car charger supplied by the supplier (telstra) nobody including the supplier seems to know why, I have ordered a charger from sony ericsson 3 weeks ago and still no delivery. can anyone help please. C B

  • hithere

     quick question, what does the messaging look like? as in similar to an iphone where it is easy to see past history or like an average phone where past texts are stored as they arrive?

  • Pingback: Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray — Review | Ausdroid

  • Andy

    Got this phone… I was one of the first in the country with a HTC Desire in April last year (thanks MobiCity) and I’ve got to say, SE hit the nail on the head with this one. The Desire was (and still is) a pretty awesome phone but the Arc is magnificant.

    Probably the stand-out feature is that the graphics are second to none. Sure it’s not as high-spec as others floating around, but the flicks between screens are just as good as an iPhone 4, with the added usability of Android.

    The button layout is the only minor irritant, as I was used to the back button being on the right hand side but now it’s on the left. Also feels a bit strange having the screen closer to the bottom of the front face than the top.

    Still, it’s a top phone and I’d highly recommend it unless you need dual core love.

  • Andy

    Got this phone… I was one of the first in the country with a HTC Desire in April last year (thanks MobiCity) and I’ve got to say, SE hit the nail on the head with this one. The Desire was (and still is) a pretty awesome phone but the Arc is magnificant.

    Probably the stand-out feature is that the graphics are second to none. Sure it’s not as high-spec as others floating around, but the flicks between screens are just as good as an iPhone 4, with the added usability of Android.

    The button layout is the only minor irritant, as I was used to the back button being on the right hand side but now it’s on the left. Also feels a bit strange having the screen closer to the bottom of the front face than the top.

    Still, it’s a top phone and I’d highly recommend it unless you need dual core love.

  • LongWittyUsername

    Hey guys, Just discovered your site and it’s awesome. I’m an (disgruntled) iPhone user wanting to switch to Android but wasn’t sure where to start, what to look for or what were the good handsets. Found this place and it really helped me out. Really want this phone! Great review, keep up the great work.

  • Martian!

    really great review man!

  • http://profiles.google.com/vidamus Sam Kearns

    Hurry up and release already! Stores near me are all saying it’s still 2 to 3 weeks away.

  • Dsg

    does this ship with 2.3.1 or 2.3.3?

    • Kiners2000

      it will be 2.3.2

    • Kiners2000

      it will be 2.3.2

      • Dsg

        that’s a shame. do any handsets currently out, or soon to be released, ship with 2.3.3?

      • Kiners2000

        its pretty much the same thing, 2.3.3 and 2.3.2 is still gingerbread

      • Andy

        Fail. It’s actually 2.3.3. I have one in my hand fresh from Optus on 2.3.3

  • http://www.facebook.com/Ammmon Brenton Stringer

    Great review, good info, unbiased.

  • want a arc

    hey buzz, can u please comment on its in-call volume?? because i read on tech-radar that its loud enough and cnetasia suggests that its low on in-call volume…. I couldnt hear anything on my x10, so just wanted a comparison please!!!

    • http://ausdroid.net Buzz Moody

      Well Chris rang me when he was a crowded train, and I heard him perfectly fine. The in-call volume isn’t really loud, but it’s completely usable.

      • want a arc

        what do u mean by it isnt completely loud but usable???? Alright let me make my question simpler…. Would u be able to hear the call clearly if u are in middle of a very crowded and noisier train?? or say when u are in a playground or when ur dog is barking in front of you??? coz these are the places where i cant hear anything on my xperia x10

      • Arky

        I hear it fine in a busy street. It beats the crap out of the call volume on my iPhone 3G, which was always one of my biggest problems with that phone. It’s probably not the loudest phone ever, but it’s above average.

  • GHOSTRIDER

    Hi everyone…. Can anyone who has already bought this phone please clarify about the in-call volume of this phone??? I mean is it louder than x10, cause you could hardly hear anything from the earpiece of x10 in a crowded place…. Another thing is htc sensation has been just launched and its got dual core, 1.2 Ghz cpu and 784 RAM…. I am very confused which one should i go for??? Any comments would be appreciated

    • http://www.facebook.com/dara.ing Dara Ing

      the in call volume is fantastic… i have been comparing it to my brother iphone.. and it is much clearer and louder… and i am also a previous x10 user.. and believe me… its 10x louder than that eva was!!

  • guests

    i’ve bought one from the UK and using it for the past few days have been an absolute pleasure. It is miles ahead of the X10 and pretty much exactly like what the review says, snappy UI, no lag whatsoever, everything just works and looks beautiful on that screen. Doesn’t feel like you are holding a screen that big and the phones looks just amazing, can’t put it down for a second…the only problem i have found is the tiny power button and also zoom on the camera doesn’t seem to work for high resolutions. hopefully they fix this with a software update or u can simply use one of the many apps on market. overall, this phone is a keeper and great to use day-to-day. replacing my iphone for this one…

    • http://www.facebook.com/dara.ing Dara Ing

      i have done the same…and couldnt have put it better myself!! 

  • Guest

    There is an ambient light sensor.

    It is always on, and it increases the brightness according to the ambient light.

    In another word, set the screen to as darkest you would want it to be. As and when you move to a brighter place, the screen will brighten up as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheSimonSays Simon Blomberg

    It does actually have an ambient light sensor It’s just always on and changes the brightness according to what you set it to

    It works great but it takes a while to realise :)

  • Arky

    Mine arrived from the UK yesterday – very pleased! Seems to be flying under the radar a bit, I assume Optus and Sony aren’t committing the marketing firepower until supply is secure. Everyone I showed it to at the office was v. impressed at how sleek and light it is, definitely one-upped all the iPhone 4s we have around here, the first time the non-tech masses here have preferred the look and feel of an Android phone to the iPhone 4 ever. I doubt that would happen with the Atrix, which is ugly as sin, the dual core doesn’t seem to help make the UI work any slicker than an Arc or an iPhone.

  • doomdrop

    Buzz, any comment on the viewing angle of the screen? Great review thank you

    • http://ausdroid.net Buzz Moody

      Viewing angle is acceptable but not as good as other devices. Colours visible change colour (purple goes red I think) when you look at an angle.

  • Ghostrider

    well done SE… You make me proud again!!! Arcs gonna be soon mine…. And for the review its really great one… And it could only be made more better if you could also look into the audio, loudspeaker and in-call volume quality…. Not at all whingeing about ur review surely its a damn great one, just wanted to help u make it more better….

  • Davidp

    I was conned into getting the X10. It will take a lot more for SE to get back in my good books.

  • Bigdum

    Just in addition, the SE Vivaz also have continuous autofocus. :)

    • http://ausdroid.net Buzz Moody

      Thought so, but I was referencing Android devices. :)

  • Padoo

    Sorry but I could not see it in the review but can this phone be rooted + custom rom loaded?

  • Padoo

    Sorry but I could not see it in the review but can this phone be rooted + custom rom loaded?

  • http://ohdenny.co.cc/ ohdenny

    Sounds really good, and nice review too. Just have to wait for the telcos to release it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Anderton/504726871 David Anderton

    Nice, sucks there’s no ambient light sensor they come in very handy! Will you guys be doing a 2X review soon?

    • http://ausdroid.net Buzz Moody

      Lucas has his hands on a 2X now, so one can’t be too far off :)

  • master351

    buying one as soon as releases congrads sony and awsome review :)

  • Wifitech

    I only found out about this site a few days ago – finally an Australian Android web site! Great work!

    Anyway, I almost decidedly would have gone with the LG Optimus 2x but now you changed my mind. How is zooming on web pages going? Is it smooth like the iPhone? LG Optimus 2x seems to be pretty smooth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1332994767 Dylan Waghorne

    Now if you’d be kind enough to just send that test unit that way for me, that would be great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1332994767 Dylan Waghorne

    Now if you’d be kind enough to just send that test unit that way for me, that would be great.

  • http://twitter.com/gfieldew geoff fieldew

    W O W.

    • http://ausdroid.net Buzz Moody

      Want one? ;)

      • http://ausdroid.net Lucas Burnett

        Awesome review mate, just awesome. Sony have really stepped up, like in a massive way