When the chance to review the brand new Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S arose, I was quick to jump at it seeing as though I loved the original Xperia Arc perhaps a little too much. What I’ve found with the Xperia Arc S is that Sony Ericsson have kind of just added in a few little features that should have been in the original Xperia Arc since day one.

Pros..

  • Very snappy / responsive
  • Slim, attractive device
  • Good looking UI

Cons..

  • Washed out display
  • Awkwardly placed power button
  • Not that much better than the Xperia Arc
  • No front-facing camera

Hardware..

What we’re basically looking at here is the original Xperia Arc with a handful of hardware and software updates added to it that really should have been in the Xperia Arc since day one. There’s now a 1.4GHz Single-Core CPU, 14.4Mbit HSPA, better video stabilisation, and a new 3D panorama sweep feature which apparently works without 2 cameras.

The device is the same size as the Xperia Arc at 125 x 63 x 8.7mm — it’s quite thin at the thinnest point where it curves at the rear. The screen is 4.2-inches diagonally at a resolution of 854×480, which presents you with a aspect ratio of 16:9, that being perfect to consume media. The display is almost unnoticeable thanks to the dark tinted glass atop of it. The display sits right under the glass which stops the sun from reflecting onto the display which in turn makes it easy to view in direct sunlight. The display does seem washed out compared to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S II, however, it is much better than the piece of crud on the HTC EVO 3D. It’s also much brighter than the EVO 3D and Galaxy S II.

Sony Ericsson are sticking with the use of hardware buttons with 3 under the screen: back, home & menu; there’s also a small dedicated camera shutter button and volume rocker on the right-hand edge of the Xperia Arc S, both of which are too small and fidgety for my liking. The small camera button makes the phone shake when you try to press it down. The left-hand edge of the Xperia Arc S is the 3.5mm headphone jack. The awkwardly small and flush-to-the-surface power button, and micro-HDMI port are both at the top. A lanyard holder and microphone are at the bottom. On the back you’ll find the 8MP camera along with its LED flash and secondary noise-cancellation microphone.

CPU..

The CPU in the Xperia Arc S is a modified version of the Qualcomm MSM8225 found in the Xperia Arc. It has bene overclocked from 1GHz to 1.4GHz to give the Xperia Arc S a faster more fluid feel and it’s certainly noticeable when playing games and browsing the interwebz.

The GPU is the exact same Adreno 205 found in the Xperia Arc.

Camera..

Sony Ericsson pride themselves on selling multimedia devices. The idea behind the Xperia Arc S is to show off their camera hardware and software. They’ve added a 3D panorama sweep function which can only be viewed on a compatible 3D television using the micro-HDMI port. As I do not own a 3D television because I think they’re a waste of money, I was unable to test how well it worked — if you’re desperate to see this functionality, check out this video.

The camera itself is on par with some of the best cameras on Android devices at the moment, such as the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II. So there’s really no problems in regards to image quality. A downside to the Xperia Arc S is that there’s no front-facing camera, I’m not too sure how such a simple feature can be left out.

Video recording is capped at 720p @ 30FPS with continuous autofocus and stabilisation, a nice place to be capped if you ask me. You can view some of the videos we recorded below.

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Battery..

Although the battery in the Xperia Arc S is the same 1500mAh slab of Lithium-Polymer as the original Xperia Arc, it did seem to get the same life span — pretty impressive seeing as though it has a faster clocked single-core CPU. We would like to see Sony Ericsson surpass the 1500mAh, though.

Telephony..

I’m still not sure why we mention this in phone reviews nowadays. The Xperia Arc S can indeed make phone calls and quite well thanks to its dedicated noise-cancelling microphone on the rear of the device. The device we reviewed ran on 900/2100MHz and considering I use Telstra, data use wasn’t the nicest experience.

Software..

Sony Ericsson are very particular when it comes to their user interface. It’s definitely the most polished and cohesive of all the manufacturer Android skins, leaving TouchWiz for dead. It’s also incredibly fluid and responsive, leaving Sense UI for dead.

There’s an option to change the overall colour scheme for the Xperia Arc S — the default is blue but you can have green, red, pink and more. I’m a fan of Sony Ericsson’s UI, because it just works, looks good, and doesn’t slow the device down. If you’re going to tear Android’s vanilla look to shreds, you’re going to have to do a good job to ensure every part of the software is cohesive, and this baby is.

The device we reviewed ran Android 2.3.4 and Sony Ericsson have confirmed that the current range of Xperia devices will be updated to Ice Cream Sandwich in the future — I’m guessing first-half of 2012.

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Benchmarking..

Neocore (Frames/sec) Quadrant (Higher = better)
HTC Desire 28.1 1240
Xperia Play 59.8 1351
Xperia Arc 58.3 1579
Motorola Atrix 54.1 2801
Galaxy S II 59.8 3428
Sensation 57.8 1968
Incredible S 56.5 1265
Xperia Neo 60.9 1423
Xperia Ray 62.0 1700
Xperia Arc S 58.9 1628

Conclusion..

What Sony Ericsson seems to have done with the Xperia Arc S is add features they’re probably going to put in future phones into the body of the original Xperia Arc. I liked this device as much as I liked the Xperia Arc, and see no point in buying the Xperia Arc when this device is about $50 more and has the slightly better specifications.

I’d certainly like to see Sony Ericsson work on their physical buttons to make them more accessible, as well as their displays to make them look less washed out in comparison to awesome displays like the Galaxy S / Galaxy S II.

Given the price of $499, I recommend this phone for people wanting a cheaper Android device that has very high-end features. The camera is extremely good, the device looks good and it’s super fast.

tl;dr It’s the Xperia Arc with a faster CPU.

  • Jeremy

    Nice review, I think I will pick up one of these to replace my ancient HTC Desire… couple of questions: - Notice the Xperia Ray outperformed the Arc S in the benchmarks – is the Arc S snappier in real-world performance? - Will a long-press of the menu button bring up the search function?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1531242333 Ant OSullivan

    854×480 is 16:9  not 16:10, other than that great review , thanks (woops double posted soz)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1531242333 Ant OSullivan

    854×480 is 16:9 , not 16:10

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1774182976 Sean Hatton

    I recently bought this phone and I really love it. It is very svelt and even in it’s leather pouch it fits lightly in my pockets. The wifi sucks the battery, so I suggest having a widget on the home screen to turn it off when not needed. The headphones look cool, but fall out if you walk (unless I have enormous ear holes…). I miss my HTC Sense calendar agenda, but there are plenty free calendars online to suit one’s needs. The photo library is very cool, and it pulled all my facebook photos down as well. I got what I wanted – a super fast, sexy phone. 

  • Anonymous

    I needed a phone after the wife destroyed another handset and with the budget I had this is the one I purchased and very happy with it.

  • Anonymous

    Such a disappointment that they couldn’t put in a front facing camera.

    • http://buzz.id.au Buzz Moody

      Considering Sony Ericsson are quite good at their cameras, it just seemed stupid that it’s not there. 

  • Lukito

    I’d agree with your review! Yeah the buttons are a little on the small/thin side but I don’t have any complaints about the screen – it hasn’t got the contrast or saturation of the Galaxy S2 but it’s a great screen and everyone who’s seen it has been impressed by it’s sharpness and colours.

    Areas of improvement? Apart from slightly larger buttons & the front-cam that you mentioned, I’d suggest an aluminum chassis (like the Ray?) as the thin plastic back cover creaks slightly when the phone is gripped for typing, and some refinements to the software: less junk on the home screens that might overwhelm inexperienced Android users (I spent an hour or two sorting through all the widgets and shortcuts to make home look nicer!) and a more accurate keyboard (it’s not as good as HTC’s).

    That said I’m loving my Arc S – it’s the best single-core phone out at the moment? And ICS will probably step things up a significant level on the software side. Well done SE!

  • JeniSkunk

    The screen is 4.2-inches in diameterDon’t you mean in diagonal?

    • http://buzz.id.au Buzz Moody

      Yep. Damn, so close, yet so far. Thank ya 

  • Anonymous

    doesn’t the SGS2 just shit on every other device in the quadrant scores. far out. (might have been better if the table was in order from lowest to highest by the way)

    any info on rooting this bad boy? i liked that aspect of other reviews

    • http://buzz.id.au Buzz Moody

      You can unlock the bootloader of the Xperia Arc S which allows you to load on whatever ROM you wish and then root it

      http://unlockbootloader.sonyericsson.com/

      • Anonymous

        good stuff

  • Wikiwama

    When you say the current range of xperia products, does that include the standard Arc? Virgin just put it on the Big Cap 29 and that’s my Xmas present.

    • http://buzz.id.au Buzz Moody

      Yep, absolutely.

      Xperia Neo, Xperia Arc, Xperia Arc S, Xperia Play, Xperia Ray, Xperia Pro etc…

      • Wikiwama

        Looking forward to ICS on the Arc then!

      • http://buzz.id.au Buzz Moody

        It will run really well I reckon, although it won’t be vanilla.

  • Anonymous

    You write:”The device we reviewed ran on 900/2100MHz and considering I use Telstra, data use wasn’t the nicest experience.” OK – so why don’t you keep an Optus or Vodafone network SIM so you can test 3G 2100/900 Mhz handsets properly with data? That would seem the logical thing to do.

    • http://buzz.id.au Buzz Moody

      Because I don’t think we need to test the network’s data. I think we know Vodafone is lackluster, Optus is mostly fine and Telstra kicks butt. 

      Since the Xperia Arc S isn’t currently available on any Australian network I didn’t need to test it on the network it was on.

      • Anonymous

        Fair enough. :)

      • Richard

        When do you think the Xperia Arc S will be available on the Australian networks and on a plan? Is it a trend for Optus to come out much earlier than Vodafone, like they did with the Arc?

      • http://buzz.id.au Buzz Moody

        I’m not too sure. Considering the Xperia Arc wasn’t released all that long ago, I don’t think they’d be jumping on board too quickly to kill it off unless they’re seeing high consumer demand for the Arc, in which case they’d bring in the Arc S ASAP.

        It’s also hard to gauge who will sell the device, Sony Ericsson are spread right across the 3 main telcos, so there’s no preference there.