Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia arc S

If you've seen the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, you already have a good idea of what the Arc S looks like. However, this updated version has a few neat upgrades and additions.

NameSmartphone: Sony Xperia arc S
At a glance:Has a faster processor than the Arc,Thin and light with a great screen,Internet sometimes feels a little sluggish
Summary:The Xperia Arc with a makeover still hits the spot.
Rating:4/5
RRP:$799
Contact:sony.co.nz

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If you’ve seen the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, you already have a good idea of what the Arc S looks like. Piano black and chrome surround, a gentle concurve rear and edge-to-edge scratch-resistant glass facing. Not only is it incredibly attractive (every time I put it on a table around friends, someone picked it up to admire it), it feels lightweight but lush – almost slippery – in your hand. The slim build also means it slots into a pocket neatly without feeling bulgy or awkward, despite the 4.2-inch screen. It’s lightweight enough at 117g that you may not even notice that it’s there.

And if you forget that it’s in your pocket, never fear: this is one tough phone. It feels reassuringly robust, and all our efforts to bend or flex it came to naught. It survived several days of being lugged around in a rear pocket without cracking a sweat.

The screen is bright without having the shield-your-eyes glow of the Nokia N9, and its 480 x 854 resolution gives it sharpness and crispness equivalent to that of the HTC Sensation or Samsung Galaxy S II.The colour accuracy is good – though whites are not as white as the N9 – and details are excellent.

It all helps to show off any shots taken with the 8MP camera. I liked that the camera could be used either with touch-screen controls or the dedicated button at the bottom of the phone, and it’s capable of timed shots, as well as 3D sweep panoramas. Having said that, it’s not the best at low light, and I found the LED flash overbright at times.

The Arc S runs Android 2.3 (gingerbread) on a 1.4GHz processor, with 512MB RAM. This helps apps to load quickly, and Sony’s overlays on the five main screens of the phone include some nice touches – the Timescape UI for social updating that we most recently saw with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray, a slick media viewer/player, favourites, and fast access to settings. Games felt zippy enough, however I was surprised by how slow websites occasionally seemed to load. It was even more surprising given that the Arc S has faster HSDPA connectivity than the original Arc (14.4Mbit/sec compared to 7.2Mbit/sec).

Some people have been reporting issues with fast battery drain on the Arc S, but I’m a heavy data user and found that it lasted just over a day for me. When I went overseas and switched off data, the battery lasted more than three days. Having said that, it would have been nice to have a data on/off fast-button – as there is for bluetooth, sound and Wi-Fi – on one of the Arc S’s five home screens. Sony says the battery life is better for the Arc S, presumably because of better power management for the updated processor, since the battery is the same as in its predecessor.

You get 1GB storage onboard and with the included 8GB MicroSD card, there’s enough space for apps and a moderate multimedia stash. The widescreen lends itself to video playback, too.

One final nice touch is support for USB on-the-go, which lets you plug in a USB stick or similar and use the phone to access the data on it. You can then pull off or play songs stored there, for example. However, we weren’t able to test this feature.

All in all, though, the Arc S takes the original design of the Arc and improves on it, even if only in minor details. As with the Motorola Defy’s recent updated version, the Defy+, those details still improve the whole, and the whole was pretty slick to begin with.

There’s now more competition in the thin-and-light smartphone stakes, but the Arc S holds up well and at $799, it’s not too steeply priced.

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Zara Baxter

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